in loving memory of Eric Carle
One of our favourite books to promote early literacy at Alpha’s Discovery Kids is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. In fact, it was the inspiration for our metamorphosis project last month. Amid our metamorphosis project, author and illustrator of this iconic children’s book, Eric Carle passed away on May 23rd, 2021, at the age of 91. Eric Carle will live on in our hearts and through his legacy of great literature.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was among many fantastic Eric Carle books known around the world. Other beloved titles from Eric Carle include The Very Busy Spider, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse.
For many educators, parents and children of all ages, his works have been a staple in their children’s literature collection. Carle’s incredible collection of work has earned him a variety of accolades, including the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.
Here are three reasons why we love Eric Carle books!
1. Predictive Text
Predictive text builds confidence in young readers. In most of his early literacy books, the designated format repeats throughout the text and allows children to predict it. When young readers pick up on the pattern, you see the sparkle in their eyes. At first, they read along with you. Then, they use the pictures along with the pattern to feel like they are “reading”. This develops confidence right from the start. Be sure to point to each word as you read it to demonstrate one-to-one correspondence.
2. Life and Life Lessons
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is amazingly useful in so many ways. It creates a sensorial early literacy experience when children touch the holes on each page. When children engage their senses beyond listening during a literacy experience, they retain more knowledge. Any time that children are touching, feeling, and interacting with the text, is a win! Additionally, the very hungry caterpillar can be tied into many real-life topics and teachable moments such as the life cycle of a butterfly, eating healthy and the days of the week.
- The Grouchy Ladybug – teaches about manners and encouraging prosocial interaction to build connections with others in an appropriate way.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is an all time classic that teaches children colours, and animal names in an abstract and imaginative way using unexpected colours like “purple cat” or “blue horse”
- Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? have the same predictable patterns. Panda Bear addresses endangered animals, which can be a great way to tie in social studies. You can identify where the animals in the book live on a map and talk about ways to help these animals by doing things like taking care of the environment.
3. The Illustrations are AMAZING!
Eric Carle’s art is distinctive and instantly recognizable. His artwork is created in collage technique, using hand-painted papers, which he cuts and layers to form bright and cheerful images. The brush strokes show texture and dimension and a signature creation that can only be connected to his unique style. A true work of art on every page!
These books inspired us to create our own book using his technique. Here’s what we did, and you can do this at home too!
- Paint an open-ended abstract picture.
- Ask the child to name their favorite animal.
- Cut out the painted picture into strips or shapes.
- Glue the pieces together in the shape of their favourite animal. They may need some assistance with this part.
- Add the text in the format “Child’s Name, Child’s Name, what do you see?
- Record the name of the animal and colour with the text. “I see a Colour Animal looking at me!”
- You can laminate the page and create more pages to make a book. Assemble the pages with a hole punch and binder ring.
Voila! You have your own homemade “Eric Carle” style book that your family will treasure! Our children love to make homemade books and keep going back to read them over and over again!
Take a look at our metamorphosis project video.
Mindful Mud – An Essential Play Experience!
While the idea of getting messy to some may be unappealing, especially a parent or caregiver that has to clean up the mess! For those that may be skeptical, consider all the benefits of playing in the dirt.
The earthy goodness of mud gives our kids an opportunity to engage in messy play, practice mindfulness and connect with nature. Think of a time when you made a sandcastle and suddenly lost track of an hour. That was you, feeling the effects of mycobacterium vacate. This is a big word for the microscopic bacteria in dirt that increases the serotonin level in our brains, making us feel happy and relaxed.
Our young technologically savvy generation of kids are just not getting enough time to play outside – especially with online learning and technological distractions. While you can simulate many experiences virtually these days, playing in the dirt is not on that list.
Have you ever noticed that children who play outside laugh more? And laughter leads to feeling good! Kids who play outside also grow in their character development: they become more adventurous, more self-motivated, and they are better able to understand and assess risk.
THE SCIENCE OF MUD
- MUD INCREASES BRAIN ACTIVITY– When children play with mud they use all of their senses, resulting in a highly stimulated and active brain.
- MUD INCREASES PHYSICAL ACTIVITY-When children play outdoors, and in mud, the incidental movement and physical activity increases, helping children maintain a healthy lifestyle and develop their physical literacy.
- MUD REDUCES ALLERGIES & ASTHMA SYMPTOMS -Dirt is also great for the immune system, especially in children. Research has shown that early exposure to naturally occurring microbes in soil will help build stronger, more disease-resistant kids.
