Posts Tagged ‘our time’

My Kid Can’t Carry a Tune in a Bucket

I actually hear this a lot.  Parents regular stop me with concern over the fact that their child has not yet learned to “carry a tune”.  First of all, let me say that I am a big believer in “making a joyful noise” regardless of your ability to match pitch.  You can in fact read my post on my Dad who in all honesty can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but whose singing is very precious to me.  But that’s another topic, let’s talk about vocal development and what you can expect and when.

Some kids actually sing before they speak, though you probably wouldn’t call it that.  However, I often hear kiddos in our classes for babies and young toddlers trying to sing along and once in a while we’ll even have a child fill in a note on the correct pitch on a song like “BINGO” where the adults all leave out some of the notes and words.

The children in your Our Time class will be all over the map in terms of vocal experience, development, and confidence. Your child may be saying only a few words out loud or may be well on his way to telling elaborate stories.  Your child may jump right into the singing or may need to listen and observe for awhile. Or, your child may respond somewhere in between. This wide range is completely normal within any group of toddlers.

Most children between 1 1/2 and 3 years old are in the stage of vocal development that some music specialists call “approximation of singing.” First, they will attempt to “imitate” a word, phrase, rhythm pattern, or vocal inflection. It can be easy to miss this attempt because it rarely happens in the middle of a singing activity. Instead, your child may begin to make these imitative sounds out of context, singing or humming while playing alone. This musical play is vitally important to help your child master the muscular feel of producing a singing sound and to help him distinguish the difference in what it feels like to sing versus what it feels like to speak.  It is only through play and experiencing the joy of singing without the pressure to perform, that children develop their complete singing range and ability.

Gradually children learn to make this differentiation between singing and speaking.  In fact, after the age of 3 you start to see more children who are able to sing whole songs by themselves within a limited range matching pitch most if not all of the time, though this skill can still develop well into elementary school.  (It is only in the rare case of physical deformity that someone cannot learn to sing.)  The key is provide children with as many opportunities to sing as possible in settings that are ripe for success.  That means giving children the chance to sing and hear singing that is unaccompanied in a range of about 5 notes (usually D above middle C to the A just above that).  Now you understand why so many of our songs in class are shared without recordings and why our songs often only have 5 notes in the toddler and preschooler classes.

And once the singing starts be prepared.  Just as their imaginations, expressiveness, and creativity are exploding in other areas, you will find lots of creativity at work in singing preschoolers.  Oftentimes they will even make up their own songs about their day or whatever they are doing.  At times, living with a preschooler can be a little like living in a Broadway show where people randomly burst into song.

I often think of the great composer and teacher Zoltan Kodaly when I think about teaching singing.  Kodaly believed strongly that learning to sing was the key to developing true musicianship.  So, whether they can carry a tune in a bucket or not quite yet, you can rest assured your child is well on the way to learning to be a strong musician.

Holiday Travel Kindermusik Style

Don’t Forget!

We will be on Holiday Break December 16 – January 6, so there will be no classes during that time.

But just because we’re closed doesn’t mean you can’t take Kindermusik on the Road.  We’ve got some perfect ideas for filling the long hours for a trip to Grandma’s.  You’d be amazed how much time a Kindermusik CD or two and a few of your favorite activities can fill.


  • Load up your CD player or iPod/MP3 Player with Kindermusik Favorites.
  • Give every activity a try. You might be surprised at which ones appeal on the road. I know I was shocked to find out that those same “Warm-Up Exercises” from the Village class I couldn’t ever get my little guys to sit still for brought peals of laughter when they were restrained in a carseat!
  • Don’t be afraid to shout out a little Kindermusik in the airport. People love it, and anyone would much rather see a singing, giggling child than one who is whining or fussing. (Yes, I have been known to break into actual Kindermusik dances while waiting to board a plane. Anything to keep a crying child soothed. Plus, it worked.)
  • Remember, everyone gets tired of sitting too long, and adapted fingerplays and movement activities are great for getting the blood flowing as well as raising everyone’s spirits.  If you’re in Village, think about trying the “Wee Willie Winkie” chant or “Listen, Listen” with whatever noise makers you have on hand.  Car keys work great!  Kids from Our Time might get a kick out of “A House for Me”, “Washing Machine” or “Shake Your Eggs”.  You might even try changing the words to “Tap, tap, tap your nose” or other verses that fit the moment.  Imagine That! kids might love “Let Ev’ryone Clap Hands with Me”, “Head and Shoulders”, or even “Lirum Larum.”  Even circle songs like “Shakin’, Shakin’” or “All the Day Long” can be done in the car or on a plane, though it sometimes means stomping into thin air.
  • Last but not least, use your favorite lullabies to help soothe your little one to sleep.

