SUMMER IS HERE … but it feels a little like fall. Here is a fun way to start out the cool weather week we will have as we officially start summer.
When my sons were younger, and I was doing home day care with 6 other little boys, I would start Mondays by baking bread or making a fresh batch of playdough. This week looks like it will be a great week to make a loaf of banana bread and try out this recipe I found in a book by Asia Citro that my daughter-in-law, Danielle, gave me. 150+ Screen Free Activities for Kids.
I will be using this book all summer to share ideas you can use with your children.
Baking with your child promotes interest in what they are eating, math skills, fine motor skills, sensory experiences and scientific investigation. The smell of fresh bread (or anything you bake) will bring back memories of this activity when they are older. A cool, cloudy Seattle day is a great day to fill your home with the aroma of something baking in the oven. I suggested banana bead because the same ripened bananas are part of the edible play dough recipe I am including in this note to you.
EDIBLE BANANA PLAYDOUGH
½ cup ripe or overripe banana, mashed
½ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
2 ¼ cups flour
¾ cup cornstarch
ENJOY playing with this edible dough.
This dough is perishable so store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Discard in a few days or when it shows signs of spoiling -- if it smells ‘foul’, discolors or has mold.
This is a fun dough to add kitchen tools to when playing with it. Muffin pans, rolling pins, cupcake holders, birthday candles, colored macaroni noodles to poke into the dough, etc.
February is a month we think of those we love. Love is expressed in so many ways: a hug, a kiss, a kind word, a smile and the list goes on. Each day we have many opportunities to show people how special they are to us. From the way we greet our family in the morning to the way we respond to the not-so-friendly neighbor, we are modeling love to our children. They will learn a lot about love and kindness by watching how we respond to them, and others, during the day. They will also learn about forgiveness, patience, understanding, relationships and conflict resolutions. We are not perfect, and as hard as we try, we do not always show the “best” to our children. But this is a perfect opportunity to model how we respond to those we love, or those we have relationships with, when we haven’t reacted in a kind or appropriate manner. Some-times how we make amends is a better model of love than our hugs and kisses.
After a hard day we are not as fresh as we were in the morning, or for some of you, who are not morning people, evening may be the best time of day for you. Whenever you are running low on those warm-fuzzies try to give your children a clue that this may not be a good time for you. I used to look at the boys and say, “look at this face, do you think this is a good time for this?!” As they get older you can use humor to release the tension and maybe get a laugh out of the situation. I was on the phone with my sister-in-law when her son (now 20) was having a playdate. I was reminded that timing is everything. She was at her wits end, the children (Joshua, then 5, his friend, Brandon, and the 2 year old brother, Carson) had returned to the house covered in mud (again), she would have to change their clothes (again), she would have to mop the kitchen floor (again), and she would have to wash them and their clothes (again)! As she was talking to me I could hear little Carson talking to her about what she had for him to wear. His sweet little voice brought back the images of chubby little people who used to bring dirt, mud and assorted other “fun” into my life. I would have given anything to be sitting in her kitchen cuddling with that little two year old or better yet sitting outside watching them giggle and laugh as they played in the mud.
Of course, 30 years ago when my little cherubs were riding bikes through the “hugest” puddle in the campground, in the only clean clothes left in our cabin, after a week of non-stop rain and after I had told them “absolutely no more riding through that puddle!” I wasn’t in such a warm and fuzzy mood! Like I said timing is everything!
Just remember that the day will soon be over but the lessons they learn will be theirs forever. Teach them love, compassion, humor, and let them know you will always be there for them and, remember, these memories of toddler-hood and preschool will always be there for you.
There are many ways you can show love to your children and in that expression of love they will feel honored and special. My guys loved it when we left little surprises at the end of a “treasure hunt” around the house, story books with pictures of them as the main character, allowing them to make the menu for the evening meal and then eating whatever is on their menu and sitting around the table listening as they shared about their day. We had special adult friends that also showed them they were important. The friendships with those adults are still in place to this day. It is important to have adults in their lives that are not “the parents”. Grandparents, aunts/uncles, family friends can be there for your child when they need to bounce ideas off someone but they don’t want it to their parent. Joel will still tell Aunt Elysia things that he will not tell us. These adults can say the same thing that Mom and Dad say but it somehow is different coming from them. I cherish the times I have with the “kids” in my life that are my friend’s children and the conversation we can have because I have known them all of their life.
