Saturday, November 19, 2011

Little Things and a Favorite Fall Book

I should start by sharing that a little bundle has kept me away from the computer for the last month or two... Between the last weeks of pregnancy and the beautiful first weeks of bonding there has been no time or reason to come close. As we settle into our new life, I found a few minutes to write a short post.

With his arrival I have put some thought into creativity and nature for the youngest people: new babies. He has been born into a family that loves the arts. We love music. We all love to sing and even if at times we may not have perfect pitch (especially when sleep deprived), he's been hearing his sister and mama and papa singing non-stop. My husband plays the guitar for him and you can watch him stop to listen. Dancing and the various forms of bouncing have introduced the little one to rhythm out of the womb. For now he cannot see farther than the distance from his eyes to my face as I hold him, but soon he will surrender to looking at lights and contrast, and it will be a good time to introduce black and white art and images. The fun has just begun!

We also have noticed that like the rest of the family, the littlest one has better days when we spend time outside. Getting a little fresh air from walking around the block will help him sleep better and fuss less. He even has made his first trip to the city farm to pick a pumpkin!

As we spend many more hours inside, we have turned to reading with even more fervor than before. Here is one of our favorite fall books.

As all the leaves take flight, one leaf holds on tight... "I'm not ready yet." A beautifully artistic and poetic book portraying the magic of  late fall, as well as a a great way to talk about fears and how challenging taking a leap can be for all of us.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Nature and creativity intertwined

This summer we've visited farms, ponds and the ocean as much as possible. In our daily trips, I have loved observing the little one and her friends invested in their free play. Story telling, inventing, negotiations and creating (spaces, structures, scenarios, characters...) often reach a peak while outdoors, while most quarrels are avoided or die out pretty quickly.

Paths to get lost in... Codman Farm. dance..
...or just to be a chicken.

Making forts at the Boston Nature Center

Takes teamwork!
Feeding the chickens at Natick Cooperative Farm
Working together...
and feeding the pig.
Running through a field of flowers,
And taking a big leap!
Creating an island... at  Walden Pond,  
after complaining that they had no buckets or shovels to play with!
All they needed were some sticks to create trees, surrounded by a large ocean
and an island made of rocks, in the shape of a flower.
Finding these places has been at times a matter of living in the area and knowing what is available, finding out through friends or just spending a little time on the internet. It has been definitely worth providing as many opportunities for the little one and her friends to play freely in the great outdoors. They have expanded their horizons, getting to know about farm and animal life, our food sources, wild life and habitats, or just about how to explore creativity in nature, with no need for a shovel or a bucket.

I continue to work on learning from observing their play, keeping my distance and trying not to interfere, or to keep my interjections to a minimum. I see my role as the one who does the listening, planning, food preparation and chauffeuring... In return, I get to practice mindfulness. Being in the moment is the gift these children bring to me.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Drawing and Writing Caddy

I bought this utensil caddy as an impulse buy for my little one's birthday party this past spring. After the party was over I was going to put it away, knowing it would probably not get much use... but as it sat on our kitchen table I remembered being inspired by a beautiful Writing Caddy on the blog Playful Learning.
So I filled the utensil caddy with some basic drawing and writing tools and ever since, the little one has used it non-stop. It has visited the coffee table, the kitchen table and even our patio table. The time she spends drawing and practicing her letters has increased greatly. And she is loving her independence!

Some materials I've included:
Paper, in basic white, as well as other colors and in an array of sizes
A small notebook
Colored Pencils
Thin and thick markers
Hole Puncher (much loved item after this activity)
Letter Stickers

The possibilities are endless!

So, if you have a utensil caddy laying around, or if you find one on sale in these futile summer days, give it a try!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

3D Art: Contact Paper and Construction Paper Strips

This was one of the most fun activities I have ever done with children. It was exhilarating to observe this group of three four year old girls as they navigated a new concept, inspiring each other with ideas and building upon what they had learned from observing their work.

