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SUMMER IS HERE

SUMMER IS HERE  … but it feels a little like fall.  Here is a fun way to start out this cooler weather week as we officially start summer.

When my sons were younger, and I was doing home day care with 6 other little boys, I would start our week by baking bread or making a fresh batch of playdough.  This week looks like it will be a great week to make a loaf of banana bread and try out this recipe I found in a book by Asia Citro that my daughter-in-law, Danielle, gave me.  150+ Screen Free Activities for Kids.  I will be using this book all summer to share ideas you can use with your children.

Baking with your child promotes interest in what they are eating, math skills, fine motor skills, sensory experiences and scientific investigation.  The smell of fresh bread (or anything you bake) will bring back memories of this activity when they are older.  A cool, cloudy Seattle day is a great day to fill your home with the aroma of something baking in the oven.  I suggested banana bead because ripened bananas are also part of the edible play dough recipe I am including in this note to you.

EDIBLE BANANA PLAYDOUGH

½ cup ripe or overripe banana, mashed

½ cup water

½ cup vegetable oil

2 ¼ cups flour

¾ cup cornstarch

  1. In a bowl, combine the banana, water and vegetable oil.  Mix well.
  2. In another bowl mis the flour and cornstarch.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Knead the mixture until you can no longer feel bits of banana.  You can use a mixer with a dough hook if you would like.  My sons loved making the mixer “go”.

If needed: add more water if too dry or more flour if too wet.

  • ENJOY playing with this edible dough.
  • This dough is perishable so store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  Discard in a few days or when it shows signs of spoiling —  if it smells ‘foul’, discolors or has mold.

This is a fun dough to add kitchen tools to when playing with it.  Muffin pans, rolling pins, cupcake holders, birthday candles, colored macaroni noodles to poke into the dough, etc.

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Teacher Janice’s Nesting Supply Depot Activity

Teacher Janice's Nesting Supply Depot - Crown Hill Preschool

Material List

  • Colored duct tape or clear packing tape
  • Scraps of yarn, ribbon, string
  • Feathers
  • Natural materials: ferns, grass or small leaves
  • 2 small twigs
  • Longer piece of yarn

Lay a 12 – 20 inch piece of tape on the table sticky side up.
Fold top 2 inches of the tape over a twig or stick.
Do this again on the bottom 2 inches of the tape.
Tie a piece of long yarn around the ends of the top stick to make a hanger.
Let the child place items to the sticky part of the tape.

Hang your Nesting Supply Depot outside and watch as the birds take items to line their nests with. As you walk in the neighborhood you can see your items in the birds nests in the trees.

 

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Essential Seeds – Creativity and Communication : Gardening (Part 3)

What seeds are the essentials for growing a child’s brain?  According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules and Brain Rules for Baby, they are:

  • The desire to explore
  • Self-control (executive function)
  • Creativity
  • Communication skills—Non-verbal/Verbal

Engage them in activities that will help them as they build relationships. These actions will be the seeds that allow your child to grow into a self-confident, creative, productive person who is able to express his/her thoughts and develop meaningful relationships.

Enjoy your garden!

Creativity

Preschoolers making stepping stones.

Preschoolers making stepping stones.

Researchers believe creativity has a few core components:

  • the ability to perceive relationships between new and old things that result in new ideas
  • creating things
  • developing activities
  • motivating actions that did not exist before

Creativity must also have an emotional connection. This involves risk-taking. For young children it is not as scary to be creative as it is when you get into grade school.

Encourage your child’s creativity by giving them open-ended activities so they can use their minds in a way that allows them the freedom to create. It may not be what you had in mind but it allows them to respond to the environment and materials that have been presented to them.

Blocks

Choose blocks rather than media-based toys that have a pre-set idea already in place. They can create a city, a boat, a world for their small  animals. They can practice fine motor skills, discover scientific principles, concentrate on visual awareness. Or, all of the above!

Junk

Junk is a wonderful art/science open-ended starter.  Give your child a box of “stuff” that has been collected (juice lid tops, magazines, recycled materials, glue, string, etc.).  Let them create. Whatever they chose to create!

Write a Story

If you need an activity that is less messy or you are in an environment that will not allow so much freedom (a restaurant, Grandma’s house, the car or an airplane) have your child look at a picture and come up with a story.  Write down (or record) whatever it is they are saying to you, no helping, just whatever they say.

Communication Skills

Your child needs to be able to communicate with you and other people and we need to be able to communicate with them. This is done both verbally and nonverbally.

