Monday, April 23, 2012

Simply, a Squiggle

Who knew....
one simple, 3-4 foot piece of yarn could equal a morning literally loaded with learning? 

Call it a squiggle, throw the mystery word, "imagine" in the mix and WAH LAH!, learning in it's purest form. 

Motivated, fearless learning lead by trial and error, cause and effect, talking, sharing, teamwork, imagination, pride, invention, problem solving and pure, pure fun all sparked from a well-placed, purposeful plop (see definition below)! 

Plop (plop!) n:  a book, song, word or object that has the ability to inspire imagination, play and curiosity.  It acts as a catalyst to spark all sorts of fantastic learning opportunities.  

The only direction I gave when the children each picked up their own squiggle was:
"IMAGINE!  What could your squiggle be?"

A child's imagination is different then that of an adults.  A child's is on standby or ready alert at all times, ready to imagine at a moment's notice.  Adults, on the other hand, sometimes have to wake up their imagination from a deep sleep and give it a chance to freshen up before it is able to deliver.
Test your imagination with the following pictures.  See how yours stands up to the imagination of a child!!  You will find the "answer" at the end of the blog.  Keep in mind, this is your there are no wrong answers....simply different answers.  See if you can think like a child!



 As play usually works, one thing led to another.  When Avery discovered she could use her squiggle for fishing, it was as if a brand new world was invented! Suddenly the previously, unspoken boundary of making something on the floor with your squiggle no longer existed.  Suddenly, the squiggle could be something that you could hold in your hand.

Avery used her squiggle to make a pond
for Jack to go fishing in!

Ethan decided he wanted to catch something real...which opened up even
MORE possibilities!

In an instant, Avery's moment of fishing transformed the environment into a room full of tying and pulling.  There was problem solving, trial and error and teamwork going on everywhere you looked.  The squiggle had become a tool, a means to move something. 
Ty is pulling the bucket around the room.  Bergen is making
a fish.

Bergen was the first to pull a chair around....and then, the addition of passengers was genius!!

Two year old Lindsey decides pulling stuff around looks like fun.
So she goes to work wrapping a bucket with her squiggle.

It doesn't take long....

before she realizes her method did not work. 
Failure did not keep her from trying again!

Across the room, Ethan is also learning through trial and error, persistance and problem solving.  I was amazed at his dedication to pulling the pirate ship.  He wanted to succeed so very badly.
Try after try, with each try involving lots of small motor work and eye hand coordination.

Finally, he was successful and the pirate ship set sail across the wide open ocean!

Alayna was VERY proud of her discovery!!
When a child found success, they were quick to share their method with others.  Look at Alaynas method above.  Prior to this discovery, everyone was wrapping buckets with the squiggle in order to pull them around holding onto one piece of the squiggle.  Alayna's idea triggered even more problem solving!

In the photo below, we see Jack.  Jack has never been a follower.  He prefers to play his own way, and that play always ends up with a grand discovery.  Notice the squiggle in the container?  He discovered if he dropped his arm very swiftly, the squiggle would come flying out!  Children are natural scientists.  He repeated the flying squiggle over, and over, and over again.  Each time with the same amount of success.  He also tried fancier moves with his arms to see if it affected the flight pattern of the squiggle.  I was mesmerized watching his process of learning.
If one squiggle is fascinating to watch take flight...imagine two!  Working together, Jack and Molly test drive two squiggles.

So then.  How does your imagination compare with that of a child?

PHOTO A:  A pirate head (wearing a pirate hat)
PHOTO B:  A turtle (created by a 2 yr old I might add)
PHOTO C:  A hood (like the hood of a jacket) :)
PHOTO D:  A balloon

One last thing....there is a book called "The Squiggle" but please, don't read it to your children prior to their squiggle exploration.  See what their amazing minds can create with the squiggle first!!  Maybe even make your own book called "The Squiggle"!!

Also -- if you don't have this worries!!  The book does NOT make the activity!  While it's nice to have a book to go along with an activity, it's not always necessary!  Don't let the fact that you do not have "The Squiggle" keep you from plopping squiggles!

Did you notice all the learning inspired from a piece of yarn?!  A simple piece of white yarn.  See the learning in the simple.  Acknowledge the learning sparked from the simple.  Remember ALL learning counts..... learning in PLAY COUNTS too!!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The "Read it Again" List

Yesterday, as I was packing for a speaking engagment this weekend, my crew saw me grabbing one of our newer favorite books, Balloons Balloons Balloons by Dee Lillegard.  I found this gem last year at Barnes and Noble in the "bargain books bin" for $5.95.  Just recently I introduced it to the children, and it has become an instant favorite.

