Let Them Grow: Spring Craft Idea

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Spring Craft Idea

Contact paper is a dream tool of mine. I find that children love tactical experiences and using contact paper is an easy way to offer this experience without getting messy.  Springtime is a fun time to create beautiful masterpieces that can hang in the window and catch the early light of the summer on the horizon.

My favorite thing to do is collect early spring flower pedals and let them dry for use on the contact paper. Daffodils, crocuses, dandelions, daffodils, early mint leaves are all out now and ready for picking. Dry your pedals out so they stick well. Make this a learning experience, identify the flowers and prepare them flat to make you sun catcher, place mat or art piece with contact paper. Read the rest of this entry »

Intergenerational Drawing Events Support Creative Free Play & Community Connections

Community Drawing Events Inspire Creative Free Play and Self Expression

Creative free play and artistic expression are the focus of two very unique upcoming community events. Using drawing as a central element, these events illuminate the versatility and expressive potential of the art form. Accessible to self-identified artists, reluctant creators, and everyone in between, spring’s artistic opportunities offer rich community-based learning opportunities relating to creativity and self-expression.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Creative-Free Play with Kitchen Scrapes

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Compost to Good Use

Spring in western MA!  Now is a time where I always like to move toward more nature-based art.  Using natural object as a medium allows us to make the connection between the land and art.  I have many favorite nature-based art projects, but my all time favorite is vegetable stamping. It’s an engaging and simple activity for even the youngest artist to participate in. All children love doing this activity, most will even eat vegetables during it! This idea is simple; use vegetables to create beautiful prints that will be worth saving and worth doing again.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Being Creative With Your Old Books

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Playing with Books

Books support literacy and learning. And when you have too many books in duplicate and falling part, they can even support creative-free play!

We might have a book problem at our house. Some are read over and over. Some are just collected such as the various printings of Moby Dick. Some gather dust. I am not sure where that yellowed copy of How to Use a Microscope came from but we have never opened it. Books are everywhere. All of my art history, theory, design and teaching manuals line one wall of the bedroom. The fiction and garden books are packed into the bookcase turned headboard. Sewing, knitting and books on art for kids fill the shelf under the bench. Current reads by both of us are scattered about the living room. Cookbooks belong to the pantry. And my daughter has arranged her library by subject and book series. She is a series reader and collector. How many versions of Harry Potter does one need? We might be book hoarders. Or maybe we aren’t because we recognize a problem developing.

Books just find their way into our house. We love to browse the local book shop and our neighborhood used bookstore. Book fundraisers are always good for a bargain. We often check the book share-and-take corner in the school lobby. Grandma feeds the addiction. Books are everywhere and hard to pass by without at least a peek.

Brainstorming here on what to do with the extras. There are the ones we start and a chapter or two in realize there is no interest. And there are old ones aged and crumbling. Those 20 year old copies of college textbooks are not needed. There must be some way to use these for play purposes. So here are some ideas! Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Playing Sick

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Playing Sick

This has been the worst season for sickness. Well for me anyway, a first time mom with a toddler in daycare! It seems toddlers are the best and worst patients. They can ride out colds for months, in a steady stream of mucus. Or they can go under in a hail of fevers and vomit. Either way it is no fun for anyone.

After experiencing my own sick toddler, I began to think about how to smooth out the rivers of sickness that flood though our kids and find was to play sick.  Here are a few fun ways to pass the sick days away… Read the rest of this entry »

Art, Music, Engineering & Science Through the Lens of Creative Free Play

10 Days of Play Blends Art, Music, Engineering, and Science Through Creative Free Play

Play in any form is good for the human brain, and the Berkshire Museum is offering a week and a half of play-based learning during the 4th annual Ten Days of Play event! Blending hands-on activities and play-based learning with musical performances, gallery shows, zoology, engineering, architecture, and fine art, this exciting event offers a myriad of exciting opportunities to engage in creative free play and the meaningful learning that such activities promote.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Making Snow in the Kitchen

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Making Snow Where There is None

Looking for ways to “make” snow at home? Check the kitchen pantry! Shredded coconut. Potato flakes. Flour. All are great for inspiring creative-free play during a snowless winter!

Winter is here. But without snow in New England it feels a little different. I am not complaining, because it is nice to take the children out without the gamut of snow gear, however it does feeling like something is missing; SNOW!

