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Entries in preschool (6)

Sunday
Feb172013

Will the Real Dr. Suess Please Stand Up?

Yesterday I went into Barnes & Noble.  Maybe it had been a while, or maybe I am looking at things through a different lens these days.  Maybe it was the Michaels/B&N combo that did me in.  You can call me a snob or a royal pain in the ass, but  I am going to say it anyway - what is this load of commercialized crap that is being passed off as “children’s literature”?  (Not to mention all of the crappy, commercialized toys you now have to walk by to even get to the children’s books).  

I would love to know what percentage of children’s books they had to offer that are not tied in to a television show or movie series.  Sadly, no matter how much you limit a child’s exposure to television, they are still going to go straight for Dora the darned Explorer.  I feel sad for the innovative storytellers and gifted illustrators whose quality books get hidden behind the mountains of Doras, Disney Princesses and Super heroes.  

Here’s what I think (for what its worth)...

  1. We are killing creativity by surrounding children (suffocating them?) with the same crap  everywhere they go.  Only they don’t know it.  We are the ones who are supposed to know better.
  2. We are turning our children into buying machines (hoarders?), wanting, needing, obsessing over having every single thing from band-aids to soup to underpants with that “amazing” character on them.  It is reinforced by television, by friends, by well meaning adults who want to make the child happy.  We know that anything with Bob the Builder on it will make Johnny squeal with delight, so we buy it.    The industry knows this, so they keep cranking it out.  
  3. When someone does come up with something really innovative and creative we kill it by turning it into a vehicle to sell, sell, sell more crap, crap, crap.

Where does all of this commercialized crap that we don’t need go when we are done with it?  How many resources are used to produce it?  

On that note - just think about this for a minute...  

Think about the sick, laughable irony of what has been done to Dr. Suess.  Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Suess) was way ahead of his time.  This man was able to delight children while slipping in some pretty important messages (aimed as much, or perhaps more so, at parents as they were at children). They are messages about greed, selfishness, boasting, karma, redemption and environmentalism.  In his book, The Lorax, he tried to “speak for the trees.” Are you familiar with the story?  I think most people are, but just in case, I will give you a synopsis -

The environment is completely ruined because a man chopped down all the trees and polluted the air and the water by mass producing a product in his factory that “everyone needs.”

Hmm.

I will leave you with these words by Geisel himself:

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Feb142013

Don't Forget the Tutu

Years ago, when I was a teacher at Little Friends, I can remember having a good laugh one day when we looked in a little boy’s bag for spare clothing and found nothing but a pink tutu.  The parents were good natured and had a good laugh along with us, but I know there was a certain amount of judgement there on my part.  I’m sure I was thinking something like...

“A tutu?  Really?  That's what this poor boy has for spare clothes? What goes on in that house?”  

Because, after all, what’s so hard about sending your child to school every day with everything you’re asked to bring?  How hard could this parenting or this parenting plus career thing be?

To those parents, and to all parents that I, in my ignorant bliss, judged, I sincerely apologize.   

Here’s a quick list of things I thought I’d never do...

Forget my child’s lunchbox at home.

Check.

Send my child with her lunch in a huge cooler because I ordered the pretty flowered lunchboxes too late.

Check.

Arrive at school with no spare clothing for my child (not even a pink tutu).

Check.

Carry my child into school kicking and screaming.

Check.

Carry my child out of school kicking and screaming.

Check.

Have two people arrive separately to pick up my child from school because my husband and I didn’t coordinate our plans (by the way, her school is 40 minutes away.  Ouch.)

Check.

Send the wrong lunch with the wrong child, inadvertently smuggling a peanut butter grenade into a nut free zone.

Check.

Remember the store bought Christmas gifts for my kindergartner’s teachers, but misplace the gifts that were actually made for them by my daughter.

Check.

Find aforementioned handmade gifts in February and enthusiastically present them to my daughter to give to her teachers as Valentine’s Day gifts.

Check.

Accept that I am not the perfect mom, but I am the perfect mom for my girls.

Check.


Sunday
Nov252012

A Garland of Experiences

Advent is swiftly approaching and Christmas decorations are beginning to spring up.  Personally, I love it.  Its not that I want to be rushed to celebrate Christmas sooner, but rather that I like to enjoy the holiday season for as long as possible.  There is so much richness to be enjoyed if we can remember to slow down and savor the moments shared with the ones we love.

Like most children, mine begin asking how many days there are until Christmas as soon as the turkey is off of the Thanksgiving table.  This is one of the reasons I love Advent calendars.  Although I suppose I have loved them since I was a child and my mother made one for my brothers and me.  An advent calendar gives a visual representation of time and also gives the children (and the parents) a little something special to look forward to each day.  Most are made of paper and a small window is opened each day to reveal a tiny image.  The one I had growing up was a large felt tree with 25 felt ornaments which were placed on it one by one.  My two brothers and I took turns placing an ornament on the tree each day, and this simple gesture was something to which we all looked forward.  We now take turns passing this family treasure from one sibling to another so we can each share it with our own children.

In the last few years I have noticed a lot of Advent garlands.  Different from the calendars, they are designed not only to represent the days of Advent, but also typically have pockets so that one may place a small gift in each.  Advent garlands are beautiful, but the idea of placing a gift in each pocket gives me pause for a couple of reasons.  First, who has the money (and the wealth of ideas?) to equip the garland with twenty-four little gifts, and then still have something left over on Christmas morning?  Of course, one could opt for inexpensive little plastic trinkets, but then you’ll have twenty five little plastic trinkets, which will inevitably end up going into the landfill (or into the family pet).  I also don’t like planting the seed that Christmas is all about receiving things.  So, last year I posed the question to friends: 

How about an Advent garland full of experiences rather than gifts? 

