SK Showcase and Weekend Links

For this week’s Simple Kids Showcase, the spotlight is on Nicole and her family.  Nicole writes:

I’m a firm believer in finding ways to incorporate lessons and learning into everyday play. I blogged about this recently in terms of teaching my little ones more about faith (64 Crayons…Redeemed). 

So, I’ve been trying to find a way to get my daughter interested in letters through creative outlets beyond the magnets on the fridge.  We recently bought some white Crayola Model Magic (great non-toxic stuff that dries firm in 24 hours).  She and I shaped the letters into the lowercase alphabet and over the last few days, we’ve been painting the letters together.  At each stage, we get to name the letters, feel them, move them around and talk about the noises they represent.  And once they’re all painted, I’m sure we can start to use them as figurines that ride on matchbox cars, eat in the play kitchen, or need to be pushed around in the stroller or wheel barrow. 

The Model Magic runs about $5 per bag and we were able to make all 26 lowercase letters with one pouch.  We bought white so that we could paint it together, but I’m sure you could have lots of fun with other colors as well.  There’s lots of possibilities here with uppercase letters, numbers, symbols, etc.  The learning is almost accidental as the focus is on having fun and being creative.  That’s my favorite way to learn…when I’m not even trying.

letters

Nicole’s trying to learn about being a mom, a wife, a friend and seeing God through every step at www.burningbushes.org.

Those turned out great!  Thank you for sharing, Nicole!

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Thank you all so much for taking a little time to respond to my reader survey last week.  Your feedback has been enormously helpful.

One thing I hope to do on a weekly basis is to share links to writings, pictures, ideas, and tips that are relevant to the Simple Kids community.  If you come across a great read during the week, feel free to email it to me so I can add it to the list!

Simply Practical
Notions and Threads: Cheap and Easy Bath Toy Project
Katherine Marie Photography: Organizing Art Supplies
Such Things: Morning Start

Simply Delicious
Under the High Chair: Twitterpated over Roast Broccoli with Lemon
Nourishing Days: One Pan Meal – Roasted Chicken & Vegetables

Inspired Projects
Cluck and Tweet: How Does Your Garden Grow?
Kids Craft Weekly: Paper Plate Crafts
Playful Learning: Alphabet Inspiration

Inspired Images
Days of Grace: Gifts of Spring

Inspired Words
Like Merchant Ships: A Grandmother’s Legacy
A Worthy Life: wild thang, y’all make my heart sing!

Wishing you a weekend of rest and reconnection celebrating the simple!

Connecting at the Playground

playground

Late last week, I took the girls to a playground at a park near our house. The evening weather was lovely and many families in our community found the pull of the playground to be irresistible.

Not long after we arrived, a woman brought two little girls who looked to be her granddaughters in through the playground gate. The woman settled in at a picnic table and continued on with a phone conversation via the ear piece nestled in her ear. This caused some manner of confusion for the little girls as they played nearby. From time to time, they would ask one another, “What? What did she say? Oh, she’s still on the phone. Okay.”

Not only have I observed this situation at nearly every play space (both indoor and outdoor) I’ve been to in the past four years, I’ve engaged in it myself. The playground offers a brief respite from the consuming work of raising children. On the comfy benches that encircle shopping mall playgrounds, moms and dads and grandparents and nannies read books and chat on the phone. Around the playscape at the park, the grown-ups pop open laptops or plug into their iPods.

I’ve done this very thing so many times myself. As a home manager, I’ve come to rely on the power of multitasking to get accomplished what needs to be done. We grown-ups, we are all very busy, and a trip to the playground usually means that somewhere, something has been left undone. If we can access those minutes on the sidelines of a playscape to return a few calls or get a few pages of the book club selection read, then the sacrifice of time doesn’t feel quite so burdensome.

