Dirt + Water = Mud-luscious!

SK Internat Mud Day Post

On Sunday, June 29, children all over the world celebrated International Mud Day by getting messy with mud — one of nature’s best play materials!

Playing in dirt and mud is actually healthy for you.  Researchers now recommend playing in the dirt as a way to boost the body’s immune system, that digging in the dirt (and even ingesting a little bit of it) actually can help decrease a child’s risk of allergies and asthma.  The basis for this stems from the idea that limiting child’s play to primarily the indoors limits their exposure to natural organisms that build a healthy immune system.  In addition to the physical health benefits, dirt and mud play simply makes a person happier.  Recent studies report that children are spending 90% of their time indoors and more than 8 hours per day in front of a screen. Let’s get the kids outside and decrease stress and anxiety, decrease obesity and depression, build a strong immune system, and have fun!  International Mud Day reminds us that we should embrace mud play every day.  Here are ideas to bring mud play into your early childhood program—

Mud in the Sensory Table:

SK Internat Mud Day Table

Buy some clean fill, black dirt or potting soil and dump into your sensory/sand and water table.  Add child sized gardening tools, an array of containers, flower pots, artificial flowers, rocks, seed pods, sticks, plastic insects or dinosaurs.

Mud Patch:

If you have the room and the resources create a permanent digging patch.  You can buy the dirt from a nursery or building supplier.  Mix in approximately 1/3 sand to 2/3 soil to provide a more “diggable” mix.

•  Make mud castles, houses or forts using buckets and assorted containers.  Use sticks for supports.  Include tunnels, secret rooms, and even a moat.

•  Make rivers and dams.  Dig a river in the dirt and add water.  Build a dam to form a small puddle.

•  Bring in the toy trucks and props to create a construction zone.

Mud on Cookie Sheets/Baking Trays or Art Trays:

Create personal mud patches, smooth with hands and watch kids finger paint in the mud, write in the mud with sticks, make mud prints by placing mud-covered hands and feet on a clean sheet of paper, drive a toy car through the mud…the possibilities are endless..

Mud Painting/Art Ideas:

•  Set out an easel or find a large cardboard box.  Instead of paint, fill your paint cups or sand buckets with mud and let the children explore with brushes or their fingers to make mud paintings.  Add items from nature (leaves, petals, pine needles) to mud paintings creating a mud collage.

•  Make mud balls by shaping mud into balls by rolling the “dough” in your hands. Decorate the balls with flowers, leaves, rocks, or small twigs. Stack the mud balls on top of each other to create a unique sculpture.

Cooking in the Mud Kitchen:

SK Internat Mud Kitchen 1

Similar to your indoor/dramatic play housekeeping area, the kitchen requires a cooking appliance—an old plastic stove or box made into an oven.  If you can find an old cabinet or dresser, the children will have a place to work and store materials. Tree stumps or tree cookies can also be used as table surfaces.  Old pots and pans, mixing bowls, spoons, utensils, funnels, and other kitchenware give the kitchen an authentic feel and offer lots of different opportunities for play.

SK Internat Mud Kitchen 2

•  Make Mud Pies & Cupcakes—use old cake or pie tins, muffin tins, and even shallow plastic containers.  Once the pies or cupcakes are “baked,” it’s time decorate them with pebbles, petals, and leaves.  Yum!

•  Make Mud Stew—collect dirt, grass, leaves, twigs, and acorns in a large container.  Add some water and Soup’s on!

There are so many benefits of mud play besides the tactile, sensory experiences of squelching mud between fingers and toes. Children develop hand-eye coordination, learn about cause and effect, have fun co-operating, communicating, socializing, sharing, problem solving, discovering, laughing, experimenting, building, negotiating, imagining, and yes, getting a little dirty in the process.  If you find it hard to allow mud play in your early childhood program, you are depriving the children of a childhood that is well-lived and messy!

SK Internat Mud Day Hands

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Best Value Sand & Water Table – Large (BVST18)
Brawny Tough Art Trays – Set of 5 (RECTRAY)
Colorations® Air-Tight No-Mess Paint Cups – Set of 10 (10PC)
Natural Bristle Brushes – Set of 10 (10PCB)
Colorations® Indoor/Outdoor Adjustable Acrylic Panel Easels (4WAPE)
Jumbo Dump Truck (BIGTRUCK)
Construction Trucks – Set of 3 (TRUCK3)
Sand and Water Buckets (BUCKSET)
Premium Sand Set – 51 Pieces (SET51)
Classroom Starter Kit – Medium Animals (MEDANI)
Papier-Mache Flower Pots – Set of 12 (MACHEPOT)

Books that Move You!