Often winter indoor activities are quiet, clean and predictable. I have found that by creating toddler friendly sensory activities help these cold winter days just melt by. Here are a few fun snow related activities that can be adjusted for even the littlest toddler.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Handmade Valentine Swap

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: January Segment
Handmade Valentine Swap Filled with Values & Learning

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Monday, January 25th, 2016 with Sienna and Ashley talking about Hilltown Families upcoming Handmade Valentine Swap and how it can support community values and learning:

Sign your family up for the 8th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap by Jan 30, 2016 and get ready to make and receive 10 handmade valentines with families from around the region.  Read the rest of this entry »

Put Some STE(A)M into Your Valentines!

Put Some STE(A)M into Your Valentines!

This Valentine’s Day, spread friendship and kindness throughout your community by participating in Hilltown Families’ 8th annual Handmade Valentine Swap! Participation is easy – all you have to do is sign up, make ten handmade valentines and drop them in the mail, and you’ll receive ten handmade cards in return. Not only is the event an opportunity for families to connect with others in their community, participation allows families the opportunity to be creative together – an activity that can lead not only to creative-free play, but can also offer hands-on learning in fields like physics, chemistry, geometry and cultural studies!  Read on…

8th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Hilltown Families 8th Annual
Community Handmade Valentine Swap

Hilltown Families 8th Annual Community Handmade Valentine Swap! Free to sign up and open to all in Western MA. Deadline to sign up: Jan 30th. Join us!

It’s that time of the year again! For the past eight years Hilltown Families has coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap — and we’re doing it again! Making handmade valentines is a great way to push against the commercialization of yet another holiday, while being creative with your family and friends. Sign up below!  It’s free to sign up and open to all families in western Massachusetts!

A handmade valentine swap gives local families an opportunity to be creative together while connecting with other families in Western Massachusetts.  Through the swap, participating families mail out handmade valentines to ten assigned addresses, and in return, they receive handmade valentines from ten other participating families.  The cards can be handmade by any combination of child and adult, so if you’re kids aren’t completely up to the task, or if an adult would like to make their own design, there’s flexibility.  All are welcomed!

Deadline to sign up (below) is Saturday, January 30th. On Monday (2/1/16), you will be emailed your assigned names/address of participants to mail your handmade valentines to.  Everyone is kindly requested to mail your valentines off by Feb. 7th.

If interested in participating, the information below must be filled out and submitted by Saturday, January 30th.  If you have multiple children and would like each one to receive their own list of families to swap with, please register each person separately. Click here to sign up!

Let Them Grow: Making Words a Gift

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Making Words a Gift

Every month we take preschoolers to the Calvin Coolidge Nursing Home to visits whom we call, the Grandmas and the Grandpas. We have been doing this for a few years now and it wasn’t until recently that I realized how impacting it is on both generations.  It wasn’t until one of them put a call in on a banana to one of the Grandmas and told her he was coming soon and he missed her. He missed her and this is the way a 3-year-old says he cares. He missed her and he was thinking about her. What could be better than that?

The visit itself to the nursing home is an amazing gift for both the children and the residents there. The children are the center of attention (which they love), laughter fills the room and the residents are happy and engaged. Often they reminisce about the past and their children, whom are grown and grandparents themselves. They gently sweep the faces of the children and they both smile. A priceless gift!

Here are a couple of gifts that integrate creative-free play with thoughtful ways children can reciprocate their love and caring of the elders in their life… Read the rest of this entry »

Board Games Spark Play-Based Learning and Inspire Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Board Games Spark Play-Based Learning and Inspire Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

From classics to original creations, board games have much to offer in terms of learning. Almost any game will encourage the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills, and specific games help players to hone in on specific skills or topics. By exploring local resources for game play, creating new games, and digging into the history of games, families can maximize the educational potential of a great family pastime!

Dating back to the Victorian era, board games as we know them have been a popular form of entertainment for close to two centuries (though their roots stretch even further back in time). Sometimes seen these days as a low-tech version of computer-based games, board games have lots to offer within the realms of both entertainment and education. In addition to offering an exciting and engaging screen-free gaming experience, board games can encourage the development of essential thinking skills, as well as important content-area knowledge. From basic math skills to world geography, board games have much to offer – especially when daylight hours are short! Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Stories from Family Holidays to Inspire Creative Free Play

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Stories To Inspire Creative Free Play

I was a bit of a geek as a teen so homework was completed right after school, part time job on weekends and just a handful of close friends. I spent a fair amount of free time at my older siblings’ houses playing with their kids. It was a blessing to be a part of their childhoods. I had part time, little siblings that were really my niece and nephews.