Take time to show the people in your life how special they are to you. Cherish the time you have with these children and remember what a blessing these little people in our lives!
Go on a neighborhood explore...
Talk about the light and how it shines on the snow.
Look for things that are frozen. Can you find ice that is in the process of melting because of the sunshine? Is there ice that has melted and has frozen again overnight?
Shadows! Make shadows on the snow and then on the grass. How are they the same and how are they different?
Snow on the mountains. Ask questions. Why does it stay on the mountains even though it is sunny today? Why does it melt on the street but not on the grass?
Look for snow sculptures, snow people, snow forts. Can you find tracks in the snow where people, dogs, cats and birds have walked on it. Do you see tracks from sleds and from rolling a ball in the snow?
Measure the snow. Is there more snow in the shade? More snow under a bush? Do you see snow on the roof of a house?
Enjoy a walk through the neighborhood on a sunny snow day.
To make an ice sculpture you will need to pick some water proof items to make the interior sculpture with.
After you place the items in the baggie or container fill it with water. Be sure that your yarn/pipe cleaner/string is partly inside the water and part of it outside
Set the sculpture out side in the snow / on your deck or porch. After it freezes remove the sculpture form the plastic baggie / container and hang it up. It will glisten in the sun.
With the cold weather and snow the birds are on the hunt for food — and water. Here is a simple bird feeder you can make with items you have at home. The bird seed may be the only thing you don’t have but you can substitute uncooked oatmeal for the birdseed. It is a little less messy and the birds love it.
First cut a shape from a piece of cardboard, cardstock or something stiff. You can also use a stick or piece of wood. Then the birds will have a natural place to sit while they enjoy your special treat. :-)
Add a string, twine or a pipe cleaner for the feeder’s hanger.
Next you will need bird seed or oatmeal and something to use as “glue”. Nut butter or shortening work well as the "glue".
Shake off the excess — this can get messy so be sure to do it over a piece of paper or outside
Take your bird feeder outside and hang it from a branch on a tree or a place the birds can find it….and probably the squirrels as well. If you hang it near a window your child can watch the birds come and eat from their feeder.
The New Year is here. It will be a year full of awe, happiness, tears and growth. We never know what the new year will bring but we can work on building memories that will last a lifetime for our families and our children.
As we start the New Year some of us may have taken time to review what our families have done this past year and/or start planning the activities for the coming year. When you have little ones running around the house you are lucky to have a chance to review the last hour let alone the whole year! It takes some planning just to have time to think! These little gems that are running around your house, and running your world, give you a new outlook on life as well as the year to come. How much will they grow this year, what will they learn, what will I learn, where will we be next year, when will they learn to……??? There are lots of questions and a new year of adventures ahead of you. When you have a moment of quiet time, try to review what you did in 2018. Take time to reflect on what you did that you would like to do again and add that to the list of things you would like to try to do his year. Some of the “things” you do with your family/child may be big things but a lot of the time the memories you keep with you are the ordinary things that make up everyday life. Did you have time to laugh with your child, did you feel the awe of wonder-ment when your child experienced something for the first time, were you amazed when they learned something new -- did you really enjoy a day in the life of your child?
Sometimes you need to get away and have some R&R so you have the energy to have a positive attitude about being a parent. Give yourself permission to have time – just time for you. Give yourself permission to pamper yourself. If you take the time to recharge yourself then you have the opportunity to be the best for your child. Take a walk, go on a date, read a book (that does not have pictures and soft, fluffy animals or a truck, train, builder as a main character), have a cup of tea and finish a chapter without being interrupted. Then you will have the energy to enjoy all they have to share with you … a hug, a sticky-jelly-kiss, a worm, a laugh.
In our family I treasure the laughter more than anything else. To hear children laughing brings such joy. Even though Joel and Nick are grown they will always be my “children” so their laughter will always bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. As Curt and I walked by a playground the other day we were talking about the sound of children playing and laughing. What a wonderful sound that is. It is the sound of joy and wonderment. Often it is the everyday memories that mean so much as your child grows up. The day you sat on the porch in the sun and read a book, that early morning sleepy look as they tumble out of bed, a smile just for you, the excitement of a making something all by themselves. These little snapshots of everyday life with add up and become the history of their childhood. You can hold onto these mental pictures of your little one as you watch them grow. Sooner than you think (or want) they head off into the ‘big’ world -- grade school, high school and then off to college or their new job. Remember -- it is as important to take the pictures in your mind as it is with your camera because you can always look at the pictures in your mind.
