Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

How do you notice and celebrate the fall? There are so many ways to acknowledge it with children in natural ways. Bring in and celebrate the changing seasons with some of these creative ideas. Please feel free to share some of your family’s ideas in the comment section below: sharing is caring! These sensory and awesome activities are simple to set up and perfect for inviting your child to explore and notice the wonders of Autumn.

1. Take a Walk to Notice the Changing Leaves

Change the lyrics of the classic Bear Hunt song to “We’re going on a leaf hunt” and take a walk together as you notice the leaves falling as they crunch beneath your shoes and spy the changing colors. Walk while collecting colorful various sized leaves as you go. Invite your children to tell you what color, texture and size of each leaf in fun ways. For example…notice the size by pondering outloud: “I wonder if it’s bigger/smaller than your hand?” “How does it feel?” “Where did the green disappear to?” “How did the color change?” “Which is your favorite shade?” Once you’re home, invite your child to sort the leaves by size, shape and color. 

2. Sensory Play with Fall

Sensory play is vital for babies and children and there are lots of amazing ways to represent the colors of Fall. Invite your child to change the leaves with food coloring or Tempera paints. Wonder out loud: “If you could change the colors of the leaves, what color would you change them to?” “How does a leaf change its color?” Offer Blue/Red, Yellow/Red, Yellow/Blue primary paint combinations to discover what they turn into.  

4. Sing Autumn Songs click below for some ideas

5. Read Books about Trees: list of ideas below: **add your titles in the comments below** *Bonus Make Your Own Book Using Colorful Leaves

The Lorax, The Giving Tree, Stuck, Because of an Acorn, The Kids’ Family Tree Book, Can You Hear the Trees Talking?, The Tree Book for Kids and their Grown-ups

6. Observe, Draw and Pick out Some Favorite Trees 

Take a sketchpad outside and draw what you see. Plan to revisit and plant one of you and your child’s favorite trees in the spring!

5. Paint / Collage with Leaves

Use leaves to paint and collage with. Make a large Fall mural inspired by the Fall. **Bonus Make a fall wreath together for your door or a neighbor’s door. 

6. Rake the Leaves 

Don’t forget to JUMP in them! Make up a story using the leaves together. 

7. Make Leaf Rubbings / Pressings

Grab a paper, crayons (and/or pastels), playdough/clay. Place the leaf/leaves on the paper. Place a paper on top and then use the crayon (writing utensil) to rub. (Another variation is to do pressings by pressing the leaf into playdough/clay to make impressions/imprints. See it by clicking below: 

https://www.firstpalette.com/craft/leaf-rubbings.html

8. Visit a National Park and Chat with a Park Ranger

Visiting parks and nature is a wonderful way to get up and personal with nature, especially trees. Talking with a park ranger who is an expert could turn into a life changing memorable experience as you make meaning out of the trees and their importance. If you’re local to Fiolina the Arboretum is an iconic place to visit many types of trees from the smallest Bonsais’ to  the tallest of Sycamores. A perfect place for that sketchpad we mentioned earlier.

Have Fall inspired ideas you want to share? Let us know by commenting below!

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com 

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Code the Life You Want

3:08 am. How did we get here? I stretch and I yawn into the morning. Into the new day as I give thanks and am filled with gratitude to see another day. During the pandemic, I was deeply moved and inspired to move. To change. To dig deep within myself. I just needed a shovel. During the pandemic, we went virtual as we taught and learned online.

Some grown up students loved it and some did not. Some children loved it and some did not. For instance, I had a student who loved typing on the keyboard. He inspired me to dig deeper within myself. He gave me a shovel without even knowing it. While many times, I push and cheer others on, deep down I knew it was time to push and cheer on myself as well.

I noticed something. Literacy in action as he typed. We were singing Dem Bones and he started typing the sounds of the song out. Not because I told him to but because he wanted to.

What do we do in a world where computers and technology are a part of it. We embrace it and work alongside of it, learn to work with it and even create it. As I am learning coding now, I think about the past languages I learned and recognize coding as a language. Another language to communicate in.

Commas and quite frankly, punctuation matter in the code. You miss it or make a mistake then the code will not work. It will be null and void.

As we started returning to “normal” I didn’t want the old normal. I craved a new normal. So, here I am coding, creating and writing the life I want. The life I need. One that is far from normal. Love and light leads me. We are life. It is now almost 4:00 am on a Tuesday and this will be reaching you at 8:26am. on May 26. Happy reading. Happy living. You are life. Remember that.

