January here is a smorgasbord of weather--one week we are blanketed in the white fluff of freshly fallen snow, huddled up inside to avoid single degree temperatures. A week later, we are out with no coats at all chasing away the hours in our play garden. January is a month of ins and outs. We are indoors, craving to be out again. Then we
I often muse that if a parent wishes to introduce one "educational" activity to meet all of the developmental needs of a child under 5, sensory play is your guy! Sensory play engages young children, encourages abstract and critical thinking, introduces vocabulary and language development, mathematical concepts, science, fine motor and gross motor skills, spacial awareness and more... It's a great way to bring the outdoors inside when conditions are not conducive to outdoor play. A few of our favorites this month were:
|Arctic Slime! We jumped on the slime bandwagon this month and had repeated play sessions with this fascinating play medium! Perfect for a snowy day or rainy day or any day at all...|
|For a warmer version of snow play when snow is not available, we love this baby-safe sensory bin. We used mashed potato flakes along with some favorite forest friends and a couple of toy sleds for this story stretcher activity with the book red sled by Lita Judge.|
We have lately been on a Jan Brett kick, particularly enthralled with some of her well known winter books like The Hat, The Mitten and The Three Snow Bears. S and Y had fun using a selection of forest animal stickers to decorate our own set of paper white mittens. We also spent many a day playing with "tree blocks," a pair of white mittens and a selection of toy forest and arctic animals.
When we need a change of scenery, our local library is the place to be! We have a great library system here and frequently take advantage of story times, craft events and "just playing and looking at books."
At home, we got into some chapter books as read-alouds. To accompany and honor this newfound interest, we also got into making bookmarks! We have quite the collection now, many made by S and some made by me (mommies need hobbies, too!) and whenever we need to set a book aside for later, we head over to the bookmarks basket to grab one of our special creations. It definitely eases the transition of having to stop reading to go to sleep or go to school and it's a lovely way to save our spot until we can come back to reading later.
through the lens of some favorite children's literature.
S explores color and fine motor skills with this basket of yarn scraps that he enjoys cutting. It's the perfect way to use leftover yarn. We recycle it for use in crafts/collage, sensory play and even outdoor activities...
trees and Tu b'Shevat, I've been more mindful of talking about how we can help the trees that help us in so many ways. Children at this age do not inherently have an understanding of protecting natural resources. Through the addition of loose parts and "non-permanent" art materials in our art center, S has explored his ability to create artwork that can be created and recreated again and again. I do still keep glue and paper at our art center and we still make collages and permanent artwork. We even upcycle a lot of our artwork into new artwork. S is also learning to create and experience art using mirrors and recycled picture frames and arranging buttons, glass gems, and other interesting small items. When we work with paper, scissors and glue, we talk about using the whole page, or using scrap paper for cutting practice as opposed to a whole page. I do not disallow use of "new paper" for cutting practice as it is meaningful work, but I do encourage S to use the smaller pieces in a new way. We also keep a selection of interesting scrap paper, recycled magazines and greeting cards, even junk mail for cutting and gluing when the urge strikes.
Pipe cleaners and floral foam are another fascinating medium. We spent a morning building menorahs and lighting pipe cleaner candles, per S's lead. When this set-up became a bit stale, I swapped the craft foam out for some beads that S enjoys stringing on the pipe cleaners to make necklaces, bracelets, bookmarks and decorations. He has already made everyone in the family bracelets for Tu B'Shevat and a decoration for a tree!
When weather has permitted getting outdoors, our play garden has been the perfect haven for taking along some favorite small world materials and even art supplies.
Remember that yarn we were cutting inside? It was just the perfect way to decorate "trees" (unique sticks and twigs we've found) outside and making "magic wands."
Y loves exploring the soft and colorful texture of these DIY ribbon dancers made from shower curtain rings and strips of ribbon in a variety of colors and textures. I keep a set outside in our play garden and another set inside.
Yes, I'm pretty sure our neighbors love us right about now!
|S loves this tiny dinosaur world created with a collection of small gravel|
and pebbles and plastic dinosaurs set inside of a foil pan. I poked a few holes in the bottom of the pan so rain water can drain out.
|We also had a great time adding vibrant color to our walkway using chalk pastels. Our recycled frames made for a museum like work space as we doodled and designed.|
I also started a Mommy and Me Cooking Club with S this month. It's a way for us to have an activity that is just for the two of us together. S is a somewhat particular eater as well. He may or may not try many new foods as we explore grocery aisles together, look up and try out new recipes. We are both learning a lot in our adventure toward trying out new foods and recipes. We had a blast taking a color scavenger hunt in a grocery store to find foods that are purple (that was S's idea) and he loves joining me in the kitchen as we plan, prepare and serve new recipes. He's tried a few new things and perhaps not yet found any favorite new foods, but all the way we are enjoying each other's company and the many skills that are cultivated through culinary experience!
January may be a month of ins and outs here, but we roll with it! Sometimes that less predictable weather is a blessing; if you don't like the weather now, wait five minutes!
Sometimes the absence of major holidays is also a blessing. It allows us to slow down and spend longer stretches of time engaged in play, creating or simply reading a great book. It allows us to remember that every moment can be celebrated, whether it's a holiday or just a "regular day." In the last two days alone, we've seen rain, hail, snow and sunshine. We are ready for whatever this afternoon holds and so, too, we are ready for the new month ahead! For those who are celebrating, happy Tu B'Shevat--may this time of year find you rooted in the comforts of family and home while branching out toward new adventures as the opportunity strikes. We'll be back soon and until then...