I laid out a large piece of contact paper on our art table with one inch strips of construction paper. I chose colors that reminded me of Joan Miro's work: red, black, white, yellow and blue. Back in the fall we had been very inspired by the book Yellow Square, and explored 3D art with different shapes of paper, folded and cut in interesting ways.
Previous Fall Project: Shapes and Glue over Recycled Book Cover

 We began by re-reading the book. They were as interested in it as they had been in the fall. I then introduced the activity by talking about how we usually work with collage materials and contact paper on a flat surface or in 2D. I explained this time we were going to use the strips of paper and shape them so they would stay up, creating a 3D piece. I demonstrated how this could be done with a simple upside down "U" shape as an example.

As soon as they set themselves to work one of them figured out how to make a circle.

And they were off, immersed in a rhythm of creativity that gave me goose bumps! Circles were being weaved into balls. Paper was being bent into different shapes. Narration was gaining momentum, with comparisons to playgrounds with slides and structures. Even geometry made its way in, with references to straight lines and curves, pointy angles and circles.

Finally, as impetuous as they had been while at work, full of concentration, inspiration and creativity, and without one dispute(!), the three artists knew they were done and quietly moved on to pretend play. As for this observer, I was left with eyes wide open for the wonderful piece of art created in front of me and in awe of the magic of creativity in childhood.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bubble Painting

This week we tried out painting by blowing bubbles. I mixed some dish-washing liquid, water and a little glycerin into small bowls and added about a teaspoon of paint. I found these bubble solution recipes that might come in handy for those who need more accurate proportions... I usually just play it by ear.
I then hunted around the house for any wands or blowers I could find.

We then headed outside with trays and sturdy white construction paper and just started blowing bubbles!
The artists ranged in age, from 4 to 10, and all enjoyed the activity equally.
Some of the wands made bigger bubbles that ended as larger circles on the paper.

While others made smaller bubbles clustered together, filled with color.

The afternoon was filled with wonder and delight, squeaks and laughter, and was the best way to stay cool on a hot and humid day. Next time I hope to try it out with larger cylinders and wands, and see what giant bubbles look like on a large piece of paper.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Embracing Summer's Arrival

 During the month of June we have spent as much time as possible in nature. We were given a membership to the Mass Audobon Society and started the month with a visit to the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. As we walked through the woods, meadows and wetlands, we had time to bond as a family, reflect and learn together about nature.  
Quietly the little one listened to the birds' orchestra.
 We got lost in these man-made tunnels and told stories about pirates, treasure hunts and adventures.

We closely examined inch worms, learning to carefully put them back on the grass. And were tempted to catch this gigantic frog!

 We had a close encounter with a beaver, and nearly missed these dear, that were about 6 feet away from us!

We left with a great feeling of expansion, beyond our own thoughts and bodies, in awe of the beautiful natural world in our region.

We have also spent a little time gardening... well, planting some herbs and a tomato plant on our porch. Oh, the joys of urban living!

And in honor of the longest day of the year, we had a wonderful dinner party to celbrate the Summer Solstice. During the days prior we visited the farmer's market and our local farm gathering ingredients for our feast. We enjoyed local fresh garlic, turnips, lettuce and strawberries!

Our little ones closest friend worked hard on this beautiful banner:

We set our lovely patio table, with a tablecloth from Kenya, and filled it with local foods and flowers.

We even enjoyed a Summer Sosltice Beer!

And ended our dinner with these fabulous homemade Strawberry Shortcakes!

We are embracing the long days, and look forward to much time outside, and hope to be inspired and fill our days with Nature, Reflection and Art.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cooking and cutting with knives!

Cooking is an art and eating can be one too! My little one LOVES to cook. She gets to spend time with her Papa, who happens to be a great cook and use different ingredients, smell the wonderful scents of the kitchen and use a knife! As for me, I love to see her try all those new foods.

A couple of weeks ago they made soup together. He was SO cautious as he taught her how to use the knife.

As she gained confidence and skill, she got to use it on her own.

They cut the veggies, put them in the pot, and tasted to make sure it was right. And voila! Fabulous home made soup.

So today, I decided to give it a go with something a little more simple: Popsicle smoothies!
She's gotten really good at using the knife. We cut up some mangoes and strawberries...

Threw them in the blender...

And made beautiful yellow and orange fruit popsicles!

And here are some books that inspire us to cook and/or eat!