Friday, June 29, 2012

Everyday Creativty: A List

Engaging children creatively teaches multiple skills. 

The start of a picnic.

Sometimes I think I try to "plan" too much with Ty and Za. In the classroom, I definitely need a plan. At home, I don't always need a plan. It helps to say that we will be at the park by 10:30, home for lunch in about an hour, and down for nap shortly after. Arts and crafts, game playing, and pretending, I've found, need less structure.

The famous singer, on stage.
Sure, I give ideas, or mention other fun ideas to try. I also guard their safety. So often though, if I just let my kids go, they just develop great imaginative play.

Za feeding her two dogs.

I got to thinking, what does all this imaginative play do to help children? Teaching language arts to older students, I often find myself wanting them to think more, to be creative. (I want to be more creative in my life, especially with writing). All of this creativity from young kids, what does it teach them?

Creativity and Imaginative Play Teaches...

1. Problem solving. Having a picnic with plastic food, and you forgot dessert? Turn the hotdog into a licorice stick.

2. Connections to other areas. It thrills me when we are playing outside, and while building a house from wood chips, Ty announces that the park's wood chips are actually already a house for bugs.

3. Freedom to experiment. I do not think my children will have great musical talents, but they are free from any pressure to be rock stars, fire people, or sports heroes when they play pretend. Who knows what that can lead to?

4. Learning from mistakes. Sometimes my kids have an elaborate plan, like making an obstacle course or planning a dinner party. They make mistakes, but learn from them without stress, because it is all imaginative play.

Movie stars.
I know there are tons of lists and articles on the Internet pertaining to imaginative play and its benefits, but I didn't even search for them. I am interested in what I found from my parenting experience, and from yours. What do you think creativity teaches kids? What can we add to the list?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Park Fun

Today we relaxed, and had fun at the park. Soccer, wood chips, a little piano music, and many water/raisin breaks. We have lots more of summer to enjoy.

We Addressed the 8 Intelligences! 

Naturalistic, of course! Interpersonal as well, since my kids had to share and take turns.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Baking Soda Fizzies

I use Pinterest regularly. (By 'regularly,' I mean several times a day). I have close to twenty boards and love finding activities for my kids. The problem? Teaching full-time last year, I carried out very few of these pins with my kids. I really want to change that, because not using all these great ideas is just silly.

Getting started.

One idea that I felt my kids would really enjoy was the baking soda and vinegar project. We wouldn't make a volcano, but instead little 'fizzies' as my kids called them. The pin is in my elementary kid activities board and the link goes to this awesome blog, Playing House.

We used medicine droppers and that nose-sucky thing the hospital gives you.
The entire project cost less than $3.00, which is fabulous. I bought each kid a container of store-brand baking soda, and a container of white vinegar. I already had food dye, so I just used that. If I had to buy some, the project would have cost $5.00, which is still inexpensive for a science experiment for two kids.

Ty was quite specific about placing
his little fizzies.

Za did lots of dumping, trying to get a bigger "fizz."

Za played with the project longer than Ty did, but he has asked to do it again. They both enjoyed themselves though, and they spent about an hour playing with it.

Explaining the science behind it.

I really wish I could have captured how happy they were with the fizzies.

Finished! So proud
Sometime into the project, I thought, I need to explain why this happens, so I told them that the baking soda and vinegar reacted chemically, a chemical reaction. WHY. I googled it (because I don't know) and found Think Quest, which explained this:

The acetic acid (that's what makes vinegar sour) reacts with sodium bicarbonate (a compound that's in baking soda) to form carbonic acid. The bubbles you see from the reaction come from the carbon dioxide escaping the solution that is left. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air, so, it flows almost like water when it overflows the container. 

Yikes. I read that to them from my phone, and they just looked at me. Ty then commented that trees work with carbon dioxide and how we breathe. I'm not sure the long explanation took hold, but he did relate it to something he already knew, which is a success.

Our first attempt at ticking the pins of the Pinterest list was overall great!

What would I do differently?

1. I would have researched the concept a bit more. I am not a science person, and I think my explanation for the kids was pretty lousy. I know they are young, but when they ask 'why' I want to be able to explain it to them. 

2. If I had thought ahead, I would have bought red, blue, and yellow food dye. I knew I had some dye at home, so I just used that. The kids would have loved to make new colors, and that could have been an additional science aspect to the project.

They loved the project so much that I'm sure we will do it again, and I will have the primary colors, and hopefully a bit more knowledge.

Welcome to a new sponsor!

