Stick Yarn Bombing

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It all started with the children’s picture book, “Extra Yarn” by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen.  It’s a story about a young girl named Annabelle who happens to find a box filled with multicolored yarn.  She does what you might expect–knits a sweater for herself.  But there is extra yarn, so she knits one for her dog, only to discover that there is still more yarn.  She then knits sweaters for others–her classmates and teacher and even animals.  Still–more yarn.  She begins to cover her entire cold, drab town in rainbow knitwear–including buildings and trees and even a pickup truck.  Before long, an archduke, who has heard about the magic box of never-ending yarn, arrives and offers Annabelle riches in exchange for the box.  When she refuses, the archduke has it stolen.  But it is for naught–he finds the box empty and angrily tosses it in the sea, where it eventually returns to Annabelle.  This warm tale teaches a lesson and everyone can interpret it differently…but the moral is that good things happen to those who do good things.

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As my good friend, Isabel Baker of The Book Vine for Children  says, “This book begs to be extended!”  She asked me to collaborate with her on ways that we could integrate this wonderful story into the classroom. Of course, there is knitting and crocheting and the sharing of things that are made of yarn (hats, sweaters, scarfs, blankets, etc.).  Many art activities come to mind – gluing yarn on paper, painting with yarn and Colorations® Liquid Watercolor, cutting yarn and sticking pieces on clear contact paper.  And then I remembered one winter day at my house with some of the grandchildren and providing them with skeins of bright colorful yarn.  And from the pictures below, you can obviously see the active, fun-filled, and collaborative “art” that they created on the stair railings.

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I have come to learn that yarn bombing is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk.  Often undercover and often at night, yarn bombing involves crafters and artists knitting works of art made of yarn onto civic structures and into the fabric of public spaces.  Signs of the yarn bombing movement have shown up in cities across the world.  Bombers have knit turtleneck sweaters for trees in Seattle and covered subway seats in Philadelphia.  The third International Yarn Bombing Day was celebrated on June 8, 2013.  On this day, yarn enthusiasts from around the globe shared their passion with the world by “tagging” their neighborhood–covering bike racks, trees, park benches to even just wrapping a pole or lamp post with yarn–creating a happy spring experience for the members of the community.

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Isabel was presenting her very popular workshop, “The Best New Books For Preschoolers”  at the recent NAEYC Professional Development Institute and wanted to extend this story.  I thought, why not yarn bomb a stick–the oldest and possibly the best toy in the world–natural and free.  So I collected 150 sticks from my neighborhood and brought them with me to the Institute taking place at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.  I asked the attendees to pick a stick that “speaks to you,” (thank you Karen Lombard from Dayton Public Schools).  After I read the story, “Extra Yarn,” I passed around little black boxes of yarn and, of course, the yarn bombing began and no one wanted to stop!  Then I did this with my grandchildren at our family gathering in Lake Tahoe, reading the story, collecting sticks on our nature walks, and providing the magical box of yarn and the “yarn bombing” began and they didn’t want to stop!  Look at what they did with their wrapped sticks: they made geometric shapes, “writing” the initials of their first and last name, to even making hearts.  We love STICK YARN BOMBING!

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Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Jumbo Roving Yarn (ROVING)

Colorations® Acrylic Yarn – set of 12 (YARN)
Yarn Dispensing Box – 16 colors (YARNBOX)
White Sulfite Paper – 500 sheets (P9SU)
Colorations® Crystal Clear Cover (SSAP)
Colorations® Washable School Glue – 4 oz (PMCWG)
Colorations® 5” Blunt Tip Craft Scissors (CBS)
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor Paint – set of 18 (LW18)

Make Friends with Mother Earth!

Make friends with three feet of…something…outdoors.  Have you ever stepped outdoors and focused on a small area — say, three feet — and spent some time just observing and exploring?  Give children a magnifying glass, three feet of yarn, a small shovel or rake, and a bucket.  Have them place the yarn on the ground in the shape of a circle or any shape of their choosing.  Using the tools they brought with them, encourage the children to dig, rake, investigate, wonder and discover…

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What’s happening on the surface?

What lives there?

What’s growing there?

What eats it or sleeps in it or plays in it?

What color is it and does it always stay that color?

Does it look different at different times of the day?

What happens when the weather changes or seasons come and go?