SNOWFLAKE WEEK 2019
Just as no two snowflakes are alike your child is not like any other child. Yes, they may have family similarities or are right on target with other children their age on the development charts but they are all unique little people. Enjoy those special qualities that make your child a ‘snowflake’ – unique and one-of-a-kind!
This week we will be talking about snowflakes.
The Science of Snowflakes: Facts and Activities for Children
December 9, 2015
Six is the magic number for snow - did you know that? If you had a big magnifier and stepped outside with your children on a cold winter day to watch snow fall from the sky, here is what you might observe - six-sided hexagonal crystals, needles or flat six-sided crystals, and a wide variety of six-sided shapes. All snowflakes are a combination of the number six for simple chemical reasons - they're all variants of the water molecule. Despite all snowflakes having six sides, not two snowflakes are exactly identical. How crazy is that? Here are a few more fun facts about snowflakes as well as simple science activities you can do with your children.
Where Do Snowflakes Come From?
As obvious as this may sound, snowflakes—or more scientifically, snow crystals—are formed in clouds. However they are not frozen raindrops, as that's called sleet or hail. Snowflakes are a different cold weather phenomenon formed from water vapor that condenses around a tiny particle—the seed crystal, usually a speck of dust—in clouds. Cloud droplets condense around the seed crystal and freeze on the surface of the particle, patterns emerging as the crystals grow.
The shape of snowflakes is determined by the altitude and temperatures at which they are formed. When several crystals stick together or create puffy white balls, they become snowflakes. Once the snowflakes are heavy enough, they fall to the earth. The average snowflakes fall at an average speed of 3.1 miles per hour!
Snowflakes, snowflakes, dance around,
Snowflakes, snowflakes, touch the ground
Snowflakes, snowflakes, in the air
Snowflakes, snowflakes, everywhere
Snowflakes, snowflakes, dance around
Snowflakes, snowflakes, touch the ground
Five Little Snowmen
Five little snowmen riding on the sled (pretend five fingers are sledding)
One fell off and bumped his head (pretend one finger falls off...rub head)
I called Frosty and Frosty said (dial imaginary telephone)
"No more snowmen, riding on that sled!" (say in a deep voice)
Four little snowmen... etc
Way up high in the snowy tree
Lots of little snowflakes smiled at me.
I shook that tree as hard as I could.
Down came the snowflakes
They are cold!
SNOW WEEK 2019
Welcome back! The month of January will be our ‘cold weather’ month. During Snow Week we will talk about cold weather, snow and snowmen. We will be making snow collages and paint with Epson Salts to create snow pictures. We will begin our snow-themed songs and finger plays that we will sing all month. If the chilly weather returns you can point out the frost to yourchild.During Circle Time I will introduce Bear. We will dress Bear for warmth and talk about warm clothes we wear during chilly weather.
If you have family pictures, especially any snow pictures, you would like to share I will be posting them on the bulletin board in the Circle Room. It will be fun to see what people did during break.
It is Snowing
It is snowing, it is snowing
All around, all around
Soft and pretty snowflakes
Soft and pretty snowflakes
On the ground, on the ground.
I’m a chubby snowman short and fat
Here is my broomstick and here is my hat
When the sun come out and shines all day
I just start to melt away….
Oh no I’m a puddle!
A chubby little snowman with a carrot nose
Along came a bunny and what do you suppose?
That hungry little bunny looking for some lunch
Ate that snowman’s carrot nose crunch, crunch, crunch
Thumbs in the thumb place, fingers all together.
This is the song we sing in mitten weather
When it is cold it doesn’t matter whether
mittens are wool or finest leather.
Thumbs in the thumb place fingers all together
This is the song we sing in mitten weather.
The cold wind doth blow
And we shall have snow
What will poor robin do then, small thing?
She will sit in the barn
And keep herself warm
And hide her head under her wing. Small thing.
Traditions are the glue that hold a community together. A community may be your family, your school, your neighborhood, city, state, country or the culture you grew up in. Communities can be small or large, near or far, present or past. As with the traditions themselves your community changes with time. Some traditions last many generations and some are there just for a season. It is the memories of traditions that hold the members of the community together.
