{     Offering the Best Childhood Preparation for Social and Academic Success.     }

Archive for the ‘Activities’ Category

Thanksgiving Crafts

There is so much to be thankful for this time of year, and what better way to explore the concept of thankfulness with your child than through activities you can do together? These Thanksgiving-themed crafts are the perfect place to start.   

Turkey Tracks 

Where did the Thanksgiving turkey go? Follow the tracks to see! Your child will enjoy this activity while learning spatial relationships, developing fine motor skills and getting creative. 

Materials 

  • Pipe cleaners; 
  • Paint in assorted fall colors; 
  • Paper plate; 
  • Paper. 

Directions 

  1. Help your child bend a pipe cleaner in half to make the turkey’s legs, and then bend the ends of the pipe cleaner on each side to make the turkey’s feet. Make one set of turkey feet for each color of paint you use. 
  2. Pour each color of paint onto a paper plate to create a palette.  
  3. Have your child dip the pipe cleaners into the paint and make “turkey tracks” on a piece of paper. 

Thanksgiving Place Cards 

Help your child get involved with the Thanksgiving festivities by creating place cards for the dinner table. This activity supports writing, counting and creative skills while connecting to those you love. 

Materials  

  • Cardstock; 
  • Scissors; 
  • Crayons and markers; 
  • Glue; 
  • A variety of craft supplies. 

Directions 

  1. Talk with your child about the family members and friends who will be attending your Thanksgiving dinner.  
  2. Cut the cardstock to twice the desired size of the place cards, and then fold them in half to make tents. Slightly larger place cards will be easier for a little one to decorate! 
  3. Help your child write each person’s name on a place card. 
  4. Let your child get creative and start decorating them any way your child would like. 
  5. When setting the table for Thanksgiving dinner, let your child put out the place cards. 

 Leaf Letters 

From learning to identify letters to spelling simple words, the number of activities you can do with this simple fall craft are endless. You’ll love spending time outdoors with this fun way to help build your child’s knowledge of letters along with developing their fine motor skills. 

Materials 

  • At least 36 leaves; 
  • A black permanent marker. 

Directions 

  1. Go on a nature walk with your child and collect leaves. You will need at least one leaf for each letter of the alphabet and some extras.  
  2. Write each letter of the alphabet on a separate leaf. 
  3. Have your child identify the letters, put them in order, trace the letter shapes with a finger and spell out different words. If your child can recognize uppercase and lowercase letters, make a set of each, and have your child match the uppercase letters with the lowercase ones. The possibilities for language and literacy lessons are endless!  

 Fall Mosaic Wreath 

Your child can help you decorate for the season with this fun craft. Besides the fact that children simply love to tear up paperthis is a great way for them to get their creative juices flowing while strengthening their fine motor and pre-writing skills.  

Materials  

  • Construction paper in fall colors; 
  • A paper plate; 
  • A glue stick; 
  • Scissors; 
  • String or yarn to hang the wreath. 

Directions 

  1. Cut out the inside of the paper plate so that the outer ring is left.  
  2. Have your child tear up pieces of construction paper. 
  3. Help your child glue the pieces of construction paper around the paper plate, and talk about the difference between a mosaic, where the pieces of paper don’t touch one another, and a collage, where they can overlap.  
  4. Once the glue is dry, tie the yarn or string around it to hang it up 

 

Autumnal Luminaria 

These festive lights are perfect for cozy fall nights, and they are a great way to bring nature indoors. Your child will build fine motor skills while following a sequence of steps to create a special candle. 

Materials  

  • Leaves; 
  • Clear glass jars; 
  • Mod Podge; 
  • A foam paintbrush; 
  • Battery-operated votive candles. 

Directions 

  1. Have your child paint one side of the leaves with Mod Podge and place them against the insides of the jars.  
  2. Allow the leaves to dry, and then help your child paint another thin coat of Mod Podge on top of the leaves to help seal them to the jar.  
  3. Once the Mod Podge dries, place a battery-operated votive candle inside the jar and enjoy!
     

