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.

Sharron Stick Yarn 1

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.

Sharron Stick Yarn 2

Sharron Stick Yarn 3

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.

Sharron Stick Yarn 5

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!

Sharron Stick Yarn 7

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)

Keep Cool! Ice Play In the Water Table

IceSculpture1

Materials Needed:
Ice—cubes, blocks, etc.
Table salt
Rock salt
Kosher salt (optional)
Eye droppers or pipettes
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™ or food coloring (red, yellow, blue)
Sensory tub or water/sand table
Small containers/cups to hold the salt and coloring

Procedure:

  1. Freeze water in a variety of sizes and shapes of empty containers—plastic bowls, jello molds, cardboard milk containers, ice cube trays, etc.
  2. Empty the ice shapes and ice cubes into the sensory tub or water table,
  3. Place small cups of salt and rock salt in the tub.
  4. Place small cups of Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™ in tub.  Add a pipette or eye dropper to each cup.
  5. Have children sprinkle salt and rock salt on the ice shapes. Encourage them to add ice cubes to the larger ice shapes.  As the salt melts the ice, the ice cubes and ice pieces will stick to each other creating a unique “sculpture.”
  6. Children then use the pipettes to drop the Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™ into the cracks and holes created by the rock salt and salt.
  7. Remember to take a photo of the ice sculpture before it melts away!

IceSculpture2

Learning Outcomes/Desired Results

  1. Cognitive Development–Science—Cause and Effect–as you discuss the chemical reaction that ice has when salt is sprinkled on it.  Salt lowers the freezing point of ice, causing it to melt.
  2. Cognitive Development–Science—Cause and Effect—solids transforming into liquids.
  3. Cognitive Development—Science—Cause and Effect—mixing primary colors  (red, yellow, blue) you make the secondary colors (orange, green, and purple).
  4. Physical Development—Fine Motor Skills—using small muscles (pincher grasp) in fingers to squeeze the bulb of the pipette or eye dropper and to pick up grains of salt and chunks of rock salt.
  5. Physical Development—Fine Motor Skills—hand-eye coordination—hands and eyes working together to accomplish a task—using fingers to manipulate pipette with color and squirting colors into salt crevices.
  6. Cognitive Development—Problem Solving and Critical Thinking—some children will have difficulty in figuring out how to get the color into the pipette and then onto the ice.  Handling the eye dropper will be a challenge, so they should be shown how to use it and encouraged to keep trying until they succeed.
  7. Language Development–Speaking–as children talk excitedly about what they see happening.
  8. Encourages creativity and persistence.
  9. Social/Emotional Development–is fostered as this is an open-ended activity with no right or wrong way to do this activity.  It promotes children’s self-esteem.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Colorations® Liquid Watercolor™ – set of 18 8 0z bottles (LW18)
Six Paint Cups in a Base (PNTCPS)
Super Safe Plastic Droppers (12SSD)
Plastic Eyedroppers – set of 12 (EYEDROP1)
Medium Best Value Sand & Water Activity Table (LWTAB)
Sand & Water Activity Tubs – set of 4 (TUBS)

Pop-Up Puppets = Hands-On Learning!

I have been using Discount School Supply’s Counting Pop-Up Puppets with great success in introducing math and science concepts, supporting literacy skills and dramatic play, as well as promoting movement and physical activity.  This set of 5 hand puppets include: 1 flower in a flowerpot, 2 penguins on an iceberg, 3 birds in a nest, 4 ladybugs on a leaf, and 5 green and speckled frogs on an old brown log.  Each puppet has a flap with the numeral under it matching the number of items on the glove, i.e. the numeral 3 is under the flap of the 3 birds in the nest.  Using the 5 puppets helps you teach numbers 1-5, one-to-one correspondence, numeral recognition, ordering and matching, addition and subtraction. Reinforce ordinal numbers by asking the children which puppet is first, last; first, second, third.  Cardinality is addressed when the last number named is the quantity of object counted–tells “how many.”  Life science includes the study of plants and animals and the puppets show their habitats.  I’ve listed below an activity–song, dramatic play, dance, movement–to use with each puppet.  Let the children put the puppets on their hands and stage a play!  Puppets are a great tool to use in engaging children in the learning process.

