Monday, August 31, 2015

Coloring Competition

Over the summer I got to try out my plans for keeping things fun during roadtrips with two preschoolers. I had chosen all sorts of mechanically interesting things like packing an art cart to-go with ribbon, scissors, and tape. Coloring supplies for different coloring experiences like crayons, gel markers (for drawing vibrant things on dark paper), and scratch-off paper. Everything was received well but the activity that kept going for hours and hours was the coloring competition.

To start, I would make two sheets of paper with shapes. Each kid would get a piece. Then we would pick which shape to color. "Color the yellow star! On your mark, get set, go!" The children would color furiously to finish first. Sometimes there would be a clear winner, who would receive an M&M as the prize. Other times it would be less obvious who won. Anna might fill in the shape first but she had also colored outside the lines while Mikey would finish second with a carefully filled shape...or vice versa. In that case I gave a prize to each child and made the observation, "Anna you finished first but you scribbled outside the shape. And Mikey, I see you colored very carefully. You both win a prize."  

The game begins with two papers with the same shapes.
I loved this game because I got to be creative with the shapes I drew. I started simply enough with a square, a triangle, a circle and a pentagon. But then I could make blobs, stars, hearts, flowers. I could make whole scenes like the night sky or a coral reef or a forest. It kept me interested and the kids entertained.

I loved making different things for them to color. This is a coral reef with fish, a crab, a clam, and an anemone.
I also loved to see how they would add to the drawings after the competition was over. Mikey often connected things to be a power grid, factory, or something like that. (See below.) Anna liked to add stickers to hers. Astronauts and stars to the night sky, flowers to the forest, and the like.

Mikey's power grid.

There was so much play and so much learning that went on with this competition. First, it gave my children a chance to compete in a safe, entertaining way. Second, it gave us an opportunity to name shapes and colors, empowering the children with science and math language. Third, it turned out to be a way for my prompt to become something more than an invitation to compete. They took their papers further by opening their imaginations and adding to the drawings in their own unique ways.

All in all, it was a fun way to play in the car. Oh, I should mention that I was not behind the wheel!!

Materials needed for coloring competition:
- paper
- crayons/markers/pencils
- flat surface for child's lap on which to place paper while coloring
- stickers (optional)
- prize (optional), could be picking the next song, naming the shapes for the next competition, or even candy. ;)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

iMothering Invited TALK

Head over to iMothering to listen to my 30 minute "podcast" about Child's Play!

Preschool Physics

Child's Play: Science Learning at its Best
This is a story about how to value child’s play. I will talk about what I see when I watch my children play. I will also discuss evidence of learning and the imminent challenges parents, educators and policy makers face when considering quality of early childhood education.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Princess Engineering

My three year old daughter has been increasingly interested in princesses. Aside from the obvious gender hoopla, I find the way she approaches the material fascinating. I'm still trying to figure it all out but a story from the past weekend is worth sharing immediately.

Anna has recently found the Tiara Club Princess series of books. The books are pretty readable and offer a lot of complicated social situations for learning about grace and other "princess" behavior. Each book features a different first-year princess who, along with her friends, has to negotiate a "mean" classmate. I don't think the characters are developed very much but the plots offer plenty of opportunity for discussion. And my daughter just loves to sit and listen and listen and listen to me read. So I do. 

You might have guessed this about me already but I don't often get dressed up and go out for a night on the town. I prefer to hike at sunset or stick my toes in a mountain river. So on Saturday when I prepared to attend my 20 year high school reunion at a fancy restaurant, I transformed into a rarely-seen creature. I wore nice clothes, shiny shoes, a thin veneer of make-up, and smoothed my hair with a flatiron. I looked completely unlike myself.

While I was primping, my children had been in weeding the garden with my sister and brother-in-law. I stepped outside to tell them I was leaving and my son kissed me goodbye, without really missing a step. On the other hand, my daughter stopped in her tracks and exclaimed, "Mama! You look like a Tiara Club princess!"

Tiara Club Princess Mama
Adorable, yes? I smiled, thanked her for the compliment, and turned to go. But before I could leave I heard her offering something more. I stopped and turned back to her to listen and she proceeded to analyze my costume. She said, "I see your shirt is black and your shoes are black. And your pants are black and white zig-zag stripes." She looked at my face, critically observing me. I listened, smiling. Then I left for my night out. 

The next day I followed up with her. "Are you interested in learning how I turned into a princess?" I asked. "Yes!" she replied. I explained that part of what made me look like a princess was the fabric. I invited her to touch the pants and the shirt. I told her that her auntie was really good at understanding this type of thing and that we both could teach her. The lesson in fabric was enough to satiate her interest for the time being and she ran off to play.

Anna's analysis of my transformation stuck with me. I've been constantly wondering how she would inform my work with Preschool Engineering. She definitely brings something new to the conversation. Her attention isn't like her brother's. She doesn't study mechanics. She doesn't analyze physics. But she does see patterns and shapes and textures with a critical eye. It is often set in the context of princess life but it doesn't make her Preschool STEAM learning any less valid. It is just a matter of me recognizing and valuing her point of view.

Mountain Mama
Tell me a story. I would love to hear about how your Preschool Engineering Princess makes sense of the world!!