Beautiful Oops

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In the fall of 2012, I was taking a class that ended up being life changing for me. The class about experiences in early childhood literacy was brought to life by my talented college instructor, Lana Kostiuk, who deeply influenced how I thought about books for children. Lana’s dynamic lessons and standards for quality not only helped inform my own passions within early childhood education, but they pulled me into the world of Reggio as I learned about provocations and rich literature.

One of the first books  Lana shared with us, was called Beautiful Oops. I remember how mesmerized I was as she read it. I remember how the wheels in my head started turning and thinking “wow!” The book invites us to look at mistakes from a different perspective, seeing opportunities disguised as faults. It has a very beautiful concrete application for young children as well as figurative one for adults. I highly recommend checking it out!

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In the spring of 2015, I bought the book for a friend who had just graduated from teacher’s college. A few years later I saw a FB post of a coffee stain on a student’s paper that she had cleverly changed into something else. A few months later, I bought a copy for my family. I knew it wasn’t yet relevant to my daughter who was 20 months at the time, but I knew that day would come.

That day came today.

H has really been into drawing for the past week. This sent me over the moon because for almost a year, she’s shown little interest in it. I’ve been marvelling at how her drawing ability has been evolving (maybe I will share some of her creations in another post) but this evening she was very frustrated with the process.

I knew there were a number of factors coming into play: our routine has evaporated during the holidays. Late wake up/sleep times, forgotten meal times and minimal regard given to what she’s eating have understandably made her more grumpy and prone to high emotions. Moreover, not having the social connections she has become accustomed to (preschool friends and attention from me) have also affected her ability to cope. So when I could overhear her frustrated, angry, scribbling furiously over pictures that were not turning out the way she wanted and tears pierced with cries for attention, pleas for playing together and the “you didn’t spend any time with me today” I knew this was an opportunity.

I promised once I got Y into bed, I would be all hers.

And somewhere in that two hours of spending time together, we read Beautiful Oops. Most of my children’s books that are not in current use are housed in the basement, but for some reason, this one has always loved in my bedroom.

H was intrigued and fascinated. We read the book together and I saw her go through it atleast three more times in the short period before bed.

 

 

 

I suggested that maybe we could revisit her “mistake” from earlier in the day- the possibility of turning it into something beautiful was an idea she loved! She also asked me to join in and beautify some of my “mistakes”.

 

 

 

I hope that powerful feeling she felt is one that stays with her. She already asked me if I could leave the book downstairs so she could read it every morning.

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Babies and moments for every day play

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Early childhood educators will tell you that with infants, building play and literacy into everyday moments is important. As a mother, I can also add that incorporating play into these moments is a lifesaver.

Throwback to 3.5 years ago and I had time to be much more intentional in my play with my daughter. I had the time to set up more provocations (and clean up after the resulting messes). But baby #2 (and any baby after that) teaches you to make do with what you have. It might not be perfect, but you go with it.

So today as Y (Now 7.5 months) chowed down on a peice of Avacado (Thank you Auntie G for the idea BTW!), I observed. I enjoy observing children, especially at play.

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His hands were pretty gross by the time he was done . I knew we couldn’t make it to the bathroom without it getting everywhere so I filled up shallow a container of water. He loved it! He moved his fingers back and forth and was delighted at the way the water sounded, the way the cool water moved between his fingers and the little bubbles that motion made. I relished in his giggles (and the fact the water was turning murky because that meant less scrubbing at the sink).

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I added a boat. He pushed it back and forth. I blew it away and he became wide eyed and kicked his legs the way he does when any kind of breeze hits his face.

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I took the container away to discard the dirty water and finished getting him cleaned up but he started screaming and crying. He was not done.

So I gave it back, newly-filled, watching as he found the edge of the container. I knew what was coming. Maybe on any other day I would’ve taken it away, deciding I could not handle any more mess or clothing changes, but in that moment, I went with it.

This past year, I’ve been working on letting go. And not being ashamed of what my life has become.

This beautiful chaos is proof of a childhood where children play and love and learn. The raw emotions that often swirl around in our house like a tornado on fire, are helping all of us grow and become better versions of ourselves.

I realize that it’s not my job to keep my kids from falling down or having broken hearts, but instead to teach them how to get up and go on.

So basically,.. he dumped the entire container of water all over himself and the floor. Then he was ready to move on. I mopped up and got him changed. Honestly though, this was a lot easier because my four year old was napping- not sure how patient I would’ve been for this spontaneous play among her kajillion questions.

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May we always remember that our children don’t need big elaborate opportunities for play- everyday moments can be just as wonderful and significant to their developing minds.

 

Bye Bye Basket: deconstruction and loose parts

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There is lots I’ve been wanting to blog about. My phone gallery is full of photos I’ve taken over the last 6 weeks but instead, I’m here to take you on a visual journey of what happened in our house today.

We have a basket on the shelf with Y’s playthings. As those things have increased, the contents have gotten heavier and one side of the handle started coming undone and finally broke.

Today, as Y pursued some playthings, he found himself trapped.

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I decided to snap the handle off of the basket and gave it to H who I figured would find an imaginative use for it. She quickly got to work.

image.jpegIt wasn’t long before she had pulled apart the entire handle.

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“Mama, can I have a bowl for my spaghetti?” Then she found a mixing spoon.

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Perhaps some of the pieces didn’t fit in the bowl because soon she was creating a circle on the ground.

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“Look mama, I made a face!”

I brought over some twigs and pine cones with the hope that she would enhance the faces, but she had other plans. She grabbed the container full of art utensils, eyeing the highlighter and got ready (to colour all over the floor). Unfortunately, it was time for lunch and nap so I promised her that when she woke up she could continue at the table after we covered it.