 

The Little Flower (1 Flower)
In the heart of a seed,
Buried deep so deep,
A tiny flower
Lay fast asleep.
“Wake,” said the sunshine,
“And creep to the light.”
“Wake,” said the voice
Of the raindrops bright.
The little flower heard
And it rose to see,
What the wonderful,
Outside world might be.

Act out this poem by having the children crouch down low to the floor and pretend they are seeds sleeping.  Then encourage them to stand up slowly until they are fully extended as the seeds sprouted (with the help of the sun and the rain) to become beautiful flowers.

Penguin Dance Chant by Jack Hartmann (2 Penguins)

Chorus:
Have you ever seen a penguin come to tea
When you look at me a penguin you will see
Penguins attention, penguins begin

Right flipper (move right arm up and down)
(Chorus)
Right flipper, Left flipper (move right and left arm up and down)
(Chorus)
Right flipper, Left flipper, Right leg
(Chorus)
Right flipper, Left flipper, Right leg, Left leg
(Chorus)
Right flipper, Left flipper, Right leg, Left leg, Head
Chorus
Right flipper, Left flipper, Right leg, Left leg, Head, Turn around
(Chorus)
Right flipper, Left flipper, Right leg, Left leg, Head, Turn around, Penguin sound (caw, caw, caw, caw, caw)
(Chorus)

Penguins Attention!

Little Birdies Song (3 Blue Birds)
Way up in the sky (jump high)
The little birds fly (flap arms)
While down in the nest (form nest with arms)
The little birds rest (hands next to head like napping)
Shhh! They’re sleeping. (stage whisper shh! say quietly they’re sleeping)
With a wing on the left (fold left arm under)
And a wing on the right (fold right arm under)
The little birds sleep (hands next to head like napping)
All through the night.
Shhh! They’re sleeping. (stage whisper shh! say quietly they’re sleeping)
The BRIGHT SUN COMES UP! (yell it out and jump high with arms above head)
The dew goes away (hands like banging on a keyboard)
Good morning, good morning, the little birds say (raise arms up and down)

Four Red Ladybugs (4 Ladybugs)
Four red ladybugs sitting on a leaf.
They sit on a leaf on a tree.
And as they sit on that little green leaf,
There are so many friends to see!
With puppet on hand, point or “fly around” to all the children and say each one’s name…
“I see Jack, and Sophia, and Mark, and Sally…”
When the child hears their name they wave their hand in greeting.

Five Green and Speckled Frogs (5 Green Frogs)
Five green and speckled frogs,
Sitting on an old brown log,
Eating some most delicious bugs — YUM! YUM!
One jumped into the pool,
Where it was nice and cool,
Then there are four green and speckled frogs. RIBBITT! RIBBITT! RIBBITT! RIBBITT!
Continue count down until…
Now there are no green and speckled frogs.

Fit & Fun! Get the Ball Rolling!

kids playing outside

Recent research shows that children spend about 70% to 83% of their time in child care centers being sedentary, not counting the time spent eating and napping. About 2% to 3% of the time is spent in vigorous activities. This study published in “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that educators said they know vigorous physical activity (physical activity that can produce fatigue in a short period of time and is performed at an intensity in which heart rate and breathing are elevated to levels higher than those observed for moderate physical activity–activity that is easily maintained and is performed at an intensity that increases heart rate and breathing) is important to children. But they cited several barriers, including concerns about injuries, parent’s pressure on schools to pursue academics, and limited outdoor space and playground equipment. We know it doesn’t take a lot of expensive equipment for children to be active. They just need to be given the time and opportunity to engage in structured  physical activity (activity planned and directed by a parent, caregiver or teacher, and that is designed to accommodate the infant, toddler or preschooler’s developmental level and unstructured physical activity (child-initiated physical activity that occurs as the child explores his or her environment). Teachers need to intentionally plan moderate to vigorous physical activities every day.  Please see this previous post: Why Should We Get Our Kids Moving.

