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.

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Mobile Adventure Playground

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Since coming into the world of early childhood education and play, two of the concepts I’ve found most intriguing are loose parts and outdoor play. Calgary’s super cool Mobile Adventure Playground initiative marries these two ideas with some awesome implications.

As parents living in the modern world, when we think of parks and playgrounds, we (sadly) often think of permanent well-groomed areas covered in sprawling plastic structures meant to be played on (and not with!)

This mobile adventure playground challenges that concept. Instead of permanent fixed play structures, children (and adults) have access to a variety of parts (that would otherwise be lying in a landfill somewhere) and can use their imaginations, gross motor muscles, and cognitive skills (much of which can draw on science, engineering and math) to do with them whatever they’d like.

In my talk with one of the play facilatators, I discovered that thirty years ago, adventure parks and playgrounds could be found in Calgary and currently thrive in the UK, Denmark and other areas of Europe. Thanks to a grant from the Lawson Foundation, Calgary’s mobile adventure playground is one of three in Canada and grew out of a 2015 study on outdoor and play engagement and 2016 pilot period, when 2000+ people came out to play.

The mobile adventure playground is relatively easy to set up. Some of the items featured in this one were: tires, plastic crates, pieces of wood and cardboard, pipes, pieces of old play structures, kitchen items like bowls and colanders, scraps of fabric, logs, buckets, paper tubes, cable spindles and a wheelbarrow.

Like many great things, it’s not so much about product as it is about process. Initially, the children stood around not really knowing what to do but once they started exploring and imagining, their play really got going.

In my time there, I observed children create slides and fishing boats, obstacle courses and clubhouses, bunkers and moving vehicles.

There are so many great aspects of this playground:

  • it is mobile and will be set up in different locations throughout the summer (for a schedule, click here)
  • it is free to access
  • it reuses everyday materials in novel ways
  • there’s no one way or right way to set up the materials
  • the same materials result in different types of play depending on who is using them
  • the (big) size of many of the objects required children to work together to move them, fostering cooperative play
  • children that don’t know each other will probably interact, either by playing together or asking permission to use/share materials, helping to develop negotiating skills
  • socioemotional development: not only will children take pride in their play and creations, but they will also learn how to navigate more challenging emotions like loss (when someone might repurpose items they are no longer actively playing with as experienced by H and her friends); struggle and frustration (physically, cognitively and even emotionally) as children try to bring their visions to life;  and conflict when children may want to use the same materials or have different visions for what/how things should be done
  • the playground is set up outdoors allowing families to benefit from exposure to nature
  • the playground utilizes green spaces, temporarily transforming existing (neighbourhood) sites

This park is a break from the norm and would be a welcome change to summer play, especially in the case of children who:

  1. are very active and appreciate gross motor play
  2. love imaginative play
  3. enjoy using stem (science, technology, engineering, math) principles to bring their play into reality
  4. are bored of traditional park experiences

For more information on Calgary’s mobile adventure playground or to view the schedule/locations for the rest of the season, click here. If you’ve ever been exposed to an adventure park/playground, please comment with your experiences and location.

Happy Playing!

 

 

 

Drum for Fun!

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Last summer I happened upon a unique and creative gross motor program happening in my neighbourhood. It was a guided drumming and dance circle that used drumsticks and yoga balls on pails in a group setting. Due to prior commitments and the timing of Ranadan, I only attended it once with H who was 2.5 years old at the time. She loved it! But she was a toddler and lasted about 25 minutes before she wanted to play at the neighbouring park.

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H at the Drum and Dance program last summer at 2.5 years old

When I realized this program was happening again this summer, I was excited to take H, who now, at 3.5 years, would enjoy it even more. We planned for it, and when I returned after getting baby dressed (who H has now nicknamed Boomer), I found her asleep on the couch (this has literally never happened). After multiple failed attempts at waking her up, I decided to just go on a walk with baby. We walked by the park and while I wasn’t sure of the logistics of babywearing and participating, it worked out fabulously!

Baby Boomer (hahaha clearly not an intentional pun by my 3 year old) is not the best of nappers, but the one way he naps best is when I wear him. So in spite of some very loud Bhangra and Electronic music, the vibrations of the drumming and my various movements, he stayed asleep!