With a few songs from class you can turn a long day on the road into a time to build memories and make connections you’ll share together forever.

Exploring Imagination

We all enjoy the imaginations of children.  Parents and teachers are often amazed at the ideas of young children.  In the preschool years, children’s questions and thinking are not fettered by the rules of society, physics, or logic.  Anything goes, so hang on to your hat!

Imagination is Vital to Learning

It was Albert Einstein who said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  That is especially true for people who live in a changing world.  Yesterday’s solutions will not work for tomorrow’s problems.  Children need an opportunity to develop the ability to visualize scenes and solutions that are not right in front of them.  To be able to read, learn about history, geography, mathematics, and most other subjects in school, it helps a child to be able to create a mental picture of things.  The “raw materials” for this skill are developed in the [toddler, preschool, and early childhood] years and at Kindermusik.

Create a Wealth of Experiences

To develop your child’s imagination, give him a wealth of interesting direct experiences using all of the senses.  The root word of imagination is image.  Provide your child with an opportunity to create many images.  Try sensory experiences like playing with water and sand, cooking, or dancing to your Kindermusik CD.

“Open-ended” activities encourage the development of imagination.  Those are activities where there is not one particular “right answer” or product.  For example, give your child art materials to use such as crayons or paint.  Instead of telling her what to draw, try saying, “I wonder what you’ll come up with this time.”  Then be surprised.  Show interest and delight in her work, and invite her to explain it to you.

Pretend play is a great avenue for a child’s imagination.  Provide some dress-up clothes or “props” from your playset and enjoy the show.  When a child uses objects for pretend, such as a paper plate for a steering wheel, she is actually creating her own symbols for “real” things she has seen.

Storytelling, as well as reading to your child, are other great ways to develop imagination.  When you tell a story with no book, your child can form the pictures in her mind.  Your facial expressions and intonations, as well as your words, can help her understand the story.  After she has heard you read a story, she will naturally enjoy telling stories herself.  Try forming the “framework” of a story and let her fill in the details.  In the following example, wherever there is a blank, let the child fill in any word or words that come to her.  Then you can continue the story with connecting phrases.

“Once upon a time there was a (bear).  This bear, who’s name was (Fuzzy) was very very (dirty).  He was so dirty that (his mother wouldn’t let him come in the house).  Now that caused a problem because…”

These stories are fun because you never know where they’ll lead.  You could tape record them and write them down later.

Don’t All Children Have Imagination?

All children have the potential for a rich imagination, but you can help increase that potential.  Avoid unlimited exposure to television – many hours in front of the TV absorbing “canned entertainment” can create a passive child waiting to be entertained instead of one creating his own ideas.

Encourage free thought and creativity by not getting too caught up in reality.  Compliment your child on her ideas instead of her looks.  “You have such good ideas…I never know what you’ll think of next.”  Show interest in her and you can be sure that your child will continue to express the wondrous products of her brain.

– written for Kindermusik International by Karen Miller, Early Childhood Expert, Consultant, and Author

Nurturing Self-Expression

Young children are at a wonderful stage of life in which they are learning to express themselves in many ways.  As infants and toddlers, they mainly respond to what they found in front of them.  Over time, with the new tool of language and the more complex thinking skills that come with it, their world of ideas is broadens.


Words provide an anchor for thoughts.  Vocabulary grows with new experiences.  Along with providing your child with interesting experiences, you can be most helpful by acting like a “play by play announcer” providing words for your child’s perceptions.  Describe what your child is doing and use rich descriptive words about size, color, shape, texture.  Help your child recognize and talk about feelings and to know that there are no “bad” feelings. Anger, sadness, frustration, fear, as well as happiness, excitement and joy are all part of the human feelings menu.  Kindermusik books and puppets can be fun tools to help children express themselves with words.