Play is Our Life’s Work

What is play? We all have a schema in our minds about it. What ideas come to yours? Oxford defines it as engaging in an activity for enjoyment rather than a serious or practical endeavor. In other words, engaging in an activity one cares about just because. “Play is the highest form of research” as quoted by Albert Einstein. If that is true then why are we not doing more of it? There are conversations about play and even changing the word play to something entirely different.

That’s kind of funny right changing the word play to another word? What would another word for the word play even be?

What would another word for the word play even be?

I remember going to the World Forum on Early Childhood Education which is an amazing forum and foundation gathering minds emphasizing on sharing ideas and yes, renaming p-l-a-y is a real conversation going on. We all chatted about what we would change the word play to and talked about how people don’t take the word seriously or even misunderstand what the value of play has for children and grown ups. Play is so misunderstood. I remember being an educator and some views went something like this, “Oh wow, that’s cool, so you get to play all day?!” Yes and no. Imagine being a fly on a wall and you get to observe play. “Play is the highest form of research” for the person playing as well as for the observer.

Why are some grown ups including myself for a time being turning play into a serious or practical endeavor? Someone who is not taking play so seriously is Pat, the Play Lady who I had the opportunity of connecting with in this lifetime. She is one fun and joyful person. I stumbled upon her when I worked in Takoma Park during one of my walks. I saw this sign and took it as a sign:

Don’t know who she is? Here is her Ted Talk: hope it inspires you.

Play encompasses all. Who doesn’t love to play? For example, take a play object / material like sand or even Kinetic sand?! So many connections and synapses are being made in the brain as you are molding kinetic sand for instance. What do you think happens outside and inside a person? One it gives you an unforgettable experience, two it’s fun and three molding kinetic sand helps build schema and synapses in our brains especially for children and those rewiring/rebuilding their brains like Jill Bolte Taylor or even just because it’s fun meanwhile it is helping strengthen and literally mold our brains.

Here are more ways kinetic sand play helps children. https://www.jimbeamracing.com.au/kinetic-sand-offers-unique-benefits-to-your-childs-development/

Need more play ideas? Here is another source and another: https://www.letsplayamerica.org/handbooks and https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/play

Keep playing as though your life depends on it. Because it does. Happy playing and being as Fred Rogers would say “just the way you are”.

Can I Have a Word or Two?

It’s Halloween time and I’m reminiscing when I was little and went trick or treating. You know when grownups would and will ask a child: “So what do you do?” And, children do a song or dance? I sang the little witch song and changed the word witch to (can you guess to what rhymes with witch—change the w to a b).

My sister was shocked and everyone laughed. In that moment — I realized the power of words.

I knew and realized in that moment just how powerful words are and the effect they may have on us. Most of all — words can incite us. Words can also invite us to talk or push us away not to talk and forever hold our peace.

My sister cursed like a sailor. I would curse at school as I tested out the words and expressions she used. Such as: #1 B#tc$ to describe best friends and sister Bonds. F#€|< it or f#€|< you when angry or frustrated. I went to school — testing out these words and phrases with friends but no grownup ever knew.

We test out words and expressions.

This brings me to another moment in time as I was teaching and all of us were outside on a field trip (giving a plug to the National Building Museum in Washington, DC). We were in the blue construction room: Play Work Build exhibit where my class aka engineers, architects and builders were building and constructing very cool creations and structures! One of my Fireflies as he was trying to fit a square peg into a circle and he was exasperated by all of his unsuccessful attempts (he kept persisting and showed a lot of resiliency!) and to everyone’s shock and dismay minus my own: he said, “Awww, f bomb, it’s not fitting!

All of the grown ups stopped and stared at us and looked very carefully at me. I was the responsible grown up for this class. I looked at my firefly that lights the night sky and who clearly just lit up this space like the Fourth of July. I got low and spoke low. I said, “I see you learned a new way to express exasperation and frustration. What word can you use instead of that one? I said, what rhymes with it?” He smiled and said, “Oh, shucks, oh muck, ohhh tuck, ohhh luck” we laughed. I took the stigma and the struggle away. Again, language can incite us. Language is explosive. Language (most of all — the connections in the brain) are also exploding for preschoolers at this time.

If we reprimand or dismiss, shut down or get shocked how do we model? If we kick out, put in detention, suspend or expel how do we teach?

Teachable moments happen each and every moment. Don’t overlook them or dismiss them. Don’t lock it up and throw away the key. Words are caged birds begging to be free. Teach with compassion, love and understanding.

Restorative practices, compassion, learning and justice is meant and intended not only for preschoolers. It is for all ages, stages and levels of life. Meet children, youth and grown ups where they are are and help them to where they are going.

Bonus: listen to some of my stories made up from my heart and brain.

https://podcasts.apple.com/za/podcast/the-story/id1505653221

The Art of Saying Goodbye

Would you give your most precious belongings to a stranger?