Pine Cone Turkeys 

This fun fall craft is a great way to get little ones involved in setting the holiday table and sharing their thankfulness.  Along the way, you’ll help your child build processing skills through sensory learning while supporting their development of self-awareness 

Materials  

  • Large, unscented pine cones;  
  • Construction paper;   
  • Washable markers;  
  • Googly eyes;  
  • Child-safe scissors;  
  • Glue.  

Instructions  

  1. Trace your child’s hand on a sheet of construction paper, and cut out the handprint.  
  2. Ask your child to share at least five things he or she is thankful for, and write one thing on each finger.  
  3. Write your child’s name on the palm of the hand.  
  4. Draw a small diamond on an orange or yellow sheet of construction paper, and cut it out.  
  5. Fold the diamond in half to create a beak for the turkey. Repeat as necessary for multiple turkeys.   
  6. Glue googly eyes to the tapered end of the pine cone 
  7. Glue the beak below the googly eyes.  
  8. Insert the handprint between the back scales of the pine cone so that it stands up. If it won’t stay upright, glue the hand to the bottom of the pine cone 
  9. Have everyone who is coming to your Thanksgiving dinner create a turkey, or make them ahead of time to use as place cards.

Picture Frame Collage 

This craft is a wonderful way to help your child understand the concept of thankfulness. Before you begin making the frame, talk to your child about someone your child is grateful to know, and explain that the frame will be a gift for that person. Gift giving supports your child’s development of social awareness and relationship skills.

Materials 

  • An unfinished picture frame; 
  • Glue; 
  • Assorted fall-themed materials, such as leaves, acorn caps and  colored paper ; 
  • A picture to include in the frame, such as a photo or a piece of your child’s artwork. 

Directions 

  1. Remove the back of the frame and the glass, and keep them away from your child’s reach.  
  2. Help your child arrange and glue the fall-themed materials around the frame.  
  3. Set the frame aside to dry, and help your child choose a photo or create a drawing to place in the frame.  
  4. When the glue is dry, replace the glass, place the picture inside the frame and replace the back. 

Whether you and your child try all of the crafts on this list or just a few, you’ll both be most thankful for your time together.  

Socially Safe Halloween Masks Craft

Your Halloween celebrations might be physically distanced this year, but wearing a face covering for the festivities doesn’t mean your child has to compromise on a cool costume. Here’s how you can make your child’s face mask part of their trick-or-treating gear. 

 Materials 

  • Non-toxic foam sheets 
  • Washable glue sticks  
  • Hot glue gun 
  • Disposable paper masks 
  • Paper straws 

 Directions 

  1. Talk with your child to decide what kind of mask you should make. The possibilities are endless. If you need a little inspiration, take a look at this video for some ideas!
  2. To create an eye mask, help your child cut out a basic mask shape from a sheet of foam. Cut out foam shapes for your child to glue onto the mask with a glue stick.  
  3. Use the glue gun to attach a paper straw to the side of the eye mask as a handle. Only adults should use the glue gun. 
  4. Cut additional foam pieces to create a mouth for the face covering, and glue them in place with the glue gun.  

Now, your child is ready for a fun and healthy Halloween!  

Are you looking for more safe and spooktacular Halloween ideas? Check out this article on the Goddard School blog featuring some fun activities beyond trick-or-treating! 

Three Approaches to Teaching Your Child to Be Kind

women holding preschool child

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We all want our children to be happy, well liked and good to others. How do we support our children in learning to be kind? This topic often comes up in fall as children make new friends at school, and it is part of the National Bullying Prevention Month messages. This year, we will want to use same approaches to online interactions since so many children are interacting with classmates, friends and family members through video chats.  

Children develop social-emotional skills in many ways. The three approaches that make the most impact are modeling role playing and playing games, and storytelling. Parents can help to build a foundation for their young children by incorporating these approaches in their families’ daily activities.   