As I was packing it, I decided to check on it's availability.  I hate to share books that people can't get any longer, and since I found it in the "bargain" section, chances were pretty good that it might not be in print anymore.

So, to the trusty internet I went.  What did I learn?  It is available.  For an amazingly HEFTY price!!!  Get this...on , the cost of a new copy ranges from $129.95 - $297.85!!!  Now, if that is out of your budget...perhaps a used copy for $73.95 - $273.37!!  CRAZY!!!

My first thought:  " shoes and a purse!!"
My second thought:   " is a fantastic book, I should feel honored that I get to share it with young children."
My third thought:  "....but....if it was worth a million dollars, THEN we would only have a top 19 list!"

Anyway, I posted this moment on my "Play Counts" Facebook page and one of the responses was "I'd love to see your list of top 20 books"  And thus.....this blog post was born!

So then...without any further a duex......I present you with the

"Top 20 Read it Agains"
(according to the children at Giggles and Grins Daycare and Playschool)

Each of these selections are uniquely loaded with their own treasures.  Listen to the children in your program.  Books that are favorites at my program may only get a so-so review at yours.  The love of a book has a lot to do with the reader.  It's not only the story, but also how the book  is presented, read, interpreted and what the interests of the audience are.  Read aloud for the enjoyment of a story....yes, there are math skills, literacy skills and social/emotional skills that can be addressed in all of these books... but the main reason we read to children is to instill a love of reading in them.  Allow the children to get lost in the book and let their imaginations run wild!

When children voluntarily recite a story during KNOW it's
a good one!!!  That is the case with Boom Bah by Phil Cummings! 

One cannot read this book without their
imagination going CRAZY!!  Read my previous
blog post about My Garden to see how this
book has inspired imaginations in my

EXTREMELY funny, and VERY imaginative!

Julia Donaldson writes with such a unique rhythm that is
very enticing.  Her books also rhyme and the storyline
is very appealing to young children!

As the reader of the story, I LOVE TO READ THIS!!!  It is my time to shine
as a former theater nut!!, what about the children?  They love it as
well....the illustrations are amazing, and the storyline is very creative!

Children LOVE ice cream!  Steve Metzger knows
what children can relate too!  Most can relate to ice cream. 
This selection has inspired SO much imaginative
play!!!  Check out the blog post that is all about The Ice Cream King  for
more info.!

The reason for this post.... if you can find it for a reasonable price, I guarantee
the children in your life will LOVE IT!!  It's not, however, worth $297.00!!!

This word-less wonder is one of our most favorite of the
favorites!!!  Imagination OVERLOAD (in a good way!!)  Make sure
to be prepared with chalk and a water source for some
amazing imaginative play!
Virginia Walter (or anyone that knows Virginia):  PLEASE put this
book back in print!!  It's a wonderfully, ridiculously simple book that
young children LOVE!  They LOVE LOVE LOVE it!  If you find it
at a rummage sale...snag it! It's another WAAAY over-priced gem
on Amazon!

This is a new favorite for us.  I just discovered it last week, and
it has quickly made it to the "read it again" list!  The author, Laura Leuck
knows how to spark the imagination of a young child.  Who wouldn't love
to fly through the sky like a butterfly... for just one day?!!

An oldie, but a goodie!  Loved by all!

This book is pure GOLD!  So much fun...a nice read on a cozy
rainy day!  Use your imagination as to how children can
truly break beds!!  (If you've seen me present, you know what
my children LOVE to do...but, come on now, I can't give EVERYTHING away!!) 
Be clever...and listen to the children's ideas!!

This was a favorite of mine as a child, so it's wonderful
to be able to make it a favorite for so many more children!! 

This book is a joy to read and listen to.  It gets the children involved as they cannot
keep from joining in with the rhyming style and sneaky rhythm! 

Another one that inspires imagination!  This is NOT your typical "I want to be a policeman when
I get big book"  NOT in the least bit!!  LOADS and LOADS of fun!!  My children
love to debate between the different "jobs" this book talks about and why they would
prefer to do one over another!  "Would you rather be a Puddle Stomper or
an Apple Chomper?"

Every single rainy day comes with the promise of
"reading" The Yellow Umbrella.  This is another wordless wonder
that is absolutely magical.  It comes with an instrumental CD that
makes sharing this book a very calming experience for all!

Seriously.....just get this one!  It's a rhyming, giggling, super fun
read accompanied by lots of tickling!!  There are "tickle monster gloves" available
as well.  I HIGHLY suggest them!

Another Julia Donaldson masterpiece (The Gruffalo).  Amazingly, this
book has the same rhythm and feel as The Gruffalo.  It has rhythm, repetition and rhyme that
always encourages children to read right along with you!