Music & Movement

Making music and moving to music are some of the most basic ways in which children express themselves – like bouncing, rocking, and moving to music.  You can encourage this by playing different kinds of music – starting with diverse and culturally different songs found on your Kindermusik Home CD.  Encourage your child to dance – and join in!  Use scarves, simple props and your special Kindermusik instrument to make it more fun.

Singing is a tradition of every culture in the world and a powerful way in which people express emotions.  Sing along to your home CD and discuss the feelings that come from each song.

Art & Constructive Play

Children can express how they’re feeling using paints, crayons, play dough, art media or playsets.  Some creations may be rather “abstract” but valuable nonetheless.  Also, as they play with blocks and construction toys, children give shape to their ideas.  It’s not necessary to tell your child what to make, but rather be interested and ready to be surprised.  Invite your child to tell you about his or her creation.  Granted, sometimes she will have nothing at all in mind, but will simply be experimenting with the materials.  Interesting stories may emerge.  Offer to take dictation and write down what your child says to show your interest in her ideas.


Both boys and girls use pretend play as a primary way to express themselves. Play themes should be your child’s domain.  Try not to edit her play unless you are genuinely uncomfortable with what is going on or it threatens to hurt someone or break something.  Support her play by providing a variety of things to use such as music, dress-up clothes and hats, large boxes and props.  Become a play partner yourself.

All these experiences give your child the message that her ideas are interesting and valuable.  As an appreciative and listening parent, you are giving your child the skill and the disposition to express herself in appropriate ways – skills that will help her throughout life.

– written for Kindermusik International by Karen Miller, Early Childhood Expert, Consultant, and Author

Building Emotional Intelligence

Early childhood is a time of life that challenges both developmental psychologists and parents with its fascinating mixture of change, growth, joy, and frustration. Between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, babyhood is left behind and a verbal, relatively competent preschooler emerges. Before long, those preschoolers are moving from wiggleworms who share every idea that pops into their heads to sweet school kids learning to follow school rules, make friends, and steal your heart.  During these transition, the changes in the physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and communication skills can be amazing and, at times, overwhelming!

Early childhood has gained a reputation as being a difficult period of tremendous energy and great capacity for movement and activity in the child, while at the same time it is the period when children are just beginning to acquire the rudiments of self-control and to accept the need for limits. One of the most rewarding challenges for parents is selecting activities that introduce new learning experiences without overwhelming the child’s capacity
for change. This is particularly important because successful activities, like the ones presented in Kindermusik, support and strengthen the parent-child relationship, while activities that are developmentally inappropriate can stress it further.

Knowledge of some of the key emotional tasks of the early childhood years can help reduce frustration and increase the joy!

The Quest for Control
The issue of developing control (over body functions, physical activities, feelings, or the world around him) is crucial for a child. A balance between structure and unnecessary regimentation is important.  Children do best when they are invited and attracted into activities, rather than required to participate in them.  Kindermusik invites children to participate in activities, but there are no performance expectations.

At Home

  • Instead of trying to force your child into playing a game or reading a book, start playing or reading it by yourself. Your enthusiasm will most likely draw your child into the activity.
  • Give your child lots of choices throughout the day both to allow her to have some control and develop those all important reasoning centers of the brain.  Let her choose this shirt or that one.  Help her pick the  red car or the blue one.  Slide or swings.  There are plenty of opportunities for appropriate choices.

Hold Me and Let Me Go
A major task for young children is resolving the conflict between desire for love and protection and the urge to become independent. The mantra for many  is “by myself”.  Yet, when the going gets tough, the tough get going right back to Mom’s or Dad’s lap.  Some call this the “rubber band” stage because it seems like the child is pulling outward and then snapping back. Giving your child permission to retreat to safety in your arms allows him to naturally move to greater independence.

At Home

  • For “Our Time” kids: Recite “Run and Jump” (Home Activity Book, p. 33) while your child jumps into your arms. This allows your child the opportunity to practice and master the skills of running and jumping and has meaningful emotional content. Knowing that her caregiver will catch her when she jumps represents a level of emotional security in the relationship.
  • For “Imagine That!” kids: take a pretend boat ride with your child on your knees or lap.  Let a storm attack your boat rocking it from side to side until you “crash”.  While at first it may seem scary, making it through the tumultuous ride with you builds trust in your relationship while reassuring your child that even stormy seas can be made less scary when shared with a friend or grown-up.
  • Some children require a little extra gentle push to be independent.  Encourage your child to try new things on his own or to go exploring without you holding his hand.  Studies show that parents of more reserved children who gently encourage their children to step out and try things on their own can indeed help their children build more outgoing temperaments.  However, don’t force the issue, and do stay close by in case they decide they need you.

