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At-Home Activities

 

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Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member Lee Scott’s Favorite Children’s Books

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

Trying to narrow down all the books to my top three is a difficult task. I love children’s literature and how it is one of the best learning tools we have. I have always said, “Give me a great book and some recycled materials, and I can teach from that book for a week.” That approach is the foundation for The Goddard School Life Lesson Library. We have so many wonderful stories to choose from that were submitted by Goddard faculty members across the country. However, since the task is to narrow it down to three, here it goes.

The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway. I love this story, not just because it was written and wonderfully illustrated by my amazing cousin John, but also because it is an original “it takes a village” story. Everyone works together to solve a problem using their unique skills and talents. It is a story of overcoming a fear and of collaboration, engineering, humor and creativity. You truly can teach from this book for a week.

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The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. This book is now a classic tale of hope and belief. It also teaches the consequences of good and bad behaviors. My husband read this to our boys every Christmas. Even though they are grown, we still put the book out every year. The other part of this story is the wonderment at the engineering, science and technology in Santa’s village. I also love how the story emphasizes caring for others and appreciating the uniqueness of each person. There is a lot one can learn from this book.

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One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey. Since I’m from Maine, this is one of my favorite stories, and I have enjoyed all of McCloskey’s award-winning books for years. Although written many years ago, this tale is still relevant today. Sal learns to overcome losing a tooth, explores the world around her and becomes creative as she plays along the coast of Maine. I also appreciate big sister Sal helping her little sister Jane. It is a fairly long story for little ones, so I recommend reading it in parts.

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Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member Helen Hadani’s Favorite Children’s Books

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

My two daughters are now teenagers, but I still remember our overflowing bookshelves filled with picture books and stories that my husband and I read to our children more times than we care to remember. Here are three of my favorites: 

  • Hug (Jez Alborough) – This sweet picture book was a favorite in our house for many years. Bobo, a baby monkey, is in desperate need of a hug and visits his animal friends one by one, imploring, “Hug” with a sweet and puzzled expression. Time after time, he is turned away, so he continues his journey through the jungle. The book contains only three words – “hug, Bobo and mommy. The magic of the story is in the endearing expressions of the animals and the touching ending when Bobo finally gets a hug from his mommy. Since there are few words in the book, you tell the story a bit differently every time, and as children get older, they start to tell some of the story themselves;  

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  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Mo Willems) – It is hard to pick a favorite Mo Willems book, but this one holds many special (and funny) memories for me. I can still remember my youngest daughter Grace yelling, “Noooo!” at the top of her lungs while reading this book (at bedtime, no less). The book starts with a bus driver asking your child to keep an eye on things while he’s gone and, most importantlydon’t let the pigeon drive the bus! The very clever and persuasive pigeon then tries to bribe and persuade your child to let him drive the bus. Lastly, he resorts to throwing an all-out tantrum and yells, “LET ME DRIVE THE BUS!” It’s such an engaging book that turns the tables and puts your child in charge; 

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  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Judith Viorst) – When my husband and I met, I remember him telling me that this was one of his favorite children’s books. I had, of course, read it as a child and remembered liking it, but it wasn’t until I started to read it to our daughters Ruby and Grace that I came to appreciate the message. Alexander wakes up with gum in his hair, and that is just the start of his very bad day. Everyone has bad days, and it often made me feel better reading this story to our girls so they knew why Mom or Dad might have been short with them or just out of sorts. It also helped to read the book when I knew that one (or both) of them had had a particularly challenging day. Also, the part about “third-best-friend status” always made us laugh.  

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Valentine’s Day Crafts

Spread the love this Valentine’s Day by making these crafts with your child. Whether your child chooses to give them to someone special or keep them at home to decorate, these cute creations are sure to bring smiles!

Heart Tree Sponge Stamp Art

Show how love grows with this beautiful piece of Valentine’s Day art.

Materials:

A piece of white paper

Brown, pink, red and purple paint

A paintbrush

Scissors

Kitchen sponges

Instructions:

Help your child paint a tree trunk and bare branches with the brown paint and allow to dry.

Cut out hearts from the sponges in different sizes.

