Archive for July, 2011

Story Dessert

LP seems to have inherited my sweet tooth.

She’s a very open-to-experiences eater (she loves sushi and thai but sadly not indian food), so as long as a decent amount of real food has gone into her, I’m up for her enjoying sweets in modest amounts.

I enjoy surprising her with special dessert treats every once in awhile.  Often I make small food sculptures with frozen fruit and various kinds of chocolate chips. Sometimes I arrange faces on the plate. Recently I had the inspiration to add a story to the mix.  Her (and my) current favorite is Panda on the Mountain.

The “recipe” varies although it always includes a red gummy panda perched atop a mini-marshmallow. Tonight’s version (pictured above) included 4 mint chip trees, 4 ginger chip rocks and a blue sprinkle river with one large chocolate chip under the marshmallow.

As I bring it to the table I tell her a short story about the panda’s adventure from her home to the top of the mountain.

This is food to play with!  LP and the panda slurped up the blue sprinkle river together and she played with the panda all over the plate while eating the other elements; she even wrapped the panda up in her napkin for a nap.  When it was time to finish up, she chose to put the panda in a little container rather than eat her so they could play again at tomorrow night’s dessert.

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When she grows up…

Last night at dinner, the Little Person told us her plans.

“When I grow up I’m going to be a mama dog and I’ll stand up so my puppies can nurse. I’ll have five puppies. They’ll be red, blue, yellow, orange and pink.  Their names are Astro, Lad, Lynn and Alabama. The smallest one doesn’t want a name so I’ll call her Lemon.”


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“People can be creative at anything in life, not just the arts. And thank goodness they are! We need creative people in all areas of life. Creativity is not just about putting paint to paper, it’s about creating something new, novel. It’s about looking at something in a fresh way or coming up with a unique solution to a problem.”

~ Jean Van’t Hul   in the post “On Creativity” on the Artful Parent

Here’s more playful food for thought from around the web:

Share your childhood play memories by participating in The Global Play Memory Project.

“Non-Toxic Homemade Bubbles and 5 More Fun Backyard Activities” by Emily McClements on Simple Organic

“I’m Bored, Mom: Unplugged Play at Home” by Jamie Martin on Simple Homeschool

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Doing art projects out in the world (library, special events, etc) is a challenge for my LP.

She is all about the process and exploration of materials and usually those art experiences are about product. LP wants to feel the paint, glue and glitter on her skin and explore it completely with her hands.  Her art experiences at her wonderful preschool are all about process as our 99% of the ones we do at home (every so often I push for product for a present), so she has many opportunities to go for it on the process front.  When she participates in an art project in public, I want to balance honoring her natural impulse to EXPLORE materials with what is appropriate to the setting.

I believe that it is important for kids to consciously experience adjusting to the rules of a situation AND find their spontaneity within those rules.  It is challenging for a person of any age to find their place in a group and public events are opportunities for our little people to work on those skills.  I want LP to learn to find her own balance of joining in a collective experience while being true to herself.

These public art projects are a great chance for LP to get that experience of creating within more boundaries than usual. Often there is 1) limited time, 2) limited materials and 3) a “sample” that the kids are supposed to emulate. Those are three tough limits for my girl.

While I can’t do anything about 1 & 2, I am always supportive of LP doing the project she wants to do within those constraints.  If she wants to do the sample, that’s fine too but that day has not yet come and for me the point of the project is to have a collective experience, not make a garden collage or challah cover that looks like the sample.

The biggest difficulty is with materials since my tactile girl wants to rub glue all over her arms and spread glitter with her nose and paint all over herself.  The where and when of these events determine the boundaries I set with her. (I watch the art project set up with my questions in mind…Do I have a change of clothes? Is there a sink reasonably close? How soon do we need to catch the bus home? How much of the materials are there? And of course, the occasional parent insecurity about what other people think…)  Within those boundaries, I let her go for it.

But oh the heartbreak of projects with gluesticks.  Her desire is to use her fingers on those gluesticks and dig out all the glue and sculpt with it.  And that is not an option when multiple kids are supposed to be sharing a gluestick.

Like a recent morning at the library.

After storytime, the librarian directed the kids over to two covered tables to make garden collages.  Gluesticks, tissue paper, colored paper, crayons and markers were laid out and the librarian showed “the sample.”  LP wanted to do the project (I was hoping to head out to the farmer’s market right away) so we stayed.

As the minutes went by, her energy became more and more withdrawn, so unlike herself, as she sat and tried to wait patiently for her turn with the gluestick. I could tell that this was not satisfying…like just one bite of a chocolate chip cookie. After about 10 minutes, I asked if she was done and she was quite ready to leave this project behind.

I mulled it over during quiet time.  Despite my observation of her not enjoying the project, she did enjoy the overall storytime experience and wants to go back every week.  She was very successful on the impulse control/sharing front.  I wanted to acknowledge that AND give her  for a balancing, playful experience. After working so hard on restraint, I wanted to give her a chance to fully explore.

After quiet time, I asked her if she wanted to do a glue project which got a cheerful “YES!” in response.  So I gave her paper, two gluesticks (a bounty in our house!) and a bottle of glue and let her go for it.

LP enjoyed glue to her heart’s content for about half an hour.  I sat with her at the table and worked on my own crafty project and just enjoyed her pleasure.

It is a helpful frame for me…when LP has worked to rise to the occasion that calls for restraint, to give her an opportunity to be fully expressive and exuberant — whether that means a chance to run free after a long bus ride or sculpt glue (& herself) until she’s done with it.

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“… there it is… nature’s endless treasure hunt of things large and small to fascinate the curious, inspire the imaginative, and humble us all. Like a small child, nature never stops growing and changing. And like a great teacher, nature always has something new to share. Excitement-hungry kids never tire of nature because nature always has another mystery up her sleeve.”

~ “You Can’t Run Uphill Indoors” by Gill Connell on Moving Smart

And here’s more playful food for thought:

“How to Start a Neighborhood Camp with Kids as Counselors!” on Free Range Kids (Such an exciting idea! I’d like to make this happen in my neighborhood…maybe even as a one day pilot program later this summer!)

“Alison Gopnik on the Imagination” on Philosophy Bites

“Prescription for Play: Physicians speak out on the importance of play for children’s health” on KaBOOM! blog


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I can’t believe we missed International Mud Day (June 29th). That is really our kind of thing.

Fortunately, it is never too late to celebrate.  I had not mentioned it to LP but it must have been in the air because she initiate the mud play of today.

While I was planting a few new seedlings in her garden, she played around with the potting soil and compost.  Then she wanted to take a mud bath so I directed her over to a hole we’ve been digging on and off for the past two weeks. (The hole is meant to reach her imaginary friend Simon the bunny who went under ground to rescue worms… I always enjoy LP’s reasons for a project especially when there is such narrative!).  I turned on the water, LP dragged the hose over and the fun began:

LP had a glorious time, splashing and sliding in her personal mud pool.  I stuck my feet in for a bit and it was cool and lovely on this very hot day. She was fully engaged in it for over an hour and would have continued but I could tell it was time to insist on coming out for lunch or there would be meltdowns.

Looking for wonderful muddy ideas?  hands on: as we grow has a fantastic round up  of “30+ Dirty Kid Activities” plus linky list all about mud and The Imagination Tree has book suggestions all about mud.

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