I’m not sure what you care about but think about it. Think about something you care a lot about and wonder whether or not you would give it away freely or with hesitation. Would you give a stranger your mother’s ring? Would you give your car? Would you give your cellphone?

Now imagine what that may feel like for a family when they arrive to a classroom or school for the first time where their child will be going. 
It’s not easy. Our families need hugs the most. During the day, when our children say they miss their loved ones we often remind our children that no matter what they are always in their hearts. I used to say no matter what they will always be back but a part of me feels like that is a lie. Because I remember when my mother didn’t come back. I remember the day my mother died.

Now I say, no matter what they are always in your heart. No matter what. It’s never really a goodbye. And, a great educator and now friend from Nigeria said, “We meet to part and part to meet.” It’s never really a goodbye. She had a finesse and way of saying goodbye without ever saying bye. In that moment, she spoke to and educated not my head but my heart and spirit. I pay that kind of thing forward. With love+light+hugs.

Lots of them.

Tis the Season: the Jolly and Not So Jolly of Times

The most wonderful time of the year. But is it? I am feeling tension and unlike myself lately. I am missing loved ones who have passed. 105 people die every minute. Nearly 2 every second. Life is precious. So very precious.

When it comes to my feelings, I chalked some of it up to the full moon and it’s power of making waves. In fact, there has been a cataclysm of events making waves. Globally countries are struggling with leadership and death.

Lately, I have been hanging on to hope and resiliency. I stare at a photo of 6 year old Ruby Bridges who endured and triumphed standing as a metaphor and reminder that “what doesn’t kill you does in fact make you stronger”.  At 6, Ruby Bridges showed a courage that resonates today. I had the opportunity of listening to Ruby Bridges speak in 2015 at the annual NAEYC conference. The kind of courage and poise she personifies and how it connects with us, children, families and educators.

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Holidays are hard for many. For a lot of my own life, holidays were often off for me and awkward. There are empty chairs of those we miss and love. You feel the infinite loss and ache of missing loved ones. It is easier to send a gift and/or photo of smiling faces saying Happy Holidays. It is the thought that counts but what do we do for those who feel alone? How do we help others cope during grief or a sense of loss? What gifts can you give to the broken-hearted?

Here are gifts to give:

  • Gift of Memory: Take a moment to remember and honor the memory of a loved one by a hug, card or phone call. Although there is an empty chair at the table fill it with memories and honor their memory.
  • Gift of hope: We experience both sadness and joy. It’s deeply triggered by the holidays. Show up and offer to help those you care about. From the daily routines to collaging and scrap booking memories.
  • Gift of Love: Be in the moment with those who are still living. Show them you love them. If you are the one feeling sad tell them it is hard but stay hopeful.
  • Gift of friendship: Invite and include those who feel sad even if they may cancel or decline from shopping to having dinner.
  • Gift of Surprise and Spontaneity: Encourage doing something unusual such as a road trip or a flight to visit loved ones still here. Follow through.
  • Give the gift of time: Its about time well spent with those you love so spend it wisely. Spend some time whether over coffee, a movie, a stop by visit or something special to do together
  • Give the gift of food for the soul whether baked goods or a home cooked meal to enjoy together
  • The gift of listening: remember, it’s not not knowing what to say but listening and being there.

Looking for more gift ideas? Visit Sympathy Solutions at:

http://www.sympathysolutions.com/current-newsletter/10-things-you-can-do-for-someone-lost-loved-lone.html

Most of all, ensure to reach out, don’t expect someone who feels alone to reach out to you.

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The Story Continues…in Real Life.

I have been working every Sunday but it does not feel like work.
It feels like play.
I feel really good to feel good about that. I would literally do what I do on Sundays for free, really. Last Sunday, I spent my time working with one child and playing. My high of the day was making up stories using the instruments to make sound effects for the stories we made up. I also retold my classics: aka my favorites: Luki and the Rocket Power Shoes and Luki and the Rocket Power Paintbrush. It was his first time listening to it. He asked for them again and again. I thought to myself…why am I in this rush to produce creative works of art when I should enjoy what I already have out there in the universe?
I am literally backed up on creative projects but I reflected on and about my own process. Am I enjoying the process? Am I enjoying myself? Why am I pushing and grinding to produce more and more? I have the stories. I enjoyed the process of creating them. Now let me create an outlet to massively share them using my voice and technology. I remember when a student asked me if I would be on her story podcast that evening she listened to it. Then, I recalled another student asking for one last story before she moved on and went to her new school.
I want to enjoy the stories that I have out. Recently, someone (whom I never met in real life) pushed me and inspired me to push myself even further in my creative process. The message on IG really has me thinking and mulling over a few things. 1. I need to make a youtube channel and 2. I really need to get a podcast together asap and 3. I need to be in the moment and enjoy the process and the re-telling of my stories rather than working on the next new project right away.
By the time of the next blog post, I hope to have one of my visions in the process of becoming. Intuitively, I feel as though I am on the way.
Peace, love and light.
Happy reading and before you know it, I hope to be saying Happy Listening. Real Life. 🙂

Rock, Paper, Scissors. Sticks and Stones.