I learned a great parenting lesson from my oldest sister, Penny, nearly 25 years ago. She dives right into the winter holidays the day after Thanksgiving. She has an incredible collection including a wall of elves, a near life size snowman, a shelf of angels and a cabinet filled with Rudolph, Frosty, Grinch and Little Cindy Lou Who and all the other television characters we grew up with in the 70s and the Nativity. She makes the tree a family showcase with ornaments made over 20 years ago my her children. Holiday fills their home. When my nephew, now a college graduate and police officer, was 3 or 4 years old, she started a grand tradition that fed perfectly into his love of stories, play and imagination. A mysterious elf visited the house. The elf made tiny foot prints, ate cookies and left surprises. This was well before the current Elf on the Shelf craze. My sister created the fantasy he craved. Stories were told. Questions asked and answers often came on the fly to continue the magic of the elf for a very curious little boy. No one ever saw this elf. He came and went under the dark of night. Andrew never needed to actually see him. The stories alone kept the elf active and alive through December.

The excitement and mystery my sister created for my nephew is something I try to add to our house now. Plant a seed. Put a mind to work on the possibilities. Watch the love of a good story. Create fantasy. Give childhood a bit of magic.

What a great time of year to tell stories! Share family stories. What was this time of year like when you were little? What holidays did you celebrate? What special activities did you do? Boost family memories by telling stories about a special day spent together. Create new mysteries and adventures. What if Jack Frost did paint the windows with snowflakes? What does he look like? How does he get around the earth? Spark ideas to get your little ones telling stories and playing fantasy games. Storytelling improves vocabulary, writing and spelling. It’s fun. Stories can lead to hours of pretend play with parents, siblings, friends and visiting cousins using dress up, toy people, construction toys and tiny animals. Stories encourage children to create images in their minds bringing the story to life. Make illustrations! All ages can create stories with spoken words, drawings or detailed written tales.

December Collections

We are always collecting and saving items in bins and on shelves for creative projects. This month maybe games or a book or two related to story telling and a game to spark an idea:

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December Resources

Related Posts:

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

Let Them Grow: Giving Back This Holiday Season

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Making Giving about Giving

Recycle brown paper bags into “donation bags” this holiday season and join a local family friendly effort to bring kindness and giving to the holiday season!

This is the time of year to think about not just our families but also for our community. Living in such a small valley makes it easy to make connections that are meaningful and valuable. One easy activity that will help your children understand the value of giving and gratitude are donation bags!

At my daycare we have teamed up with Lindsay Fogg-Willits, owner of Art Always in Florence, and came up with this awesome easy activity. Giving helps us all feel fulfilled in so many ways; it helps establish the means for empathy are caring, besides it just feels good.  Read the rest of this entry »

Gingerbread Houses: Edible Architecture Brings Families Together

Gingerbread Build: Designers and Dreamers Create Edible Homes

Building a gingerbread house is a fantastic way to include creative folks of all ages in creating a delicious, well-engineered work of art, along with skills in architectural design, engineering, communication, and collaboration.

Is there anything better than the sound of children happily discussing whether gumdrops or gummy bears make for better foliage in a confectionery garden? Grown-up architects debating the merits of Lifesavers vs. melted lollipops to convey gothic stained glass? The hum of conversation and laughter as designers of all ages bring their inspiration and creativity to bear on gingerbread walls and roofing material and piles of buttercream mortar?

It’s time again for one of the best-loved holiday traditions ‘round these parts: Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Gingerbread Build!  This year it takes place on Saturday, December 5th, 2015, from 1-4 pm at the Eastworks building in Easthampton, MA. Read the rest of this entry »

DIY Holiday Gifts Promote Creative Free Play and Non-Commercial Holiday Celebrations

DIY Holiday Gifts Promote Creative Free Play and Non-Commercial Holiday Celebrations

Allowing for lots of creative free play and gift-giving that comes from the heart, handmade gifts get at the heart of the season! Families can engage in DIY projects at home, attend upcoming workshops, or utilize resources offered by local arts organizations to craft handmade gifts with love.