And sometimes it isn’t about getting anything done at all. Sometimes it’s quite the opposite. After a long day of answering questions (“Mom, would an otter bite me?”) and cleaning marks off of the wall left behind by a marker unearthed from the mystery treasure trove only my toddler knows the whereabouts of, I just need a little time and space to zone out while my girls burn through some of the endless supply of energy
that propels them through each day.

At our last trip to the playground, as I observed the grandmother on the phone and the granddaughters at play, I began to think about all I miss out on when I put up invisible “do not disturb” signs around myself once we enter the playground gates:

Connecting with my children. I don’t know about your children, but my girls find it absolutely thrilling when I pull them into my lap so we can swing together or when I climb to the top of the ladder and go down the slide with them. Playing with a child at a playground delights the child because the adult has agreed to meet them in their world. It’s a beautiful validation for that little one that the experience of play is worth mommy mussing up her hair and her shoes a bit to share with her.

Connecting with other parents and caregivers. Parenting can be a lonely, isolating gig. I wonder how many new friendships I’ve missed out on because I was sending out very overt “closed” vibes. Sometimes a shared laugh over the antics of kids at play can be enough for two grown-ups to remember what we try to teach our children – that making friends isn’t really all that hard if you are willing to try.

Connecting with the other children at play.  The older of the two granddaughters at the playground the other night spotted me playing with my girls near the slide. She confided in me that they had just moved to our town a few days before and that the job their Daddy was supposed to get had suddenly fallen through. She had just finished first grade but the weight of the world was on her shoulders. I thought about how each of the children playing there that night had a story – some happy, and some not so happy. In a culture that makes it easy for adults to be increasingly disconnected from the children in their care, many children are craving the attention from someone who will listen for just a minute.

Please know that I am not insisting that every trip to the playground must be one of constant, alert, fully-present awareness. Sometimes we all need some space and some room to breathe. Sometimes we simply have to use those pockets of time that life hands us to take care of business. 

But perhaps every other playground outing or so, you might turn off your phone, cram yourself into that swing, and see if you can’t swing high enough to kick the sky. You might smell like a puppy who has been rolling in the grass by the time you head home, but I bet you’ll have exercised a little, laughed a lot, and maybe even made a friend or two.

Photo by are you my rik?

Simple As That: Savor the Evening Walk

walk

In our part of the country, we are enjoying the last days of authentic spring weather – high temperatures in the 80s with the occasional spring thunderstorm to cool things down and replenish the ground.  I think this is the perfect time of year to indulge in long, laid-back evening walks.

My girls and I like to put on our favorite walking shoes and start our walk by visiting the duck who lives across the alley from our backyard.  That is the only constant in our evening walk ritual; beyond our starting point, we never set out with a plan.  My four year old usually decides “left,” “right,” or “straight ahead,” and her little sister is happy just to be able to walk like a big girl instead of riding along in a baby carrier.

Our evening walks have allowed us to meet new neighbors, sneak up on squirrels, listen to the bird’s evening symphony, chase wandering kitty cats, and conclude our day by connecting with nature.

When and where do enjoy a daily walk?

Photo by kol.

SK Showcase and Survey

It’s Friday and that means it is Simple Kids Showcase day again! 

My oldest daughter’s first favorite book was Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I can remember her sitting in her car seat on road trips, slowly turning the sturdy pages, completely engrossed in the colorful illustrations and always delighted by the beautiful butterfly who appears at the end.  Caterpillars and butterflies are still her favorite creepy crawlies.

When I saw the caterpillar clips featured at Skip To My Lou this week, I knew it would be a project she would surely love.  It is truly a simple project and calls for supplies you probably already have tucked into your art supply cabinet:

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Just some glue, crafting poms, googly eyes, and clothespins!

(I will say the white school glue might not have been the best choice.  The poms don’t seem to take to it very well.  Next time I would use more of a crafting glue.)

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105a

When we were finished, we set them amongst some flowers and leaves so they would have something to eat.