Rocks literally rock. Rocks like boxes can become anything you want. In our preschool classroom we have been really into rocks. Actually even outside of our classroom, children have been collecting and using rocks in symbolic ways. Here are all of the ways we have been using rocks.
1. Collecting them which results in sorting, measuring, how much space we need, sizes of rocks and boxes needed to store them
2. Making up stories as we use rocks in symbolic ways representing the characters and props (i.e. building a bridge and re-enacting/retelling the stoy of the three billy goats gruff. We used small, medium and large stones to symbolize the sizes of the goats and one unique stone to represent the troll.
3. Make houses and caves out of them
4. Make shelves
5. Make flooring
6. Paint them and leave them in your neighborhood for others to find
7. Skip them over water
8. Build with them
9. Little grave stones for dead creatures from birds to bees and so many more!
10. A Rock Band (great polay on words)
11. Rolling Stones literally rolling them or rocking with them
Happy “rock”ing out.

Big Brother

The moment we walked in the door questioning eyes were on us: “Who are you?” my coaches asked my brother in law and father figure as he questioned them as to why I wasn’t getting any playtime on the basketball team. My brother is black and I am white based on societal descriptions. He always stood up for me and had my back. From elementary through high school. We would get side way kinds of stares by people who weren’t exposed to different kinds of families.

My mother died when I was turning 10. My (I think biological father) was incarcerated off and on. I was raised by my sister and my brother in law. We were rare and uniquely different. Looking back and reflecting on my upbringing, I realize just how thankful I am. I was exposed to what children normally are not exposed to and as a result I am an eclectic kind of person. I watched and listened to shows, movies and music such as The Sopranos, Poetic Justice and The Streets is Watching. However, I always had someone present and there telling me someone made it or it was directed by someone. Someone made it up from their brain and it was inspired by real life events. I always had someone like my sister or brother in law telling me to cover my eyes during the racy parts.

I have so many memories from playing ball, driving around pretending to be on MTV Cribs to witnessing drug raids to people dying. This was my reality. So, I understand many walks of life. I was and am blessed to be surrounded by real, authentic type love. A rare kind of love that you cannot find. They never had to buy love or material possessions. Getting Chinese takeout, laughing, yelling and crying a lot, playing monopoly and playing ball was enough. It was my foundation of what a family is all about. Not perfect but perfect if you know what I mean.

As a grownup, I am working towards planting seeds where children will make a better life and ultimately a better world by reaching mutual understanding across cultures and perspectives. A world where people will know who each other is the moment they walk in the door. Questioning eyes will fade. The who are you will turn into I know who you are. A place where different families exist and it’s cool and unquestioned. People will stop and stare for how beautifully dynamic and powerful differences are. A place where it’s cool and dope to be different aesthetically, creatively and intellectually.

We’re Bringing Play Back..Yep.

Hello there,

We are preschool educators. After a discussion of how children learn and recognizing our many kinds of learners, we narrowed in on, noticed and talked a lot about recess and recognized the importance coupled by the lack of it. We call recess by another name. For us, recess goes by the name of play.

Often we inform our families to advocate for their child and the kind of learner they are as they grow, move on and become kindergartners. We do this in order for their new school community to be ready. We now realize how we need to take our own advice. So here goes.

Are you ready for our students? Our children will ask you questions: lots of them. Get ready. See, please understand we allowed and followed their lead. We facilitated and encouraged our students to solve many problems socially, cognitively, emotionally, physically, mathematically, creatively, linguistically through play. Not just any kind of play but intentional and meaningful play. We weren’t focused on getting them “ready” because we know you are ready for them. We hope and hold on to that.

As mentioned, we all learn differently and we believe it is a process and are looking to connect and build a relationship with you as we have a lot to learn from one another. We want to connect in order to facilitate and help bring recess and play back to our community. Back to your school. We know it won’t be easy.

However, it will be worth it for all. Our children are showing and sharing with us what they need, it’s time we listen.

Let’s talk and bring back recess.

Preschool Educators

a.k.a TPA: The Play Alliance