Tuesday, August 25, 2015

In Art News

We have an art easel that we use off and on in our kitchen area.  Our art studio area is upstairs, so I also like to offer some art opportunities downstairs.  The easel was put away for about 6 months, but I recently brought it out again and of course it was a big hit!  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, especially with easels!  Ha!  

Remember that EASELS HELP DEVELOP MOTOR SKILLS (click).....they are essential for early childhood homes!  And fun!

Here's what it looks like for Q(6) and B(newly 4):

Paper in a basket underneath, a role of washi tape to attach the paper to the easel.  I gave the kids a mini-lesson on the correct way to do this.  Q can tape up paper independently, B needs help.  Often times I tape up a blank piece of white paper, and it proves irresistible--someone comes to paint as soon as they spot it!  I also try to occasionally stop and paint a bit to model it for my kids.  They get so interested in watching Mama paint, too!  

A jar of assorted paintbrushes

A sponge (cut in half to make a small square) for wiping brushes or spills

A small container of small chalk bits (small pieces encourage correct finger grasp for young writers) and a little eraser

2 mugs that are used for rinse water for painting--one for warm colors and one for cool colors.  Q and I learned to do this in our recent watercolor class.  I love that it teaches her to think back about her color theory and where particular colors belong.  B just uses them both for either color, and that's fine (with me, not his sister...she hates that).  

I have a little stool next to the easel that holds a pallet of watercolor cakes (the largest size crayola makes).  I put out washable cakes for independent painting, but we use liquid watercolors when we sit down for a guided painting time.  

I also recently bought Q some tempera cakes for some variety.  I am not super impressed with the ones we got, but she likes them.  I hoped they would be darker and more vibrant.  I ordered them, but I need to see what some of the craft stores or even Lakeshore carry.  Theirs might be higher quality.  Anyhow, paint cakes are great because they are less messy than liquid paint and I don't have to worry about wasting paint that dries out.  I provide liquid tempera upstairs in the studio, so they still get different opportunities with a variety of paint mediums.  

We have a cupboard nearby with a basket of old washcloths that the kids have access to for any clean up that is necessary!  They know to put completed pictures on the table if they want to paint another one!  We have a little "training session" when I first get out the easel to show them how to use everything.  Q is very helpful in getting water for her brother and taping up his paper, which is great!!

Books to read to First Graders/ Audiobooks for First Graders

This list is a continuation from my BOOKS TO READ TO KINDERGARTENERS, so I am not going to go into a lot of discussion--click back there if you are interested in more details!  I'll go straight into the booklist of recommended titles for first graders.  Yikes!!  How do I have a first grader!  I will need to note that first grade was my favorite grade to teach in my public school days, so everything first-grade-related is so very sweet in my heart!  

I will update and add to this list as Q's first grade year goes on, so this is just the start of our list!  Stay tuned!

And now the books!!
The Oz Series by L. Frank Baum
(note--Q has listened to the Wizard of Oz and this book in the series, but I am going to wait a bit more before really getting into the series.  With some classic, beautiful series', I want to wait a little longer until she is old enough to fully appreciate and remember them.  Just a "thing" I have.)

Dragons of Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett

Anything written by Beverly Cleary

The "Little House" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Piper Reed Series by Kimberly Willis Holt

Freddy series by Walter R. Brooks

Encyclopedia Brown Books by Donald Sobol

Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler

The Chinese Siamese Cat by Amy Tan

Horrible Harry series by Suzy Kline

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

The Blossoms Series by Betsy Byars

Classics of Childhood Collection by Blackstone Audio

Humphrey Series by Betty G. Birney

The Treehouse Series (The 13-Storey Treehouse, etc) by Andy Griffiths

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey

Kid Who....series by Dan Gutman

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

My Weird School Collection by Dan Gutman

Dragon Series by Jackie French Koller

Dragon Academy series by Kate McMullan

Lad, A Dog by A.P. Terhune

The Callahan Cousins series by Elizabeth Doyle Carey

The Paintbrush Kid/The Poppy Seeds by Clyde Robert Bulla

Thursday, August 20, 2015

On Our Nature Shelf....exploring rocks and gems

Remember that sometimes just "putting it out there" is a great way to invite little learners to explore science (or any!) objects.  When we were in South Dakota this summer, there was a big rock display at a gift shop.  They were reasonably priced, so I picked up a nice selection for our geology studies.  I haven't yet had time to pull together a geology study, but I did decide to put the rocks out for open exploration.