We have traditions here at preschool. Two of my favorite traditions are our Family Nights. Both Pumpkin Night and Pajama Night are events the “alumni” children look forward to. It is a time to come back to “their school”. They have special memories of ‘their school’ and they are excited to come back and ride the horses, play with the trains and see what is in the sensory table. These shared memories are part of what builds the preschool community.
In our neighborhood we have activities that have created a bond with our neighbors. Some of the families have been in our neighborhood for 40+ years and we have watched our children grow into adults and now have the privilege of watching their children come back to the neighborhood for visits. Ansel came and Trick-or-Treated at the same neighbors’ houses that Joel went to as a child. My sons both send me notes when it starts to snow. Snow events were a big deal when they were young. We would build snowmen using all the snow in the parking strips (because you usually needed all you could get to make a snowman) and we would have a neighborhood snowball fight – no matter what time it started to snow! We would all head outside as soon as the snow started to stick. If the kids were in bed we would put their snow clothes on over their jammies then tuck their footie sleepers inside their boots so they could go outside to play in the snow because we all know with Seattle Snow there is no guarantee it will still be there in the morning.
The traditions you share with a specific group of people will glue that moment within your heart – a memory you can keep forever. During this Holiday Season you probably were busy navigating through a large mix of family, community and cultural traditions. As warm and cozy as the thoughts of traditions are when you mix them all together it can become a sticky mess that is difficult to untangle. What traditions do you want to keep, to start for your own family, to share with others? How do you choose which ones to keep? What new ones to start? How to tell your Mom (or Mom-in-law) you are saying “no” to some of the family’s traditions? It is a time to sort through the memories and decide what traditions you would like to invest in this year. It is an investment – always of your time and sometimes of material goods. The nice thing about a tradition is that they can be made to fit your family. You can add to it, take it away, or keep it exactly the same. They are moments in time that create memories you can hold in your heart. Just remember that as with any event these memories can make one laugh, cry or cringe. Ah, the memories of holiday times with family – the foundation of Hollywood movies!
For our family we have had many changes in the last few years. We have become ‘the inlaws’ to two of the nicest daughters. Danielle and Joel have started many new family traditions. We have adjusted to their choices on how to spend the holidays. It was not easy for us but it is necessary for them to be their own family. And now they have Ansel to add to their traditions and memories. Greta and Nick will be adding to the changes in our activities as well as starting their own traditions. We are working on blending, creating, establishing, keeping and remembering new traditions and traditions from the past. As our sons have left home and are creating their own family traditions, Curt and I have created some new traditions as well – a drive to Vashon to see the leaves, going to the Pumpkin Farm by ourselves (and this year three times – once with the Eagles Class, once with Ansel and once by ourselves!) and we will continue to adjust to activities without Joel and Nick. Joel and Danielle have introduced Ansel to the zoo, hiking, camping, Discovery Park and soon to the adventure of cutting down a Christmas tree. Greta will always be with her large, extended family during Thanksgiving and Nick has discovered that Greta’s family also plays ping pong after the Turkey Day feast. They call it RoundyTown and Nick has introduced them to our version which we call Round Robin. It is fun to see some of our family traditions live on with them.
Sometimes a tradition is started by someone other than family. That was the case for one of our most treasured holiday traditions. When our sons were little a lady in our church asked if she could bring them gifts at Epiphany. Maria was from Mexico and she did not have family here in Washington. We learned that Epiphany, Jan 6, is the actual Twelfth Day of Christmas. In many cultures all around the world it is they day that children receive gifts as they celebrate the day the Wise Men brought gifts to Baby Jesus. Joel and Nick put their shoes outside the front door on the eve of Jan 6 and the next morning their shoes were filled with small gifts. It was the start of a new tradition for our family. We began to celebrate Epiphany with a ‘fancy’ dinner chosen by the boys that included the ‘fancy’ Loony Tune cartoon glasses. It was a time for our family to celebrate Christmas – just the four of us – sharing a fancy dinner and opening a gold box that contained a family gift. When they were little it was a trip to the zoo or a new game. The year Nick started his PhD it was a family trip to Kauai. We knew that as Nick began this new adventure it would be a time of change for our family. Since then we have added Danielle and Greta to our family and our dinners may not be on Jan 6, but Epiphany will always be a shared time of fun and laughter with the emphasis on family and time spent with family.
