Ramadan 2019- Post #4: Week 2 Recap

Standard

Day 8: 

  • H started memorizing surah falaq. She worked on the first two ayaat.
  • For Arabic today, we played Arabic Bingo, an activity we found in the “Allah to Z Activity Book”. The kids also wanted to play one round of the matching card game.
  • Given the interest in nature and our focus on finding bugs during Sunday’s Urban Wild Nature Program along with H’s themes at school this month, I thought it would be a good time to incorporate some more books about bugs and trees. We briefly looked at some pages about different types of trees and leaves and settled on this page, which talked about different animals that trees house and nourish. I also showed them the page about counting rings on a tree to determine its age (something I had told H about the day before). We practiced by counting rings on a tree cookie magnet we have. I alluded to the idea of sadaqah jaariyah and this is something we will explore further in a future circle.

 

Day 9:

  • H memorized the third verse of surah falaq.
  • We read “My First Ramadan” by Karen Katz. I told the kids a story about my first camel ride as a child visiting Pakistan.
  • Activity: We smelled and appreciated some beautiful flowers that we were planning on giving to some special people this week. The kids each made a card for the recipient of their flowers. It was great to see how excited Y was about making the card and how he attempted to demonstrate his understanding of the process of giving the card to someone else. H brought her flowers to give to the janitor at her school the following day and Y reminded me he would give his flowers to the library on Thursday. I was the one who picked the recipients of the flowers (perhaps I will expand on why in a future post).

 

Day 10:

  • H worked on the fourth ayah of surah falaq.
  • To practice Arabic, I had H pull an Arabic block out of the bag. She would identify the letter and then Y was tasked with using the block to build a tower. I constantly have to come up with ways to involve Y and modify any activities so that he also has a meaningful (but developmentally appropriate) experience.
  • Craft: We made paper chains today. H cut out a few strips and then I cut out the rest. She developed a pattern and would ask Y for the next colour. His job was to add glue to the strip and her job was to make links for the chain. Alhamdulilah I love when they are able to work together on things. H did this two years ago so it’s so meaningful for me to reflect on what’s changed since then. At the time, I remember Y, who was just a few weeks old, was laying on the couch while I helped H.

Day 11: We didn’t do a circle today. I ran out of time and energy. On a positive note, it was Y’s second birthday alhamdulillah. I can’t believe it’s been two years with this kid already. His speech has taken off in the past few days. I say this as he yells “mo hoomus and nun plis” (More hummus and naan please) from the kitchen.

Day 12: H was off of school today so the kids had some time to play at home. It was interesting to see how the themes of their play are influenced by our current reality. They were pretending to eat suhoor and iftaar, pray, read Quran and of course save the day in their superhero personas.

  • H memorized the last ayah of surah falaq.
  • We played the matching card game as per the children’s request. I was super surprised when Y recognized “zwa” as I’m making no formal effort to teach him the alphabet in any language. I also used the cards as flashcards in a fast game to identify which letters H still gets confused.
  • Since it was Friday, we read a book called “It’s Jummah!” by 2curioushearts. It’s a really simple board book that Y enjoyed as he tried to copy some of the actions. While young children are by no means required to know the etiquettes at such a young age, I think reading the book on Fridays is a lovely little tradition to establish with young children. I’ve had this book since December but haven’t shared it with the kids until now. **I just checked out their website and the books are only $5cdn!!
  • We also did page out of a fantastic activity book by Ruqaya’s Bookshelf called “The Adventures of Malik and Ameerah.” The page we did was related to healthy eating since that’s something H has been talking about since she is exploring it at school right now.
  • We did the sunnan mentioned in the board book like bathing, cutting nails, wearing nice clothes etc. I was planning on taking H to the mosque for jummah but something came up so we planned to go as a family for asr instead. H expressed that she just didn’t want to go so we let it be. I took the kids to a new park instead.

 

Day 13: We did the learning circle at my inlaws’ place today. It was late so I shortened it.

  • We started Surah fatihah and worked on the first three ayaat.
  • Activity: We read the book “Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.” After reading the book, I fanned out some paint samples and had the kids pick a card without looking. They had to find something in the house that was the same colour as the sample. While I designed this activity more for Y (he just turned 2), H really enjoyed it as well.

 

Day 14: We were at my inlaws’ again but since it was earlier in the day, we were able to do the full circle.