The holidays are upon us, and with the approach of a season of light, kindness, and appreciation of one another comes the need for giving – the sharing of gifts of all sizes serving as representation for our love and gratitude for each other. With the holidays comes an onslaught of commercialism, encouraging us to buy gifts rather than create them with love. In order to celebrate a non-commercial holiday season, families can commit to sharing appreciation for others during the holiday season by making handmade items for loved ones. Handmade gifts not only reflect the emotions behind them, but allow young creators to engage in creative free play, and provide an alternative to consumption by creating opportunities for creative reuse of items!

Gift-givers of all ages can find a treasure trove of DIY gift ideas in our archives, covering everything from scented ornaments and cards to planters and terrariums – even giftwrap is included! Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Simple Play at the Table

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Where did all the play go? Am I the only parent that is mourning its loss?

The new math makes sense to me. I read Old Dogs, New Math: Homework Help for Puzzled Parents last winter after a friend with middle school aged children mentioned the math concepts coming my way. I like to be prepared. Current reading readiness makes sense. At first I was a bit surprised by the way letter formation and penmanship is introduced in kindergarten—broken down into simple strokes and marks—no letters. I came from the generation of blue, lined practice paper with dashes mid way to mark the height of lower care letters and teachers that loved red marks. I decided to watch and wait. It worked. So far I am on board and enjoying the elementary school experience with my daughter.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Making Halloween a Thanksgiving

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Making Halloween a Thanksgiving

This Halloween, kids can give back when receiving candy from their neighbors. Here are 4 easy handmade crafts kids can make before Halloween night to carry with them and to give back to neighbors.

It is Halloween, a time of year everyone dresses up! Young children especially love this time of year! For them, this their costumes and love for pretend play, it’s Halloween all year round. Finally everyone is playing along!

It is also a puzzling time for toddlers and preschoolers. When toddlers go door to door during Halloween it is exciting and mysterious. They knock on strangers’ doors and get candy for being brave, dressing up, and playing along. A fun way to make the whole experience more engaging and reciprocal is to give back to those neighbors, to the community, to the generous people behind the candy.

Here are a few easy crafts that you can carry along with your children the night of Halloween.  Invite them to exchange their handmade craft with their neighbors giving out candy, strengthening community connections and allowing your kids to give back.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Nature Based Play & Art in Autumn

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Searching for Fall

Scavenger hunts appear to be popular right now. They are being used for local fundraisers. They are mentioned on many television programs this fall. Local college groups are joining in. So we went on a nature scavenger hunt of sorts.

Head outside with the kids to hunt down the visual signs of fall with a mental list of outdoor things specific to the season. Brilliant red leaves. Acorn tops. Pine needles. Helicopter seed pods. Colorful fall flowers. After all your collecting, stop in the woods and make a nature collage on the ground. This took a bit of convincing at our house because this will not be permanent. There was a bit of concern about leaving our project behind…

Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: 4 Pumpkin-Based Arts & Crafts

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

What Else to Do with that Pumpkin

Pumpkin time is here!  I thought of all the basics of what to do with the pumpkins outside our door: cook them; paint them; smash them; carve them. I love all of these ideas, because I just love pumpkins! Most of all I love carving pumpkins. But, having infants and toddlers around makes pumpkin carving a little more interesting, a little less mainstream, and a lot less intricate. I went from detailed mountain scene to a face that not a face at all, but more like two juxtaposed triangles and a rectangle block mouth. I thought to myself, pumpkins should be more than that… They deserve more than that! And so do the kids! This month I’m sharing four pumpkin-based projects you can do with your toddlers that support creative-free play while celebrating the season! Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Fall Scavenger Hunts

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Fall Scavenger Hunts

Our Septembers arrive with excitement for new teachers and school friends. There is also a bit of anxiety while we all adjust to the new changes—NEW teacher!, PE on Monday, new classmates, art on Friday before lunch, etc… We are searching for the new day-to-day routines. It’s an adventure as things quickly fall into place.