Modeling – Act kind yourself. Modeling is by far the best way to instill kind behavior in your children. Children love to imitate us, and if we act in a kind manner, they will, tooPraise your children when they exhibit kindness, and explain why you thought what they did was a kind thing to do. It’ll become a habit. When you see kindness in others, share your thoughts with your children. “That was so kind of Jane to share her snack with you at school.” In an online situation, compliment your child (i.e., “You waited your turn to speak.  That was great!”). When our children hear the praise we give others, they will want to exhibit the same behavior. Try not to be negative, and redirect your children when they act unkindly. For example, explain how the other person may feel, talk about what your children could have done differently and help your children apologize.  

Role Playing and Playing Games – Create opportunities for your child to play. Your child will act out reallife situations while playing with stuffed animals, robotic toys and dolls. Interacting in unguided play with other children also supports learning to get along with others. Playing games can be part of dramatic play, tooGames help children learn to take turns and develop sportsmanship. Try games where your children need to collaborate with another player to win. Relay races, parachute games and family scavenger hunts are several good choices.   

Reading and Sharing Stories – Read stories where the characters must make decisions about their behaviors. Talk about the consequences of both kind and not-so-kind actions. Children learn through the stories by relating to the characters and the events. Here are some favorites that focus on kindness to get you started: 

  • If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson 
  • I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët 
  • Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton 
  • The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace 
  • Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter 

You can also share stories from your childhood or from your family’s experiences. These are important to young children and can help them learn life’s lessons. 

 

More Than Just Fun and Games: What Children Can Learn from Playing Games

child playing board game with parent

By Helen Hadani, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

After sheltering in place for several months, many families are digging deep into their closets and garages for games that haven’t seen the light of day for months or even years. For families with young children, classic games like Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish and Candyland are fun ways to enjoy family time, but they also promote important social skills, including taking turns and sharing, and academic skills, such as counting, color matching and comparing numbers.  

By definition, games include rules. Remembering those rules requires working memory (the part of our memory that allows us to hold and mentally manipulate information in our minds), and following rules often requires self-control. For example, children have to resist the urge to touch their toes when playing Simon Says unless they hear the magic words “Simon says.” Similarly, in the classic outdoor game Red Light, Green Light, children need to exhibit self-control and only run fast when they hear “green light.” Even just waiting until it is your turn can be hard! 

Simple card games like Go Fish, Old Maid and Crazy Eights involve matching suits or numbers, which promotes early math skills. When children roll dice or use a spinner to determine the number of spaces they should move, they have an opportunity to practice counting. In fact, researchers have found that playing a number-based board game like Chutes and Ladders can improve preschoolers’ numerical knowledge and skills. 

Games are meant to be sources of entertainment and joy (and they bring out the competitive side in some of us), but research shows that some games can also promote cognitive and social skills.  

Don’t worry if your children ask to play their favorite game more times than you want to count – they are learning along the way as they get to that last spot on the board! 

Five Awesome Backyard ‘Stay-cation’ Ideas

five awesome backyard stay-cation ideas

Your family’s vacation plans may have changed drastically this summer, but you can still take a break, unwind and build some amazing summertime memories! These five staycation ideas will make staying home feel almost as good as getting away from it all.