  • We reviewed the first 4 verses of Surah fatihah.
  • We played Arabic bingo. We used small ripped-up pieces of paper as our bingo markers since I didn’t bring anything with me.
  • We talked about gratitude and used the activity book to record a list of things we are grateful for. I appreciated hearing H’s rationale, for example “The big tree in our backyard to climb.” I was also touched to see that both of my children included their sibling in their list of things to be grateful for ❤ Since I believe that learning should be an integrated approach, I love how this experience allowed not only for reflection and gratitude, but also literacy, discussion and classifying information- I suggested that H put stars next to Y’s answers. She took the liberty of putting clouds next to my answers. Then, H started colouring in a thank you card on the adjacent page.
  • Activity: when I was consolidating all of my past Ramadan posts before starting this series, I came across one of the first activities I did with H when she was just 18 months old- it was a dua bucket (or prayer pail) and I felt sad that I hadn’t thought of doing anything similar for Y, who was turning 2 shortly. I decided I wanted to have him create a prayer bucket too, which at his age will essentially just be a collection of photos representing things he likes. The goal is to go through the bucket every day (I’m thinking before nap) so we can practicing thanking God for our blessings. This is what the process looked like for H when she was a toddler. For Y, I will just refer to it as his thank you bucket. I started with Y by allowing him to pick out the style of alphabet stickers he wanted to use to spell his name on the bucket. Then, I had the kids go through flyers to find things they were thankful for. They are also able to draw items or include photos. We may modge podge some photos onto rocks or lids for a more tactile experience or if H chooses, she can write the names of things onto popsicle sticks. The prayer buckets are personally very meaningful for me because we did do this with H as her speech was emerging and alhamdulillah, it became a habit, even as she outgrew the bucket. Every night before bed, she continues to thank God for specific things from her day.
Advertisements

Rings and Things Revisited

Standard

When we went to India on a family vacation almost three years ago, I had purchased a few boxes of child-sized bangles to distribute to H’s friends on Eid. H, who was a toddler at the time, found the boxes when she was investigating my closet one day and the beautifully arranged sets became a collection (read mess) of multicoloured, different sized metal bangles. I decided to hold on to them because I figured I would be able to use them at some point in the future.

NThis week when I was home with Y and trying to get some time to finish vacuuming, I pulled out the bangles for him. He started exploring them.

 

And then, toddler that he is, he started squeezing the metal bangles between his little fists.

 

I didn’t want to reshape all the bangles, so I decided to get him the paper towel holder I had given him to play with last year when he was eight or nine months old. You can read about his past experience playing with rings here.

FF980DDC-A9BB-476D-96D6-118ECC910B9D

It was intriguing to see how skilled Y has become. Now a toddler, Y was able to manipulate thin, small bangles and get them on and off the holder without help. Last year, he was only able to move big rings back and forth.

 

I was curious to see how long Y would keep at this. I extended his play by showing him how to take turns: I added some and waited him to add some. Then, as I expected, he started removing bangles and eventually picked up the holder and moved it around the room, complicating his series of actions. He would add a bangle, pick up the holder set it on the edge of the bed, move the bangles up and down and then bring it back to the floor and repeat the sequence. Toddlers are famous for their desire to transport things.

 

*Mind the chaos on the bed. In my house, the price of having a clean floor is to have a disastrous bed. But check out those vacuum lines.

The next day I added another piece of “equipment.” I have a rotating spice rack in his room that we use with loose parts from time to time. I was showing him how to hang bangles on the various hooks- it reminded me of tree decorating. But Y, found his own way to play with it. He would add the bangles to the top rack and then push them through the gaps until they would fall to the bottom. The sound of such delicate metal on thicker metal was making the most beautiful sound, like windchimes.

4DB46D12-7C37-4C7D-AA75-815E1EB54836

Giving him these two seemingly random things to play with allowed him to investigate and problem solve while working on fine motor and gross motor skills. And I finished vacuuming.

Ramadan 2018: Post 7- Learning Arabic Rocks!

Standard

I had an idea a while ago that I was hoping to do sometime in Ramadan to surprise H with. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’ve been dabbling with the Arabic alphabet for the past few years, but this year, I’m trying to reinforce what she already knows through various different games so that she can move on to start formally learning how to read the Quran.

