Lemonade

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For a few months now, H has casually been dropping hints: “Remember that time we made lemonade?” …”I love lemonade”…”I wish we could make lemonade…”

Like many well-intentioned parents, I added it to my list of “Things to do with my children.” That list, by the way, includes a bunch of things that aren’t even developmentally appropriate anymore.

So earlier this month when I was making a rare trip to the grocery store (because since the induction of child #2 and the inception of click and collect, my trips have been drastically reduced), I saw a bag of lemons on sale and heard H’s voice in the back of my head. “Lemonade…” it eerily beckoned.

In the weeks to come, that quiet voice was soon replaced with my husband’s not so quiet voice, that demanded if I had plans for the bag of lemons…you know, other than using them as cushioning for our green bin (organics composting).

So on coincidentally, what was the first day of spring, we finally made lemonade.

 

There’s still tons of snow outside and given how many lemons we had to juice, we won’t be doing this regularly, but it was a special way to perk up an otherwise, dull, afternoon (and at least pretend like spring is on the horizon).

If I had planned in advance to make lemonade, I would have written out the recipe for H to help with her emerging literacy skills, but she did get to benefit from:

  • Fine motor practice – required hand and finger muscles to juice the lemons
  • Numeracy – to count and measure ingredients
  • Sensory – the aromatics and tasting were exciting, for Y too!
  • Experimenting – freezing water to make ice cubes, seeing the sugar dissolve into hot water and watching the consistency change; tasting the lemon juice become more diluted with every cup of water, and perhaps most exciting: seeing the colour of the juice change after adding strawberries
  • Creative Liberty– H asked about adding mint (we didn’t have any) so opted for strawberries. She’s already looking forward to playing around with different flavours.

 

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Beads as loose parts

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Many educators and parents view using beads as a natural step towards crafting and jewelry making. While H does enjoy making bracelets and necklaces with beads, perhaps what she loves more is to play with beads as loose parts. Her collection of beads has easily grown into the hundreds.

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Loose parts, at least as I refer to them in my blog posts, are essentially open-ended items, meaning they are objects (often a collection of objects) that can be used and played with, in a number of different ways.

Her love for beads started with sorting them. She would easily spend an hour sorting beads by different properties. For example, she might first sort them by colour, arranging them into distinct piles on the floor. Then, when I would come back to check on her, she would be arranging them by shape/form. Sometimes, she will arrange them using multiple properties or subjective categories like “beautiful,” often coming up with names for the categories based on  their attributes. Some examples of this include referring to parts of her collection as “butterfly beads,” “Christmas lights,” “keys,” “maracas,” “cactus,” and “raspberries.”

Often, she would try to house her organized beads in ice cube trays, but because she didn’t have enough compartments to reflect all the different categories, sometimes, she would combine categories (“this section is for red and green”).

One day as she was painting an empty styrofoam egg carton (it was for 18 eggs), I suggested she may be able to use that with her beads.

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Sometimes, H uses the beads as characters, giving them voices as she treats them as characters. This was a very distinct theme for her in the fall when she would play with plastic pop arty beads (the different shaped plastic/rubber beads click together so that string isn’t required to make jewelry).

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Building on the idea of using beads in dramatic play, she sometimes uses them as props for little figures in small world play, often acting as food, jewels etc.

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More recently, H has started using beads in combination with sensory materials like playdough to create things (not just to process). Here she is making sprinkle ice cream and chocolate chip and sugar cookies.

Last week, in collaboration with me, H used beads as a medium to create pictures. We started by creating what looked like a minion, a bird (kind of looks like a pigeon) on a branch, and a birthday cake.

Then, H worked independently. From literal representations (here is “a garden with flowers and grass and butterflies like a real garden”)

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…to more abstract complex ones (“I want to make a human with a silly face, a hijab, a bindi on its head over here [points to forehead], earrings and makeup on her lips.”)

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Sidenote: when H was creating the work above, I was not with her. I was putting Y back to sleep so this piece was conceptualized and executed exclusively by her. She even documented it herself (took the photo to share her work with me). It was an empowering moment for her and a proud moment for me. One of her favourite parts about making pictures with beads is destroying it after. She takes much joy in mixing everything together.

This morning, I had an idea for another activity: using beads to “colour” in existing pictures, more specifically mandalas. This idea appealed to her. I will include a photo once we get around to it.

For more information on loose parts, you may wish to consult these books, full of inspiring ideas and beautiful photo examples. Note: they may be available through your local library as well as in e-format.

There are some cool “loose parts” groups on Facebook as well as profiles on other social media platforms. Most recently, I’ve been benefitting from this podcast series on loose parts. You can also search for other “loose part” entries on my blog as it’s a common theme for us.

I hope that this post has helped broaden your perspective on the role of beads in early childhood play.

 

“The World is Not a Rectangle”

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I found this book in the library last night. We read it before bed today. Quite timely, wouldn’t you say?

I picked it up because I was intrigued: a Muslim woman architect inspired by nature who lived during our time.

What I didn’t anticipate was reading it today, coincidentally on International Women’s Day, and then rereading it tonight with my daughter.

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It led to so many questions and discussions, google searches and connections to the other work we are doing around art and geography and what is beautiful.

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It was an honour to have found and share this book. I am mesmerized.

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Super simple sensory snow set up

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I used to do a lot of sensory play with H. Because she was an early winter baby, by the time her first spring and summer rolled around, I was able to take her outside and experience our wonderful world. She felt the grass on her knees and the sand between her fingers. And I didn’t have to do a thing.

Y was born in mid-May, so he briefly experienced autumn, however he was not mobile then. He goes outside with me every day, so while he routinely feels the cold wind and the giant wet snowflakes kiss his face, he hasn’t played in the snow yet.

I’ve been dreaming about spring and summer and taking my baby out to crawl and toddle about but I woke up this morning to yet another blanket of snow (it continued to fall all day), so this afternoon I finally decided to bring some in.

It was a super easy and quick set up. I placed Y in his play yard so I could go outside and grab some fresh snow (otherwise he would’ve been up the stairs).

image I put down a table cover we use for art, and filled some snow in the baby bathtub (which is no longer used for baths). I added some kitche tools, bath toys, little people and a few sand toys that I washed off.

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Y was eager to get to the toys. He tried three times to get the pink starfish but recoiled each time, shivering. He was not liking the cold and instead opted to just collect the people.

 

 

H played intermittently, warming up her hands in between. I offered Y some snow but he touched it and decided it was not going to happen.

 

The snow was wet and excellent for packing. I used a baking spoon to make a “macaroon” and Y took it right out of my hand and decided the snow would make a  good teething biscuit.

 

If you would like to see some great ideas for snow/ice play in indoor and outdoor settings, check out this past post.