JOY!

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Finding Joy during the holidays is sometimes a daunting task for young children. Every day activities are magnified as their senses are on overload from all of the excitement surrounding the holidays. Not that this in itself is negative , the problem arises when children become too over stimulated and are unable to cope with the day to day tasks such as brushing their teeth or following simple directions that they normally would not have any trouble with. As mothers and teachers we can choose to let our children’s behaviour get the better of us or we can remind ourselves that a cranky child is usually on overload and remember to tone down the holiday festivities if it seems to be too much for the little ones to handle at this time. Too much of anything can have a negative effect on us all. For example, I love chocolate, but too much chocolate can make me sick..so I have to really watch that I don’t over eat around the holidays. The same can go for children. Too many gifts, lights, parties, shopping trips, etc can have a negative effect on a child. I remember one Christmas in particular when my middle daughter was two years old. She had so many Christmas presents to open from both sides of relatives that by the time she got to the last few she started crying and saying “ No more Christmas!” I think at that moment we all realized that we had lost the Joy of the season by buying into the commercialism of the holiday. So the question is: How to keep Joy in the holidays for the young child? Balance and moderation are the key! Little ones can only sit through so many Christmas events. So pick and choose the few that you want to participate in. Gift giving does not have to be extravagant. In my many years of working with young children I have found that they are usually just as excited about the box and wrapping paper as they are the gift itself. Educational and home- made gifts are always appreciated and so much more meaningful that the latest fads. Also playing soft music during the holidays tends to work as a subconscious calming tool. Another wonderful element in finding Joy during this busy time is to stop and take time to read and cuddle with your child. This will allow them an opportunity to calm down and focus on the story rather than the chaos going on in the world around them. For those children that need to be more active taking quiet walks together works wonders as well as having a time to allow them to explore and create their own holiday cards and gifts. Christmas can be such a wonderful time for children as long as we take the initiative to keep the Joy alive by spending quality time with them during this busy season.

Holiday Art Projects for Preschoolers

Christmas time is filed with excitement and wonderment.  Young children love to create and explore all of the senses during the holidays. Children love cooking and creating during the holidays. Involve your children in as much of the planning and preparations as possible. This helps to foster a sense of ownership in the festivities and builds independence and pride within your child. I have posted some of my favourite Christmas crafts that I have done in my classrooms and at home with my children. It just takes some time and a few simple supplies to complete these holiday art projects. May you enjoy the holidays and always keep the wonder and magic of Christmas alive in your hearts!

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A cute reindeer made by tracing your child’s feet and hands!

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Paper plate Santas or elves are made by glueing on packing peanuts for the beard , google eyes and construction paper triangles for the hats.

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Construction paper trees are fun to decorate with foam shapes, buttons, sequins an glitter!

“Lest We Forget”

remembrance day

In honour of those who have served in the armed forces I thought it would be nice to post a Remembrance Day craft. The poppies are simple to make so even preschoolers can make them yet still elegant enough for older children to enjoy them as well. To make the poppy, cut four even heart shapes out of red paper. Glue the hearts onto white paper to form a poppy. Add a black circle and/or small black hearts to the centre for the middle of the flower. Poppies can be embellished with glitter, seeds or other decorative items to make them unique.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by John McCrae, May 1915

Rememberance Day Poppy #1

Halloween Art

As the autumn air begins to roll it’s way into town, I begin to feel a
sense of excitment rising up inside me. The school year is well underway and the lazy
days of summer are long gone..but with each falling leaf, my toes
begin to tingle..it’s Halloween time!
Ghosts and goblins begin popping up all over town. Displayed in
storefront windows and on the neighbor’s doorsteps.  The fallen leaves
serve as a backdrop for this magical time of year.
Taking my children shopping at the local thrift store to pick out their costume is so much fun and I find that I always spend way too much time working on my own costume. I suppose it is the one time of year I can pretend to be a child again and play dress up!

Being a teacher has advantages as there are so many fun activities to do for Halloween. Here are a few examples of some easy Halloween themed art projects I have done in my classrooms.

For Preschool, we cut out various shapes from construction paper and let the children glue on paper scraps and google eyes. The kids loved putting lots of eyes on their spiders! Another fun fall art project was placing fall eaves onto a tree trunk. I used silk leaves found at the dollar store but have also used real leaves collected on nature walks .

For older children we made spider webs by weaving yarn between popsicle sticks and adding spiders  we made from pom pons and pipe cleaners.  Another fun paper craft for older children is to create witch legs and monster faces using construction paper shapes and crayons. This was a simple activity but really got the creative juices flowing as each child is so unique.  Hope these art projects will inspire you to create some fun and spooky masterpieces with your own children!  Happy Halloween!

Kindergarten Anxiety

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Starting school for the first time can be one of the most exciting and happiest days of a young child’s life. But the reality is for many young children, the beginning of school can be filled with  high stress and anxiety.  As a mother and kindergarten teacher I encountered both extremes in my children and in my students. While some were more than eager to begin others were not as enthusiastic about the sudden changes that the new school year brought upon their little lives. For these children, school symbolized a negative detachment from their parent or caregiver. In my observation many of the children with anxiety to kindergarten had parents who also felt anxious about their child attending school for the first time. Little ones are more perceptive than we realize and pick up on our emotions quite easily. Therefore, it is important as parents and teachers to address these feelings with the children in a positive manner before the first day of school so that the child is prepared for the changes that lie ahead.  Preschool teachers can work kindergarten readiness into their summer curriculum and kindergarten teachers can gradually introduce students to the school by offering select classes for the first few weeks if the school permits.  The BC Children’s Hospital offers these tips for transitioning young children into kindergarten and what to look for if you suspect your child is experiencing anxiety around attending school.