While the school schedule gets established, it helps if we start our after-school routine at home. Someone at my house craves downtime with a snack or a lazy walk home with friends and then any bits of homework before dinner and free time. Weekends become regular with Friday sleepovers and family fun. Having a fall party is part of our annual back-to-school routine. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Landscapes: Use and Value Resources

From Natural Resources to Natural Relationships: Use and Value Resources

What is a resource and how do we learn to use and value resources? There are a variety of resources in our lives, many most of us probably take for granted. It is not only about using renewable resources, but rather making responsible choices about all resources.

Learning if or how we recognize, value and chose to use resources is a choice we all make. If we don’t think about this and help our children actively use their knowledge and understanding of resources to make a conscious ethical choice, but instead just consume without thought, then we have in fact made a choice. The permaculture thinking tool Use and Value Resources is intended to get our children thinking about how to, perhaps in a different way, view the world around them and all the resources that exist.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Three Edible Creative Free-Play Recipes

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Eat What You Play!

Now that my newborn is becoming a toddler overnight, I have begun to include her in toddler–esque art projects. This is exciting in so many ways. As all kids, she explores, experiments and creates every waking moment. Like every one-year-old she loves sensory exposure at its best- mostly by mouth. So, the question became how do I include her without poisoning her, letting her choke, or dumbing down toddler activities? Because she mouths everything and taste it just the same, I decided to create a few sensory activities that would be safe and fun for both infants and toddlers. And what do they both love? Food! Read the rest of this entry »

What to Play?: 25 Undone Family Summer Fun Ideas

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Family Assignment—Have Fun!

We are in the home stretch. I can’t believe school vacation is coming to an end. Our summer went too fast!

We say those words every year so in the spring we made a list of summer ideas. Many we did not get to. Friends popped over. Sleepovers were planned last minute. Some days we just needed to be lazy. Visitors arrived. What to do in the little time we have left? Fun without forcing it. I think we will aim for one thing a day but if we decide to read for hours in the shade or host a sleepover—a different play happens and that is okay too.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Supporting Literacy & Creative-Free Play with Sock Puppets!

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Can a Moose Play Sock Puppets Without Thumbs?

Take a break from the heat and sun to make your own sock puppets. Make some scary ones for fire side ghost stories. Make some super cute to entertain the wee ones. Make some completely goofy. Have the older kids make a fancy, detailed version. If you are looking to fill a rainy day at home, make a stage with background murals!

I have a great nephew! He is super cute and reminds me so much of my niece, Jessica, (his mom) and my nephew, his Uncle Andrew. Being the youngest of five children, I was very lucky and became an aunt at age 10 and again at 12 and it kept going until I was in college. Then there was a slow down until by brother, closer in age to myself, and I started families. So now I have this crazy family dynamic where I am 43, a great aunt to my 31 year old niece’s new baby and I have a 9 year old daughter. My oldest sister is a grandma but I have more gray hair than she does?! My daughter still gets mixed up trying to keep it all straight. Her new second cousin in closer in age than her first cousin that seems more like an aunt. Family.

That confusing round-about background leads me into my lazy days of summer play idea. Andrew (now an uncle and accomplished police officer) loved the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie when he was in preK. He had a tiny stuffed Cookie Mouse that went everywhere he did. It was VERY well loved and cared for. So when I think about selecting books I would like to give to my new great nephew, I must include the Cookie Mouse… which leads me into the entire series written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond. My daughter’s favorite was If You Give a Pig a Pancake. And I always loved If You Give a Moose a Muffin. That moose is hilarious with his mural painting, muffin eating and sock puppets. He rocks that tiny sweater. My daughter always questioned it as my favorite. “Can a moose play sock puppets without thumbs?” Her logic. That little pig she loved played dress up and built a tree house but it seemed impossible for a moose to play sock puppets. So fun to remember the favorites of my kiddo, the nieces and the nephews.

MYO Sock Puppets

Take a break from the heat and sun to make your own sock puppets. Make some scary ones for fire side ghost stories. Make some super cute to entertain the wee ones. Make some completely goofy. Have the older kids make a fancy, detailed version. If you are looking to fill a rainy day at home, make a stage with background murals like the Moose did! Or go simple with a couple of socks with marker faces to keep the back seat riders busy on the way to the beach.

Don’t forget to check out a copy of If You Give a Moose a Muffin at your local library during the summer reading programs. Fun reading to spark some free play this summer. And look for the Treasury version of Numeroff’s books. There is an excellent recipe for Chocolate Mud Muffins (moose approved). During the summer, we go all out and coordinate books, projects, play and snacks.

