Archives for posts with tag: children

shell-sand close upIf we take the time to watch children, and I mean really watch them rather than pre-judging or paying lip service to this as we busy adults are prone to do, then they can do as Rudyard Kipling suggest, ‘teach us delight in simple things’. It doesn’t happen though unless we give them the time and freedom to become truly absorbed in whatever captures their interest, be it an unusual stone, an insect or inviting puddle.

If you’ve ever tried to walk anywhere fast you’ll know how much there is for young children to marvel at in everyday life and how open they are to its possibilities. Us adults in contrast miss so much by virtue of being in a rush and plagued by preconceptions. With this in mind storytelling guru #MiltonErickson implores adults to look afresh at our environment saying “Did you know that every blade of grass is a different shade of green?” 1 In so doing we can open our minds to new possibilities and be rewarded with wondrous awe and wonder, discovering a wealth of patterns, symmetry, joy and inspiration in everyday nature.

If you need a reminder of nature’s awe and wonder then google ‘sand grains microscope’ on the internet and be amazed by the gloriously detailed, highly patterned images that you will see.  I guarantee you will never look at a sandy beach in quite the same way again! Inspired by the sticky globule left by some gorgeous Longiflora lilies, my 11 year old dusted off her magnifier to take a closer look. What followed said it all, as she gasped with awe as a multitude of dash-like lines came into view. How fitting then that her science homework was to create a cell? Choosing a plant cell to make, she set to work with jelly, a bouncy ball and loom bands to create the different #cell parts! If you want to have a go at making your own cell or even a cellular cake, check out http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Model-Cell. For more microscopic inspiration treat yourself to The Natural World Close Up (Giles Sparrow, 2011). Much more than just a coffee table book, children and adults alike will be wowed by the close up views of nature revealed. So go ahead and enjoy nature close up this weekend.

1 (My Voice Will Go with You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson, Sidney Rosen, 1991).

Image source – http://geology.com/articles/sand-grains.shtml

Advertisements

Nature's Miracles

Albert Einstein is attributed with saying:

“There are two ways to live. You can live as if nothing is a miracle or you can live as if everything is a miracle. “

It seems to me that children are naturally endowed with an appreciation of awe and wonder, easily finding miracles in a frozen puddle, fossil, unusual shell or snowflake. Given time, children’s fascination for detail and a positive disposition help prime them for spotting the abundant miracles offered by Mother nature, the very same things that often pass us adults by. Reading this quote really struck a chord for me. As a parent I feel that a key part of my role is about providing magical moments in my children’s lives, from Christmas stockings to fairy notes or even just an amazing icicle that I’ve spotted or a picture of a building or construction vehicle that I think they’d enjoy. These little pieces of magic don’t have to cost the earth but bring real pleasure and delight. For a baby where every experience brings something exciting, finding out that a metal tin can be open and shut, makes noise when banged or a rattle when filled and shaken, are all mini miracles to discover.

Striding purposefully to school one balmy spring afternoon last week my eyes were drawn to a young boy on the other side of the road. Aged about three years old, he walked slowly yet equally purposefully, with his neck craned upwards and his head looking skyward. The source of wonderment was the billowing petals on a cherry tree, filling the sky with creamy blossom and literally captivating this little boy’s interest. As he approached the densest part of the canopy, nearest the trunk, he slowed to a standstill, just staring open-mouthed at the laden brunches above. His mum (I presume) who had been walking a little way ahead, turned and paused before remarking upon how beautiful the tree was. Unhurried he moved on, his gaze averted by the speckled pattern of blossom on the floor.

Walking back from school with my children I told them about the little boy and suggested that we cross the road so that we too could enjoy its magic and the miracle of nature’s abundant store cupboard. And that’s exactly what we did, whilst trying to catch fluttering petals in our hands and open mouths!

You’d have to be hibernating not to notice the carpet of autumnal coloured leaves transforming the world outside. Vibrant and springy, now is the time to gather handfuls of freshly fallen leaves for a host of fun activities. Pick the leaves carefully to avoid urban litter or other hazards. If needed, wash in soapy water and leave to dry, then you’re ready to start. My quest for leaves was driven by the challenge to make times table revision fun for my 8 year old son!  But once we got started we were inspired to do and make lots of fun things, suitable for children young and old. Here are some of the things that we did, if you come up with your own ideas don’t forget to share them!

Times table games

We played lots of times table games with the leaves, all of which were a great hit. To play any of the following games you will need 12 leaves and a pen. Write the numbers 1 to 12, one on each leaf. We wrote the numbers on the back of the leaf but either side is fine.  All these simple variations proved to be a lot of fun and due to their physicality, resulted in the children doing their times tables but with the main focus on catching or picking up the leaves!

Leaf Race

Arrange the leaves in a pile with numbers face down. Pick a times table to focus on, say the three’s and the challenge is to turn over each leaf one at a time and work out the resulting sum. So if you pick the number 4 leaf the sum is 3 times 4. You can add further excitement by doing this against the clock or using a sand timer. We also used counters on a 100 square, so he could cover the answer to the sum.

Falling Numbers

An alternative to this involved me standing on a stool and one at a time dropping a leaf for him to catch. He then worked out the number sum and positioned a counter on the 100 square grid before repeating with another leaf number. We did this against the clock which really added to the challenge and excitement.

