To Infinity and beyond… Child Care Fun

Ava

Ava

I couldn’t imagine a happier profession than mine.

As a child day care provider, I get to play with kids everyday. Ideas are my passion and kids have the BEST ideas!

Yesterday, two of my 4-year-old friends and I had a lovely discussion.
My first question was, “How might I get to the moon?”

Jasen: “You would need super shoes to jump up there.”

Me: “Where might I get those super shoes?”

Jasen: “At Super Walmart, of course.”

We discussed the moon further and decided that we would need a gravity suit and air tanks and a Super Parachute (available, also, at Super Walmart).

Me: “There’s too much to jump with. How might we get our supplies up there?”

Jasen: “We’ll need a truck!”

Me: “There’s no road to the moon. How about a rocket ship?”

Jasen:”Where do we buy a rocket ship?”

Me: “Scientists have them at NASA.”

With that problem solved, I moved on.

Me:”How do farmers plant seeds in their fields?”

Ava and Jasen: “They dig a hole with a shovel and drop in the seeds.”

Me: “That would take too long for a farmer to plant 500 seeds. How do farmers plant so many seeds in good time?”

Ava: “They ask 500 friends to come over and dig a hole.”

Me: :”That’s a great way to save time! Good idea. But, the farmer would need 500 shovels, wouldn’t he? I don’t think he can get that many at Super Walmart. It would cost a lot and the inventory(I explained what inventory meant.) isn’t that large!”

So, I introduced and  talked about tractors and planters and plows.

Me:” Now, how will the farmer water her seeds?” … Notice the gender change 😉

Jasen:” She can get a hose.”

“Me: “I don’t think that there are hoses long enough for big fields.”

Ava: “I know! It will rain sometimes.”

Me:” Super Ava! That is what the farmers hope for. On a rainy day, remember that the farmers are happy.”

Jasen: “What if there are puddles?”

Me: “You are right, Jasen! Sometimes, there is too much rain and the farmers hope for the sun to come out to dry up those fields. Last Spring, my uncle and cousin, couldn’t drive their tractors on the muddy ground. They were very worried. Boy, farmers really need to count on the weather, don’t they?”

Our conversation progressed through the steps that produce takes to reach their dinner table. During the discussion, we realized the need for refrigerator trucks too.
We had one great afternoon!

What fun it is to be an early childhood educator! I get to witness that wide-eyed wonder every single day along with many opportunities for chuckles. 😉

Today? Well, we’ll see what comes up. It’s going to be fun!

Artists come from Copycats

There is much to be learned from children.

Thankfully, I have grandchildren who will “keep it fresh” when I retire from providing day care. I’ve watched kids for the better part of my life. One thing I have  attempted, is to reevaluate my preconceived notions of how they learn on a frequent basis. Remembering moments of inspiration, from my own childhood, have proven of extra value.

When I draw flowers, there’s my flashback moment to a time I had seen a fellow middle school student draw a lovely daisy. It was not face-front with even petals (the childhood normal) but “danced” on a crooked stem and drooped to one side. That moment changed my view of flower drawings forever. In fact, it was a moment of artistic maturing that improved how I would approach all future drawings.

The old saying, “Don’t be a copycat.” is total bunk in my modern approach. I’ve found this especially true from watching the children’s visual arts evolve. I spent many years with a policy that I should not draw around the kids. I believed that my skills might discourage them or take away the purity of being original. Luckily, I just couldn’t help joining in at “art time” because, gosh, it’s fun. It became clear to me that many of my kids became happier artists from following my lead.

My most recent example happened last week. I was tired of my blank dry erase board so I created a Springtime scene as I bopped around my kitchen cooking supper. The kids noticed it the next day and studied it often. My 7-year-old granddaughter asked if she might add to the board. I said sure and handed her the markers. When she asked me to see what she had done, I had expected my drawing to have been replaced with a messier version according to her skills. Below is  the amended piece.

Katherine added two flowers and one lady bug. I rest my case.

art

Art Awakenings

37506_441327983827_530328827_5763961_6087928_nIt was from listening to the school-aged kids talking among themselves, that I came to this “train of thought”. They were discussing their favorite subjects and had the same ones that I had always enjoyed…Art, Music and Gym class.

As my mind considered a profound post requesting the incorporation of all early childhood subjects into the “fave three”, I realized it is already done in the better schools (including home schools).

Another impetus to this post, was last night’s longing to dabble with art again. I’m no professional but have sold a few pieces and enjoy the act of visual art creation, very much. The computer has allowed my creative juices to be released in writing to the extent of overlooking a “lost love”. It is easier to sit down to a computer than to drag out art supplies in the company of children. An art studio would fulfill many dreams, indeed, but isn’t happening in the near future.

Then I began a mental journey. Just when, where, why and how did I become an artist? I realized that there was one moment that gave me a “sight” that would give me pleasure for the rest of my life.

