Outdoor Tinkering with kids

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Birdwatching to Uncover Our Natural World

Posted on


May 3, 2010


by wowkits

No matter where you live, chances are you see birds every day. The tall buildings of the city, parks large and small, suburban neighborhoods and rural areas all provide habitat for different kinds of birds. Give kids an opportunity to notice and watch the birds around you and you may be opening the door to new discoveries, a wealth of learning opportunities and maybe even a life-long appreciation of nature.

Here are some ideas for young birdwatchers:

  • Hang a bird feeder near a window (natural intelligence)

  • Create a bird-friendly habitat, even in an urban area, by setting out potted shrubs or other greenery and a bird bath (natural intelligence)

  • Get a book that identifies birds in your area (or look them up online) and help kids identify the birds they see (linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial intelligences)

  • Encourage older kids to keep a bird journal where they can jot down or draw pictures of their observations (linguistic, spatial, natural intelligences)

  • Look for bird nests, try out binoculars (spatial, natural intelligences)

  • Look at bird feathers with a magnifying lens (spatial)

  • Act out the bird behaviors you see (natural, kinesthetic, intrapersonal intelligences)

  • Go for nature walks and talk about where you see birds and what they are doing (natural, kinesthetic, linguistic, interpersonal intelligences)

For even more great ideas and information on the wonderful benefits and discoveries children can enjoy just by taking notice of the birds around them, check out this article in Teaching Young Children Magazine.

Filed under: Activities for KidsMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolThemes | Tagged: Activities for KidsEarly ChildhoodkindergartenMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolScienceTeachingThemes | Leave a comment »

Discover the Rewards of Embracing Risk

Posted on March 23, 2010

Think back to your childhood…the tree climbing, the bike riding, the neighborhood exploring. Would you let your child do that today?

Chances are some of your fondest, or most exhilarating, or most transformative memories are rooted in an activity that many parents today might think of as dangerous or risky. But is there a risk to keeping our children perpetually safe?

Author and early childhood educator, Deb Curtis, explores this idea in a great article featured in Child Care Information Exchange titled What’s the Risk of No Risk? In this article, the author describes the tranformation that took place in her early childhood program when a new director challenged teachers’ ideas about risk.

She advocated that children deserve and benefit from challenges and adventures that include risk. Their self-esteem grows, along with their physical and mental abilities as they negotiate risks appropriate for their personality and development. She wanted us to keep children safe, but insisted that it was just as important for us to guide them in becoming thoughtful decision-makers, able to one day assess and safely negotiate risky situations on their own.

Through a process that involved staff meetings (where teachers let their feelings on the topic be known) parent input, and identifying and consulting various resources on managing and preventing dangerous situations in early childhood settings, the staff came up with a risk-management strategy that allowed individual teachers to stay within their comfort zone, respected the values and perspectives of individual families and encourage children to test their abilities, build their self-confidence and develop a positive sense of self.

First, it’s important to distinguish between a risk and a hazard. A risk is something that can be negotiated, an activity or experience that may be appropriate for a child with the appropriate skill set or in the right situation, like negotiating the monkey bars, or walking a high-beam. A hazard is something that is inherently dangerous and needs to be fixed or dealt with, such as a protruding splinter on a climbing structure.

The author identifies several key steps in the process of embracing risk as an important element of a child’s experiences:

  • Know your own disposition to risk

  • Ensure your own comfort and engagement

  • Examine your own view of children

  • Inform yourself of good risk-management practices

  • Engage families in the conversation

  • Provide safe and appropriate challenges in your program’s environment

  • Have confidence in your ability to supervise your children

Here is a story taking from the article that does a great job of illustrating the way managing risk can be accomplished in a setting where staff may have very different attitudes about what is safe for children.

Several of the older children in the program were eager and able to climb the smaller trees in our yard. A number of the teachers were very fearful of this and others really thought it was something that these children deserved to have as a part of their childhood, just like they did when they were young. We decided that to keep the activity safe, the children needed ­supervision and guidance when they were climbing the trees. So we agreed that the children had to be able to climb the tree on their own, a teacher would be right there to supervise, but no teachers could lift children up. Also, if children wanted to climb a tree they had to alert one of the ‘tree-climbing’ teachers (those who were enthusiastic about supervising and able to support and keep the activity safe). If none of those teachers were available, then children had to wait until they were. The children easily accommodated to these rules and came to respect all of the teachers’ points of view.

Not only can this type of “risky” activity build children’s muscle tone, coordination and self-esteem, it can open the door to all kinds of learning opportunities for children, especially those with strong kinesthetic, spatial or natural intelligences who may have a hard time getting engaged in traditional classroom activities.