- MUD PLAY BUILDS CREATIVITY – The open-ended nature of mud play is perfect for the developing brain. There is no end to the creations, ideas and games children will invent. During this type of unstructured, outdoor play, children are not only exercising but are building their ability to form ideas, problem solve, and think critically, as well as be innovative and inventive.
Here are some ideas for your children:
- If you want to control the mess a bit or have limited space, try a mud kitchen !
- Give your child a bucket and a shovel and set them in the dirt. See what happens.
If you really want to control the mess, you can also create a DIY mud sensory bin. Check out our blog on how to create DIY sensory bins.
BabySafe Project – Pregnancy and Wireless Radiation
Have you head of the Babysafe Project? I recently became aware of this project which addresses a very serious issue affecting our future generations of children. What is the impact of widely used wireless technology on the unborn?
I have always been in awe of the process by which humans come into existence. From a single cell to a growing fetus to a baby born into this world full of life! Many women who learn that they are pregnant start to eat differently, take care of themselves and feel a strong sense of responsibility for this new life inside them.
Over time, we have learned more about environmental impacts to children within the womb. From the food you eat to the water you drink to even the air you breathe can all have an impact to that new life growing inside you. It may seem overwhelming but knowing the risks and things you can do to reduce harmful exposures is within your control.
The Babysafe project focuses on one key environmental influence – wireless radiation. They point to scientific research that indicates that wireless radiation exposure can be harmful – even carcinogenic – to your baby and therefore should be avoided or reduced. Visit www.babysafeproject.org to learn more about the science and research and the effects of wireless radiation on both you and your child.
So, what can you do to reduce or eliminate your wireless radiation exposure risk? First and foremost, is awareness of the issue. Spread awareness to everyone you know about the risks and steps you can take to protect yourselves and your little ones.
Here’s some simple steps to reduce exposure to wireless radiation:
1) Do not carry your cell phone on your body – not in your bra or pocket
2) Don’t hold the cell phone, tablet or other wireless electronic device against your abdomen
3) Avoid cordless phones – especially in your bedroom – phones with a cord don’t emit radiation!
4) Streaming results in higher levels of radiation exposure – try to download and then use it in “Airplane mode”
5) Use connected wired devices for your computers instead of wireless
6) Unplug your WiFi router at home when not in use (e.g. at bedtime)
We’re fortunate to have two locally-based national not-for-profit organizations that collaborate with The BabySafe Project in raising awareness about the Project. Canadians For Safe Technology (C4ST) is based in Oakville, online at c4st.org. Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC) is based in southwest Etobicoke, online at iexistworld.org. These organizations welcome questions, have a wide variety of resources (electronic and printed materials), and meet online with parent groups who want to learn more.
In this video, women talk about how they reduce their risk.
Lockdown Staycation Ideas
5 Easy Steps to a low cost and low mess indoor camping experience
Thinking up ideas for a staycation is more challenging then ever with lockdown and stay at home orders in place. Planning ahead can be difficult with the uncertainties of the pandemic. We all look forward to long weekends. In Canada, May 24th is a holiday in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday and is considered the first long weekend to kick off the summer season. For many Canadians, it means the beginning of camping season, gardening and local festivals, concerts, outdoor markets and picnics. While we can still enjoy some of these outdoor activities, the options are limited by the restrictions of the pandemic. Here’s a staycation idea that actually works really well during a pandemic.
Have you every tried camping in your own home?
Chances are that there is more then one of you out there thinking that even camping in your backyard sounds like a task you are simply not up for.
What if I told you that you are not the only one? It doesn’t have to be difficult. And it can be a lot of fun for both you and your kids!
What if I told you can now camp with the kids, with no packing, no driving, no paying for campsite rental, no bugs, no questionable bathrooms, and you can sleep in your own bed?
This is an opportunity to glam it up with your own style and it will certainly be a post-worthy experience to share – Don’t forget to tag us.
Here’s 5 Easy Steps to create that perfect at-home indoor camping experience!
- FORT – Set it up!
No camping experience is complete without a tent. Depending on the age of your children, you can choose to make this an all-hands-on deck project with the children helping set up your camp site or you can make it a surprise. This can be your child’s bedroom, basement or living room area. Notice I am not mentioning outside 😉!
Make it -check out these links for tents you can create with minimal supplies or talent.
Add mini lights & decorations for a pitch-er perfect tent!
Bring the outdoors in! This is really just an extra little thing you can do to bring the outdoors in and enhance the camping experience.