Sometimes it just takes a book to start the action. I’ve compiled a list of favorite children’s picture books that will encourage kids to get up off their seat, onto their feet…and get moving!

Animal Action ABC by Karen Pandell

In this extraordinary board book, children learn action words and get the wiggles out by imitating animals.  From Arch to Balance, 26 action words, each headed by a different letter of the alphabet, are introduced, each accompanied by a pleasant verse that links the word to an animal.  Dramatic photos of wildlife in action and delightful spot photos of young children imitating the animals’ movements punctuate the action.

Bal Yoga for Kids by Glenda Kacev & Sylvia Roth

This book is a child and teacher friendly program which is both a fun and easy method teaching kids yoga postures from A – Z with a sing along & narrated CD and DVD demonstration. A song accompanies each letter and pose with whimsical illustrations and photographs that stretch the body and imagination.

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton

“Stomp your feet! Clap your hands! Everybody ready for a BARNYARD DANCE!” An assortment of irrepressible farm animals join in a rollicking square dance.  As an education tool, children will learn to recognize farm animals, and associate simple verbs to the action, such as bow, bounce, swing, and leap.  And most importantly get up and dance!

The Busy Body Book: A Kid’s Guide to Fitness by Lizzy Rockwell

Learn how your bones and muscles, heart and lungs, nerves and brain all work together to keep you on the go. Kids walk and skate and tumble through these pages with such exuberance that even sprouting couch potatoes will want to get up and bounce around—and that’s the ultimate goal. Studies show that American kids are becoming more sedentary and more overweight and that they carry these tendencies with them into adolescence and adulthood. Experts agree that we need to help kids make physical activity a life-long habit. Through education, information, and encouragement, this book aims to inspire a new generation of busy bodies!

Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas

This exuberant, interactive picture book starring a bossy little ladybug and a GIANT hungry frog will have kids leaping up and down and out of their seats, doing the chicken dance, and make silly scary faces of their own.

Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley

Full of reasons to get up and dance.  Little ones will jump at the chance

to join this menagerie of zany animals and children as they stomp, wiggle, roar, and spin their way through the day, as the rhyming text reinforces important concepts.

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

From their heads down to their toes, kids will be wriggling, jiggling, and giggling as they try to keep up with these animals!  Alligators wiggle, elephants stomp, gorillas thump, and giraffes bend. “Can you do it? I can do it!” is the confidence-building message of this fun-filled interactive picture book.

Move! by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

A playful introduction to motion in the animal kingdom that invites young readers to guess some of the unusual ways that animals get around. Follow them as they swing, dance, float, leap, and slide from page to page, then learn why these animals move the way they do.This book is wonderful for learning about how your body can move and how each animal can move.

The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer

When a group of young children set off with their teacher on an orderly walk through the park, the very last little girl spies a “squiggle” (a piece of string) on the ground and picks it up. As she twirls, twists, and turns the long red ribbon, she imagines it to be a dragon, a thundercloud, a “full fat moon,” and much more. She hastily rejoins the group and, much to their delight, demonstrates her treasure’s potential. Then the youngsters continue the walk, not as a “bunched-up, slow, tight, straight line,” but in exuberant squiggle-style, instead.  Give each child a streamer ribbon or streamer scarf and let them create their own “squiggles” as your read the book again and again.

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Get Up and Go! by Nancy Carlson

We all come in different shapes and sizes, and it doesn’t matter if you are tall, short, skinny, or round. Your body is your own, and you need to take care of it. This book is the perfect catalyst to get readers moving. Vibrant, fun-filled illustrations and an encouraging text explain the many great reasons to exercise, from making new friends to going new places, or just because it’s good for your body.

Little Yoga by Rebecca Whitford

Here is a playful introduction to nine simple yoga exercises for toddlers.  A fun book even for those that know nothing about yoga as it relates the poses to well known animals.  For example, “standing forward bend” is renamed “monkey” because the pose resembles a monkey bending over. The back of the book has photos of actual children doing the poses as well as tips and an explanation for teaching the poses correctly.