So far, she has seen the Arabic letters in print (books and posters), on screens (often accompanied by a song) and on these cute wooden blocks I used to sell. (Note: I still have them in a variety of languages, other than Arabic so please contact me if you’re interested- the Farsi and Hindi ones are especially beautiful!)

I love the idea of a tactile resource so a few weeks ago, I finally decided to print the Arabic alphabet on rocks! I used paint pens I had previously purchased from Michaels.

image

How cute would these be to make as a gift for someone? Slip them into a canvas bag and give a child in your life a unique and functional play resource.

image

And because I like open-ended items and play things that can be used in multiple ways, I decided to paint moons and stars on the back of some of the rocks. I did this so that H could play a variation of Tic-Tac-Toe, a game she discovered a few months ago and loves playing on a dry-erase board.

image

Someone could just as easily paint or draw whatever might capture the interest of their child: animals, geometric designs or just leave them in their beautiful, natural state. I love the variety of colour, shape and size!

H found these photos on my phone last week (before I had a chance to add them into her Ramadan Calendar) so we decided to play with them. She was so excited!

image95.jpeg

And she went about ordering the alphabet (though as you can see, she doesn’t yet know that Arabic is written and read from right to left).

image

Y loves playing with them too. He turned ONE 10 days ago and loves filling and dumping things.

image

P.S. I hope you appreciated my carefully crafted pun!

P.P.S. I confess that I ran out of rocks! I still need to complete the other half of the alphabet.

 

Mobile Adventure Playground

Standard

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!

 

 

 

Tools are Cool – Post #2: Books and Play

Standard

A natural step in our approach to learning is to read books related to H’s interests. In the book Tools Rule, we were introduced to various tools and how they worked together to build a tool shed. H really enjoyed identifying the tools she already knew and learning the names of new tools. Naturally, she had questions about their purpose (we explore this in the next post).

image

Another tool related book we read was Monkey with a Toolbelt. This book sat around our house for a few weeks before H weas ready to read it. She enjoyed the main character (Chico Bon Bon) and was particularly fascinated by his tool belt. In the story, Chico Bon Bon is a handy monkey who helps repair things in his community. One day, he gets captured by an Organ Grinder (essentially a Circus owner) and has to cleverly rely on the tools at his disposal to escape. H enjoyed the plot as it involved capture, escape and clearly definied heros and villains.

image_1

Following building the bookshelf, H also helped out with other little tool-related tasks at home. She helped me wash our dining rooms chair frames  before we used a screwdriver to change the seat covers. She was quite helpful and kept an inventory of the screws and washers and passed me things as required. She also helped to loosen/tighten screws and we recited the easy (but helpful) rhyme: “Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” as a reminder of which way to turn the screwdriver. Since I am right-handed and she is left-handed, I find it challenging at times to teach her how to do fine motor tasks with her hands.

image_5

Play is a central part of our lives, even the boring day-to-day tasks. After we had cleaned the chairs, we moved them to our living room (where the light is better) to change the covers. I commented that they kind of looked a bus and H agreed. She rounded up a bunch of her stuffies and declared that I was the bus driver and we would be driving to the top of “tallest mountain” (a Dora the Explorer reference) and would change the chair covers there.

image_2

A few weeks later, she worked with her dad to change the batteries in her dinosaur toy. She rifled through his tool bag to find a screw driver that matched the shape of the screws. Her dad also pointed out the plus and minus sides of the batteries and supervised her removing them and changing them.

(*Every parent knows their child best and can be the best judge of what is safe for their child to do. We keep our batteries out of reach and have talked to H about safety – she knows this is not something that is safe to do by herself). 

H enjoys dressing up (a characteristic we both share!) Over the winter holidays, I saw her using pretend tools and used this observation as evidence of her emerging interest. After the holidays ended, I brought our costume box back down to the basement, but recently brought the hard hat and tools back up. She was so excited to find them and instantly started playing with them.

image_6

She went around the house looking for things to fix. Her father handed her a magazine and said, “My computer is broken. Can you fix it?” She brought it to the couch and started using all of her tools to fix it. It was quite interesting because while she knows an axe is used to chop wood, she made it relevant by saying she was using her axe “to chop the computer.” She also doesn’t know the correct verbs yet so invented her own way of describing what she was doing. “I have to wrench it. And screwdriver it.” She also commented on what type of screwdriver it was (based on her dad’s lesson) saying it was a “star screwdriver.” She then moved onto to fixing her dinosaur. I saw her look for the screws and use her play screwdriver to pretend to open it up (like she had with a real screwdriver when they were changing the batteries).