While we are covering cost-effective products with for our children, I would like to extend a welcome to Aptus Insurance. Aptus Insurance offers free quotes on life insurance, and even has a financial guide for helping new parents. The company is realistic with new parents:

Having children has a huge impact on your financial life, affecting everything from your budget and insurance needs to retirement, and should be planned for accordingly. As you welcome a child into the world, it's the perfect time to take stock of your finances and make some adjustments to your game plan.

This is true! I remember the days of being pretty willy-nilly with money, content with my teacher retirement plan. Having kids changes that in a huge way, and the New Parents Personal Finance Guide is worth a read!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Messy Learning

Learning is messy. I always stress that to my students, especially when writing. I think students have this idea that professional writers sit down to a computer, type, and print. This, of course, is silly. I still always remind my students that any part of the learning process is messy - the rearranging of ideas, the stumbling we do on our way to remembering, everything.

Perhaps the age has something to do with it. My high school students want neat projects - the first time! My younger children, Ty and Za, have very few problems making messes while learning.

This is not a toppled book shelf. This is a ramp for cars, and Ty spent some time figuring out how he could eliminate the bumps the books caused.

They learn by making messes. It would never occur to them to try a new task and not create a disaster. They dig, they discover, they search. And all of that is messy. They are also inquisitive, and naturally curious about learning everything; WHY is their favorite question.

Again, vehicle study. Ty wanted to connect his vehicles, and he tried a variety of items to tie them together: a vacuum cord, plastic hanger, and cloth bag.

My older students, I want them like this. They are not though. They avoid messes and get frustrated if a project goes out of line. Sometimes teachers encourage that behavior - keeping everything neat and contained.

Ty and Za pretending the entertainment center is an ATM, and the papers from my new notebook are cash. Later when I cleaned, I realized they had crammed coins in there as well.

I'm not encouraging disasters. I get terribly frustrated with my messy house. I even get frustrated with a messy classroom. Children, no matter the age, should clean up after themselves. Students should listen, especially because some messes can be dangerous (chemistry lab?).

I do wonder however if one problem with older children's waning excitement about learning lies in the suppressing of messes, the discouraging of them.

Za was not easily discouraged when I told both of them to cut it out, and then collected the pages of my new notebook. Ty obediently went away, but the younger child? She kept pretending.

"Messiness"is part of the learning process. Randy Pausch encouraged "parents to let their children draw on the bedroom walls — where the young Randy Pausch painted a quadratic equation, a rocket, an elevator and, from one of his favorite stories, Pandora’s box." I won't follow that advice completely, but hopefully I am less restrictive when my children are making messes, and learning.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Easter Egg Necklaces and Such

This activity provides a use for extra Easter eggs so they don't simply end up in the trash.

I am in a constant state of moving holiday decorations around. I try to change them monthly, but often fail - my front door is empty right now. I rotate them in my basement - all of them, the door signs, the kid toys, the candles - and I do get behind. I just forget to put them in the correct container or I just get distracted. Either way, Ty and Za came up to me the other day with handfuls of Easter eggs from the basement, which were (probably) not put away.

Sorting, always sorting.
They know they will have to share, so they began to divvy up their found loot. Ty, the oldest, was bossy about the specifics.

Creating a game.

I suggested we play together with the eggs without my oldest in charge, which led to the creation of a game.

The gaming mastermind. 

Ty established the rules, but like all five-year old game-makers, he didn't think it all the way through. He wanted to throw cars at the eggs, which he had sorted into a racetrack, but that became dangerous. Then "bugs" kept coming up as we played. For instance, one step in the game was removing knocked over eggs from the playing field. What about partially toppled eggs? It was a serious discussion for Ty, but Za soon wandered off and Ty got discouraged. We decided to take a break from game-making.

Trying again.
For our next adventure with the eggs, we lined them up and brainstormed ideas.

Stringing them together.
We noticed that the eggs have small holes, and decided to string them together. I didn't think little hands could use regular thread well and yarn was too thick for the holes, so I ultimately ran upstairs and grabbed dental floss. The kids began stringing them together.

Za, patiently trying.
Za is only three, and the holes were very tiny - think what a needle would fit through. She tried, but I ended up stringing hers, while she decided the pattern and talked to me about her favorite colors. Ty is five, and he did his own. Za wanted to string hers in the basement playroom, and we did. Ty asked me to tie his into a necklace.

The finished product! Bonus: they smell minty. 
Blue-pink-yellow-purple: The lovely necklace, only using plastic Easter eggs and dental floss. The project took about an hour, and the kids practiced their patience, colors, pattern skills, and sharing. And their mom stopped worrying about putting the Easter eggs away in the basement.

We Addressed the 8 Intelligences! 

Bodily- kinesthetic, spatial, logical- mathematical.