This is a HILARIOUS read, and another FANTASTIC
choice for those with a love of the stage!  Pure enjoyment for the reader and listener both!!  Practice
up on your Spanish, French and Southern accents, and be prepared for laughter! 
Catherine Friend HAD to have had a blast writing this!!  And John Manders
illustrated it PERFECTLY!

Holy imagination inspiration!  This book has been the catalyst for HOURS
and HOURS of grand imaginative play!!  We haven't read this book for a few months,
yet the imaginative play inspired by this book continues!!  I would
love to meet the author's (Jason Hook) grandpa!!  Read the blog post all
about Where's the Dragon for more info!!

And there you have it!  The top 20 "read it agains" according to some brilliant young minds!! 

I could write a blog post about the learning potential of each of these books, but for now -- share these with your children, then follow their imaginations and ideas!  Children LOVE to bring books alive!!  I'll work on further blog posts --- you, just go enjoy!!, be inspired and GO PLAY!!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's In There

Just as Ragu proudly exclaims "It's In There".  Play can make the same declaration. 

Sharing?  Compromise?  Patience?  Teamwork?


Trial and error?  Cause and effect?  Problem Solving?  Imagination?


Making sense of numbers?  Using words?  Expanding vocabularies?


Self regulation?  Compassion?  Creativity?  Sense of pride?




When you give play a chance, when you sit back and really take a close look at play, you simply cannot argue with the statment:  IT'S IN THERE.

Just in the last 45 minutes, this is what was found in play at my program:

The planned part:

1)  The MYSTERY WORD ("hunt") was written on an index card and hung on the wall
2)  The letters, h,u,n,t were hidden
3)  Plastic Easter eggs were taken apart and hidden seperately from their other half...some up in the buckets held to the ceiling by our PULLEY SYSTEM, some in plain site
4)  Various bunnies found at the $1 section of Target were hidden (bendy bunnies, hopping bunnies similiar to Ants in the Pants, and wind up bunnies)

What was in there:
  • Pride in discovery as the children find all the fun things that have been hidden
  • Teamwork and cooperation in finding the letters for the mystery word and building it
  • Literacy skills to figure out what the mystery word is. 
Bergen (5), began the process (she's a take charge kind of a gal): 
Bergen:  "Okay boys and girls.  What sound does "H" make?" response
Bergen:   "H says "huh"."   "Okay....what does "U" say?"
Jack (turned 3 2 weeks ago):  "Uh"
Bergen:  "YES!  Nice job Jack"
Ty (5):   "I KNOW!  I KNOW it!!  It says "hunt"!"
Me:  "Wow Ty!  You are right!!  The mystery word is "hunt"!!  Nice job using your smarts!!"
Cole:  "HEY!  It says "hunt" because we are hunting for eggs!"
Gavin:  "And bunnies"
  • The relevance of numbers
Gavin:  "It must be Easter today!  Denita?  Is it Easter today?"
Me:  "It might feel that exciting Gavin, but Easter is not today.  Easter will be on Sunday."
Ty:  "When is Sunday?"
Me:  "Use your smarts, and tell ME when Sunday is" to our "deconstructed calendar" they went to use their smarts.  Within minutes, they showed me when Sunday would be.  I then asked them how many days until Sunday.  Five was their response.  AWESOME.

Meanwhile....across the room, Jack and Erik are busy counting the Easter eggs as they load up an egg carton.

  • Trial and error, prediction, visual planning and tracking as Ethan discovered the fun of catapulting a bunny into a bucket
  • One-to-one coorespondence as Gavin made sure no one had more then one bendy bunny.
  • Number recognition as today's number was found and placed in the right spot on the calendar
  • Fine tuning those small motor muscles by putting plastic eggs together
  • Visual descrimination as they hunt for the matching halves of eggs
  • Imagination as two children are role playing with the bendy bunnies...inventing their own "bunny language"
  • Role Playing, practicing what we know, more imagination as Gavin is walking around selling "EASTER EGGS!  WHO WANTS TO BUY AN EASTER EGG?!"
  • Applying Previously Learned Knowledge to a NEW Situation, Imagination, Trial and Error, Cause and Effect as a group of children build a ramp and watch as the eggs successfully wobble down to to the ground!
  • Patience, sharing, cooperation, planning, strengthening large muscles and even more imagination as a group of children have organized themselves into a game of jumping.  They have the step stool (always available for solving problems), and the squishy square floor tiles set up for a landing pad.  There is a line of 7 children patiently awaiting their turn to jump onto the squishy squares they have carefully arranged.  Add in the backwards counting from 10 as each child approaches "lift off" and you've got some math too!!

Play.....IT'S IN THERE!!