First, I have always wanted to be art artful. I have guided many preschoolers in their elementary art. Some kids, just aren’t interested. But, offering them the “sight” is what I’m really after.

What is the “sight”? It is the ability to disengage our minds from what we are looking at. Remember when kids draw their first pictures of pets? They put two eyes on one side of the animal’s head and the legs always count to four even when they are not really visible. They have yet to learn to “see” only what is there, not what they know is there.

I was lousy at art. I can still see the red-letter “C-” on a fourth grade diagram of a house fly. Then in sixth grade, and amazingly with a not yet dead interest , our class was given a science/art project on behalf of animal conservation. It is amazing that my Art classes had been devoid of Art learning to this point. In those days, it was all about producing a picture suitable for sending home, more than an education in the Arts.

I chose to reproduce a poster of a squirrel. As I struggled with the seemingly enormous task, my science teacher recommended that I turn the poster upside-down and try to draw the lines as I saw them. Eureka! That is where, when, why and how I learned to “see” the whole world differently.

I can attribute the ember of art desire, that I still had, directly to seeing country artists on hillsides with pads and paints. I specifically recall pressing my face to the car window and admiring them while thinking, “I want to do that.” Makes me wonder how they learned to “see”?

You want to hear something really cool? When I have spent a day drawing or painting, I see things especially clearly. Another world opens up! If I ride along in my car, everything becomes color and lines beyond notice to the average “eye”. Having experienced this, enlightens me to one reason why the “masters” wanted to stay inside that “world”.

I’d like everyone to have the opportunity to see the world just like that, now and then. I offer this to my kids and hope they are able to use their eyes separate from their minds. Heck, we already know kids use their mouths, that way, all the time. 😉

Build an Artist

BeFunky_003katpaintingMy 7-year-old granddaughter presented me with this wonderful watercolor painting. Her mother told me that Kat had labored over it for a long time.

According to the artist, it is a self-portrait in a green field on a sunny day. She added a flock of crows for her bird-loving grandmother. As she explored the watercolor medium, her smile “bled” downward. Kat’s mom told me that she was not at all discouraged by that event. As all artists do, she embraced the “accident” and exclaimed, “I like that. Now, my clothes look brighter.”

Katherine had originally planned to give her masterpiece to me for my birthday but April would be just too long to wait. I will be buying a frame for my Kat Original this weekend and have already reserved a spot to display it above our TV. Of course, I insisted that she sign and date her work.

The sparkle in her eyes is something that I’ll never forget. She gasped when I showed her where her work would hang. This reminded me of how important it is to marvel at the artwork kids produce. First, it’s just plain beautiful. Secondly, it is the building of an artist … our way of showing them how wonderfully unique and precious artistic expression is.

The TV show Everybody Loves Raymond was a comedy that drew its humor from poking fun at a family’s “dysfunctional” moments. I noticed one thing, that I hope you will look for, if you had not already noticed. Children’s drawings were framed and displayed on the walls of their home. I loved seeing that and this blog post seemed a good place to bring that up. 🙂

Searching for Clues: Short Stories

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories (Photo credit: dalcrose)

A well-written short story is ripe with clues.

In one of my more recent blog posts, (In Defense of BIG kids…) I make a point about how often people can overlook keywords and how it can be responsible for misunderstandings.

Today, I added a blog post to my category Random Word Stories. These are short stories that I create using random words. The fun part is that I create the stories as an exercise. I limit my writing to “one sitting” which has never gone on for more than an hour. When I polish my ideas for posting, I find the adding of details, as clues, to be the deciding factor between just a story and a good story.

It occurred to me, shortly after my exercise, how valuable short stories are when training young readers to recognize clues. This would translate very well to the greater purpose of kids learning to discriminate among clues and keywords they deal with elsewhere.

http://wp.me/pTYEI-1RM

I’ve provided a link, above, to my newest story.

There are poignant questions that could be asked about the story.

  • What may have clouded Mia’s judgement in selecting a roommate?
  • Did her occupation affect her judgement?
  • What might she have done differently?
  • What may have been warning signs of Holt’s problems?
  • The story ends on a humorous note…what may she have asked on the questionnaire?
  • What did bubblegum have to do with anything?

Certainly, there seems to be much material for discussion in such a short piece. Short stories make great homework assignments too. Their weight is not encumbering when it comes to time spent.

Perhaps I have stumbled upon a marketable use for my better stories? My new project will be to make them age and subject appropriate, of course.  🙂

Kid Book Review-Loopy

I had mixed feelings about this story upon the first reading. The illustrations are wonderful but I thought the story was a little scary. Then I kid tested it. My three year old “guinea pig” listened with wide-eyed interest. Of all the books recently borrowed from the library, this one was her favorite.

