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Posted by on in Movement and Play

This is my first summer without home-based childcare. Although I work from home, keeping my seven-year-old, only child daughter home with me is not a good option because she is (as previously described on my blog) not very good at entertaining herself. I have work that I need to do, and I certainly don't want her on her device all day long.

Most of the time, she goes to a small nearby childcare center that is play-based. During the summer they have weekly themes, and they offer supplies for different craft projects according to those themes. But they are very low-key, and it's typical for me to go by to pick my daughter up and find the kids doing something like making a cooperative book or practicing a show. [And sometimes they are watching a movie - you can't have everything.] But in general, it's a pretty relaxed environment, and ranges from 2 to maybe 6-7 kids there at one time. She's there during the school year after school, too, but there are more kids then.

Wanting to mix things up a bit, I had also signed her up for two weeks at a bigger, more structured day camp, held at a local elementary school. There were lots of STEAM activities - science and art projects (which are now taking up considerable space around our house). There was plenty of time outside running around, themes for the different days, music, and tremendous enthusiasm on the part of the young counselors. We know a bunch of other families who also attended this camp the first week, and most of the kids loved it.

My daughter? Not so much. After the first day, I basically had to force her to go every day. She kept whining and asking why she couldn't just go to the regular place. (Because I had pre-paid, and was not about to pay for 2 different things at the same time.) The best she could tell me about WHY she didn't like it was that it was too much like school. Reading between the lines a bit, it was like school but without the free play at lunch and recess, without any reading, and without seeing as many of her friends (especially the second week - the second week was very painful). She didn't like having to go from activity to activity on someone else's schedule. She didn't like having to run around outside in the heat. She didn't like being with 150 kids instead of the usual handful.

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Posted by on in Movement and Play

Champions in school, champions at life. Respect.

Thank you to our Sensei, master teacher for teaching us never-ending, continual improvement. “Kai Zen!”

Karate classes, taught by Sensei, extraordinary meshing of kids and Instructor.

Listen to the children with me, powering up their spirits with the sound of “Kiai”, sounds like kee-eye. Here we go! Outfits on, belts tied, spirits soaring.

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Posted by on in Movement and Play

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Quirky confession. 

When we moved to a new state and were trying to zero in on a place to land, I perused elementary school websites over and over to assess how much time they allowed for recess.  That was one of my first factors to compare.

It seems like a strange marker for school quality to many, but to me it signals an awareness of the needs of the whole child and not just a perspective of the student as a "disembodied mind".

I thought I might be the only mom with a funny hang up about recess.

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Posted by on in Movement and Play

My kids started school this week, and the first day of school report was filled with excitement.  Through the retelling of the day’s activities, two takeaways thrilled me the most.  My kindergartener was practicing moves and songs referencing brain breaks and GoNoodle (www.gonoodle.com) videos.  He talked about the importance of getting up to move and reducing the butterfly jitters some kids were feeling.  I felt so proud of how grown-up he seemed while also feeling sentimental of my youngest heading off to school!   

My fourth grader was also ecstatic after her first day.  She talked nonstop about the day’s adventures.  At one point she mentioned how her class went on a walk. We drilled her with questions:  Where did you go?  Did it occur just because it was the first day? Did you tour the school?  She mentioned that her teacher said it was important for them to get outside and walk every day.   

In these times  when schools are cutting recess time to fill the day with academics and other mandated activities, the direction these two teachers, at different schools, were taking was thrilling.  I’m excited for my kids to experience what these teachers have to offer.  Of course academics are important.  Of course, social and emotional learning is important.  However, all three are positively impacted through movement activities, large and small.   

Teachers at all levels have different comfort level with using movement.  Brain breaks can involve songs and silly movements, but also can be as simple as having students get up out of their seats and moving to a different location or stretching at their desks. Movement can be intense or it can be a stress-free experience of simply taking a short walk around campus. The comfort level teachers have changes as teachers continue to practice and incorporate movement weekly and daily.   

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Posted by on in Movement and Play

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Adam’s little feet were scampering on the sidewalk as only a two-year-old’s feet can as I quickly followed to keep pace with him. As soon as he saw his first stick that day he stopped, picked it up, looked at me excitedly and shouted: “Mam patyk tata!” (I have a stick daddy!). He’s my kind of dude. Adores being outside. Loves playing with sticks. Picks them up whenever he can. Carries them around. Hits objects, sometimes people, with them. Brings them home where he usually forgets about them. But today was different. For both of us.

It’s April and the maple trees are budding in Minnesota. It was a warm enough day that I didn’t mind him sitting on the pavement and exploring. He sat down and started using his newfound tool to pluck the maple buds that fell off the branches above out of the cracks in the sidewalk. While doing this, the stick broke. He looked at me and said: “Zepsułem,” which means "I broke it" in Polish. He continued digging the buds out and the thin dried up stick broke once more, at which point Adam seemed to lose interest in the buds and decided to focus on sticks.

He noticed a big tree with a goldmine of broken twigs lying around it down the block and darted toward it, me in tow. While in the past he’d pick one or two up, now he was picking them up in bunches as if he were gathering kindling for a fire. This was quite interesting, because I know that he has no idea about this sort of use for fallen sticks. Of course this wasn’t why he was picking so many of them up, but I immediately got an idea that he will now be able to, and absolutely love helping me gather wood for the fire when we start going camping in a couple of months. We’ll brave the mosquitoes and poison ivy together….

He carried the sticks onto the sidewalk, threw what had to be a dozen of them down, and immediately proceeded to breaking them into smaller pieces. He did not just break each stick into two. He kept breaking each until it got so small his little hands could no longer apply enough force to fragment it. I was so fascinated with all I was observing and learning that I don’t recall what exact phrases he was using to talk about what he’s doing, but I know he was making associations between “big” and “small” and the fact that bigger sticks are more difficult to break.

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