Note that my kids have been taught how to explore scientific objects properly--They take the whole tray/basket to the table and handle the items gently.  Then they return the items to the shelf when finished.  They also know these specimens aren't for playing with in other areas of the house, they are specifically for scientific exploration, so they won't be included in building a castle or hauled in mini dump trucks (we have other rocks for that!!)

I love these little Golden Guides and pick them up whenever I see them at used book stores or thrifting.

Putting this little display out for my kiddos really peaked their interest and both of them have enjoyed looking at, touching, and exploring the rocks and gems.  Q will even use the book to try to identify them!

Obviously these rocks are more interesting than things we could find in our backyard, but we make some great nature displays even from our own area.  Often we save rocks that have neat textures or shapes or sizes to put on our nature table, so don't be discouraged if you don't have something amazing.

Including kiddos in finding items for your nature table/shelf is always a hit.  They feel ownership and pride and are so much more likely to use good stewardship for "their" items!

What's on your nature table/shelf/windowsill??!!!

Magnets for babies! Otherwise known as: How to keep babies busy while you cook.

We got to have our little niece quite a bit over the summer, so I loved reaching back into my "Baby's Bag of Tricks" and remembering some of my favorite tips that worked with my babies.

One of the hardest times with babies (and sadly, still my two bigger ones) is the hour or so before dinner, when trying to cook, set the table, pull together the house a bit and little ones are wrecking havoc!

One thing that worked well with my two were magnets.  I kept them up higher on the fridge, out of their reach until I needed them to keep a little person busy.  Then I put them down at Baby Level and let her explore.  I modeled for her how to slide them and how to take them off and put them on, and she quickly got the hang of it (she is 10 months).  The funnest game is to take them all off, of course!  And, like any activity, the first time yields an interest of approximately 2 seconds....but if you keep up the exposure and model repeatedly, they will build up their ability and interest in sitting and playing longer.

I have these old fruit magnets I got at a thrift store.  I also have used large letter magnets, some laminated photos I glued magnets onto, dominoes I modge-podged photos onto, etc.

HERE is the link page to all my magnet posts...the ones particularly about babies are the older ones, so scroll down!!  (there is also a link in my sidebar under "magnet work")

Besides keeping baby busy, working in this position builds cross-lateral connections in the brain (as their arms cross the midline as they grab at the magnets) and strengthens arm strength that will later be needed for fine motor skills such as using utensils, writing and cutting.  Whoo-hoo!!

Standing babies enjoy magnets just out of their reach that they have to s-t-r-e-t-c-h up to grab and pull down.  This makes them feel so accomplished!!

In our churchbag......

I was cleaning some junk (old bulletins, etc.) out of our church bag today and decided it was a good time to post what we currently keep in that thing!

Right now we have Q (6) and B (newly 4) using the bag, along with a random couple of other kiddos that sit with us, so our bag is made for older preschool/younger elementary-aged kids.

First off, we expect our children to participate fully in worship during the first part (singing, prayer, scripture reading, etc.).  We don't open the bag and our kiddos stand/sit and particpate just like everyone else.  Usually Daddy holds one kiddo and I hold the other, or at least they stand next to us, with our friends (our church has a large urban bus ministry....) sitting between us.  That helps us keep kids focused and attentive.  If we have extra foster kiddos with us, we disperse them between us.  :)

When communion starts, we let our kids begin to use items from our churchbag.  These items are purposefully included to help our children meditate upon, participate in and understand the meaning of communion and Jesus' sacrifice.  Q goes to children's worship after communion, but B stays in "Big Church" still and continues to use the items throughout the sermon time.

Typically I choose which child gets which item.  This might be because they haven't done a particular item in a while and I'd like them to, because they are too antsy to use playdough well that day, or because I want two kids to share the markers between them.  No matter what, they use what Mama hands them or nothing (and all of this has been discussed, taught and practiced beforehand...there is NO WAY you can introduce new items cold-turkey in the middle of church successfully, in my opinion....)  We've already had a mini lesson with the item during the week.  Or maybe just a short discussion on how to use it.  Friends do a really good job of just following what my kids are doing with a few whispered directions from me/my kids.  I love watching my kids include another friend into what they are doing and very quietly explain what to do!