Control of emotions is one of the most complex challenges facing young children and their parents. Children vary greatly in the intensity of how they experience and express feelings, depending on inborn temperamental factors, but it is a rare toddler whose feelings do not become intense and overwhelming at times. By providing both limits and loving support to your child, you are helping her gradually learn ways of handling and modulating her feelings so that the tantrums of the toddler ideally give way to the emphatic verbal argument of the school-aged child.

Music, as a fundamental route for the expression of human emotion, is an excellent tool for helping learn to identify and channel emotions. Even very young children can identify music that makes them happy or sad.  Musical expression of wide ranges of emotion can help make them more manageable, less overwhelming, and much more understandable.

At Home

  • Use emotion words to help your child learn to identify and later label how she is feeling.  One child psychologist has been known to say “An emotion named is an emotion tamed.”  Describe to your child how she looks when she is sad or angry or happy, so she can connect the way her body feels with the emotion itself.
  • Remember that emotions in and of themselves are not good or bad.  It’s our expression of them that is deemed appropriate or inappropriate by society.
  • Help your child learn appropriate ways to deal with strong emotions such as taking a deep breath, counting, going to a quiet place to calm down, drawing, snuggling a stuffed animal, finding something else to do that will help them feel better, or even as they get older talking about their emotions.

The more you help your child build emotional intelligence, the more successful he will be in life.  Our ability to read, understand, and express emotions in healthy ways as well as our emotional security affect everything we do and color our ability to interact with others every moment of our lives.  But the good news is, building emotional intelligence can be both easy and fun, and it all starts with the simple love between parent and child.

Variety is the Spice…

Life is so much more fun when there are 31 flavors of ice cream available.  I can vividly remember going every Sunday growing up with my Dad to the local Baskin Robbins ice cream store and staring into the cases trying to decide which flavor I’d pick.  While I had my favorites (mint-chocolate chip), it was always fun peeking at the possibilities and getting those little tasting spoons to try a bit of something new before making a decision.  I see the same joy in my kids’ faces now when we go to a local yogurt bar for a similar ritual.  The combinations are so much more delightful simply because there are so many choices.  There is so much variety.

Music certainly works that way.  Oftentimes what is hailed as genius provides new and interesting combinations of instruments, rhythms, pitches, or presentations.  And great musicians are great in part because of their immense versatility gained by learning to play or sing in a variety of styles, colors, and ways.

Variety.  It adds color, flavor, interest.  And our brains like it.  Studies show we are drawn to music that is in part familiar and in part new and different.  And as is often the case, our brains like musical variety because it’s good for them.

Here are some of the benefits you can see:

  • Vary instruments, timbres, tonalities, tempi, rhythms, etc. to help your child become more aware, alert, and sensitive—not only to music but to his total environment.
  • Include a variety of settings for music both passive and active, and you are teaching him the many roles that music can play. Music can help him relax, cope with feelings, celebrate, create, and express beyond verbal capabilities.
  • Expose your child to music with unfamiliar tonalities to promote the development of new neural pathways and help him master more complex music later in life.
  • Share with your child new instrument sounds, music in modes other than the typical Major and Minor modes of traditional Western music,
    and songs of cultures other than your own to allow her to appreciate a broader range of music throughout her life as well as expose her to cultures other than her own.
  • Sing and speak in both high and low ranges as a means to initiate different responses from your child.  Research has discovered that exposure
    to high sounds plays an important part in maintaining alertness and energy required for learning. Lower pitches calm and relax the body.  And mid-range pitches are easier for early singers to reproduce.

Want to provide your child with musical variety?  Here’s the easiest homework you’ll ever have.  Simply by coming to class and listening and singing along at home your are providing your child with an extremely varied musical diet.  While we start with simple things like a variety of timbres (instrument colors) from drums to egg shakers to sandblocks.  You’ll also hear music in class and on your CDs from all over the world including folk songs, instruments, and compositions from Europe, China, Indonesia, Japan, India, Australia, Africa, South America, and more.  We even sing songs in more uncommon modes (beyond Major and Minor) like Dorian, Lydian, and Mixolydian.  It’s just one more reason we love Kindermusik!