As an educator, it’s fascinating for me to see H deepen her own knowledge about concepts. I’ve been watching how she integrates and assimalate new knowledge into her existing schemas and how she adapts those schemas so that the new knowledge fits. The remaining posts in this series will look at additional ways we deepened our knowledge surrounding tools and how she applied this knowledge to her own creations.

I Like Pumpkins- Post #4: Hammer Time!

Standard

Not only was I excited about this part of our pumpkin work because MC Hammer’s lyrics kept running through my head, but I was really excited to get my little girl her first real tool! This idea was actually inspired by something H did in her preschool class this year (and then I realized it was all over the internet too!)

This activity basically consists of providing children with a big pumpkin, golf tees (or any other kind of safe peg) and a hammer. I know some people are weary about handing off hammers to their toddlers. If you really want to play it safe, use a toy hammer or a wooden block (I say this begrudgingly), but I strongly recommend you allow them to handle authentic tools and materials. Not only will the experience be more authentic, but it will affect how they view themselves – hopefully as competent and intelligent learners that can be trusted with real things.

image_2

Show them how to use it first. Hold their hand a few times, guiding the motion it required. Talk to them about the level of force that needs to be used. My daughter was having trouble holding both the pegs, and the hammer, so I held the pegs for her (while quietly praying she wouldn’t smash my fingers).

image_1

While a five-year old may be able to do this independently, I stayed close by, providing active supervision. H was excited to try this but didn’t do it for more than ten-fifteen minutes. At the preschool, there were children who hammered in nearly 100 pegs being super engaged in the process.

This activity can be extended by showing the children how to remove the pegs- either manually, or by using the back of the hammer to wedge them out. In addition to fostering fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and self-esteem, this experience can be used to augment numeracy and math skills too. You can  give the children elastic bands to stretch over the pegs in different shapes (like a geoboard) and explore geometry as well as count the number of pegs used (this is a great time to practice counting in a second language!)

I purchased this child-sized hammer at the Home Depot for less than $8.00. My husband was a little bit confused about why our then two-year old daughter needed a real hammer but I’m sure we will do more projects with it over the summer. You can buy golf tees in the sports department of any store, or if you need to be frugal, post an ad online or visit a golf course and ask them for any loose golf tees they may have lying around.

I can also happily report that H has taken an active interest in tools over the past few weeks. Not only has her fondness of Paw Patrol and Animal Mechanicals contributed to this budding interest, but she has been engaging with a dramatic play tool set and asking us the names of the various tools as she has seen lying around the house. Further fostering her interest in using tools would be a good application of emergent curriculum.

Just a Pool Noodle…

Standard

noodle

Just a pool noodle is what one may see with an untrained eye and an uninspired heart, but for children whose hearts are full of dreams and whose minds are abundant with theories and hypotheses, this long, bendy, lime green tube is symbolic of so much more.

I bought this pool noodle last month to use as a guard rail to keep my toddler from falling out of bed. It soon found its way into my preschool classroom where children both cautiously and confidently approached it, transforming this simple item into props that suited their play. A few weeks later it found its way back into my house where it continued to take on various identities.

This pool noodle has been on the frontline of battle, used in a swordfight against a pirate;

This pool noodle has been a fairy wand, transforming classmates and teachers into frogs;

This pool noodle has been a butterfly catcher, reaching high to graze wonders usually out of reach;

This pool noodle has been a horse, straddled to gallop far and wide;

This pool noodle has been a baby, cradled tenderly and cuddled as night falls;

This pool noodle has been a tunnel through which imaginary friends escape;

This pool noodle has been a rope, used to climb to faraway places;

This pool noodle has been a slide, used to descend back to safety;

This pool noodle has been a telescope, through which perspectives have changed;

This pool noodle has been a telephone, through which not so quiet “I love you”s have been exchanged;

This pool noodle has ignited imaginations, sparked adventures and given way to many moments of learning;

This pool noodle is a reminder of the power and value of everyday, ordinary objects in children’s play.