I’ve designed a Daily Physical Activity Chart which helps you and your students to actually document their physical activity.  It asks, “Can you do something physically active for 40 minutes every day of the week?  Color in a wedge each time you complete five minutes of physical activity outdoors or inside!”  If the children spend 10 minutes outdoors in unstructured play, color in two five-minute wedges.  If you led the children in a five-minute structured physically active game, such as Driving with Hoops! color in a five-minute wedge.  I recommend assigning one child each day to be “in charge” of coloring in the wedges or sections (with markers or crayons) on the ball. Perhaps, the first day you do this, only half of the ball (20 minutes) was filled in. The next day aim for 25 minutes of physical activity. With your Planning, Encouragement, and Participation (PEP) you can ensure that the entire blank ball turns into a colorful ball!  Feel free to make copies of this document and post five balls on the wall at the children’s eye level so they can document and see their progress for the week (click here for a weekly chart).  Need more ideas of what to do for structured physical activity?  Don’t forget to browse the archives of this blog, or better yet, invite me (www.sharronkrull.com) to come to your school or organization to present my physical activity workshop, “Get Your Motor Running! Fun Physical Activities for Young Children.”  As Aristotle said, “What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.”

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Colorations® Super Washable Chubby Markers, set of 200 (CHBST)
Colorations® Extra Large Crayons, set of 200 (CRXLG)

DIY Streamer Ribbons

I really enjoy presenting workshops where I not only share active play products but also play props or toys that can be made using recyclables.  A favorite product is the Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands from Discount School Supply®.  I prefer to use streamer ribbons that are not connected to a long stick.  The stick can be too cumbersome for little hands and a safety hazard as well.  Streamer Ribbons can be an easy “Do It Yourself” (DIY) project.  In previous posts I gave instructions on how to make a Floppy Flipper, Bread Bag Jump Rope, and a Six-Pack Net.  In this post, I will share with you on how to make a streamer ribbon using one plastic ring and some flagging tape.  Turn trash into toys for active play indoors or outdoors!

Sharron DIY StreamerRibbon

Materials:

  1. One plastic ring from six-pack plastic rings: a set of connected plastic rings that are used to carry six-packs of beverage cans or plastic bottles of soft drinks, aka ”carrier rings.”
  2. Colored flagging tape or surveyor’s tape: a non adhesive marking ribbon used for surveying, mapping, tagging, roping off areas or any other marking application. Available in a wide variety of bright and bold colors.

 Recycle & Play! Six-Pack Net & Bread Bag Jump Rope

Directions:

  1. Cut plastic rings apart, making sure to keep the rings intact.
  2. Cut 3-4 three foot pieces of different colored flagging tape and tie each piece to the plastic ring.
  3. Make two DIY Streamer Ribbons–one for each hand!

Sharron DIY StreamerRibbon Tape

Activities:

Streamer Ribbon Dancing
Start the music and bodies start moving.  With a streamer ribbon in their hand, encourage the children to dance and move about freely in the open space.  Suggest to the children that they move the streamer fast, slow, high, low, side to side, and all around.  Tell them that when the music stops, they are to stop and freeze (stand motionless like a statue).  When the music starts again, children resume dancing.  Ask children to follow along as you move the streamer across the front of your body, circle the streamer in front of your body like a Ferris wheel or circle it over your head like a helicopter blade.  Try to trick the dancers by starting and stopping the music quickly.  They love the element of surprise!  Use all different types of music: fast, slow, classical, rock, salsa.  When playing a slow song, suggest the children twirl, leap and float to the music.  Streamer Ribbon dancing promotes cross-lateral movements (crossing the midline) and develops body and space relationships, agility, flexibility, and listening skills.

Run Like the Wind
On your mark, get set, get ready, GO!  Have children run from one boundary to another with their Streamer Ribbon in their hand.  They will ask to do it again and again. Running is a locomotor skill and a form of vigorous physical activity that increases the heart rate while improving fitness.

Nature Play
Initiate creative movement using the Streamer Ribbon to imitate nature.  Ask the children to show you how they can make:

  • Ocean waves by shaking the ribbon in front of their body
  • A rainbow by moving the ribbon in an arc from one side of their body to the other
  • A river by dragging the ribbon across the floor or ground
  • Tree branches in a windstorm by holding the ribbon above their head and swaying from side to side
  • A tornado by spinning around and raising and lowering the ribbon

Tails
Set up boundaries using ropes or cones in the available space. Each child tucks a Streamer Ribbon into their waistband behind their back. The ribbon is now their tail. The game starts when the music starts and the children run in the available space.  The game is played like tag, but instead of tagging each other, children pull each others ribbons out of their waistbands and drop them on the ground.  The child whose ribbon is pulled picks up his streamer ribbon (tail), goes to “the tail repair area” (a designated spot, i.e., door, tree, etc.) to replace the ribbon in their waistband.  Once the ribbon is secure in their waistband, the child returns to the game and resumes pulling tails (ribbons).  The game ends when the music stops.  This group game promotes cooperative play, vigorous physical activity and lots of laughter!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands – set of 6 (RNBW)
Colored Cones – set of 10 (SETC)
7′ Nylon Jump Ropes – set of 3 (RPST)

Feed the Frog! Gulp! Gulp! Gulp!