Number Pick

Another variation involved spreading the leaves out on the floor, number side up. The challenge was to pick up the leaf and put it in a large bowl saying the answer to the sum, without using their hands. Children experimented using their elbows and feet and we also tried this with large tongs instead.

Catch a Leaf

The final variation involved throwing all the leaves up into the air for two children to try and do as many times table sums as they could with their leaves.

Here are some other fun things to do.

Leaf Masks

Make simple leaf masks by cutting eye holes in large leaves, (sycamore leaves would work well). Use the leaf stalk to hold the mask with. Decorate if wished with pens.

Leaf Boats

To make the boat hull you will need to either find a boat-shaped leaf or cut a boat shape from the centre of a large leaf, ideally with the central line of the leaf skeleton forming the centre of the hull. Cut triangular boat sails from another leaf, decorating with pen if wished. Use a small twig to create the mast and secure the sails and mast in place with sticky tac. Once finished, make more boats for a sailing race using straws to blow the boats across a tray of water.

Image

Leaf snowflakes

Create snowflake decorations using leaves. Simply cut geometric shapes in the folded leaves and hang by the leaf stalks from the ceiling or a window. Sycamore leaves work particularly well, as these can be folded and cut along all three lines of the main skeleton.

Creepy Crawlies

Make leaf spiders and bugs using leaves for the body, pipe cleaner legs and pen or bead eyes.

Hide & Seek

Play a game of hide and seek by spreading out the leaves and hiding treasures or mini creatures under these. Use for an unusual game of pairs, with matching pairs of items (e.g. coins, beads, numbers or pictures) hidden under different leaves, for the children to remember and pair up.

Fairy Leaf books

Gather together several leaves of the same shape and size. Pick a special one for the top and bottom of the pile, dark colours work well as they look like leather. Create mini leaf books by sewing or stapling the pile of leaves along one edge and cutting the leaves to book shape. If you’re lucky when finished the cover of the book will look like well worn leather and the pages will curl as the leaf dries out.

If you’re inspired to make the most of nature’s abundant treasures, don’t leave it too long as before you know it they’ll be transformed into a brown mushy squidge!

I expect most parents have been through the awkward phase of their child becoming frustrated with reading. Not quite fluent enough to read at an exciting pace to appreciate and enjoy the story, a temporary dislike of reading sets in, bringing out a stubborn streak in many a child. In my experience at times like this we need to pull back rather than chastising. Instead, channel your actions on finding the most interesting reads and exciting environments to hopefully rekindle the fire.

When it came to my seven year old son, picking a focus was easy and we started reading anything and everything to do with boats, planes and trains. The mix of reading was also key, from a fantastic diary of an epic duo circumnavigating the world in a dingy in the 1960’s, to a competent crew manual, complete with ensigns and Morse code, exciting novels of adventure to books brimming with facts about the different parts of a plane, or even the Hornby train catalogue! All these provided rich reading fodder to share with myself or my husband. With subject matter picked to appeal and excite, these reading materials also allowed my seven year old to become the expert, explaining to me about the forces of wind on a sail or design of an aircraft wing to accommodate fuel tanks. The topics may be clichéd but what was important was that they dovetailed with his current fascination. Several weeks on The Romans and cooking would have been added to the list!

With reading materials sorted the next challenge was making the occasion and environment special. Blankets and torches transformed a corner outdoors into a den, while indoors, beanbags on the floor and a canopy made from a sheet or Thai cushions in the bathroom gave reading an edge.

Image

 

For those of you gingerly nurturing fragile egos, working hard to reignite the temporarily elusive magic of stories, I have provided a photo taken this week which I hope brings you comfort and hope. The image captures the spontaneous moment when for my seven year old son, reading a book became something not easily stopped, not even for a bath! Walking in the bathroom to discover this sight was one of those everlasting special moments, especially in National Storytelling Week! It may look staged but I assure you it is not. What’s more it marks the moment my youngest child metamorphosed from recalcitrant reader to a voracious, insatiable book worm!

Don’t you just love those moments where a combination of children’s creativity, intelligence and mischievousness shine? One such example last week means that I can no longer look at Salad Hands in the same way!

It happened amidst the usual morning rush when I asked my 6 year old if he could get the sandwiches out of the fridge to go into their packed lunch bags. I knew something was occurring when he sat protectively clutching both bags, something I normally struggle to get him to take responsibility for! When I eventually peaked inside his lunchbox I discovered a pair of wooden salad hands! With a wide grin he explained, “I was going to eat my lunch with them!” On his way to the kitchen he’d spied the salad spoon samples that I’d sourced for a possible product. Sadly supply problems meant the product never actually came to fruition. Shame really judging by how they caught his eye and inspired his imagination.

The image of him sitting at school grappling Edward Scissorhands-like with his wrap has made me smile ever since. A bit like that classic Red Dwarf episode, the one with the mind boggling Mimosian anti-matter chopsticks.  As for his explanation, it was the sort of comment which makes you bristle with pride and know that they’re going to be OK when they grow up! In his sister’s lunchbox he’d included half a chocolate bar. Once rectified and returned to the fridge, this gave great cause for celebration at this wonderful moment of brotherly love.

So often when it comes to working with children our role is critical in either supporting or crushing children’s ideas. The chocolate was easy, being banned at school and only allowed as a rare treat, but what of the salad hands? In my rush I reasoned with him that he would probably get into trouble if he took them to school and he accepted this logic. But since then I can’t help feeling that in doing so I robbed him of his magical idea. Which brings me to tea tonight…!