My Aunt Came Back Adapted by John M. Feierabend

Sung as an echo song (to the classic tune of “How Dry I Am”), and accompanied by hand and body movements, children will laugh out loud at the antics of the Aunt, who in each verse travels to another strange place and brings back some unusual things.

Tony Chestnut by Laurie Monopoli

The much-loved children’s song, Tony Chestnut , comes to life in an interactive children’s picture book with accompanying CD. “The Book About Tony Chestnut” invites children to actively join-in, participate and connect with the storybook’s characters (Eileen, Neil, Pat, Bob, Russell and Skip).  Tony Chestnut uses the sounds of his name (Toe, Knee, Chest, Nut) to sing this really cool song. As he starts singing he points to the corresponding body parts. “Toe Knee Chest Nut Nose Eye Love You Toe Knee Nose.” The song starts out slowly, in order to get the kids used to pointing to the body parts, and then quickly picks up speed. It’s fun trying to keep up!

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt retold by Michael Rosen

If you’ve ever heard the song “We’re Going On a Bear Hunt” then you know the way the story goes.  It encourages movement and active involvement.  Stand up and act out the story and use hand and body motions as you read…to cross the tall wavy grass (swishy swashy), ford the deep cold river (splash splosh), tromp through the ooey-gooey mud (squelch squelch), wander through the deep dark forest (stumble trip!), run through a whirling snowstorm (Hoooo woooo), and at last enter a deep dark cave (tiptoe). “What’s that? It’s a bear!” And now it’s time to run back over every place you’d been before to escape.

We’re Going on a Lion Hunt by David Axtell

In this beautifully illustrated rendition of a well-known children’s chant, two sisters are looking not for a bear but for a lion–a lion that lives on the African savanna, where the girls go through swishy-swashy long grass, a splishy-splashy lake, and a Big Dark Cave. When they finally meet their lion, they have to run, run, run through it all again to get back home. Like Michael Rosen’s “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” this picture book will encourage preschoolers to participate and move.

You Are A Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo

With simple instructions, this wonderfully illustrated book introduces kids to yoga in a fun and interactive way. Each pose is introduced like an animal and kids can then do the movement as well as make the animal sounds— flutter like a butterfly, hiss like a snake, roar like a lion and more.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:

“Bal Yoga for Kids” Book, CD and DVD (AP9555J)
“We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” Book (BEARHUNT)
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands – Set of 6 (RNBW)
Streamer Scarves – Set of 12 (SWISH)

Sand & Water Fun for Infants and Toddlers

As an Early Care and Education Consultant and Trainer, I am asked to conduct workshops on a variety of topics for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.  My main goal in presenting at conferences and trainings (and also in writing this blog) is to share ideas and activities to use with the children in your care.  I have been asked to present my workshop, “NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE! Extending the Curriculum Outdoors” for Infant and Toddler Teachers.  The program coordinator specifically asked me to focus on the sand and water table and the sensory materials that can be included for this age group.

Is your sand and water table buzzing with activity or is it stagnant like the water you always seem to have in it?  Perhaps your sand and water table is closed because you think it creates a mess.  Whether you need to rekindle interest in your sand and water table or remind yourself about the value of sensory play…read on to discover the sensory learning opportunities found in the sand and water table.

The sand and water table can be equipped with two basins or tubs side by side or it can be one large table.  Whatever the configuration, most of these tables can be used inside or outdoors. Sensory play, sometimes known as “messy play,” happens in the sand and water table.  It is a center for exploring with your senses, experimenting, scooping, and pouring, squeezing and smushing (building fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination for handwriting), sharing and turn taking.  Children can watch chemical reactions, mix colors, repeat observed phenomenon, and try new things.  Sensory play promotes spatial awareness, mathematical thinking, and scientific exploration and discovery.  It also is simply a great way for children to relieve their stress.  Sensory play can be very soothing and relaxing to a young child.

Ideally, the items in the sand and water table should be switched out every week, though there are some materials (i.e., water) that need to be emptied daily. What you can and cannot include in your sand and water table depends on the children and the different policies of your program about the use of food during play and explorations, as well as concerns about children’s food allergies and sanitation.  Some of the items listed may be problematic for toddlers and those children who insist on putting everything in their mouth, ears or nose.  Provide close supervision and use only larger items for the very young.