He’s a big green wide-mouthed frog and he loves to eat dragonflies!  I really like this Wooden Frog Toss (FROGTOSS) which comes with 2 supports (prevents it from tipping) and six rainbow-colored dragonfly beanbags.  The supports slide into slots when you are ready to play “Feed the Frog” and remove easily for flat storage. The feature I like the most is the target, the frog’s wide mouth, which is achievable for even the littlest thrower. So many bean bag toss games have several small holes that make it difficult for anyone (even the adult!) to succeed when attempting to reach the target. The Frog Toss game ensures that each child will experience success when playing while promoting eye-hand coordination, gross motor skills and, in this game, color recognition. It’s best to place the Frog Toss on a table or platform (inside or outdoors) where it is at eye-level for your children.  Place the dragonfly beanbags in a basket on the floor or ground and this wide-mouthed frog is just waiting to be fed–TOSS, THROW, TOSS, THROW the dragonflies–GULP! GULP! GULP!  YUM!

When introducing new equipment to children, please allow time for free exploration and practice.  Give children opportunities to throw from a variety of distances and to throw in different ways thus enabling them to experiment and find the position offering challenge but from which they experience success. I’ve provided some information and terminology that will assist you in understanding the levels and stages children go through in learning how to toss (slow or mid-paced looping throw using just fingers and hand) and throw (more forceful using arms and shoulders to propel the object).  Remember that learning a new skill is a process and each skill has its own developmental progression.

Stages of Throwing:

  1. Child only moves his throwing arm. The body does not move as he throws.
  2. Determine which hand the child usually uses for throwing.
  3. A child who throws with the right arm will step forward with the right foot.
  4. A child who throws with the left arm will step forward with the left foot
  5. Prompt children to step forward with the foot opposite their throwing arm. This is the mature way to throw.

sharron frog toss 1

Teaching Cues for Learning to Throw:

  1. “Look at the target.” (the frog’s mouth)
  2. “Bring the beanbag to your ear before you throw.”
  3. “Start with this foot in front.” (referring to the foot opposite the throwing arm)
  4. “Step, turn your belly button, throw.”

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Demonstrate the activity for the children.
  • Use hoops on the floor to designate where children are to stand when engaged in the activities.
  • To increase interest, choose other items for the child to toss into the frog’s mouth, such as: foam balls, soft blocks, plush play food, etc.

sharron frog toss 2

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:

Playing and participating in the activities and with the equipment promotes and develops…

  1. Throwing – a  basic movement pattern that propels an object away from the body.
  2. Tossing – to throw with a quick or light motion.
  3. Underhand throw or toss – made with the hand brought forward and up from below the shoulder level.
  4. Overhand throw or toss – made with the hand brought forward and down from above shoulder level.
  5. Gross motor development – movement of the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk.
  6. Manipulative skills – gross motor skills in which an object (bean bag) is usually involved (manipulated).  These include throwing and catching.
  7. Fine motor development – movement of the small muscles of the fingers, toes and eyes.
  8. Eye-hand coordination – eyes and hands working together smoothly to meet a challenge.
  9. Color recognition – identifying the difference between colors of the dragonflies.

10. Counting – how many dragonflies did you feed the frog?

11. Cooperation – learning to take turns and play together

12. Listening skills – ability to follow verbal directions

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Wooden Frog Toss Board, with six dragonfly beanbags (FROGTOSS)
Classroom Activity Baskets – set of 6 (CATCHY)
4″ Foam Balls, set of 6 (FOAMBS)
Soft Velour Blocks, set of 24 (VLRBLK)
Yummy Plush Play Food, 25 pieces (YUMMY)
Fruit and Vegetable Sorting Set, 20 pieces (FRUVEG)