I love this program. It’s super family-friendly and combines basic music/dance skills like keeping time and following the beat with the opportunity to meet new people of various ages and circles and get a creative workout,  all while benefiting from spending time outdoors! The instructor is also super friendly and energetic; people drop in and out throughout the program. Best of all, this is an easy program to recreate – it can be adapted to meet the needs of daycare/preschool children, school-aged children, cultural groups and even corporate employees!

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I’m so glad I went out today, even though H wasn’t with me (she was the whole reason I was going in the first place). Being a parent (especially the mother) to a newborn can be very exhausting and isolating- this was exactly what I needed tonight!

For more info on this free program, check out the poster below!

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Ramadan 2017- Post #5- Easy Peasy Scavenger Hunt

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If you’re looking for an easier alternative to the treasure hunt I recently posted, you may appreciate this Ramadan Scavenger Hunt!

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Simply download and print the  Ramadan Scavenger Hunt and let your child(ren) find the items on the list.

A great feature about this hunt is that clues are visually depicted, making it developmentally appropriate for children as young as 18 months. Children will feel empowered being able to identify and find the objects independently. Moreover, the images help reinforce literacy skills (both visual literacy and language).

Many of these items will become naturally visible in and around your home during Ramadan (if they aren’t already on a regular basis). Print out the sheet and allow your young children to find the items on the list (note: they don’t have to collect the items- just point them out).

Another way this scavenger hunt can be used is to practice a second language. Either edit the document to include the words in a secondary language, or introduce the terms in whatever second (or third or fourth) language your child may be learning. Reinforce the terms when the items are found.

Happy Hunting!

Hands on Patterning and Loose Parts Play

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For the past few months, I’ve noticed H has been showing an increased interest in patterns (which she so endearingly pronounces “pattrins”). She points them out in clothing, when we walk outside, in food and in her play.

While she still has a simple understanding of patterns, not having quite realized the full definition or complexity of what constitutes a pattern, she shows pride in being able to recognize them.

To deepen her knowledge and understanding, we’ve read these books which are part of my personal collection.

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I’ve been wanting to give her a hands-on way to create her own patterns and further investigate the concept. This morning, I finally set out a very simple activity for her on the still-crumb-covered kitchen table. By sharing how our experience unfolded, I hope to show you all the potential of loose parts (basically collections of items that can be used in many different ways).

I provided a tray that had two elements: dried kidney beans and yellow crystals. Originally I was not planning on prompting her and just wanted to see what she would do, but I thought some guidance might help, so all I did was ask her, “Can you make a pattern?”

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I was pleasantly surprised by her attention to detail as she carefully ensured the kidney beans and the gems all faced the same direction (she turned the kidney beans so that they would all be vertical and placed the gems on the widest side).

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When I saw that she was able to successfully create a pattern with two elements, I introduced a third: pink milk jug lids. She adjusted her pattern to incorporate these.

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When she could no longer reach one end of her pattern, she started working at the starting end. It was interesting because she did not know how to reverse the pattern since she was working in the opposite direction. I had to prompt her with saying the pattern out loud in the opposite direction – by drawing her attention to this fact, she was able to extend her pattern in the opposite direction correctly.

I was further impressed when she created a little game. She removed the milk jug lids and asked me, “What’s missing?” I said, “the lids!” and she said, “You’re correct!” She proceeded to removed the beans and then repeated her question.

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She then undid her pattern and started arranging the parts in shapes saying things like “I made a square! I made a circle!”

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After making shapes she decided to sort the pieces on the table and said “My bean collection is all done!” Even though I haven’t used the term “collection” in my dialogue with her, I marveled with what an intuitive term it was for a three year old to be able to refer to her loose parts as “collections”. After separating the three elements, she proudly exclaimed that she had three collections.

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H really enjoyed playing with the loose parts. She looked at the tray and noticed there were empty spaces so asked me for more. I went on a hunt around the house trying to find a jar of pennies I knew we had somewhere but was unsuccessful. I returned after ten minutes half-hoping she had lost interest, but she hadn’t. She was still sitting there. I checked the pantry and gave her some raw pasta and a pouch of blue beads. She happily announced that she had five collections and then said, “I’m mixing them up. They are having a big party. Tada!”