Materials, Ideas & Activities for the Sand & Water Table:

Depending on the contents of the sand and water table, add small shovels, rakes, sand and water mills, small watering cans, squeeze bottles, sifters, sand molds, buckets, plastic or rubber animals, small people, boats, vehicles, kitchen utensils (wire whisks, slotted spoons, scoops, tongs, tweezers, funnels, mixing cups, basters, ladles, muffin tins, plastic cookie cutters, ice cube trays, sieves) and a variety of containers to foster complex sensory play.

I think it’s important to have two sand and water tables—one for inside and one for outside.  That way, depending on the weather and your setup, some kind of sensory activity can be available for the children to explore.  Infants and toddlers rely on sensory input to learn about their environment. Sensory play helps build neural connections that support thought, learning, and creativity.  It supports language development, cognitive growth, fine/gross motor skills, problem solving/reasoning, and social interaction.  Sensory experiences are like food for the brain.  With a little bit of planning, sensory play in the sand and water table can happen everyday!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Best Value Sand & Water Activity Table and Lid (SWTAB, SWTABL)
Neptune Sand and Water Table with Lid (NEPTUNE)
Sand & Water Buckets (BUCKSET)
32 Ounce Bubble Solution (BUB32)
Bubble Wands (BUBWNDS)
Small Shovels (SMSHOV24)
Watering Can (WCAN)
Colorations® Easy-Grip Dough Cutters (EGCUTTER)
Sand & Water Mills (MILLSET3)
Pour and Measure Play Set (POURPACK)
Funnels (FUNNELS)
Excellerations® Fun Foam Fishing Set (REELFUN)
Sailboats (SAILS)
Sturdy Scoops (FUNSCOOP)
Super Classroom Sand Set (SDSET)
Sandtastik® White Play Sand (PLAYSAND)
Soft Touch Cute Baby Sea Creatures (BABYSEA)
Soft Touch Cute Baby Wild Animals (BABYZOO)
Soft Touch Cute Baby Farm Animals (BABYFARM)
Soft Multicultural Career Figures (HELPER)
Small Multicultural Career Figures (PEOPLE)
Bathing Dolls (BATHSET)
Primary Toddler Dish Set (DISHSET)
Magic Nuudles™ (ALLNU)
Kinetic Sand ™ (KINSAND)
Colored Play Sand (CSANDALL)
Sparkling Sculpture Sand (BLINGSET)
Shape it!™ Sand (MOONSNST)
Small Gotcha Nets (NETS)
Gator Grabber Tweezers (GATGRABS)
Medium Insects & Spiders (INSECTS)
Foam Wooden Blocks (WDFMBLK)
Foam Tabletop Unit Blocks (FOBL)
Tree Blocks with Bark (TRBLK)
Tree Blocks without Bark (TRBLKNB)
Chubby Land, Sea & Air Vehicles (CHUBBY)
Fun Dough Scissors (DSCISSOR)
Colorations® Tissue Paper Grass (TGRASS)
Super Safe Plastic Droppers (12SSD)
Colorations®
Liquid Watercolor Classic Colors (13LW)
Colorations® No-Drip Foam Paint (BFP)
Colored Macaroni (SMAC)
Colored Rice (RRIC)
Colorations® Washable Finger Paint (CWFPS)
Colorations® Sensory Sand Finger Paint (SANSET)
Fabric Squares (FAB)
Jumbo 2” Pom-Poms (LGPOMS)
Craft Fluffs (FLUFFPK)
Wood Craft Rounds (WOOD50)

Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice

I am passionate about putting into teacher’s and children’s hands materials that promote physical activity and learning.  Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice does just that and is a quality product from Discount School Supply®.

The Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice set includes:

  • 2 dice with pockets on all sides
  • 20 different movement activity cards
  • 12 numeral cards (2 each of the numbers 1-6)
  • 12 dice dot cards (2 each of the dots numbering 1-6)
  • 12 blank cards

The two large seven-inch vinyl-covered foam dice have pockets on all six sides that hold activity and number cards.  Insert six different activity cards in each of the pockets on one die.  On the other die put the numeral cards, either showing the dots or the numeral.  Depending on the developmental skills level of the children, I use the numeral cards for numbers 1, 2, and 3 and the dot cards for numbers 4, 5, and 6.  Young children may not recognize the larger numerals, but they are usually able to count the dots or “pips.”  Did you know that the dots on dice are called “pips?”  The word “pip” commonly means a “spot” or a “speck,” and perhaps that’s why the dots on dice, as well as dominoes, are called pips.  Don’t shy away from the big word, i.e., “pips” for “dots.”  It is very common for adults to simplify their language when talking to young children.  Throwing in a new word now and then is a great opportunity to build vocabulary! If you’re going to explain what something is, you might as well use the proper word the first time. Children may not always pick up on those big words, but they certainly won’t if they don’t ever hear them.  So go ahead, use words like “identical” instead of “same” and “pips” instead of “dots.” You’ll be surprised at what the children will pick up on when you give them the chance!

kids stretching

Here is a fun favorite activity that I like to play indoors or outside.  You’ll find more ideas in the Activity Guide that comes with it.