Does your adopted spot change?

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Whether your outdoor space has grassy areas to enjoy or piles of dirt or plain cement sidewalks, the kinds of questions children can answer (and ask!) are endless.  Encourage the development of their sensory and deductive skills.  Pick small areas to monitor and explore for a fun and educational long-term project — and one easily connected with art, science, and literacy components in your curriculum.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Excellerations™ Super Magnifiers – set of 6 (BIGEYE – $15.99)
Wonder Eye Jumbo Magnifiers – set of 3 (EYESEE – $16.99)
Jumbo Roving Yarn – 5 lbs (ROVING – $69.99)
Small Shovels – set of 24 (SMSHOV24 – $23.99)
Shovels and Rakes – set of 8 (SHOVRK8 – $14.99)
Small Bucket with Spout, Clear (SMBUCK – $6.49)

Obstacle Courses = A"maze"ing Fun!

Versatile and inviting, an obstacle course can be great fun for young children, and a course is easy to set up inside or out. Weather permitting, consider setting up the course outside. Fresh air can help energize brains and bodies!

An obstacle course is an arrangement of physical challenges or tasks, using simple equipment, set in a line or route around an area. For young children, moving around, over, under and through an obstacle course promotes motor planning abilities, physical skills and movement concepts. Colored yarn, chalk, traffic signs or hand and feet prints can be used for the children to follow. Depending on the age of the children, start with 4 to 6 tasks or events that make a simple yet challenging course. Spread out the obstacle course as much as possible. Adapt, add and change the course to fit your location and abilities of the children.

Before children attempt any obstacle course, ask them to watch as you or a child demonstrate the “how-to’s” (verbally describe directions for each task). Next, line up everybody behind each other at the start of the course and tell them to follow the leader through the course while you describe the physical challenges they are attempting. Emphasize that the obstacle course is not a race and they should not speed through the activities. The teacher or adult leader should stress to the children to keep some space between them. If a “traffic jam” does occur, tell the children to please wait patiently while the person in front of them completes the challenge on the equipment before proceeding ahead.

Having a theme or focus for an obstacle course provides structured physical activity for children because it is purposeful play with a clear goal. An all-time favorite is the “The Super Daring Obstacle Course.” It’s adventurous because of the “maze” of obstacles and the “perilous dangers” the children are challenged to avoid by correctly maneuvering through the course. “Dangers” are pretend and explained with great fanfare, such as the “quicksand” area or the “bottomless swap.” The more creative and imaginative the adventure, the more the children will love it!

The Super Daring Obstacle Course:

1. Start–place a pole, rope or piece of clothesline between two cones to make a crossbar for jumping over. Place a hoop on the ground on the other side of the rope or crossbar for children to jump into. Children jump over the “flaming” rope/bar and land with two feet in the hoop.

2. Jumping Pattern–place 4 hoops in a hopscotch pattern. Children jump with two feet into the first large hoop; straddle jump (feet apart) into the medium hoops placed side by side; end with two feet together again in the last large hoop.

3. Bridge Walk–place a rope lengthwise on the ground or set up a balance beam. Children try to walk heel-toe from one end of the beam/rope to the other, balancing above the “bottomless swamp.”

4. Helpful Turtles–place 4 to 6 spot markers, Hop Around Steps or Balance Pods in a row 6- 12” from each other. Encourage children to step or leap from one spot marker (shells of turtles to help them avoid the “quicksand”) to the next as they travel on their adventure.

5. Tunnel of No Return–set up a cloth or nylon tunnel or use a large box. Children creep through quietly on hands and knees to avoid waking the “alligators.”

6. Perilous Path–set up 4 to 6 cones in a row about 2-4’ apart from each other to make a pathway. Children to travel in a zigzag pattern, snaking their way around and through without waking the “snakes.”

7. Stop–place a tumbling mat several feet away from the last cones of the Perilous Path. Children run to the mat and fall down on it or log roll to the end, survivors of The Super Daring Obstacle Course!

8. Direct children to the start of the course as you inevitably hear them ask, “Can we do it again? Can we do it again?”

As I once heard a child say, “The obstacle course is THE BEST thing I like at school!” It’s a wonderful thing for preschool teachers and early childhood caregivers to include as part of physical activity or movement programs.