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After this, she loaded the tray back up, sorting the loose parts and said something about the parts going for a train ride. She noticed that one space was still empty so again asked for something to fill the space with.

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At this point it became clear that her play was transforming from being a mathematically inclined activity to open-ended dramatic play. She said the parts were soup for her friends that were sick. I offered her a pot and wooden spoon which she gladly accepted. She added blue beads to the pot commenting that they looked like rice.

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She asked me for some bowls for her soup and went on to pour some “soup” and feed her stuffed toys. She declared that they felt better after eating the soup but still needed to rest.

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When she was done playing, she resorted the pieces and left the tray on the floor. Seven hours later when she woke up from her afternoon nap, she approached the tray again and this time, mixed various elements in the pot. She poured the soup into the bowls and let her friend Lammie have a taste. She also fed me with the wooden spoon and then pointed it at my stomach so that Baby could get a taste too.

Loose part play is promoted by play advocates all around the world. It’s something my daughter really enjoyed in her toddler years. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to provide as many opportunities for it as I would have liked this past year (however it’s always in the back of my mind). By looking at how her play evolved over the day, I hope that you too, can see the value, depth and potential of this type of experience. She started with something more structured (but it was still based on her interests and initiative) and explored patterning, sequencing, geometry, counting, sorting, fine motor development, language and dramatic play. I’m curious to see what she will do next and how a broadening understanding of various patterning sequences will translate into her play.

 

Some Words and Photos from our Customers!

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Over the past three years, I have been incredibly blessed to meet some fantastic customers (some who have become good friends) through my work with Discovery Dome. In case you’ve ever wondered about what I do or the types of products I stock, I encourage you to give this post a read! Go all the way to the end as I’ll be sharing some important information 🙂

“I have bought several items (books and toys) from Discovery Dome and have been incredibly satisfied. The wooden heirloom, fair trade, non-toxic alphabet blocks (available in different languages) are a favorite of mine.
When I visited, Madiha took the time to sit with me and explain the benefits of each book/item. It’s really helpful that her education is in early childhood and development, as she was able to draw my attention to pros and cons of certain books that I wasn’t aware of. I love that the majority (if not all) of the items she carries are representative of various ethnicities and cultures. There is a beautiful and wholistic intention behind Discovery Dome, which is evident in the way Madiha interacts with her customers and in the items she chooses to stock. I strongly recommend Discovery Dome.” – M

“Everything they carry is addictive and you can’t just buy one cause there is soooo much variety! and even after you’ve purchased something for your little one you keep coming back for more for gifts for friends and family. All the products they carry have been personally reviewed and recommended by the owner (who has a little one of her own). This is especially great if you are a new parent or don’t have any kids of your own, just let her know the child’s age and gender and she will provide some great recommendations. Great service and quality products! … I’ll be BACK!!” – F

“I bought 2 books from the “I can” series, and a “Build a Masjid” toy for nephews/nieces for Eid, and they loved them! I also received a book from the same series and a Prayer Time Doll set for my son for Eid, and he absolutely loves them both! After seeing more of Madiha’s products, I couldn’t resist and also bought the Arabic Words Flash Cards, and I am extremely satisfied with this one too.
The best part of this experience was how wonderful and patient Madiha was all along. She was very accommodating with everything from payment method (she accepted email money transfers because I didn’t have cash) to helping me pick the best toy for my nephews/nieces. I will definitely continue to check Madiha’s latest additions and keep adding to my collection of educational toys/books. I was also fortunate enough to hear Madiha at a Story Circle Time, and she has an incredible story-telling and singing talent. Along with all the other kids, I was captivated the whole story time! Keep me posted with any future Story Circle Times Madiha  – A

“I am extremely satisfied with all the products I have bought  I bought a whole bunch of eid decorations, goody bags and presents for nieces and family and everyone loved it! The goody bags were loved by all the kids and I cant say enough about how happy I was with the services.