Roll the Dice for Exercise

How to play:

  1. Sit children in a large circle.
  2. One child is chosen to roll the dice.
  3. Child with dice stands up and rolls the dice into the middle of the circle.
  4. The child identifies the activity to be performed and the number of times to perform the activity by counting the pips or stating the number shown on the die.
  5. All children in the circle stand up and perform the activity that is lead by the child who rolled the dice.  All the children are to count as they perform the movement.
  6. When finished, the child who had rolled the dice gives it to another child who continues the game by rolling the dice and leading the group in the movement activity that is shown on the movement die and counting the number of times they are to do the activity (as shown on the number die).
  7. The game ends when every child has had a chance to “Roll the Dice for Exercise.”

Suggestions & Variations:

  • If the child who rolled the die has difficulty counting, let the group count the dots or pips out loud on the number die, as the child points to them.
  • Take pictures of the children doing a favorite movement activity (i.e., jumping jacks, jogging in place, etc.) and adhere it to a blank card.  This personalizes it to the group of children in your classroom.
  • This activity is also a great one to use when children are in transition –i.e., waiting for the bus or their group’s turn, etc.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:

  1. Physical activity: any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure
  2. Gross motor skills: using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk
  3. Cooperative play: games and activities that the participants play together rather than against one another
  4. Listening skills: ability to follow verbal directions
  5. Language development: speaking, communicating
  6. Mathematics: number sense of quantity and counting; one-to-one correspondence
  7. Social emotional development: taking turns; promotes children’s self-esteem and confidence

Get active, get moving, get healthy…and start rolling the Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice.  Everyone will be a winner!

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything!

I’m putting together a list of “Books That Move You” for an upcoming presentation I will be doing for the California Library Association State Conference in November (I’ll make sure to share that list in a future post).  The title of this blog is the title of a really great and interactive book I’ve read to my preschoolers every October.  It’s become a Halloween classic, though the word “Halloween” never even enters the text.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd is about a little old lady who goes out into the woods to get some herbs, spices, nuts and seeds, but stays out until nightfall. Walking home she meets a pair of shoes that go CLOMP! CLOMP!  “Get out of my way, you two big shoes! I’m not afraid of you,” she said.  She kept on walking down the path, but the shoes clomp-clomped behind her. She meets more clothing: a pair of pants that go WIGGLE, WIGGLE, a shirt that goes SHAKE, SHAKE, two gloves that go CLAP, CLAP, and a hat that went NOD, NOD. She tells each one “Get out of my way! I’m not afraid of you,” but they all follow her, making their noises.  When she got near her cottage, the Little Old Lady encounters a very huge, very scary pumpkin head that goes BOO! BOO! The Little Old Lady runs home, hearing all those sounds behind her.  When she’s back inside her cottage, a KNOCK, KNOCK, challenges her to open her door. Again, the shoes, pants, shirt, gloves, hat and pumpkin head try to scare her.  When she bravely proclaimed, “You can’t scare me,” the unhappy pumpkin head asks, “What shall become of us?”  But she had an idea.  The little old lady gives them all something useful to do.  She found a place for them in her garden, as a scarecrow, where they could scare all the birds away.

Students can participate in the reading by getting up and moving to the words. I encourage them to:

“Stomp their feet” like the two shoes that went CLOMP, CLOMP

“Wiggle their legs” like the pair of pants that went WIGGLE, WIGGLE

“Shake their shoulders” like the shirt that went SHAKE, SHAKE

“Clap their hands” like the two gloves that went CLAP, CLAP

“Move their head up and down” like the hat that went NOD, NOD

“Say “Boo, Boo!”” like the scary pumpkin head that went BOO, BOO!