You can gather Outdoor items, stones, logs, branches, indoor or outdoor plants to place around the “campsite” or even setup an artificial tree.
3. FIRE-Spark it up
One of the best parts of camping is the bonfire! A bonfire is the perfect place to gather round and sing a campfire song, or tell funny stories. It’s also a great place to read books.
Make it- click on this link for an easy way to build a crafty campfire.
4. Food- Feed the fam!
If you don’t have a fireplace to roast marshmallows the next best thing to the campfire is a BBQ. Grill some hamburgers, hot dogs, corn or make simple PB&J sandwiches. You can even roast marshmallows by holding a stick above the heat of the BBQ grill.
Whatever you decide to do – Keep it simple!
Here are 3 S’more options to enhance your camping staycation
Make it-Microwave Smores- https://shelfcooking.com/smores-recipe/
Smore snack bag- https://ziploc.com/en/Recipes/Sweets-And-Desserts/S-Mores-Mix
Make sure you take a nice walk after those sugary smores and tire out those kiddo’s so everyone gets a good night sleep including Mom & Dad!
Last but not least, Have Fun!!!
Hopefully by now the kids are tuckered out and ready to retire to their sleeping bags. Before they do, make it dark, turn on those string lights, lamps and flashlights and play with the shadows. Add in some soothing nature sounds and soothing music too!
You can even make your own stars on the ceiling with a flashlight! Just cover the flashlight with black paper and cut out the stars.
More ideas to add to your indoor camping experience:
Read some camp related stories
Starry sky flashlight
To learn more about Alpha’s Discovery Kids Programs, click here!
Mother’s Day gifts you can give yourself
As a mom, time spent with your children doing things to grow and learn together is one of the best gifts you can give yourself for Mother’s Day. During a pandemic, it may seem that our choices for activities are limited. This year, what better way to celebrate then to get outside and soak up some immune-boosting Vitamin D! Sunshine and fresh air provide so many health benefits to boost your immunity and mental health. Give yourself a gift that will create lasting memories this year. Here are 3 ideas that will leave you with a smile, tired little children and hopefully a few great photos. You don’t need to go too far .These 3 activities can be done in your own backyard, neighbourhood trail or park.
YOU’RE A NATURAL
1.GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY TOGETHER AND DO SOME PLANTING
Anyone can be a be a gardener even if you do not have a green thumb or a big garden. Planting can be done in a garden, garden box or even a container you may already have at home. For instance, a jar, a bowl, or box. You can even have your child paint the flowerpot before or after. You choose the size of your project. Pick up some seeds or little plants and some soil at your local garden centre or grocery store. You and your child can get your hands dirty together and create some new life! This growing garden or plant is a gift for you all season long!
EASY TO GROW PLANTS FOR KIDS- CHECK OUT THIS LINK
- STRETCH & BREATHE TOGETHER AND DO SOME OUTDOOR MOMMY AND ME YOGA
Practicing yoga with children is one way to build a great relationship with them. Doing simple yoga poses together can help both parent and child to relax, be in the moment, and obtain physical activity at the same time. We know yoga is good for flexibility, but yoga can also help with anxiety and muscle development for both adults and children. Combining the outdoors with yoga helps as a natural mood booster. These good feelings will help you connect and bond further with your little one. It does not matter if you are an advanced yogi, a beginner, or a newbie everyone can benefit from deep breathing and stretching. Start by just taking off your shoes, face each other and taking a few breaths. This can be on a mat, towel or in the grass. You get to choose if this will be a more an active yoga or calming yoga. You can make it up as you go along getting inspiration from your outdoor surrounds but remember to be safe and careful. Enhancing your connection with the natural world and your child through movement can be a gift you give yourself.
Nature Inspired Yoga Poses: CHECK OUT THIS LINK
MOM YOU ROCK
- GET CREATIVE TOGETHER AND DO SOME ROCK PAINTING
Being outdoors not only stimulates your mind but also your creativity. Art projects can be messy and often require a lot of space in which to create. So, what better place to set up a rock painting activity? Even if you do not have paint brushes you can use Q-tips or your fingers. If you do not have paint, you can use nail polish, coloured water or sharpie markers. You get to choose if this is an open- ended painting experience or want to create a special design. You can of course make finding these rocks part of your Mother’s Day experience by going on a little walk together or collect them in advance. Either way, your are left with a cute keep sake and minimal mess to boot. This is a gift you can give yourself.
ROCK PAINTING 101: CHECK OUT THIS LINK
Here’s a link to our kindness rocks activity if you want to leave some painted rocks out in the community for other’s to find.
