Thursday, January 22, 2015

Story Telling That Sticks

"Great stories happen to those who can tell them." -Ira Glas

We live in a world ruled by stories; stories told on the television, at the movies, in picture books, through photographs on the wall, or on the crayon covered paper drawn by little hands.  My favorite stories are the ones told at the dinner table, in the car, or on a walk in the woods.  Stories connect us to one another, entertain us, and help us relate to concepts in life.

One of my favorite story tellers is my two year old son.  With the most expressive face he spins tall tales that are usually peppered with real life events, and a funny character or two.  He seems to have the makings of a future author, but I'm biased of course.

One of our re-occurring favorite stories (in picture book form), and loved by my seven year old as well for its silly plot, is one of Oliver Jeffers' stories, Stuck.

"A tale of trying to solve a problem by throwing things at it." -Oliver Jeffers

I've written about my "crush" for Oliver Jeffers picture books before here.  His story telling has a strong hold on could say we're stuck on them!

We were reading and talking about Stuck one day when my older son was home sick from school.  We had also cooked up a fresh batch of play dough and pulled out our tree blocks.  It struck me later on that afternoon that we had an opportunity for story telling right in front of us.

I smashed some of the play dough down so there was ample surface area for our stories, and laid a tree block next to it so it had the appearance of  a tree.  Then I grabbed a container and filled it with small random objects and toys...the best kind of props for story telling.

 I simply asked my boys to tell me a story with the objects in front of them.  My seven year old eagerly began to work, and the two year old followed his lead.  

It did not take very long for the room to be filled with tales of... "I threw my fish into the tree because I wanted to see if it was a flying fish, then I went back in time in my time machine to get a dinosaur to throw into the tree to knock it down, it was still stuck, so I threw...."  

My younger son told simpler versions, "I throw Lego to knock train down.  I throw car to knock Lego down."

They told, and they re-told, and kept on telling.  It was a great sequencing and recall activity.  They changed the objects and shared their own stories over and was sticking with them.

What favorite story telling methods seem to stick with your kids?  Please share your stories below!

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Myth of Drawing Space

 Someone recently sent me a photo of blank paper framed out on a wall, hanging low enough for a child to draw on, and asked me what my thoughts were on the photo.  I wasn't sure what he was trying to ask, but another person chimed in with the opinion that it only encouraged children to draw on the wall, that it wasn't a "smart" idea at all.

Naturally I replied to this person, expressing that it is a great place to show a child where he or she CAN draw.  Frames are great boundaries for such a setting.  My challenger didn't seem to agree.  There was a written exchange back and forth, and our online conversation got me thinking about the myth of drawing space.  It really doesn't matter where you set up supplies for art to take place, what matters is that you show them where the physical boundaries are.  What matters is that there is something available for them to use.

Most people lay or roll out a piece of paper on a table.  I have never heard someone say, "that will just encourage children to draw on the table!"  I have seen dry erase boards stuck to the front of refrigerators, paper taped to the floor, hand held mirrors with a cup of markers near by..... many blank surfaces in interesting places, all used for creative inspiration.

What is it about walls that scare some people?  Is it the boundaries they portray, or the fact that they can be hard to clean?

What matters is that we acknowledge that children DO make mistakes when they accidentally get crayon where it shouldn't be, and children DO test our boundaries when they try a new surface to see how far they can go.  But I believe there are no artistic boundaries, and if we teach children what the physical boundaries are (when and where it is OK to draw), then WHERE EVER you lay that piece of paper SHOULDN'T matter! 

Share the interesting places you and your child draw!

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Play Happens

Children are unpredictable in many ways; they make me reflect on what I see and do, they teach ME when I think I'm the one doing the teaching, they push boundaries, they do strange things, they learn quickly, they surprise me EVERY DAY.  I tell myself I shouldn't be surprised, but then they go and "do it again!"

I was getting myself ready the other morning, when my younger son hopped into the empty bathtub with a matchbox car.  He started rolling the car across the oval shaped bottom, and watched as it careened up the side of the bathtub walls with every forceful push.  Not much later, my older son found out what he was doing, and hopped into the tub with a car of his own.  

A road rally had formed, complete with flying car stunts... in my bathtub.  They raced, and laughed, and challenged each other, and discovered many tricks they didn't know their cars could do on such a surface.  Physics was being taught in my bathtub.  It happened.... PLAY HAPPENED.

My kids play every day, but what surprises me is the manner in which it happens sometimes.  Whether it's unexpected, makes you laugh out loud, or occurs in a strange setting, play happens EVERYWHERE.

So I'm starting the hashtag #PLAYHAPPENS on Instagram, in hopes that you share photos of play happening in your life.  I am inspired by others all the time, and love when people share to motivate, inspire, or create a good laugh, as well.  

I hope to see your photos there!  Where does your child's play happen?

You can find and follow me on Instagram here...  littlemoments2embrace

Some of my other favorite hashtags I use on Instagram that involve play...

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Gift You Can't Go Wrong With...

So many gift options, so little time to choose the right one.  When someone asks me about a great gift for young children, I often suggest books.  

You can't go wrong with a book; 

You can gift an interest in the form of a book.
You can inspire a new interest.
You can help create an escape into another world with a book.
You can help create a lifetime love of reading.
You can help teach a new skill.

You will not only be gifting a book, but you will be gifting precious time together....and your time is the most valuable thing to a child.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hidden Snowflake Math

Math is not always obvious, but "hidden" everywhere in children's play and activities.  Sorting blocks by shape and color during a building session, counting flowers in a pretend floral shop, pouring sand into different sized containers in a sensory bin, setting out the same number of napkins as there are children to help prepare for snack, or measuring the shelves with a piece of string.

A favorite activity of mine when winter rolls around has become tradition in our home and is "hidden" with several math opportunities for kids to discover.

The materials we use are simple:
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Tracing paper (When cutting through several layers, thin paper is easier to work with)
  • Circular object (Like a bowl, or cup)
Our process tends to go like this....

1. Tracing: We use a bowl to trace a desired number of circles on our paper, then cut them out.  The bigger the circle, the bigger the snowflake.
2. Folding: We fold the circles in half, then again, then one more time.  We fold it at least 3 times.

It should look like the shape in the picture above.  Do you see the opportunity here?  We can discuss, halves, and thirds, or quarters, depending on how many times we fold it.

3. Cutting: We let our boys cut designs of their choosing.  We have made snowflakes using only circular cuts, triangular cuts, slits, specific shapes (cut outs that look like a house or rocket ship). 

4. Unfolding:  Watch for smiles and excitement with the end result.  Naturally, symmetry is a topic that comes up at this point. 

5. Experiment: 
  • Fold one circle three times, then fold a second circle four times.  Make the exact same cuts on each one, then unfold and talk about the differences seen between the two.  Try folding less than three times or more than four the next time.  
  • Make cuts only on the folded side of one circle, then make the same cuts on a second circle, but on the "open" side.  Unfold and talk about the differences between the two.

6, Display and enjoy!

If your younger ones are not ready for scissors;
  • Have them add color to the snowflakes before or after cutting them out with crayons, pencils, or paint.
  • Let them work on the unfolding step
  • Supervise their scissor use, even if they just cut it up into tiny little pieces.  Every opportunity to practice is one step closer to mastering this fine motor skill.

Discover the multiple natural opportunities to discuss math with your kids this season while you decorate your space!

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