We also act this out as a play with used children’s clothes that I find at the local thrift shop–a pair of hiking boots, a white shirt, a black top hat, a pair of white gloves and a plastic Halloween trick or treat pumpkin (jack-o-lantern) bucket. Don’t forget the little old lady props–a hat, shawl, apron, and a small basket with a handle.  Each of the seven children in the play gets the appropriate prop(s) for their part.  The remainder of the children in the group who are not in the play, but watching the play, participate by chanting and acting out the story with their body parts. The little old lady dresses up in her clothes.  The child who is the pair of shoes, holds the small pair of hiking boots (one in each hand) and stomps them on the ground when he hears his part CLOMP, CLOMP; the child who is the pair of pants holds the pants with two hands and WIGGLE, WIGGLES them from side to side; the child who is the shirt holds the shirt with two hands and SHAKE, SHAKES it up and down; the child who is the pair of gloves puts them on his hands and claps them together when he hears his part CLAP, CLAP; the child who is the hat puts it on his head and moves his head up and down with a NOD, NOD; the child who is the pumpkin head holds the jack-o-lantern bucket and moves it back and forth in front of his face saying, BOO, BOO!  In the story when the little old lady is sleeping (actor who is little old lady pretends to sleep), the children place the items on a children’s coat rack or clothes tree to make the scarecrow.  If you do not have a small clothes tree (I used one I had in the Dramatic Play Area), lay the clothing on the floor to make the scarecrow.

The children love this story and can’t wait to have a part in the play.  We read it over and over again. It is both scary and fun!  The text has lots of repetition and sounds/actions, making it a perfect cumulative story for an interactive read-aloud.

A Whale of a Role Model!

I feel very fortunate to live near the ocean in Santa Cruz, CA.  It continually inspires me to venture outside and enjoy all that it affords.  It is a place of beauty, incredible wonders, and home to the greatest diversity of life on earth.  This week, humpback whales can be spotted not far from the beach.  They are joining herds of sea lions and flocks of birds to dine on the abundant anchovies that are present in the bay.  In the photo below taken by Chris Elmenhurst, you can see a mother humpback teaching her baby calf how to feed on the tiny green fish. The whale mother and her baby will share the strongest of bonds for one year with the mother preparing and strengthening her newborn for the long migration up the coast.  It’s common to see a baby trying to perform a good breach over and over and then have mom come up unexpectedly to show junior how it should be done.

Photo by Chris Edinger at Surf the Spot - click photo to view more photos.

Photo by Chris Elmhurst at Surf the Spot – click photo to view more photos.

While I was watching the humpbacks, I also spotted a mother and son exercising together on the beach.  I couldn’t help but notice the correlation between the mother whale with her calf and the mother and son lifting weights.  Just as the mother whale role models for her baby, so does a physically active parent role model for her child.

sharron whale 2

Parents who encourage and endorse physical activities in their own lives are more likely to pass on these good habits to their children.  Research shows that children who exercise do better in school, control themselves better, and have fewer behavior issues. More good news is that children who lead active lifestyles are likely to remain active as adults and pass on their healthy lifestyle habits to their own children.

Consider the following benefits of regular physical activity for growing children:

  • Promotes healthy growth and development
  • Builds strong bones and muscles
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness
  • Increases flexibility
  • Improves balance, coordination and strength
  • Assists with the development of gross motor and fine motor skills
  • Provides the opportunity to develop fundamental movement skills
  • Helps to establish connections between different parts of the brain
  • Improves concentration and thinking skills
  • Provides opportunities to develop social skills and make friends
  • Reduces feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety
  • Improves sleep
  • Promotes psychological well-being, including higher levels of self-esteem and self-
  • concept

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, be a role model. Show children physical activity is important by enthusiastically participating in it!

The Mirror Game!

sharron mirror game 1

Why It’s a Great Game!