Verbal

You need to help your child learn words — lots of them! – as well as what they mean. Sign language may help with their ability to learn spoken words. Start by talking, and talking, and talking with your child.

Let them experience a variety of visuals to learn new words that describe the world around them.  Take them places, show them pictures, read books to them.  Use a variety of words to describe the world around them.

Nonverbal

Nonverbal communication is integral to learning the social skills needed to develop healthy relationships.

If your child can see that their friend is unhappy with their behavior then they can work on the “why” and figure out how to problem solve in that situation.  If they do not understand that the face of their friend is “angry” then they won’t know to stop their action until they are hit, bit, pushed or yelled at.

What does a face looks like when it is happy sad, mad, confused, or irritated? While watching your face and hearing your words a child works on developing a vocabulary and the ability to communicate — verbally and nonverbally.

The ability to read nonverbal cues allows one to be part of a successful team: family, friends, school, work, society. 

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Essential Seeds – Desire to Explore and Self-Control : Gardening (Part 2)

What seeds are the essentials for growing a child’s brain?  According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules and Brain Rules for Baby, they are:

  • The desire to explore
  • Self-control (executive function)
  • Creativity
  • Communication skills—Non-verbal/Verbal

Children need human interaction to learn. Learning is relational! We learn best from other human beings. Spend some time interacting with your child and giving them the building blocks (or seeds) that they can use for a lifetime.

Enjoy your garden!

The Desire to Explore

The desire to explore their world needs to be fulfilled in a safe and unstructured environment. Give your child opportunities to make choices about what they are doing, see connections, ask questions – “why?” and “what if?”. They need to touch, taste, hear, tinker, take apart, put together and just BE in their world in order to engage their brains in learning.

What to expect:

  • It will (most likely) be messy.
  • It can be time consuming. Young children are not known for staying on a precise schedule.
  • It can be joyful. Seeing the world as your child does.
  • It can be amazing. Watching your child as he/she grasps a new thought, idea,  concept.
Preschoolers exploring the Sandbox.

Preschoolers exploring the Sandbox.

Play in the backyard without an agenda.

Dig in the dirt, examine a plant, watch a bug, explore nature.

Get involved.

It takes time — your time — to give your child a safe area in which to do this. You have to engage your child in activities that will promote open-ended exploration.

Self-control (executive function)

Can a child have self-control? It is something you need to help your child develop. Self-control is also known as executive function. It is the ability to stop one’s self from doing something, to think about the consequences, to take responsibility for one’s words and actions.

Executive function is a better indicator of academic success than one’s IQ. According to John Medina, executive function controls planning, foresight, problem solving and goal setting.

If you can delay your actions (control yourself), you will do better in school and the workplace.

If you can filter out distraction and stay on course, you will be better at staying on task.

It is important to help your child develop good impulse control techniques. Teaching them to take a breath, count to 10 or stomp their foot when they are mad rather than throw the toy, hit their sister, bite their friend. Is this easy? No. Does it take time? Yes. Will it be worth it in the end? YES!

You want your child to explore the world but you want them to be able to control their body while doing so. They need to learn that:

  • there is a time to explore and a time to sit;
  • a time to be involved in their own activities or thoughts and a time to engage with or listen to others;
  • a time to take a chance and a time to be cautious.

Teaching your child when and how to use self-control is one of the most important lessons you can teach them.

The more practice they have at delayed gratification (staying on task when they are working on a project — concentrating on a task) the better the brain becomes at controlling behavior.

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Nature vs. Nurture : Gardening (Part 1)

Gardening

Preschoolers planting veggies and flowers during class.

As we enter the gardening season I am reminded of the most important seeds you can plant: seeds that develop a love of learning for your child.

There is a debate as to whether it is nature or nurture that is most important in the development of a child’s intelligence:

  • How much is a child born with?
  • How much is influenced by their surroundings?

Attributes like athletic ability, musical ability and artistic ability are gifts a child is born with. Can a child who is extremely gifted not perform to their ability? Yes. Can a child who is born with limited abilities achieve in those areas? YES!

Do not put your child in a box and label his/her abilities to do something.  In the same vein, do not expect a child who does not have an interest or the ability to be gifted in that area.

Even though you were an art major your child may not have any interest in the activities at the art table. Sad, but it is not the end of the world. Some day your child may develop a respect for art even though they are not drawn to that area at the moment. It is your responsibility to open the world to your child. It is their responsibility to grasp what you give them.

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