Try one or more of these outdoor mommy and me activities and reap the benefits. No matter what you choose to do this Mother’s Day,
Yo’ mama , you ROCK !
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, You’re a natural !
Planting a seed to inspire learning
Planting a seed is the simple act of setting a process into motion – both in a garden and in a classroom. As educators in the classrooms, we are always planting seeds to spark children’s curiosity, inquiry and discovery. With an emergent curriculum such as ours at Alpha’s Discovery Kids, students are empowered learners, and the teacher takes the journey along with her class.
In many cases, children spend a great deal of time in a childcare setting with limited experiences in the world, especially during a pandemic. Planning based on the children’s interests is not effective all on its own. That is why we introduce projects to expand on the child’s learning. As educators of young children, it is our responsibility to empower children and to make them a big part of their own learning. It is important to understand that it does not necessarily matter where the topic originates from, if the direction it takes from inception follows the lead of the children.
One of the ways we do this is by providing and introducing rich, developmentally appropriate materials and new topics and concepts that the children may not be exposed to yet. By providing engaging materials that encourage exploration and creativity, we can provide opportunities that are open¬-ended and through these experiences provoke further interests. The materials can be purposeful, intentional and project based without becoming teacher directed.
We are continually plantings seeds in the minds of the children to inspire curiosity with the goal of teaching the children something new. Our educators have gained confidence in knowing it will take form without direction. A seed cannot stay a seed forever once planted. When cared for with nourishing soil, rays of sunlight, and water, they change shape and start to become whatever it is they were meant to be. We apply similar parallels to our approach to child development and learning. Like all things that grow, plants, trees, flowers, we want them to flourish!
To find out more about our Four Pillars of Learning curriculum, click here.
DIY Sensory Bins – How to Make your Own Sensory Bin
Sensory bins are an amazing educational tool for children to learn about their world using their senses! Young children tend to gravitate toward sensory play as they tend to explore their world with their senses. The benefits of sensory play are numerous. Sensory play helps children to focus, helps them to feel calm and it develops many skills from cognitive to physical to social skills.
Recently, I saw that a local craft store was selling pre-made sensory bins for $25 but you can make your own for a lot less. At Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, we make individual sensory bins for each child and change the items in the bins almost every day. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making your own sensory bin.
To make your own sensory bin, you first need to know what it is! A sensory bin is a hands-on sensory experience for kids, in a contained area such as a storage container. It contains many different items that can be explored using your senses.
STEP 1: CHOOSE A CONTAINER
When choosing a container, consider your space and choose something that will fit in your space. The size of the bin will depend on the age of the child, but as a rule, try to find the biggest container that your child can manage. The child should be able to hold the bin and take it from a shelf independently. Plastic clear containers are best with a good lid that seals well. You don’t have to spend a lot on the container as you can usually find them at a dollar store for a few dollars.
STEP 2: CHOOSE THE FILLER
The sensory bin filler is the item that makes the sensory fun. Please note that you can change your filler often – but we recommend at least once per week to make it interesting for your child and keep it clean. Some examples of fillers are: water, sand, rocks, water beads, shredded paper, coloured Epsom salt, play dough, fake grass, fake snow, wooden beads and natural elements (leaves, twigs, soil, seeds). You can also choose food items such as beans, dry pasta and rice but we prefer not to use food items, to minimize food waste. Keep in mind your child’s age and ability when choosing a filler (including potential choking hazards) and ensure that play is always supervised by an adult.
STEP 3: ADD ITEMS
Once you have the filler, the next step is to add items that spark the child’s interest. One of the best parts of sensory bins is all the filling, dumping, pouring and transferring that takes place! When adding items, you are only limited by your own imagination – or your child’s if they choose their own items to add. The items you add will depend on what type of filler – for example, you will have different items if the filler is water vs. wooden beads. Here’s some ideas for items: sifter, sieve, smaller containers, watering can, shovel, buckets, animals, dinosaurs, cars, dolls, spoons, small bowls, rolling pin, cookie shape cutouts, etc. You can also choose a theme for your bin to focus the learning on a specific concept – such as bugs, oceans, or rainbows.
Step 4: HAVE FUN!
The best part of making sensory bins, is getting to enjoy them with your child! We encourage you to play and explore along side your child!
- Rhythm and Rhyme and Early Literacy
Most parents would agree that learning to read is essential for young children. But how do we teach our children to love reading? At Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, we think reading and writing are so important that we made Language and Literacy our first pillar of learning in our Four Pillars of Learning curriculum.