Filed under: Importance of PlayPreschoolSchool | Tagged: Child CareImportance of PlayMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolsensory experiencesTeaching | Leave a comment »

Playdough Recipe and Ideas

Posted on


March 9, 2010


by wowkits

It seems all children can get lost in playdough play, no matter what their age or ability. Here’s a quick and easy recipe to make your own playdough. This home made version works great and you don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals.

  • 1 cup flour

  • 1/2 cup salt

  • 1 tsp cream of tartar (keeps dough from getting gummy)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 Tbs cooking oil

  • Food coloring

  1. Mix all dry ingredients in a saucepan.

  2. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the water, oil and food coloring.

  3. Stir the wet into the dry and put the saucepan on the stove at a medium heat. Continue stirring until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pan.

  4. Remove from heat and let cool until you can knead it without burning your fingers. Knead 8-10 times to spread the moisture evenly.

  5. Store in an airtight container.

Kids love to experiment with new and different ways to use their playdough. The more options you lay out for them, the more opportunities they have to let their innate gifts or intelligences shine.

Linguistic intelligence– these children might verbally talk through their playdough play or talk out scenes with the creatures they create. Add alphabet stamps, or encourage children to form letters or write their name in the playdough.

Logical/Mathematical– children might count or sort the creatures/objects they make. You might also see them do some logical problem-solving if they are having trouble making an idea come to life.

Spatial– these children probably enjoy fitting cookie cutters into the rolled out dough. They’ll explore the shape of the cut out as well as the empty space it leaves behind. They enjoy the challenge of building more complex figures, or identifying and creating shapes.

Kinesthetic– rolling, pounding, slapping, moving. These kids are active playdough explorers.

Musical– while not directly related to playdough play, some interesting background music can have a big effect on the experience/engagement of these children.

Interpersonal– these children may coordinate an imaginary “group snack” and assign roles to others as they plan their playdough play. Play tea sets, plates, pots or platters can add to the experience.

Intrapersonal– children who loose themselves in the feel and manipulation of the dough may be focusing on how working the playdough makes them feel. Encourage them to talk about their thoughts. Telling them what you see them doing can help to start the conversation.

Natural– children who go beyond making one animal, and think more about making a network of creatures with different roles and responsibilities are using their natural intelligence. These children may also enjoy making imprints of natural objects or otherwise incorporating nature into their playdough creation.

Remember, when it comes to Multiple Intelligences, no child is all or nothing. Children will bring a variety of their strengths and interests into their playdough play. Be a careful observers and learn about them by watching what they do and how. When you can meet a child at their level, giving them a boost to a new level of understanding on any topic becomes much easier and more fun!

Filed under: Activities for KidsImportance of PlayMultiple IntelligencesPreschool | Tagged: Activities for KidsChild CareCurriculumEarly ChildhoodFamilyImportance of PlayMultiple IntelligencesPreschoolsensory experiencesTeaching | Leave a comment »

Activity to Explore the Outdoors

Posted on August 4, 2008

 For a quick and easy way to get preschool and school-age kids exploring the outdoors, try this simple leaf rubbing activity. All you need is:

  • a few pieces of paper

  • a couple of crayons with the paper wrappers removed

  • a hard, flat surface (smooth table top, floor or hard cover book)

  • a bucket, basket or bag for collecting leaves

1. Explain to kids that they need to collect a variety of different leaves or other flat objects in their bucket. Then we’ll use the paper and crayons to make cool rubbings.

2. As the children collect their leaves, encourage them to take their time and look at and feel the textures they encounter. Point out some of the features of the leaves, plants, trees or landscape you are exploring. Keep an eye out for insects or other little creatures you might come across. Don’t worry if they collect things that you know won’t work well for rubbings. It will be a great learning experience as they try it out. Also, don’t worry if you’ve spent so much time exploring the outdoors that you run out of time for the project. After all, the whole point of the activity is to get the kids to pay attention to nature, so… mission accomplished!

3. Once you’ve got a nice selection of items, show the children how to lay one out on the flat surface and cover it with the paper. Hold the crayon so it is lying across the paper and rub it across the leaf. Encourage children to press firmly and rub all around the flattened leaf under the paper.

4. Enjoy the oohs and aahs that are sure to erupt from the children’s mouths as they watch the images of the leaves appear.

Take it a step further by talking about the types of marks that appear after the rubbing. Which leaves make better rubbings? What didn’t work so well? After trying a few different leaves, can you predict what will make for a good rubbing image?

This activity is great for active learners as well as nature lovers and those who love crafts. It appeals to kinetic, natural and spatial intelligences, and the discussion questions can also help those with linguistic and logical/mathematical strengths also get involved.

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