  1. Bring the beach to you. Sand, sun and surf sound great right about now, don’t they? With a little preparation, your family can have the perfect beach experience right in your backyard (minus the French fry-stealing seagulls, of course). Simply set up an umbrella, some chairs and a wading pool in your backyard. Add a few bags of sand and boom, instant beach! Have a family sandcastle-building contest, wade in the “ocean,” share a tasty beach picnic and watch the sun set over the water at the end of the day. But don’t forget the sunscreen!
  1. Have an at-home camping adventure. Whether you prefer to pitch an actual tent in your backyard or sleep in a sofa fort in your living room, you can have a rustic camping experience while still taking advantage of the comforts of home (which, let’s face it, is AWESOME when it comes to having to use the bathroom). Gather up some camping snacks – trail mix, s’mores supplies, etc. – and unroll a few sleeping bags and rough it while not having to actually, you know, rough it. You could also hold a nature scavenger hunt in your backyard. Try having a campfire sing-along, whether you have an actual bonfire or just make one out of tissue paper.
  1. Avoid the crowds and plan a carnival day of your own right at home. Recreate some of your favorite fair games for your child to play, complete with fun prizes. You could also eat special treats like cotton candy, hot dogs and freshly popped popcorn. Create “rides” with whatever you have on hand, and if you want to go even bigger, look into renting a bouncy house for the day!
  1. Take a fantastic voyage to another country from the comfort of your living room. Want to go to France? Go online to take a virtual tour of Paris. You can even eat some croissants and nibble some cheese while you take in the sights. If you want a more in-depth experience, use a language-learning app on your mobile device to learn the names of household items in French. Try saying the words in French and asking your children to identify the items. You can use virtual tours to explore almost any country, so ask your children where they would like to go!
  1. Plan a fabulous food tour. You and your family could cook different dishes that represent different countries, such as paella for Spain, borscht for Russia and fish and chips for England, and have an international feast at home. You could also order takeout from different restaurants for an easier international feast. Either way, you get to spend some quality time with your family while learning about the foods of other cultures!

How will you spend your staycation this summer?

Keep Outdoor Play Simple: Let Nature Supply the Learning.

Dad and two small preschool children going on walk outside on a path

Daily walks or time spent outdoors have recently become part of many families daily routines as the benefits of time spent outdoorsincluding lowering stress levels and combating hyperactivity, are being experienced firsthand. As such, many parents and caretakers are looking for guidance on worthwhile outdoor activities for their children that don’t require a lot of planning or supplies. Below are some ideas for simple, quality outdoor activities that you and your children can do together that don’t require supplies or much planning. 

Activity One – Taking a Walk Outside 

Taking a walk may seem too simple to have any real benefits, but it has many. It is a great gross motor and physical activity for the whole family, especially those still perfecting their walking skills. Even for older children, taking a walk on uneven ground such as over roots in a wooded area or through a park with slopes, arched bridges or hills provides excellent opportunities to practice coordination and helps them learn to navigate varying terrains safely 

Activity Two – Counting Natural Items 

Head outside to your backyard, a nearby park or natural space. Have your children pick an item that they can see more than one of, such as trees, flowers, rocks or even wildlife. Have your children count how many of each item that they see. For infants, talk about what you see and count out loud to them. Older children may even want to practice adding or subtracting the numbers that correlate to different natural items. 

Activity Three – Watching Clouds  

Find an outdoor space with a clear view of the sky. Lay in the grass or on a blanket and ask your children what they see in the clouds. Point out anything that you see in the clouds. Does one cloud look like a dog and another like a tree? Ask your children what they know about whatever they see in the clouds to help develop their critical thinking skills, and identify areas of interest that you can explore together 

Activity Four – Taking a Thankful Walk 

Take a walk around your yard or community and point out natural items that you are thankful for to your children, such as I am thankful for the trees because they provide shade for us on hot, sunny daysI am thankful for the grass because it gives us a soft place to sit outside or I am thankful for the sun because it helps all of the plants to grow. Then ask your children to point out what they see around them that they are thankful for, and why. Depending on what your children point out, you can dive deeper into any topics that they show interest in and help them think critically about the natural world around them.  

Even the simplest of outdoor activities can have numerous benefits for both you and your children. Use your time spent outdoors as a chance to relax and enjoy some quality time together while the learning happens naturally 

Rorie Wells M.A., CPSI 

Education Facilities Specialist – Playgrounds 

How to Foster Creativity Amongst Your Young Learner

balancing-working-from-home-with-children-4By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

May is Inventors Month. Who knew? Our little ones are always inventing and testing.  This is how they learn to interact with the world around them. Encouraging creativity is essential to supporting our young learners. National Inventors Month began in 1998 to help promote the positive image of inventors and their contributionsInventors affect every facet of our lives, and we want to encourage children to be creative and learn to become problem solvers. How can we help our young learners to become creative? 