Valentine’s Kindermusik-Style

Wanna’ make some sweet Valentines for friends and family?  Here are some they will enjoy now and treasure for years to come.

Making Valentines with Babies

Make a recording of you engaging in some vocal play with your child. You might read a book and allow your child to share in the play of copying animal sounds or car, bus, or truck sounds. You could also simply play with tongue clicks, favorite syllables (ba, ma, da), or blowing raspberries and see if your child will follow along. Create your own little conversation, pausing to allow him to add his own sounds as he chooses. Label the recording with the date and age of your child and give it along with a card as a gift to your chosen Valentine. Have fun and remember that along the way you’re encouraging important language and turn-taking skills.

Making Valentines with Toddlers

Follow the instructions for the activity above with a few adaptations. You might see if your child would “read” a favorite book such as Shiny Dinah from memory or even sing or echo sing a favorite song (you sing part of the song, and he echoes back with the same). If reading a book, try asking your toddler what comes next in the story in order to build sequencing skills.

Making Valentines with Toddlers, Preschoolers, and School-aged Children

Select several favorite songs, maybe even some songs that say “I love you.” Record your child singing them along with you. You might even think about adding some instrumental accompaniment with a simple percussion instrument, like an egg shaker or a drum. Give the recording along with a card to your Valentine.

In addition to creating a great memory and gift, you are encouraging your child’s solo singing abilities as well as creativity and problem solving. Make sure to include him in the choices of songs, the making of the card, and the choice of instrumental accompaniment (if included). School-aged children may even want to create a song of their own!

Enjoy your Valentines!

Just Can’t Stop

It doesn’t matter the age – kids love to move, or be moved. Bouncing, wiggling, running, jumping, climbing on furniture, it seems they never stop.  And in fact, such energetic locomotor movements are valuable, appropriate, and fun activities for little ones.  The child’s innate need to move is inextricably linked to learning.  We not only learn to move as we grow, but we literally move to learn.  Educational Psychologist, Dr. Becky Bailey is fond of saying, “The best exercise for the brain is exercise”, and science bears it out.  (Just check out the recent Newsweek article on how to make yourself smarter.)  So,  movement is important and provides outlets for your child’s energy as well as for her skill development.

Moving and controlling one’s movements are learned skills, and one of the best features of learning to regulate one’s movements as we learn to crawl, walk, run, jump, and swing is that it helps us learn inhibitory control, or the ability to stop oneself and wait.  Now, I love inhibitory control because it’s an amazing developmental bonus you can often hide in a fun activity or game.  Kids will be playing along, giggling and smiling and never know that they are working on learning how to stop and wait, which really means they are learning self-control or impulse control. Having inhibitory control is important for social skills like taking turns, waiting in a line, waiting your turn to speak, asking for a toy rather than just grabbing it from another kid (or pushing them over for that matter).  Inhibitory control helps us stop and think through the choices rather than repeating past behaviors that got us into trouble like hitting a sister, jumping on the couch, or eating all the cookies.  In fact, a lack of impulse control or inhibitory control can cause us to get into a lot of trouble in school as well as in life.

So, I mentioned earlier that I love inhibitory control because it’s so easy to sneak it into fun activities.  How?  Simply play “Stop and Go” games.  Even babies love ’em because they delight in anticipating when the stop and start will come, while kids of all ages find great joy in developing mastery over their own bodies as they command their feet to stop.  We’re going to be doing lots of stop and go play in all our classes over the course of the semester.  But here are some fun things you might try at home:

  • Learn the ASL sign for STOP. One fun way to add stop and go to almost any activity is to learn the ASL sign for STOP.  In class with the preschoolers you might hear us chant, “Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, and STOP (all-caps is a common signifier for American Sign Language signed words).  Simply as it sounds, the kids love it.  You can use any locomotor movement – jump, drive, swing.  For babies, this can be a great way to teach the sign.  Simply push baby in a baby swing and then surprise them with a quick STOP as you sign STOP.
  • Play Move and Freeze. It’s musical chairs.  Well, sort of.  Most of you probably remember in playing musical chairs how you moved to the music, and when the teacher paused the music you had to race to find a seat.  Same idea minus the chairs.  Instead of racing to find a seat when the music stops, simply freeze your body.  If you want to add more silliness for preschoolers or big kids try have them freeze in silly shapes or statues when you pause the music.
  • Play Red Light Green Light. This is another game I remember fondly from my childhood.  It’s a little too involved for toddlers unless they have adult assistance, but it would be great fun for preschoolers with a bit of help or bigger kids on their own.  One person (works well for a grownup to take this part) is the traffic light and stands a good distance ahead of the other players with his back turned to them.  The traffic light calls out “green light”, which means the other players can attempt to sneak up and tap him on the shoulder.   However, when he calls “red light”, they have to freeze before he turns around and catches them.  Anyone the traffic light sees moving when he turns must return to the starting line.  The first player to sneak up and tap the traffic light wins.

Look at Me! Look at Me!

“Becoming a careful observer of young children reminds us that what might be ordinary at first glance is actually quite extraordinary.  A string of “ordinary” moments for a child becomes like a bead on a necklace, each one unique, though related to the others, combining to create a work of wonder.” – from The Art of Awareness by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter

When you look at your child, what do you see?  Perhaps it’s the shiny blue eyes that mirror your own.  Maybe it’s that familiar nose or the dark, wavy hair.  And maybe you see a budding teacher, artist or musician.  But what else do you see?

Every day your child is doing something or saying something that provides a beautiful window into her developing traits and personality.  During the preschool years, your child’s wondrous individuality is truly beginning to form.

Christopher was thrilled about the classroom “trip” to the imaginary Grasshopper Park.  When the children were asked what animal they saw in the park, the other children responded with bird, squirrel, dog, cat, skunk.  Christopher, on the other hand, saw a dinosaur — the same dinosaur he saw on a recent family trip to Science City.  And that’s how it goes in class, whether your child is 6 months or 6 years, we want to encourage a lot of individuality, creativity, and personal expression as we work to foster a classroom that truly “follows the child.”

Following the Child is a Montessori concept expressing the idea that children learn best when they are allowed to lead and even direct the learning experience.  What does that look like in the classroom?

  • A baby claps his hands at the start of class leading the teacher to say “Are  you ready to clap hello today, Will?”
  • Teachers constantly monitor and choose to extend activities, repeat activities, or move on based on the reactions and inclinations of the children.
  • Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids are all given the opportunity to explore and discover how props or instruments might be used on their own.  “Look at how Sarah is rolling her sticks on the floor.  Sam likes to use his sticks to tap his knees.  Eli is making the letter L with his sticks.”  The kids ideas are then incorporated into the following activity.
  • Older toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids begin to add to stories and songs creating new ideas and verses.
  • Movement exploration is often built from the kids’ ideas and extended from there.

And the kids love it.  Not only does it mean class often moves in a direction that interests them, but the validation is satisfying.  Listen to the rising confidence in your child’s voice as she expresses her opinions during class.  Such expression will help her as she begins to pick out different sounds while listening to a song and then describe which sounds she likes and why.  Take note of his original thoughts and ideas – and how he relates a concept to a previous learning experience.  Then watch his face light up as his idea is utilized in class.  Sometimes the teacher even thinks their ideas are important enough to write them down!  That must mean his ideas are really special!

Kindermusik allows your child to express his thoughts, actions, and imagination in his own way.  There is no right or wrong.  By soliciting and incorporating a child’s ideas and feelings into each lesson, we are affirming that their thoughts and ideas are important and worth exploring.  Each little success is noticed and celebrated.

And you can “follow the child” at home, too.  Now’s the time to “stop, look, and listen” as your child begins to cross the street of independence and individuality.  More importantly, you can cross the street with him by taking some steps to help nurture his budding originality.  For example:

  • Let your baby take the lead as you play peekaboo, determining how long the game goes one, whether you hide or she does.  When her interest wanes, let her show you what she wants to play next.
  • Listen closely and respond to your toddlers thoughts and ideas – let her lead the way when it comes to navigating around the zoo…or let her make up the rules to the game.
  • Encourage the “process” by allowing your preschoolers to “try,” then offer positive reinforcement for his effort.
  • Solicit your big kid’s opinions on various subjects – why does she like or dislike a certain song or type of music?