I’m usually against lying to kids and using monsters and giants in order to scare them away from dangers but there ARE dangers that they cannot comprehend. This story made a big impression upon my little friend. It told about a child who forgets her favorite cuddle toy, Loopy, at the doctor’s office. The child goes through the shock of being without her toy and the worry about getting Loopy back. This journey through the child’s mind even visits the possibility of her making her own way, out of the house, to rescue poor Loopy. The author then places a few scary scenarios into play. The storybook child imagines Giants and spiders along with the danger of getting lost if she were unsupervised in the world. Finally, the story ends happily with Loopy being returned by the doctor who brings the toy home after hours.

My little friend talked about the story, and particularly the danger of going outside without permission, throughout the day. This is one fine lesson for a three year old. That age group is notorious for feeling as though they can do almost anything.

So, I have child tested and enjoyed this story and recommend it!

Loopy by Aurore Jesset …Illustrated by Barbara Korthues

What Kids Want: An insight For Writers

English: The Children's Literature Barnstar

English: The Children’s Literature Barnstar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our upstate New York town where we camp on weekends, has become a ghost town. We’ve watched it lose many businesses over almost twenty years. Our property taxes are higher on our woodland retreat than at our residence in Massachusetts. We have no town maintained road, sewer, water or electricity there BUT the town has a wonderful little library.

There is always a smiling face behind the desk (some folks volunteer their services) and a sign with upcoming events for families. The children’s area is very inviting and the staff display their weekly recommendations for interesting adult reading too.

My granddaughter will be 7 years old in September. On our most resent visit, she was searching for chapter books. Katherine has reading ability appropriate for her age but a desire to move on to books that offer a better ongoing story. There were few to satisfy this appetite. I also found that she preferred hardcover books to soft-bound. Hardcover books represent a better story in her 6-year-old reasoning.

I’m not at the stage in my “writing for children” adventure to produce such a book. I want to offer this accidentally discovered void in children’s literature to folks who may have been unaware of it and could take advantage. It is a critical time for Kat. She has watched the adults in her life use bookmarks and enjoy stories that unfold. Most importantly, she is deeply interested now. As she becomes a more social kid at the ripe ages of 7 and 8, she may move away from reading for fun.

I remember my own search for a better story, at a similar age. I also remember not being able to find “chapter books”  to meet my early needs either. I quickly lost interest and did not return to recreational reading for 20 years.

This is a shout out from a grandmother to those who are looking for a special writing arena yet to be marketed. I believe there’s a consumer group to satisfy with early reader chapter books.

Keeping Kids Creative: Book Spine Poetry

With the invention of the TV remote control came a game that we (my kids and I) have played for years. It was to channel surf for funny composite phrases. We’d start on one channel and change the channel in the middle of a phrase. Sometimes, the next channel had someone finish the phrase with hilarious results.

Well I just happened on the art of Book Spine Poetry. I know…everyone else already has heard of it. I had not. So for the two or three folks who will find this enlightening, I’ll continue. 😉

This activity requires one to stack books in order to create a meaningful phrase from their titles. Here’s mine:

Besides giving you a quick view of a sample of my library, these titles created a message. Cool huh?

On your next visit to the library, consider having the kids stack a few funny phrases. Take your camera and record them too. I know I’ll be having lots of fun in the children’s section myself!

PS: Please replace all books where they belong on the shelf. Librarians will be hunting me down if you do not! 🙂

Keeping Kids Creative: Summer Book Club

With the last day of formal schooling racing toward us, the question of how to entertain the kids and keep them learning arises.

I have a few ideas for activities in my category named “Keeping Kids Creative”.

My mother had a great idea inspired by our own book club meetings. Why not start a Kids Book Club?

There are so many ways a gathering of similar aged kids could be successful.

A few ideas:

  • Offer prizes to those who participate and make the gathering a party-like atmosphere.
  • Have kids write their own stories to share from photo or word prompts. Compile the entries in a homemade book for them to keep.
  • Ask kids to bring and share their favorite books.
  • Offer a book topic, have the kids find a book that reflects the topic, then have a read-a-thon.
  • Give kids a camera and have them print out a photo journal of their vacation trip or a topic of interest. (Walmart prints photo books rather cheaply…check out their photo gift page.)
  • Have a letter writing campaign. Maybe to long-lost relatives or to a children’s book author.
  • Make t-shirts and name your club. Possibly follow one or two specific authors. Contacting that author may be a great idea too. They just might enjoy reaching out to your club.

I’m sure with this germ of an idea, creative parents can come up with others. Consider the cost of the pizza party or photo books, an investment, rather than a burden. When you compare what you spend on day camps, video games and gas running them to other activities, it isn’t much.

Remember parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and mentors: You are the most influential  teachers that your kids will ever have.

Just a thought…have a great summer people!

Any other ideas would be appreciated in my comments. 🙂