This is the time of year that we focus on traditions and this is a good time to look back over the past month to reflect on those traditions. As you decide on your family traditions remember that the traditions are the memory maker – adjust them to fit your family. Traditions change, as do the people who make up our communities, but the memories will be with us forever.
Traditions are all year long. Some of our favorite family traditions are:
~Walks in the snow
~Bike rides to see the cherry blossoms at UW
~Bonfires and s’mores
~Camping at Mt Rainier
~Fall hikes at Discovery Park to crunch leaves
~Visit to a Pumpkin Patch
~Nighttime bedtime stories
~Playing games after dinner
~Putting together jigsaw puzzles – especially on Jan1
~Watching seasonal movies and eating homemade caramel corn
~Making homemade Valentine cards
~Waiting for the Leprechaun to visit and make mischief at the house
~Coloring eggs and hiding them
~Leaving May Day baskets at the neighbor’s door
~First Day of School picture on the front porch
~Pumpkin carving party
~Leaf walks, flashlight walks
~Cutting down our Christmas tree
Take some time to reflect on your childhood and what memories you value. What are the things you want to share with your child? What are some of the ways you can allow your child to create memories without material investment? It is important to give them opportunities to spend time in nature, spend time with others, spend time alone and time to be creative.
Enjoy building family memories this month and all year long!
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is family centered rather than focused on things and gifts. It is a time to gather with family and enjoy time together. It doesn’t mean that there is no stress or tension but hopefully it can be a time without the pressure set up by the advertising media.
Thanksgiving (and for retailers - much sooner) is the start into the holiday season. I hope you take some time to set your priorities to make this a more family centered and stress-less time. I know it cannot be stress-free but with a few adjustments to your priorities and schedules you can make it a little less stressful. It is hard to keep from getting caught up in the materialistic side of the holidays and all the pressure to make it a ‘perfect’ holiday time. We want to give our children things that will make them happy. We want to see them smile and to watch them as they enjoy the things they have. It is during the Thanksgiving holiday that we are encouraged to be aware of the people in our lives and the things we already have. Children are our most valuable gift and the values we share with them is a gift we give back to them. Taking time to enjoy the treasures you have in your children and reflecting on all the joy they bring to our lives is one way to reduce the stress we encounter during the holiday season. When we realize that we have so much to share with our children, and they with us, we can focus on relationships rather than getting more ‘things’. Time together is a gift that is more precious than anything else you can give your child.
As the nights get darker and we spend more time inside it is a great time of year to do family activities that do not cost a lot of money. Read a story by the fire or by candle light. Build a tent with sheets and use flashlights. Pop some popcorn and look at baby pictures – they love to see pictures of themselves as babies and are intrigued by your baby pictures. Spend a Saturday “on vacation” -- pretend you are out-of-towners and be tourists or just stay home but don’t do chores just fun stuff. Make a family movie or have a puppet show. Build with blocks and read Hans Christian Anderson’s Block City. Play a game. Stay in your jammies and eat breakfast on a quilt (or in bed?!) Just enjoy these little people because they will be big people before you know it!
Change is a part of life and during the holidays some of the changes that have happened during the year are magnified. Some changes are happy and expected – new babies, weddings, significant milestones while other changes are not as enjoyable or unexpected – job changes, illnesses, death of a loved one. Both of these types of change require a transitions and adjustments to family activities. With the addition of two daughter-in-laws and a grandbaby we have had some fun and happy transitions along with some stressful changes due to deaths and family dynamics. We had to adjust several family traditions so that we could be together as a family unit after Joel and Nick got married. There is a need to be flexible so that you can enjoy time together. We have had many changes in our family traditions during the past few years. Curt and I started some new traditions as a couple while we created new traditions, or adjusted them, as a “family” as our sons and their wives started their own traditions. Traditions are a time to celebrate family so it is important to be creative when changes in the family, or schedules, mandate a change in an existing tradition. The important thing is to spend time together. It is a time to cherish existing traditions and to start new ones.
As I watch your children at preschool I am reminded how lucky we are to have the chance to see the world though their eyes. Take some time this month to count your blessings and give thanks for these treasures we call children.