Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cause and Effect

If you were to sit down with a group of toddlers and preschoolers, and announce that you will be spending the morning discussing cause and effect relationships, perspective, and self awareness, what sort of responses would you receive? Probably some blank stares and a total lack of interest.

But if you were to take the children outside, and allow them to stand in front of a mirror, what would happen? The children would enjoy studying the reflection of their bodies in the outdoor mirror, as well as the things that surround them. By looking at the mirror, they will be learning:

· Cause and effect (if they move their bodies, the mirror will reflect those movements)
· Perspective (their size will change depending on their distance from the mirror)
· Self awareness (viewing themselves in a new context)

Visit The Adventurous Child here to learn more about the mirror panel and what children will learn by playing with it - or should we say, in front of it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Food for Thought

These quotes came from the late Jim Greenman. He was a Head Start teacher and director, author, and parent educator, who valued children’s vital need for play spaces:

“It is a strange time. We live in an age when our children may know far more about bizarre people we care nothing about or a cartoon world than the workings of their own back yard – that marvelous ecosystem teeming with life. They may know more about, or rather have more information on, exotic zoo animals and farm animals than the snails, squirrels, birds, worms, and bugs that live outside their windows.”

“Young children are perpetual tourists without much life experience, truly strangers in a strange land. They are developing their minds and bodies at such a rate that they are literally new people with each sunrise. Their backlog of life experience is so slight that each day, each new place, each old place, brings surprises. Their courage rises and falls like the tides.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Water Fun

SPLASH! These hot days make me think about the pool… the ocean… even a jumping puddle would be nice!

Sheila Milnes from Pennsylvania State University is a huge proponent of water play for children. She explains that water play can improve children’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development. For example, water is a fantastic way for children to learn about scientific principles such as sinking, floating, melting, solids, and liquids. Add manipulatives, and the young scientists can observe and explore the physical properties of water, snow, ice and other sensory items.

A water table will offer multiple opportunities for learning and play.

According to Milnes, there are three stages of water play: functional, constructive, and dramatic. In functional play, a child plays with water and explores it with his senses, realizing what can be done with it. In constructive play, “children move from exploring water to using it for play--for example, pouring water over a toy person and pretending he is taking a shower.” When children begin using water to act out a story, they have moved into dramatic play. As the children move from one stage to the next, their physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development will improve. A water table will lend itself to all three stages of play, with fun and learning at every stage!

Check out The Adventurous Child for more information on water tables and neat ways to use them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Adventurous Child Digs In

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder … he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in. – Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

As we talked about last time, gardening with kids is totally do-able. It’s just a matter of education, preparation, and just a little patience.

There are a lot of options when it comes to gardening. A mini garden allows children to access all sides of the garden to plant seeds, pull weeds and water the plants without actually stepping into the garden. (Great for staying neat.)

They can dig, plant, nurture and harvest a variety of plants. This is the perfect size for planting some flowers by the front door; or planting vegetables that the children can grow and eat for a healthy snack.

Speaking of “yum,” why not consider adding a pizza garden to your facility? Make a delicious pizza to share by growing pizza herbs, onions and tomatoes.

Have you ever wondered about the underground world of roots, worms, and insects? Jump into that world with a root garden! Children can learn about the growth process as they plant seeds, water, weed and harvest the “crops.” Periodically, children can open the Observation Doors and study the underground world of the root garden.

Check out The Adventurous Child to learn more about our gardens!

Gardening Tips for Children

“The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil” – Rachel Carson

These summer days, full of ripened fruits and vegetables in the farmers’ markets and grocery stores, have us thinking about planting our own garden. This is absolutely something you can do with your children!

Stephanie from The Adventurous Child is our go-to garden expert. Here are some of her tips for exploring nature with children:

Teach them the ground rules for exploring nature and gardening
Take only things that won't harm the environment
Avoid picking wild flowers and breaking branches
Plan for your garden
Will you plant things you can eat?
Will you plant flowers to beautify?
Consult with Drug and Poison Control about your plant choices
How much sun will the area get?
How close is the water source?
Will the garden area be safe from the mainstream of play traffic?
Limit the duration of the task
Work with small groups
Wear old clothing

Stop back on Monday to find out what gardening products we carry. Of course, if you’re really itching to pull out your shovel and soil, click here for more information.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gardening: Green, Fun, and Educational!

Home gardens are making a comeback in the United States. Everyone from the First Lady to moms, dads, and teachers on the home front are planting flowers, vegetables, and herbs. There are a lot of reasons for this. Partly, it’s a great lesson in economics and saving money by growing your own food. Gardening is also full of teachable moments about healthy eating. Finally, it’s just plain fun.

Victory gardens were all the rage during World War II. This was due to the shortage of public food supply, as well as an effort to boost public morale. Today, “victory” gardens (fruits, vegetables, and herbs) are a fantastic way to teach children how to be “green,” economical, and nature-oriented.

By introducing children to the wonderful world of gardening and to the intricacies of nature, you will open their worlds to new ideas and experiences. Is there a greater gift?

On Thursday I will share some tips for gardening with children from our in-house expert, Stephanie. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Music: Xylophone! (Part 4 of 4)

Recently, one of my co-workers was reminiscing about her musical toys as a child. She had a small xylophone about 12” long. It was the perfect size for her to play with by herself, but imagine if she’d wanted to share her instrument with others! This xylophone is 32” long – perfect for sharing with a couple friends, if you’d like. As the children strike different bars, they will learn about cause-and-effect as well as how to make patterns of noise.

Check out The Adventurous Child for more information on this xylophone and other neat musical instruments.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Music: Chimes (3 of 4)

Chimes are truly captivating. They may not be as familiar as drums or violins, but they still feature prominently in music. You may recognize their sound from the popular song “Carol of the Bells” or from the end credits of Sesame Street in the 1980s.

These particular chimes make for tons of fun standing alone, or you could add them to The Adventurous Child’s drum panel and drum set for a mini orchestra. The Chime Panel has a full scale of eight notes that allow children and adults to play a song and sing along. Children can hear contrasting sounds as they hit each note. What a great lesson in sound imitation!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Music: Drums! (Part 2 of 4)

Watch your children have fun with the drum set and drum panel. The drum set has three drums with varying lengths that produce contrasting bass tones, making hitting them an interesting lesson in sound differentiation. The drum panel has long and short tubes to provide contrasting sounds to each other. The drum head is made of an acrylic material that is unbreakable. Two mallets are provided, but the children can also play the drums using their hands or objects found on the playground.

Drums are fun, but they are also educational: “Children’s personal tempo (ability to feel and express a steady beat) correlates with achievement test scores in grades 1 and 2 (Weikert et al, 1987)” (Parlakian and Lerner, Young Children, March 2010, p. 17).

Beware: it may not be enough to simply watch your children hit the drums. We won’t laugh at you if you make some noise, too. (Our fun-loving group at The Adventurous Child has been known to play the drums for stress relief occasionally.)