We came up with a wonderful list of experiences, each of which could be placed on a little note card in each pocket of an Advent garland.  You may need to really plan out which experiences fall on which days (weekday versus weekend, for example), as some require more of a time commitment than others.  I actually held our stash of cards aside and chose one each night to place in the pocket for the next day.  A couple of small handmade or well chosen gifts or bits of candy can be interspersed as well, but the overall sentiment behind this kind of garland is more about giving and spending time together than about receiving a gift.  

Here is the list my friends and I created:  

Have a treasure hunt to your stash of Christmas books (make a treasure map for the children to follow)

Do something kind for the Earth today

Do something kind for an animal today

Do something kind for another person today

Tonight we will have your favorite dinner

Wear your pajamas and have breakfast for dinner

Go outside and look at the stars after dinner

Write a letter to Santa

Call someone and tell them you love them

Draw a picture for a friend or family member 

Write a letter to a friend or family member who lives far away

Bring some food, clothing or toys to a shelter

Buy a toy for a child less fortunate

Bake cookies

Visit a new playground

Hike in a new location

Have special alone time with Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa...

Make a Christmas gift for someone

Go to the Children’s Museum

Bring cookies to local community workers (police, fire department...)

Choose a friend to have over for a play date

Go to the library to choose some Christmas books

Have a scavenger hunt in your home for items red and green

Make a list of things for which you are thankful

Visit an elderly neighbor

Go caroling

Decorate the tree/Pick out a tree

Make ornaments

Invite a neighbor to dinner

Make some reindeer food (granola, bird seed, nuts, seeds - the birds like it too)

I welcome you to add more ideas in the comments below!  Have fun!

{Pictured is a simple garland I made last year from craft paper.}

 

Tuesday
Oct092012

Bear with Us

We had full-day faculty meeting today at Bloom. I wanted to pass on a little anecdote that was shared.  Last week there were two little boys in the preschool class who "became" bears.  Little hands became claws, wild eyes flashed and they “roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth,” so to speak.  This was okay for a while, but the bears became more and more “wild.”  It is at this point that many of us adults of the non-bear variety might suggest that the boys become something else, engage in something else, or simply calm down.  Instead, our lovely Miss Marie declared, “Oh dear, these bears seem to need someone to take care of them!  Who will feed them?  Hmmm, I think they need to be brushed as well...”  This call to duty was answered by two eager classmates.  The bears were thrilled - not only were they being acknowledged as bears, but a whole new layer was added to their play.  As it turns out, bears - when groomed and fed - become much tamer creatures.  

I loved hearing this story.  I loved that instead of telling the children “that’s enough” or “calm down,” their teacher took a moment to use her imagination.  In doing so she managed to honor and encourage the imaginative play of the children, while infusing the bear play with an element of calm.  Well done.

Wednesday
Jun202012

The Elephant in the Yard

I have noticed with my daughters (ages 3 and 6), that often when I am sitting down, watching them play (or hoping to), there is suddenly a fog of boredom that wafts through the room.  Conflicts seem to more readily arise between them.  Conversely, when I am physically busy with chores or hobbies, the children either want to help, or they respect the tasks at hand and become industrious in their own parallel way.  Perhaps the feeling is that if I am “just” sitting there, I am available to resolve all conflicts (therefore why not create more, since we have a built in referee?) and I should also, obviously, entertain them.  Yet  when left to their own devices, they can resolve conflicts and create more imaginative games than I ever could.  I think it is so important to give them these opportunities to play and to navigate how to treat one another without my constant input. 

Sometimes the chores of the day capture the children’s interest, and they ask to help.  Laundry, dishes and cleaning tasks can all be rewarding work for them, but what thrills them the most is the real work that happens outside - digging, weeding, watering, planting, mulching, harvesting.  Gardens are magical, even to me as an adult.  I still find myself a bit surprised when a seed I have tended emerges as a food producing plant!  

One day recently, my husband decided to make a koi pond in our backyard.  He spent hours digging a big hole for the pond.  The girls were initially fascinated, and though the excitement waned a bit while the afternoon stretched on, they matched his industriousness with their own digging in the sandbox, as well as helping me to weed and water the garden beds.  Beau set up a table with a notepad and pen, and like a mini archeologist, she rinsed, examined and documented the random items being uncovered in the excavation site...marbles, pottery, whiffle ball, hair clip, coal, elephant?  We passed an entire afternoon busily and contentedly in our little backyard.  (I have a really cute picture of Ruby to add here, but she is one of those new-age, garden-in-your-underwear types).

Sometimes we adults don’t feel like being industrious, and I am not insinuating that we  shouldn’t sit down and relax now and then. Children need to have down time too, and its good for them to see us taking care of ourselves.  I am simply reflecting on how our own work, whether it is done with the assistance of our children or merely in their vicinity,  is an important factor in the children developing their own sense of confidence and self worth.  Whether they are learning how entertain themselves, how to get along with their siblings or how to fold laundry, they feel empowered by these experiences.  Their will is strengthened by being treated like a welcomed and competent helper, as well as by not always needing to be helped

Food for thought:  Sometimes the tasks at hand can take a little longer (okay, a lot longer) when we are assisted by our young children.  But look at it this way - if we do not honor their pleas to participate in our family work now when the desire to be included is so heartfelt, do we still have the right to complain when they get older and no longer have any desire or inclination to contribute?