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Such simple fun for little ones.  This would also be a great group project if you are planning an activity for a playgroup or class of younger children.

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It’s been just over three weeks since we re-launched Simple Kids, and I was wondering if you might have a minute or two this weekend to share some feedback.  My heart’s desire as the writer and editor of Simple Kids is to serve as a facilitator for a community of parents and caregivers who are seeking simplicity in the art of raising children.  I would so appreciate your insight on how I can best serve you all as Simple Kids readers and community members.

Would you mind to take a minute to answer three questions?

1. What posting frequency would best meet your needs as a reader?  2-3 times a week, 3-4 times a week, or 4-5 times a week?

2. Would you prefer that the majority of the articles and posts be more informational (posts such as Separating Yourself From Your Children’s Stuff, Frugal Fun (with a potato), and Geology Rocks) or would you prefer more advice-driven material (such as Bathtime Meditations and Be Intentional With Touch)?  Or would you prefer an even blend of the two approaches? 

3. Is the Simple Kids Showcase something you would like to continue to see on a weekly basis, or should it be a once-a-month feature, or is your desire to see what other families are creating and doing already fulfilled in other ways (crafting/photography/family blogs, magazines, etc.)?

Feel free to be as brief or elaborate as you have time to be!

Thanks so much for your helpful response. 

Our Unsung Favorite: Carry Me

I have to confess to you all that when I asked for your favorite “unsung” children’s literature suggestions, I never could have anticipated such an overwhelming response!  You all showed up with more than ninety replies and oodles of book recommendations.  What an absolute delight!

It makes me feel a bit intimidated to share a favorite from our home library, knowing there are so many reading who have a depth of insight into children’s literature that far surpasses my own.  A promise is a promise, however, so I’ll take a moment to share.

carrymeYou and your children may already be familiar with Rosemary Wells, the author and illustrator of the Max and Ruby series.  Last spring, my oldest daughter went through a prolonged phase of choosing only Max and Ruby books at each library trip.  One day, we were browsing through the books by Ms. Wells and happened upon Carry Me.  It’s not a Max and Ruby book, but it does include a bunny family, so my skeptical daughter agreed to add it to our stack.  Both of us were absolutely enchanted by this short, sweet book of simple poetry and lush illustrations.

The first poem is called “Carry Me” and tells of all the ways Little Bunny wants his mommy and daddy to include him in their days.  “Carry me up the stairs and down, Hold me while you get dressed for town” and “Carry me over to hear the bees, stuff my pockets with early peas” are some of my favorite lines from this section. 

The next short poem is called “Talk To Me” and it lyrically illustrates the many ways we as parents can include our littlest ones in the conversation all day long.  “Green apple, sour.  Red apple, sweet.  How many shoes are on my feet?”  This section was the first that my daughter and I memorized and we still recite it together from time to time.

The final section is “Sing To Me” and Wells shares the simplest and sweetest poems for each season.  Each season has its own song and shimmery, silvery illustrations to lead little imaginations to think far beyond the text of each poem.

If you get the chance to check this one out from the library or to add it to your home library, I lovingly recommend it.  It truly embodies the philosophy of Simple Kids – utterly uncomplicated and completely charming. 

As promised, one of the commenters has been selected to receive a copy of Carry Me from my girls and I.  The randomly selected commenter is Sherri of Serene Journey!  Her recommended favorite is Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathman which looks to be something my younger daughter would absolutely adore.

Now, friends of Simple Kids, I have a favor to ask.  Several of you have mentioned that the books suggested on that post could prove to be such a valuable resource for our community, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if they were organized by recommended reading age?  I wholeheartedly agree!  As I am acutely aware of my own limitations, this is a project that would be quite an undertaking on my own.  Are there a couple of you who might volunteer to partner with me in this task?  The more who volunteer, the less time it should take for us to organize the list.  If you are interested in helping, please let me know via comment on this post or through email (simplekidsblog at gmail dot com).

Happy reading!