Tag Archives: preschoolers

Our Craft Sheet

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Those who have been reading Magical Childhood for a while know that I often recommend sheet painting.  It’s even one of the first crafts I put up on the original Magical Childhood site.

We have been using an old white bed sheet for crafts and sheet painting for over a dozen years now. 

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In the summer time, we hang it on the clothes line and the kids use paint to decorate it. 

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Sometimes we put it on the ground and they decorate it with their feet. 

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Sometimes it’s washable paint, sometimes not. 

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The sheet looks different every year and every project. 

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In the winter time and on rainy days, the sheet is our art tablecloth.  It doesn’t matter how messy or staining an activity is, because if it stains the craft sheet it just adds more character and another memory. 

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I love my craft sheet and it makes me smile every time I spread it on the table or hang it on the line for another round of staining. 

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It’s so amazing to look at little one year old Fiona using it now and remembering when her teenage sisters were making those stains. 

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You can use any old flat bed sheet for an art cloth or pick one up for a dollar or two from a thrift store. 

I highly recommend starting your own. 

You’ll never find another bunch of stains to make you smile more.  :)

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Colorful Shaving Cream Fun!

I’m very sorry for my long absence! 

Five year-old Alex had a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy last week and the recovery has been really hard on him.  We’ve also been out of town to celebrate my birthday and to meet with doctors at the Mayo for my husband to get a long-overdue new hip.  Also, a friend (and magical mama to six kids) died suddenly (click here if you would like to help the family), and I just didn’t feel up to writing for a long time.

But times like these mean we need more magic for our kids (and us), so I’m back on my feet to do my best.

This morning, I got out the shaving cream and food coloring for Alex to have a bit of messy fun. 

I sprayed his name in shaving cream and then had him smooth it out, then dropped about 3 drops of each color (red, blue, green, red) on various parts. 

He used his finger to swirl the colors, then used chopsticks and spoons, making colorful mountains and experimenting with lots of color mixing.

It was a huge hit!  His brother joined in the fun for a while too, and then helped clean it all up. 

I hear it’s good for wood tables, too.  I have no proof, but our 50 year-old wood table can pretty much handle anything at this point.  :)

This craft works marvelously well in the bath, too, of course!

Hug your kiddos, count your blessings, and make the most of every second that you get with these amazing little people (and the amazing big ones, too).

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Easy, Sturdy (Free) Building Blocks!

Here’s a little project that we’ve been doing for years.

These fun blocks are so easy!

I was planning on making a set of building blocks for Fiona for Christmas, but she kept trying to manhandle the presents under the tree so I decided to make her a set of “presents” of her own. 

It worked like a charm!

Here’s all you do:

  1. Save your cartons of drinks like almond milk and orange juice.  You’ll need two cartons for each block.
  2. Cut off the top.  Rinse and dry.
  3. Fit one carton into another (open ends facing each other), so that the block is closed on all sides.  This also makes it very sturdy, since it’s basically doubled up.
  4. Wrap with wrapping paper or cover with contact paper.  If you use paper, you can seal it with clear contact paper.  You can also tape on family pictures, magazine pages or other fun images before sealing with contact paper.

That’s it!  You can change them whenever you like by simply wrapping them with a new wrapping paper or covering with another layer of paper and contact paper. 

When my bigger kids were little, I made a “marble” set with marble contact paper so it looked like they were building stone buildings. 

You can also use little individual milk cartons (like school lunch size) to make alphabet blocks.  :)

 

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A Little Playful Inspiration

Have you visited the blog Let the Children Play I find myself frequently pinning Jenny’s lovely posts because they are so wonderful for simple, magical, child-led fun.

Here’s a few examples that have inspired me for our lazy days at home…

“This sunny day we set out a couple of shallow boxes and containers filled with sand, along with a basket of goodies to create little worlds.”

series: how to create an irresistible outdoor playspace for children

“Within the Reggio Emilia schools, great attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom.  Just feast your eyes on some of the wonderful images of Reggio Emilia inspired preschools I have found lately…”

A space of comfort and privacy:
 

A space of beauty and wonder:
 
I subscribe to Let the Children Play by email, and it’s lovely to have these simple and whimsical ideas dropped into my inbox each morning.  I highly recommend going over and taking a peek.  Click on Popular Posts to see some of the viewer favorites, but don’t stop there.  Click on related pages at the end of each blog post and you’re likely to find more than you can possibly keep up with to inspire you.  :)
Happy Thursday!

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A Little Online Art Fun

Have you tried Brushster with your kids yet?  This free painting program from the National Gallery of Art lets kids paint with a variety of “brushes” online, or they can click a button to watch the program create art on its own.

NGA has tons of other cool art programs too.  Check out the list here!

Happy Tuesday!

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Easy Velcro Blocks

Here’s a fun and inexpensive way to make some neat building blocks for little ones.

Our fabulous friend Jan, a local Head Start teacher, came up with this idea. She purchased a couple of $1 bags of foam blocks from Target and then purchased some adhesive velcro. She cut the velcro into tiny squares and affixed it to most sides of the blocks.

Our boys played with the new sticky blocks yesterday and had great fun.

You could also use the idea with wooden blocks or any number of household objects.

Fun!

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Quick Bath Fun

Here’s a simple way to make baths a little more fun (and colorful!).

Freeze some colored water in muffin tins or other medium sized containers, and then add a few to the kids’ baths when you want to make things a little more interesting.

They melt pretty fast but it sure is fun while they do!

 

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More Research Shows Preschoolers Learn Best Through Play and Exploration (and a Few Fun Links)

As if we needed more studies to show that preschoolers don’t need formal education, two new studies have shown that little ones are better at learning and solving problems when they are not instructed about it first.  In Slate’s Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School, researcher Alison Gopnik cites the studies and how they surprised the scientists:

As so often happens in science, two studies from different labs, using different techniques, have simultaneously produced strikingly similar results. They provide scientific support for the intuitions many teachers have had all along: Direct instruction really can limit young children’s learning.