Tips for parents and caregivers:

  • Introduce children to the school year routine one to two weeks before school starts
  • Plan for transitions – getting to school, returning to school after breaks
  • Provide regular routines – morning, school, homework, bedtime
  • Hold realistic expectations that are right for your child’s age
  • Help your child identify his or her feelings – nervous, intimidated, shy
  • Ask your child if they have ideas or solutions for a particular concern
  • Show yourself identifying your own feelings, problem solving and being brave
  • Remain calm when your child is anxious
  • Help your child shift their focus to the positive aspects of school
  • Praise and reward even their small accomplishments

Consider seeking more help if your child:

  • Attempts to remain at home or with a caregiver
  • Refuses to attend school on certain days (field trips)
  • Refuses to eat in public
  • Refuses to use public bathrooms
  • Constantly worries
  • Continually seeks comfort and reassurance
  • Shows extreme shyness, avoiding social situations or events
  • Raises physical complaints with no medical explanation (stomach aches, headaches, difficulty catching breath)
  • Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively.

Lava Lamps

GROOVY

Remember the groovy days? ..or maybe you are too young to actually remember them but still appreciate that era in time. Anyway, here is a fantastic and easy science activity to do with preschoolers or even school age kids for that matter!  This project would work well for a class demonstration. I did this with my kids at home and they totally loved this project. I guarantee that kids (and adults too!) will go crazy for this activity! Extra fun tip: Do this activity dressed up in Groovy clothing and end the session with a dance party complete with music from the 60’s and 70’s!

To make a lava lamp all you need is:

Clear container  ( can use glass jars or empty pop bottles)

Water

Food colouring

Cooking Oil

Alka Seltzer tablets

Directions:  Fill the container 3/4 full of cooking oil. Fill the rest of the way with water. Add a few drops of food colouring. Let the children drop in the alka seltzer tablets to watch the lamps sizzle! For added effect turn off the lights and put a flashlight behind the jar!

Peace!

 

 

Magical Fairy Houses

Children love to explore nature. By doing so a whole wonderful world of imagination and creativity can begin to develop and grow. Here is a  fun way to incorporate your nature walks with a little bit of imagination!  Collect pebbles, sticks, seashells, moss..anything that a fairy might use to decorate his or her house with!  We purchased affordable dollar store bird houses and painted them up first.  Once the paint had dried we were able to glue on the nature items as well as gems, sequins, feathers  and buttons. For very young children using stickers is easier for tiny fingers to manipulate. We found jeweled stickers in the scrapbook area of the dollar store that worked perfectly for this craft. To get the imagination sparks flying, read a few fairy stories before going on your nature walk. This will ignite the fire to get the children excited about their project and get them to look at nature in a whole new way!  Who knows..they  might even see a fairy or two hiding in the trees waiting for their houses to be built!   If you are interested in purchasing some Fairy Books here is link to my dear friend Mary Murphy’s children’s page. Well worth checking out!  http://www.marymurphy.ca/the-childrens-page/

After the houses are all set up in the garden, sprinkle a little “fairy dust” (glitter!) when children are sleeping to show that the fairies have been there and watch the excitement begin!  This craft is suitable for all ages and can also be used as a great birthday party, summer camp or classroom activity for both boys and girls!

Counting Fish!

Here’s a new take on the old Dr. Seuss story of One Fish Two Fish.  My daughter Moriah came up with this idea and my preschool class LOVED it!  To accomplish this adorable felt story you will need a felt Dr. Suess hat which can be either sewn or purchased. If you are like me and wish to skip the sewing bit, you can purchase the felt hat for a reasonable price at most Party City locations. Sewing instructions for the crafty can be found here: http://mamalusco.blogspot.ca/2011/03/dr-seuss-day-cat-in-hat-tutorial.html
We cut out various shapes and colours of felt to represent the fish in the story. For the circle time we told the story by placing the fish on the hat. Because the hat is made of felt, the fish stick! The kids loved this and wanted to do it over and over. For a variation, we took turns letting them place the fish on the hat themselves which is a great way to reward happy listeners in the circle!  Here is our finished product! Simple, fun and one felt story kids will want to do over and over!

 

Ice Painting

Looking for a cool art project to do on a hot summer day? Then why not try painting with ice! Simply fill up various ice cube trays with water tinted with food colouring and freeze. Once frozen children can “paint” on water colour paper for a “cool” effect. As the ice melts , the paint begins to form various patterns. Sprinkle on glitter or salts for a textured effect. Tip: If the ice is too cold for little fingers to grasp then have them use tongs to paint with.

Music and Movement

musicMusic paired with creative movement engages the young mind and allows the young child an opportunity to develop early literacy skills.  Music and movement benefits a child’s development in so many ways. It builds social skills, helps children express emotions, enhances self awareness, develops large motor skills, and improves balance and coordination. Here are some fun ideas for integrating music and movement into your classroom or home.

Musical Hoola Hoops- Instead of musical chairs, use hoola hoops! Children dance around the hoola hoops and when the music stops they jump in the middle. (I have also used this game with teens and they had a blast!)

Musical Hugs- Children dance around until the music stops. When the music stops they find a friend to hug.

Mario Lava- Place carpet squares around the room. Play the Mario theme song while children jump from one carpet square to another.

Fireworks-Place large bubble wrap sheets on the floor and let the children dance on them to various styles of music. Perfect game for Canada Day, Fourth of July or Chinese New Year!

Name Game- Another variation of musical chairs: Place children’s names around room. When the music stops they find their name. Great game to teach letter recognition.