Creativity is often described as the action you take after imagination. In other words, it is not imagination alone but how you put your imagination into action. In the business world, we call it insights into action. The combination of imagination, creativity and problem solving becomes innovation.  

 We can nurture creativity and innovation in our children by allowing them to try new things, providing a lot of time for free play and creating an enriched learning environment at home.   

  • You don’t need a mountain of toys and devices to create an enriched learning environment for your child. A variety of toys that are changed often will provide your child with cognitive stimulation and promote curiosity and exploration. The toys don’t need to be fancy. In fact, toys that require imagination, like cardboard boxes and old clothes for dress-up, are often the most stimulating! 
  • Access to books is also important, and the public library can help keep the selection varied. We love Rosie the Riveter, by Andrea Beaty and My Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.     
  • Explore how things work by taking apart old equipment, such as a toaster or computer. Before you throw things away, think about how they can be recycled for play. Children will be fascinated by all of the parts. 
  • Explore your community. Trips to the zoo, different local parks, museums, and even grocery stores add valuable variety to your child’s experience. 
  • Limit screen time and encourage physical activity. 

 Enriching your home in this way will help your child tdevelop creativity skills and tap into his or her innovative spirit! 

Travel Without Traveling: How to Explore the World With Your Family From Home

engaging-children-in-caring-for-the-environment

By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D., Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

I recently received a text in which I was prompted to do a series of calculations, and the resulting number would determine where I would travel on my next vacation. The list included exciting destinations near and far, but number nine on the list was Stay Home. With the magic of math, everyone ends up with number nine. Funny but frustrating!  I really enjoy traveling, and I know that experience with travel helps children learn about other places and people, helps them develop important skills like self-regulation and problem-solving and contributes to their growing confidence and curiosity. Unfortunately, the current global health pandemic limits tourism, but with a little creativity and planning, families can stay safely at home while still reaping many of the benefits of actual travel. In the example below, I share an approach to planning virtual vacations in a way that will provide your family with powerful learning opportunities and cherished memories.

Imagine a trip to San Francisco in which you visit the Exploratorium, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown and Ghiradelli’s chocolate factory all without leaving your home: no stress, no meltdowns, no expense, and no packing! This type of travel is exactly what a friend of mine is doing with her children, and we can all do it too! Here’s a sample itinerary for a trip to San Francisco. Your family can adapt it or create your own travel plans to other destinations. For example, my friend invited her older children to help with planning activities, and they’ve gone to London, Japan, Paris and San Francisco all in the last month.

STEAM Project Day: The Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge – Look at pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge online. Talk about how they are similar and different. Set out a variety of materials, such as paper towel rolls, popsicle sticks, Legos, cups, paper and whatever else you have for children to use to make their own bridge. You can find ideas online to inspire you at https://preschoolsteam.com/bridge-building-activities-preschoolers/. Measure how long you can make a bridge before it collapses. Put pennies on your bridge to see how many it can hold before it starts to sag. If your bridge falls, ask your children why they think that happened and what ideas they have to make it stronger. These types of questions engage children in science practices which support their inquiry and critical thinking. Science practices are a core component of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Cooking Day: Dinner in Chinatown – Watch a short video about Chinatown, such as this read-aloud of a storybook at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dQVcX6sASA ).  Plan a menu for a dinner inspired by Chinese cuisine and cook it together. Lee Scott, Chair of the Goddard Educational Advisory Board, recently wrote a fantastic article about cooking with children that will help you get started. You can find it here: https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/why-cooking-with-kids-is-worth-the-effort-and-how-to-get-started

Museum Day: The Exploratorium – This science center is chock full of hands-on, inquiry-based science exhibits. Their website offers an alternative experience with a menu of science snacks that provide ideas for interactive activities that families can do online or with common materials from around the house. Explore options together, or pick out a few in advance to do with your child. These activities will help children learn science principles, as well as engage in science practices. Best of all, they’re fun to do together!