We use a small canvas bag.  I keep it packed and ready to go on our shelves by the back door and I am in the habit of grabbing it each Sunday on the way to church.

 These cards are laminated printouts of famous pieces of art that depict different scenes of Jesus' life.  I just printed them off, laminated them, and keep them in a baggie.  During communion, I look through them with the child next to me and we talk about each picture and what it is of in a whisper voice.

 This is a sign language book I made--I looked up pictures for signs that go along with church words (worship, communion, pray, bread, sing, etc.) and put the picture and written directions onto cards.  The child sitting next to me and I whisper the directions and do the signs in our laps.  I love that many of the signs are designed based on the meaning of the word--for example, the sign for Jesus involves using your fingers like nails in your palms.  Through using the signs for the words, children can participate in the meanings of the words and concepts in a kinesthetic manner.
 I love art books.  My kids have responded really well to this book, which I picked up at a thrift store.  I often see similar items at the thrift store or Half Price Books, so picking up a used copy of Jesus art by the masters is a great idea.  I like my kids to see the different concepts depicted in different ways.  Of course we have had a discussion (sometimes in the car on the way to church is a good time for this) that these are from the artists' imagination, and that is why different artists depict the same scene different ways.

During communion I invite my kids to page through the books while sitting in my lap/next to me and in a whisper I provide some context about the pictures.  Older kids can look at a picture and then use their Bible to find the text (which is usually listed next to the picture).
 Inside the book I have this picture clipped, which my daughter loves.  It's The Last Supper and has the apostles labeled, and also has a page of information about different symbolism in the painting.  She loves to have this quietly read to her.
 All kids seem to love these simple, vintage books.  They are the stories of Jesus (this one is the crucifixion) depicted through simple stick figures.  Matt or I read the book quietly to the child on our lap during communion or let them look at the illustrations independently.

 We also have 2 small 3-ring binders.  One has writing and drawing prompts.  I keep them in clear page protectors and provide some vis-a-vis overhead markers for the children to write on the dry erase pages.  I also keep spare paper at the end in case they want to draw something from the binder on their own.
CLICK HERE to download the printable "Blood" page.
CLICK HERE to download the printable "Bread" page.

 I have sentence starters and also this page on how to dry a cross (link is on the photo).
 I also love using the coloring sheets on the FLAME website--I usually chose those that pertain to communion or Jesus.

I also made a printable where the child copies Isaiah 55:3 and then traces their hand.

 The other binder has our Playdough Mats--which are ways for younger kiddos (and older, too!) to respond to elements of Communion in a tactile, and age-appropriate way.  I use either the mats from FLAME or some I have made myself, located on the sidebar of this blog.  The playdough is only for completing the activities on the mat, not free play during this time.  We have had great luck with this not being too messy of an activity.  We of course keep the child working right next to us, and sometimes I don't hand them the whole cannister, just small balls at a time to work with.  Also, I try to introduce new mats (and FOR SURE the concept of using a playdough mat) first in our home, not in the communion setting, so I can teach it and demonstrate it.  Often I bring these out at the table while the kids are waiting on me to make lunch or dinner.

We keep a bag of markers.  Sometimes our bag gets left in the car, so I don't keep crayons it it, as they melt.  
 One the bigger kids go to children's worship, I let Beck use the legos during the sermon.  Research on listening comprehension shows that many kids can actually listen more intently and comprehend at a higher level when their hands are busy.  Jim Trelease recommends this in his excellent, most-highly recommended READ ALOUD HANDBOOK.  So Beck is allowed to stay sitting on the pew and work with legos while he also listens to the sermon.  It works great!  He knows if he works quietly he gets to keep the legos, and if he gets wild or loud we put them away and he has to sit in Daddy's lap with nothing in his hands.
I keep the churchbag the same for several months at a time, but after my kiddos begin to lose interest in an item, I change it out.

HERE is a link to some other items that have been in our churchbag.

As you can see, we work to engage/talk (whisper!) with the kiddos all during the communion time to bring their attention to what is happening and why, and to build their understanding.  We consider ourselves their mentors, as we guide them through some child-appropriate elements to help them draw meaning from communion time together.