So after her nap (and costume change because what fabulous 4 year old doesn’t change their clothes at least 5 times a day?) we each started colouring a piece. Notice her grip, experimentation with holding multiple markers and her rearrangement of marker lids.

After surprising her Papa with her creation, she found me and started singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (we went to go see a production of The Wizard of Oz yesterday).

imageI remember reading somewhere about how taking things apart can also be considered an aspect of creativity. After 7 years of marriage to an engineer, I’ve come to appreciate this form of creative expression and was overjoyed to see H’s process unfold over the day- how she deconstructed part of the basket, played with it in different ways and then created something new and personally meaningful. Wow.

Odds and Ends

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We’ve been doing a lot of play and exploration with light and shadow (post forthcoming) but in the meantime I thought I’d share some photos of the other things we have been up to. It’s fascinating for me to be back in the baby years and witness how quickly physical, social and cognitive skills are developing. It’s also been interesting to see changing dynamics and relationships within our house.

 

 

 

October Round Up

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October has been a busy and interesting month! We spent the last few days of September outdoors visiting the farm and exploring the neighbourhood.

 

Good thing because the beginning of October brought snow! Fortunately, it was temporary so we could enjoy fall some more.

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As we found ourselves settling into more of a routine, we started spending more time indoors.

H came across this tray and literally begged me to fill it with things for her (she remembered the last time we had used it), so in a five minute hussle, I filled it with things from my kitchen (isn’t it amazing how many different types of pasta there are?!)

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H got to work, adding in her own loose parts like bracelets.

 

This month, she spent a lot of time dressing up. Sometimes she used ready made costumes and sometimes she used her imagination.

 

I love H’s knack for symbolic play. I think she would be great at improv. Here she is with her bicycle helmet, a bunk bed she made for her dolls and putting her babies to sleep in their bassinets.

 

We voted in the municipal elections and that raised a discussion about mayors. So far the only mayors she knew about were Mayor Goodway and Mayor Humdinger. She was very curious about Mayor Nenshi.

 

H played with old loose parts, building homes and having picnics.

 

And explored new ones too.

We read. We ran up hills. We went to go see a play.

 

We did experiments and yoga.

Our car broke down and we ended up stuck at her school for a few hours. It was nice for me to have a deeper look at her preschool environment. I know I’m the keener parent- the one who is always looking at the lesson plans, remembers spirit days and peeks to see what new centres have been added to the room.

 

As Y has been growing older, it’s fascinating to see what captures his attention. Not only does he love watching his sister at play, but he has started to express his own preferences. He was really drawn to this bicycle-printed hijab of mine so we used it over his play gym and suspended from the swing. He also tried catching his shadow.

 

I spent time learning this month. I found some inspiring Facebook groups and attending virtual workshops I had signed up for last winter. This exposure to seeing Reggio in practice got my gears turning and reignited my passion for self-growth and reflection.

When I look back at some of what we did this month, I feel exhausted! But I also can’t help but smile at all of the synapses (brain connections) that must have been made. Play, is after all, the work of the child.

Fall Faces and Feels

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At our house, we’ve made playdough quite a few times but this was the first time we made scented playdough. And how wonderful it smells…I seriously want to eat it!

We made pumpkin spice playdough a few days ago and have been playing with it in old ways and new. Basically, just add a few tablespoons of pumpkin spice mix to your favourite playdough recipe.

We combined it with found items (bits of nature I had collected on a walk last week) and made faces.

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We used an assortment of rocks, pinecones, twigs, bark, berries, seeds, and plants.

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Perhaps more interesting was what happened when H started deconstructing the faces. She noticed the imprints the different textures were making in the playdough. Her favourites were pinecone impressions used on their heads (I had only thought to use it on its side).

Talks about the wonderful smell of the playdough led to reminiscing about the last time we used the pumpkin spice mix. It was in December to make gingerbread cookies. So we decided to make a playdough batch of cookies and decorate with natural “gummies and m&m’s”.

This led to making sprinkle cupcakes and chocolate chip muffins.

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H has a a tote box full of plastic playdough tools and cutters that we’ve amassed over the past few years but it was great to be able to use these natural materials to process our playdough. We tried using them with clay last week but this seemed to be better received.

An afternoon of apple pie and autumn play

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A few days ago,  the kids and I were reading a book called “The Apple Pie Tree” and before we even got to the end,  H was asking if we could make an apple pie.

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Fortunately, there was a recipe at the end of the book. It looked easy enough. I’ve never made a real pie before so I was hoping it would be half-decent.

The next day, H went grocery shopping with her papa and they bought extra apples. She was not going to let this apple pie thing go.

Today was the day. I told her we could get to work after nap. She helped measure and combine the ingredients for the dough, started rolling out the crust and helped to season the apples and assemble the pie. Y wanted an up close and personal view of what was going on so I put him in the baby carrier and he watched from there.

For a first attempt, I think it turned out pretty decent!

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She just couldn’t wait to eat it. Since we had to let it cool, we went for a walk. I gave H a plastic bag to collect things of interest. When the wind blew she said, “the wind makes my bag big like a balloon.”

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We decided to have the pie at the park (mainly because I wanted to play in the leaves hehe).

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I also wanted to give Y a chance to observe and experience the season out of the stroller and baby carrier. He really enjoyed watching the wind blow the big yellow leaves to the ground.  I’m relieved that he enjoys being outdoors!

This time is a favourite of mine.  It passes so quickly. I do hope to get outside some more before the trees become bare.