Some of our favourite books for toddlers and preschoolers are written by Dr. Seuss. There’s just something about all of those wacky characters, silly rhyming words and colourful familiar stories. It’s always so much fun to invite children into a whimsical place that they will likely want to visit often.
The stories are so simple but are so broadly appreciated by both adults and children. I began to think back to my very first time I read an entire book by myself. In the summer between Grade 1-2, my grandfather gave me a copy of “The Cat in the Hat”. I remember how much I enjoyed the story. I started to flip the pages and wanted to read it again and again, memorized it and began to read it out loud with confidence. Soon after I began playing rhyming games which led to more word exploration with synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms.
The Dr. Seuss books show us that language and literacy can be fun and silly. Many Dr. Seuss books are written with lot of rhythm and rhyming words. Rhythm and Rhyme can help us in many ways. The rhythmic flow can hold the interest of the reader and the audience.
What we especially like about Dr. Seuss books is that his stories are far more than just lovely little springy poems but more of an introduction to language and literacy development. The books offer a bouncy, heavily rhythmic sound which gives the reader and the listener a crash course in early linguistics.
Rhythm is a vital tool for infants to understand when phrases end and begin. It is their first step in learning language and helps them develop a motor pattern. In a similar fashion before you learn to play an instrument you must first develop an understanding of rhythm. In the same way, rhythm helps to teach both language and literacy.
If you would like to learn more about how we teach language and literacy skills and what you can do at home to develop these skills, click on our Youtube video.
Heart-centred yoga for kids
Valentine’s Day is almost here. It’s a great time to stop and think about what love means to each of us. When we ask the children what they love they often tell us “Mommy & Daddy ” and sometimes “cookies”. Another great way to honor Valentine’s Day is by opening our hearts through creative movement.
Although at this time of year, we often focus on loving others, self-love is also important. In fact, it’s often said that you can’t love anyone else until
you love yourself first. Self-love starts with taking care of our bodies, minds and spirits and being healthy.
At Alpha’s Discovery Kids, we are packing our student’s toolboxes with mindful awareness skills through our Four Pillars of Learning curriculum. Yoga poses are a great way to connect to our body, mind and spirit. WE LOVE YOGA and this adorable series of poses really make our hearts skip a beat.
Here’s a poster to assist you with your poses.
REMEMBER It’s called practice because it takes time to learn. As always don’t forget to BREATHE and be safe.
For more lovely kids’ yoga ideas, check out www.kidsyogastories.com
For more information about mindfulness check this out: https://inlpcenter.org/mindfulness-training-experience-the-benefits-in-your-life/
For more information about how we teach mindfulness with young children, check out our Youtube Video.
Imagination – Exercise your Creative Muscle
Imagination is so important – especially during this pandemic – given the many thing we can’t do and would like to do! At Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, we foster children’s’ natural curiosity and imagination.
Recently, we did an art/music activity which encouraged children to imagine. We played child-friendly Beatles music and of course the John Lennon song” Imagine”. The children were given oil pastels to trace the outline of the iconic John Lennon scribble face. This was a free and open process but also was a great fine motor activity as the children followed the lines of the original piece. Then, they used dry tissue to rub the paper and blend the colors. The effect was so simple and so beautiful!
One of our curious students asked about the singer John Lennon. The teacher explained that he was an artist who made music and tried to help people to see the world in a beautiful way. He sang about equality, kindness, and a world where there was peace and harmony. We talked about imagining the world to be a better place. We used this as an opportunity to reframe the pandemic through our imaginations. While some of us are simply counting the days until the pandemic to be over, others have chosen to try to imagine and dream of all the things they will do when the pandemic is finally behind us. It’s about using our imagination to look at the world in a positive way – even during a pandemic.
Children are used to looking at things for what they can be, instead of what they are at face value. A cardboard box can be a rocket ship, or a robot costume. We can learn a lot from how children think. As adults, when we experience criticism and feedback, we become less open to playful and creative thinking. And, in turn, we lose our creative freedom. Creativity is a skill you can learn. It is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. This pandemic is the perfect opportunity to use that creative muscle and just imagine! It is often in times of constraints, that we become the most creative!
Try this activity with your child and have some fun!.
#1 Think of 2 things you did to survive during the Pandemic with the restrictions in place.
#2 IMAGINE what you will do when restrictions are lifted. There are no limits!
Click on our curriculum page to see more about how we foster curiosity and creativity through our Four Pillars of Learning.