Materials

  • old, clean socks
  • markers
  • tacky glue
  • needle and thread, if the kids sew
  • buttons
  • fabric, yarn
  • scissors

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

Let Them Grow: Nature-Based Art

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Making Nature-Based Art

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It is summer, it’s warm and the season is the child’s pallet. Summer time water play is always a go to and there are many amazing outdoor nature-based art projects for toddlers that will keep them engaged and involved at home. Nature-based art is not only fun and beautiful but it is also a free and open ended way for your child to explore art in a natural way.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hand Clapping Games: Summer & Schoolyard Creative Free Play that Supports Learning

Hand Clapping Games Spur Learning

In schoolyards all around the world, hand-clapping games have been a staple activity of childhood for generations. Pairing silly songs and rhymes with quick claps, slaps, snaps, and other movements, hand-clapping games can provide endless hours of entertainment and friendship building.

In addition to the recreational benefits of hand-clapping games, studies have shown that hand-clapping games support children in developing many essential skills. Researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev studied children in grades 1-3 and found that children who participated in spontaneous clapping games during their free time had stronger spelling skills than peers who didn’t. Additionally, the same students had neater handwriting and better writing and drawing skills than students who didn’t participate in clapping games. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Getting Creative in the Cleanup

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Combining Play and Cleanup

Many parents know someone who loves to build with those brightly colored, interlocking building blocks. It starts as a toddler with the bigger, chunkier version and continues up into the tween to teen years for some kids with the 2,000+ piece master builder sets that take hours and hours to complete. There can be some tiny and unusual parts. We always seem to have a few extra odds and ends after a big build. Do you have extra people heads or arms or a single square of floor tile?

While in search of a fun way to organize these bits and pieces, we came across an easy project that clearly connects the contents of the containers to the supplies inside. No need to label. Kids can have a creative-free play activity while helping you save the dog or the vacuum from sucking up little bricks and plastic body parts.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Getting Engaged Through Blowing Bubbles

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Giant Bubble Day

Bubbles are so much fun for everyone, they are strange and exciting and have the characteristics of a liquid, soil and air all at once. Infant and toddlers will want to explore all areas of the bubbles. Making giant bubbles is so much fun for adults as well. Try to encourage the toddler not to eat them or get them in their eyes. Otherwise let them play. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Helping Your Local Animal Shelter Through Creative-Free Play

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Play and Community Service

Adopting, fostering, and pet taxing are a few ways families can help local animal shelters. Making toys for animals while waiting to be adopted is yet another way to support shelters while encouraging creative-free play at home. This month in “What to Play: Play Ideas for Family & Community,” Carrie shares several DIY projects families can do together to support our furry friends and the agencies that care for them.

It is the beginning of kitten season at the local animal shelters. From spring into summer the shelters are inundated with kittens! They are dropped off in boxes left at entrances overnight. Many are brought in because families are overcome with the work and dedication needed to take care of a litter of tiny babies. Some arrive with their mother or when a soon to deliver mother is surrendered. The main cause is lack of spaying. Many are so small they are not healthy or strong enough to be adopted out. Those tiny ones might spend time in a kitten ICU or go to live with caring foster families while they gain strength and put on weight.

This year we are not able to foster. We are missing the experience. The tiny kittens have so much love, cuddles and silly play to share. It is a great experience to watch them grow, to teach them to eat solids and even to figure out the best way to provide needed medications. Kittens do not like medications. We failed as fosters last year by adopting a “tuxedo” from the last batch of siblings we had in May. Many foster families fail and joke about this. We get attached to the tiny ones and adopt. Our two furry boys have taken over so we no longer have the spare room to devote to fosters. Adopting from our last foster group was a bonus for our family in many ways. My daughter has the lap cat she has been hoping to have for years. They are inseparable. He cries in her room when she has a sleepover or play date and does not come home at the end of the day. He watches her brush her teeth. She has trained him to use a leash and play fetch. A perfect match. I have to say it is nice to have him in our family. Oh, and he has a safe home to call his own forever and a big orange brother to sleep with.

One day we will foster again. We want to help those tiny babies get a great start on life.  Read the rest of this entry »

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