Not only does “following the child” provide greater creativity, independence, and problem solving skills, but it also helps you stop and tune in more fully to all those moments you share together helping you make memories that last a lifetime.

The Green Hour for Little Ones

photo by gemsling used with Creative Commons license via Flickr

Leaves, feathers, rocks, and birds.  These themes keep popping up these days in class.  That means, it’s time to get outside.

In the last few years, parenting experts and health experts alike have been championing “the green hour” with the recommendation that children get outdoors for an hour each day in order to experience a happier and healthier life.  Truly, time outside often provides exercise as well as necessary Vitamin D and helps children and adults sleep better.  You can’t beat it.  Well, here this week are a 10 fast and fun things to do with your sweet ones out of doors.

1.  Go on a nature walk. Kids of all ages adore nature walks.  Whether you have a small or large yard, take a walk around the block, or head to a park, there is always something new to discover:  blades of grass, sticks and stones, tiny bugs, mud puddles, dewdrops, spider webs, sirens, airplanes, and on and on.  Follow your child’s lead as you explore.  This week you might especially enjoy exploring leaves – touching them, talking about the colors, and of course crunching them with hands or even more fun, with stomping feet!

2.  Start a collection. Find a place in your home to share natural treasures.  Toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids especially love bringing bits of the outside in to enjoy, and they never seem to care whether they’ve found flowers or weeds.  Pull out a vase, a jar, or a bowl to fill with some of the prizes from your explorations.  This time of year you might even go to a pumpkin patch together to gather gourds or pumpkins to decorate your home, but even rocks, twigs, and colorful leaves can make great displays to which your children will be delighted to contribute.

3.  Pull out the sidewalk chalk. Use sturdy cardstock or old file folders to make stencils or draw free form.  Use the opportunity to talk about shapes, colors, and even letters.

4.  Start a leaf fight. As the leaves slowly begin to pile up in your yard, take the opportunity to get outside for plenty of jumping in leaf piles and having good ole leaf throwing fests.

5.  Visit a garden. We often forget about gardens this time of year, but Kansas City is full of beautiful gardens with great activities for kids.  Two of our favorites include Powell Gardens and the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Garden.  Powell Gardens has fun scarecrows on display through the end of October.  Both gardens also have nature trails if you’d prefer a traditional hike.

6.  Plant flowers or herbs. As the seasons change it can be a great time to plant bulbs for spring, mums for fall, or even transplant herbs to bring indoors for cooking.  Let your kids help.  They love having permission to get dirty and get a chance to learn a little science along the way.

7.  Take a trip to an orchard or pumpkin patch. The metro area here is ripe for harvest.  Some favorite pumpkin patches with games, rides, food, and even trains include:  Carolyn’s Country Cousins, Faulkner’s Pumpkin Farm, or for a more traditional pumpkin patch without all the frills check out Pumpkins Etc..  If you prefer apple cider and apple doughnuts alongside or instead of your pumpkin picking check out Weston Red Barn Farm, Louisburg Cider Mill, or Schweizer Orchards.

8.  Put out birdseed. Whether you simply sprinkle a bit of seed on your deck or build your own bird feeder, sharing some seed guarantees you’ll have birds (and perhaps a few squirrels) come to visit your yard.  Be sure to set food near a window where you can see and enjoy the show!  When the birds stop by for a visit, talk about their colors, different bird songs, and what they might do or eat.  You could even draw some pictures or sing some of your favorite bird (and even squirrel) songs from Kindermusik.

9.  Go see the animals. Perhaps you caught a glimpse of some of your favorite farm animals when you were at the orchards or pumpkin patches, but if not, you might think about taking a trip to Deanna Rose Farmstead or even the Zoo.  And if you’re taking a baby along, be sure to look up some of your favorite animal signs with this handy online video dictionary before you head out.  Animals are always great motivators for teaching babies to sign!

10.  Watch the clouds. We all need to stop and rest and just soak it in for a bit.  What better way than to look for cloud shapes with your cuties.  While preschoolers and big kids are more likely to help you pick out shapes and pictures, even babies and toddlers might sit for a minute and rest with you and talk about the sun and the sky and the clouds.

So, get out and enjoy this amazing weather.  Whether you use one or ten of these ideas, you’re sure to make memories that last a lifetime!