The author concludes the article with something most of us know already:

Knowing this, it’s more important than ever to give children’s remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies. 

Want to play with your kiddos today?  Here’s some sites with some fun inspiration…

  • Meyamo has a wonderful PDF page showing how to make a dozen gorgeous colors of natural paint with powdered sugar, a bit of boiling water and fruits and vegetables like spinach, carrots, raspberries, coffee and lemons.
  • Twenty-five different blogs took part in Tinkerbox’s Cardboard Box Challenge and I love some of the things they came up with, like the way Teach Preschool’s little carpenter not only used parts of boxes to make walls of a little house but he even made planks of floors.  Then there’s the splat paint box, the marble run, the castle, the loom…
  • I love The Artful Parent’s Spray Painted Canvas Patio Walls!  We do something similar with an old sheet all summer (yes, that’s the same sheet over the years in the pictures!).  We hang it on the clothesline and attack it with paint, spray bottles of colored water, you name it, and then just wash it and use it for our table cover when we do messy crafts inside.  I love the way it constantly changes depending on the latest art adventures, with some designs lasting forever through the new.

Happy Wednesday!

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Snow Day!

We got a wee bit of snow around these parts recently.

I used the opportunity to have a bit of snow fun at the dining room table.

I had my faithful assistant, Victoria, go get bowls full of fresh snow and fill an under-the-bed storage container with it.

Then I put it on the table with an assortment of little cars and a bulldozer for Alex to do a version of Lonni’s shaving cream snow plow idea from the silly assignment day.


He plowed for a while but his hands got too cold, so we moved on.

First I packed down the snow and gave him a big paintbrush, a jar of water (right in the tub, so spills wouldn’t matter) and some watercolor paints.  He painted the snow for a bit, but it was a bit tricky.  So we moved on.

I put out a muffin tin of water and added primary colors to three of them, and then we made all different colors in the cups.  I gave Jack, Victoria and Alex all pipettes (like tiny medicine droppers, I get them in bulk from a science surplus store for science and art fun!) and they squeezed colors to their hearts’ contents.


It was a colorful, artistic, crazy bunch of fun.


Even I got into the act!


I  highly recommend it next time you have a bit of the white stuff to deal with.  If you don’t have any snow, try mixing up anything white in a similar container and dropping colored water on it.  Dry rice, pale sand, shaving cream… Lots of things would be fun to experiment with!

In my book, any activity that involves pipettes and colored water is a good idea.  :)


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What We Can Learn From Swedish Preschools

I received a rather snarky comment on my “What Should a 4 Year-Old Know?” post today.

While I’ve been contacted by teachers, librarians, principals, doctors and early childhood education experts who have said they wished more parents realized these things, this surly individual called me “blase” and “touchy feely” and said, “C****, we’re all screwed.”

The commenter, Eric, said that “we are so behind other countries that good jobs are bleeding from our borders to other nations…” and “4-year-old children SHOULD be able to write their name, know the planets, list several presidents AND count to 100…”.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to educate Eric on what those countries that are leading the world ARE doing in preschool.

It might not be what he thinks.

Head over to Teacher’s TV and watch this 26 minute video about preschools in Sweden.

As the narrator says,

Imagine a school where play and relaxation is paramount…

…Where there’s little formal learning and most leave at the age of five or six unable to read or write.

…Yet, just a few years after starting formal schooling at the age of seven, these children lead the literacy table in Europe.

The preschool director points out that there is no testing and that “It’s not the child we should evaluate, it’s the processes we do.”

The Swedish preschool’s motto:

Challenge, Discovery, Adventure

The video talks about what’s important in Swedish preschools — lots of time outside, natural foods, cooperation, exercise, security, play, life skills and most importantly, fun.  It also shows how these young children do in school a few years later, and lets them talk about what they think of it all.

What about the rest of the world?  Teacher’s TV has an entire series of programs that follow countries that teach in the best ways, and Hungary was featured for teaching math best.  Again, you’ll notice that they introduce formal learning later and the children do better. In Hungary, they begin formal school at age 6 and are not formally tested until age 14.

There’s plenty more to show the academic reasons for play-based learning for preschoolers.  Take a look at this excerpt from Should preschools teach all work and no play?

Rebecca Marcon, a developmental psychologist and education researcher at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, agrees. In 1999, Marcon published a study in the journal Developmental Psychology that looked at 721 4-year-olds selected from three different preschool models: play based, academic (adult directed) and middle of the road (programs that did not follow either philosophy). Marcon followed the children’s language, self-help, social, motor and adaptive development along with basic skills.

“What we found in our research then and in ongoing studies is that children who were in a [play-based] preschool program showed stronger academic performance in all subject areas measured compared to children who had been in more academically focused or more middle-of-the-road programs,” says Marcon.

According to Marcon and other researchers, children who are subjected to overly academic environments early on have more behavior problems later and are less likely to be enthusiastic, creative learners and thinkers.

“You will frequently get short-term gains with a highly academic approach (in preschool), but they come with long-term consequences,” says Marcon. “A lot of early childhood studies only follow children to third grade. But when you take it into fourth grade and beyond that’s where you see the big difference. That’s when children have to be more independent and think.”

When deciding what is best for your preschooler, I hope you will always follow the leads of your own heart, your own child and at the very least, follow the research.

Despite grumpy people who may think otherwise, doing things that are good for children is not bad for any of us.

For more on this subject see:


4 Reasons To Ditch Academic Preschools

Academic Preschools: Too Much Too Soon?

Academic Preschool

Pushing preschoolers — at what cost?

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