Objectives & Learning Outcomes

Social Emotional Development:

  • Learning to cooperate
  • Accepting others’ ideas
  • Taking turns

Cognitive Development:

  • Replicating physically what the eyes see (developing visual sensitivity to change)
  • Developing focus, attention, and concentration
  • Learning about the concept of mirror reflection

Physical Development:

  • Practicing a variety of nonlocomotor movements
  • Developing spatial awareness (an awareness of space, relative distance, and relationships with space–experiencing personal space)

sharron mirror game 2

How to Play

Set Up and Materials

  • Available indoor or outdoor space
  • Children paired up and scattered in the space
  • Music
  • If desired, demonstrate the concept of reflection using a mirror

sharron mirror game 3

Directions

  1. Partners face each other at arm’s distance apart.
  2. Ask one child to be the “leader” and perform simple movements in place and his partner (the second child) to imitate the leader as a mirror reflection.  For example, if the leader  waves his right arm, the “mirror” waves his left arm in the same way, duplicating the movement as if he is looking into a mirror.
  3. Start the music–fast or slow.  The use of slow background music might help keep the partners moving slowly at first.
  4. Go from simple (only one body part moving) to complex (more than one body part moving at the same time).
  5. When the music stops, partners change roles, with the leader becoming the mirror and the mirror becoming the leader.

Suggestions & Variations

  • Children will mirror better if they watch each other’s eyes rather than extremities.
  • Ask the leader to move slowly enough so the mirror can follow.
  • Have the players do the activity while sitting.
  • Combine the activity with streamers or scarves.

sharron mirror game 4

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)
Juggling Scarves (JUGGLE)
Daily Fitness 4 CD Set (MOVEMENT)
Circle Time Fun Set – 3 CDs (CTIMEFUN)
Hamilton™ AM/FM CD Player (BOOMBOX)
Look At Me Mirror Kit (LOOKATME)

Stick Yarn Bombing

Sharron Stick Yarn 6

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)

Pet Pinecones

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Yes, there are such things and the grandchildren loved making and playing with them.  Making them is easy…just find a favorite pinecone, a stick, and some string or twine and, last but not least, an able and willing Daddy to make them.  I had never heard of such make-believe pets, until Daddy Dave shared a favorite activity invented by his dad…

When I was 10 we were on a family backpacking trip with a group that included two other boys around my age.  During the hike out we were constantly throwing pinecones at each other and generally being destructive as boys of that age are wont to do.  My Dad talked us into tying pinecones to a piece of string and seeing how long a string we could keep them on while still controlling them.  He kept score of who was able to keep their pinecones from hitting the most large rocks in the trail and it kept us under control. All in all it was just a good way to channel our 10 year old boy energy into something other than hurting each other.

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This is how traditions start and this is our second year of making Pet Pinecones…and it won’t be our last! Perhaps, you might want to try this with your children or the children in your care.  Get outside, explore, create, and let your imaginations run wild!

Materials:

Stick

Pinecone

Twine or string

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Directions:

  1. Find a favorite stick
  2. Find a large pinecone
  3. Tie the pinecone to the stick with twine or string
  4. Name your pet pinecone– “Piney,” “Brownie,” “Mr Cone”
  5. Go for a walk or a run with your pet pinecone
  6. Have fun!

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Did you know that the stick was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2008?

Stay tuned…the BEST is yet to come…sharing more stick fun in my next post!

Nature Bracelets

I just returned from a fantastic family reunion in South Lake Tahoe.  Three of the five grandchildren were present and activities for the week included a hike at beautiful Fallen Leaf Lake.  We got close and personal with chipmunks, a snake, and a Steller’s Jay which was quite bold in stealing cherries from our picnic lunch!  The kids found sticks, went swimming in the lake, and enjoyed skipping rocks.  I happened to bring a roll of wide masking tape with me so the children could make Nature Bracelets of the items they collected on their hike.

Materials:

2 inch wide masking tape or Duck Tape®

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Directions:

    1. Cut or tear a strip of the masking tape about an inch longer than the circumference of each child’s wrist.
    2. Wrap the masking tape, sticky-side out, around each child’s wrist.
    3. Go on a hike or nature walk.
    4. Encourage children to pick up anything they like (except live insects!) and stick it to their bracelet.  They discovered that flowers, petals, leaves, dandelions, pine needles, pine cone scales, grass, and even small rocks stuck to their bracelet.

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Suggestions & Variations:

  • When you take a hike again, have the children collect only one type of nature item–leaves, flowers–or collect only items that are one color–green, brown, etc.
  • As the children find items, have them arrange their found items in a pattern, i.e., one leaf, one rock, one flower, one leaf, one rock, one flower, etc.
  • Have the children compare their bracelets with a friend.  How are they the same?  How are they different?

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You know those sticks the children and I found.  We kept them.  My next two posts will showcase what we did with them.  You’ll be surprised!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Duck Tape® Solid Colors (DTAPE)
Regular Masking Tape (34MT)