I would highly recommend Discovery Dome to all my family and friends!” – M

“I had the pleasure of co-hosting a children’s Ramadan costume party with Madiha and, just like her products, her services and creative skills are outstanding. She designed a wonderful treasure hunt with Ramadan relevant rhyming verses at every station’s clue, eventually leading to a treasure box full of chocolate coins which the children were elated to uncover! She also went through the trouble of cleaning dozens of baby food jars and proposed that the children paint them to make little lanterns- these were a hit with young and more mature children at the party! My favourite moment, however, was her fantastic performance during story time, where she entertained and engaged the little ones by narrating stories, singing songs and even employed a beautiful handmade felt board to add a lovely visual touch. 

I have purchased many of her books in the past and will continue to do so because she stocks the best quality in children’s Islamic lit. This time, I also invested in “Eid Mubarak” and “Adab” stickers which were used in the piñata, as well as for the Eid cards the children made. They were great quality and exactly what I was looking for.

I look forward to working with Madiha in the future. Her professionalism and expertise in her field as an early childhood educator makes her an asset in our community.” – S

When I started Discovery Dome, I intended to have a retail element, but I knew that’s never all that I wanted from Discovery Dome. At this point in my personal and professional life, I have chosen to focus on other aspects of my initiative and am therefore clearing out all of my existing inventory! I have some great products left, specifically Uncle Goose Wooden Blocks (these are sustainably-sourced and lightweight, high-quality blocks that come in various themes and languages and can be used in a number of ways!) and a range of books from Wisdom Tales and Saffron Press (Universal lessons and stories from different cultures and time periods). We also have stationary including cute Muslim-themed greeting cards, notebooks and stickers. Below are a few examples of what we have left (we have more!) – all selling at COST PRICE!

I look forward to hearing from you!

-Madiha

Tools are Cool – Post #3: Around the Community

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As H’s interest in tools grew, we sought to make connections with everyday real-life experiences. We started noticing tools being used all around us. Some of our experiences included:

  • Visiting Lee Valley Tools (a tool store) to pick something up (our awesome purchase will be explored in the next post)
  • Watching the Roof Hospital staff repair roofs in our condo complex
  • Watching repairmen fix the door to the garbage shed in our condo complex
  • Watching a man use a power saw just outside of H’s school to cut wood
  • Watching city workers dig and excavate pipes in the alley that borders her school parking lot
  • Watching repair men using ladders and tools to restore the heating system in my chiropractor’s clinic

While she is too young now to participate in children’s workshops, older children could benefit from the free monthly Home Depot’s Kids Workshops, participating in a local Habitat for Humanity initiative or contacting your local community association to see if they need volunteers to help with community maintenance (for example, painting, rink maintenance, trash collection etc.) Similarly, local community and school theatre productions, such as Storybook Theatre often need help with set building.

As I make this list, I notice that everyone we encountered in our experiences was a man. I know there are tons of women that use tools and I know that H hasn’t yet challenged this notion as she feels very comfortable donning her construction gear and playing pretend. But  as an educator it is important to expose children to balanced perspectives, especially in light of some other people’s sexist attitudes , so I will aim to introduce her to (non-sexualized) female construction professionals through books and photos. I’m curious to see if it triggers a response.

*These images have been collected from various places on the internet. 

The one construction professional I do know quite well is my brother. H has always had a special love for her uncle and when I told her that he has lots of tools, she was immediately interested. We arranged a whatsapp video date so that he could show her around his workshop, demonstrate the use of different tools and answer questions. It was a really cool virtual interactive field trip.

So just before our video call started, H fell off the couch and was in a bad mood. It took her a few moments to warm up but when she did, she was curious and excited to see my brother’s collection of real tools. She was also quite eager to show him her plastic versions excitedly commenting “I have that too!” She was especially proud when he admitted that she had one tool that he didn’t…a saw! I’m curious to see what emerges this summer when we go to visit my family and she can get a real life tour (and hopefully some more hands on experience).

If you live in the GTA, check out my brother’s newly launched facebook page for his company MADDA-WORX. He provides wonderful customer service and specializes in landscaping, interlocking and home improvements.