Thursday, April 28, 2016

An Experience Gift - Party Favors

Have you read "Too Many Toys" by David Shannon. If not, I highly recommend it. It tells the story of a child who has too many toys, where the toys came from, and the process of choosing which toys stay and which ones go. It is a treatment of a parent's efforts to clean out their children's stuff and perhaps even strive toward minimalism. Most recently, the part of the book that describes the child getting toys just for attending a friend's birthday party really started to resonate with me.

Don't get me wrong. We have a generous spirit in our house. We like to give things to our friends. I've made engineer stashes to give away to party guests and miniature art carts. But this past season I had an idea to give an experience gift as a party favor instead of a bucket of consumables.

How do you give an experience gift to a party's worth of guests? (Besides throwing the party itself.) Well, in our case it was a princess party and the theme lent itself well to giving something small and sparkly to each guest...and that is just what we did.

I used tiny birthstone rings on Etsy for inspiration. I'm crafty and thrifty so I didn't buy any, instead I made them. With some wire, a dowling rod for wrapping the wire around, and a stash of shiny beads, I could make a few dozen of the rings in two different sizes (based on which dowling rod I used) while I watched TV at night.

Then I made a makeshift velvet ring box and placed the rings inside. The experience gift I gave to my daughter's friends was to choose one or two of their very own rings. It was wonderful. Everyone reveled in the experience when I bent down (donning my wedding gown as queen) and offered each child a chance to choose something beautiful for himself or herself.

The children left with a single, small treasure and the memory of choosing it for herself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hall of Fame

Welcome to the Preschool Engineering Hall of Fame! Below are pictures, links and descriptions of the characters we have discovered in books and film that have the creative spirit and think-outside-the-box mentality it takes to be a successful engineer.

(Please note that the descriptions are taken from each character's webpage.)

Curious George
Curious George was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1941 and for almost seventy-five years he has been capturing the hearts and minds of readers young and old throughout the world. Books about Curious George, including the seven original stories by Margret and Hans Rey, have sold over 75 million copies. So popular that his original story has never been out of print, George has become one of the most beloved and most recognizable characters from children’s literature. He has been featured in a Public Service Advertising literacy campaign in partnership with the Ad Council and the Library of Congress, and in 2012 Curious George was inducted into the Indie Choice Book Awards Picture Book Hall of Fame. In addition to the numerous books about his mischievous adventures, Curious George stars in the Emmy-award winning PBS television series Curious George and has also starred in three full-length movies.

Mary Lou Mellon

Molly Lou Melon's grandma taught her to be happy with herself no matter what, but  that's not all she learned. Molly Lou heard all about how her grandma didn't have fancy store-bought toys when she was little. She made dolls out of twigs and flowers and created her own fun in her backyard.

So Molly Lou does just that, proving that the best thing to play with is a huge imagination!

Rosie Revere

Where some people see rubbish, Rosie Revere sees inspiration. Alone in her room at night, shy Rosie constructs great inventions from odds and ends. Hot dog dispensers, helium pants, python-repelling cheese hats. Rosie’s gizmos would astound—if she ever let anyone see them.

Afraid of failure, she hides them away under her bed. Until a fateful visit from her great-great-aunt Rose, who shows her that a first flop isn’t something to fear—it’s something to celebrate.


Tinkering, fixing things, adventures!

Iggy Peck
Iggy has one passion: architecture. His parents are proud of his fabulous creations, though they’re sometimes surprised by his materials. But hey! What’s wrong with a tower built of diapers? (Even dirty ones!)
Dear Ig has it made until second grade. That’s when he meets his match. His teacher, Miss Lila Greer, frons upon architecture. Banned from building in school, second grade becomes a bore until one day a fateful field trip lets Iggy Peck show the world his true talents!

The author/illustrator describes him: Meeow is a creative little cat.

JoJo is so worried that he'll say something to disappoint his father that he finds it best not to speak- ever. But he's anything but silent. He hears music in the tapping of an old keyboard, feels the beat in the rhythmic bounce of a basketball and finds harmony in wind whistling over a comb.
It is later revealed that JoJo takes nightly excursions to the Abandoned Star-Study Tower, and the one time we see him about to leave, his arms are filled with various odds and ends (including an umbrella that looks remarkably like that of the Cat in the Hat's), are to work on what is rather literally a giant instrument (called "the Symphonophone" on the soundtrack): he had filled the observatory with these castaway items and set up an elaborate system to produce music. JoJo uses his Symphonophone to add to the ruckus needed to alert the citizens of Nool to their existence, in addition to his signature cry: "YOPP!"



Jay is an inventive, fast-talking and fun ninja. He loves to build and fly hang-gliders, so the chance to learn to fly himself using Airjitzu is an exciting one. Jay is always ready with a joke when things get too tense. He wields the power of lightning.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bike Bell with Gears

The kids are on the move. Now that they are more confident on their bicycles they want to ride them everywhere. We ride trails nearby. We ride the crowded sidewalks to school. We ride rambling around the neighborhood on the weekends. In all that time on the bikes, my children are learning rules of the road, including how to share the road.

We talk about yielding to pedestrians and animals (and why). We talk about riding on the proper side of the street (and why). In all those conversations, most of what we talk about is being aware of one's body and knowing how to be safe in and around other people.

One way to be safe on the bike is being observable. We have reflective vests for when we ride at dawn or at dusk. That way it is easier to be seen. We also have newly-acquired bike bells so that we can be heard. And it is no surprise the criteria used when each of my children chose their bell.

Anna chose hers based on the quality of the sound. She chose the Mirrycle Omnibell and she was right. The ring is a beautiful musical sound, easy to create with a flick of the button, and loud enough to be heard. (So loud and long, in fact, that it drives my autistic son crazy because he is highly sensitive to sound.)

Mikey chose his based on cool factor. He wanted to Mirrycle Jellibell. The sound is fine and doesn't persist the way the Omnibell's sound does. But the way it works is too cool for school. As you can see in the picture, it has gears! Mikey's heart must have skipped a beat when he saw it. I imagine he felt so satisfied when he reached out and grabbed the blue outer ring and turned it. Turning it made the gears move and rotate the bearings that made the bell sound. And, of course, any time we get to watch gears work is a big BIG draw.

Between my two kids I am learning so many ways to be in the world. That doesn't end at music and sound. Where one child is interested in creating music and the aesthetic of it, the other is interested in the technology of sound. Again, I see the world in new ways.