Pretend Playday: The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park – Gather your stuffed animals, dolls and family members and have a tea party in your own Japanese tea garden. Find a tranquil spot in your yard or a neighborhood park, and lay out a blanket. Serve tea or juice, and talk about the things you notice in the nature around you. Spending time in nature promotes better mental health for both children and adults by reducing stress. This positive impact is found even with small doses of time outdoors.

Treat Yourself Day: Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory – Watch a video about how chocolate is made here: https://www.pbs.org/video/kidvision-pre-k-how-chocolate-is-made-cfvz1o/). Make yourselves chocolate sundaes or brownies, and celebrate the fun of exploring San Francisco from your home. One of the most well-known benefits of family travel is the strengthening of family bonds. As you eat your treat, start making plans for where you’ll go next!

At its best, travel fills us with wonder and offers quality family time, and at its worst, it exhausts us. Thanks to technology and our own creativity, we can indulge our wanderlust by visiting exciting new places without leaving home. Have fun and share your adventures with us by posting your trips to Facebook and Instagram and tagging The Goddard School.

The Benefits of Cooking with Children

balancing-working-from-home-with-children-2

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Cooking with children is a terrific way to enjoy a special time with your children and support learning as well. When you are all homebound, it is a great way to relieve stress and add some laughter to the day. It is sometimes difficult if you have different age ranges and abilities with children when trying to keep them learning and entertained at home. Cooking is great for all ages, and you can include even the youngest of children.

Getting started

  1. Start with a plan. What shall we make? Work with your children to list the ingredients.
  2. Talk about what your children like while you are doing this on the fly and pulling ideas from the refrigerator, and plan from there.
  3. Offer choices to simplify the activity. Do you want carrots or celery in the salad?

Your children will be practicing decision-making skills, learning collaboration as well as planning and practicing organization. These are essential skills all children need for success in school and in life.

Using a recipe – where everyone has a job

  1. Children can help with the measuring.
  2. Younger children can assist with pouring tasks, such as placing a piece of tape on the measured line to help them pour the correct amount.
  3. Older children can read out the recipe and measure ingredients as you cook.
  4. You can set the timer and talk about cooking temperatures.

Recipe activities help your children with reading, math and science skills.

Enjoying your labor

  1. Everyone can help by setting the table.
  2. Someone can make personalized placemats with paper and a few crayons or markers.
  3. Everyone will enjoy the meal you have created together. Ask your children what they liked best.

Preparing the table and enjoying the meal teaches sorting, counting, creativity, organizing and fine motor skills.

Reading books about cooking helps to build an understanding of all that goes into cooking while supporting the development of language skills. To provide inspiration, this can be fun at bedtime after you have been cooking together or before you make your meal. I have a few favorites:

  1. Be Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park
  2. Feast for Ten by Cathryn Falwell
  3. Froggy Bakes a Cake by Jonathan London

Independent Moments Three

3

When you need a moment or two and you’d like your child to do something fun, ask your child to try one of these instant playful learning activities.

1. Puzzled

Make your own puzzles with pictures from magazines or mailers. You can cut them up into pieces, mix up the pieces and put the pictures back together. To make the puzzles sturdier, you can glue the pictures to paper before you cut them up. How many pieces will you make?

You’ll need scissors, old magazines or flyers.

Learning Areas – Design, mathematics and fine motor skills

2. How Long Is It? How Wide Is It?

Measure things in the house using unusual units of measurement, such as your feet or arms. How many arms long is the table? How many feet is it to the door from the couch? Make a chart with your new measurements.

You’ll need paper and a pencil for your chart.

Learning Areas – Mathematics, cognitive flexibility and writing skills

3. You Have a Seat at the Table

Make personalized placemats for everyone in the family.

You’ll need paper and crayons. Using paint, markers and colored pencils can be fun, too.

Learning Areas – Print knowledge, vocabulary and creativity