Have your child use the sponges to stamp heart-shaped leaves onto the tree with the different colors of paints. The fuller the tree is, the more love there is!

Love Bug Footprint Craft

This piece of love bug art is the perfect way to spread Valentine’s Day cheer.

Materials:

Red and black paint

Paintbrushes

A piece of white paper

Two googly eyes

Glue

Heart stickers

A black marker

A drop cloth or an old tablecloth

Wet wipes

Instructions:

Spread the drop cloth or tablecloth on the floor of your work area to contain any mess.

Paint the bottom of your child’s foot red, and have your child carefully step in the middle of the paper. Fill in any bare areas of the footprint with paint, and allow it to dry. Use the wet wipes to clean off your child’s foot before moving onto the next step.

Once the red paint has dried, have your child paint a black circle on top of the heel of the footprint. This will be the love bug’s head.

Once all the paint has dried, help your child draw three legs on each side of the footprint and one line vertically down the middle of the footprint. On either side of the line, have your child draw hearts instead of ladybug spots.

Help your child draw two antennae on top of the love bug’s head and add a heart sticker to the top of each one.

Have your child glue googly eyes onto the love bug’s face.

Heart-Shaped Bird Feeder

Help your child spread some Valentine’s Day love to the birds outside your window this February.

Materials:

Pipe cleaners

Ring-shaped cereal

String

Instructions:

Have your child string the cereal onto a pipe cleaner, leaving a little space at the ends.

Twist the ends of the pipe cleaner together to make a circle, and then bend it into a heart shape.

Help your child tie a piece of string onto the heart in a loop, and then take your child outside and find a place to hang the feeder where birds can enjoy it.

Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member Jennifer Jipson’s Favorite Children’s Books

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By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

I delight in collecting picture books that teach, inspire, entertain and motivate. March is both National Reading Month and Women’s History Month, so I’ll share a few books that celebrate women’s accomplishments and inspire little ones to do big things. I hope you and your children enjoy these as much I do.

  • My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream? by Jennifer Fosberry and Mike Litwin – In this book, Isabella imagines herself to be famous women throughout history, such as Sally Ride, Marie Curie and Rosa Parks. As you read it with your child, you will learn about how these women changed the world in their own unique ways. This is achieved with a story that is filled with humor, clever writing and engaging illustrations that provide clues about who Isabella will pretend to be next. My well-worn copy of this book is evidence of how much my family delighted in Isabella’s enthusiasm for the extraordinary achievements of women. As a developmental psychologist, I feel good that I exposed my children to role models who counteract racial and gender stereotypes;

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  • The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds – In The Dot, readers meet Vashti, a fictional young girl who is self-critical and thinks she can’t draw. One day, her teacher encourages her to make a dot with a pencil on a blank page, asks her to sign it and then frames and displays it. Her teacher’s support sparks Vashti’s confidence in her own creativity, and she goes on to paint more and more dots in increasingly innovative ways. Vashti embraces her newly unleashed creativity and inspires other children to do the same. In addition to highlighting a valuable lesson about overcoming insecurities, this book inspires children to engage in creative activities. Many schools celebrate Dot Day in which children make and display their own versions of dot paintings. At my house, our refrigerator once became a dot gallery that showcased and celebrated the creativity of our family members;

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  • Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington – This picture book tells the story of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to go to space. It’s an inspiring story about how Mae pursued her dream of becoming an astronaut even when others teased her or doubted her abilities. The message of staying true to yourself and persisting in achieving your goals is powerful. Another reason that I love this book is because it provides a compelling example of a woman who overcame racial and gender stereotypes to achieve her dream. Families can use this book as an opportunity to talk about prejudice and to bring to light the achievements of women of color in the sciences. Research in child development shows that openness to exploring these topics is of critical importance in helping children develop positive attitudes about diversity, yet only about 10% of families have these conversations. There are many online resources available that can help guide parents in talking about race with children.

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Summertime Learning in Museums

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By Helen Shwe Hadani, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Summer is here, and for many families, that means a shift in their schedules.  Hopefully that shift is to more relaxed mornings, long afternoons by the pool and spontaneous outings to parks, beaches, zoos and museums, which are all great places for playful learning. Science centers and children’s museums, in particular, are perfect destinations for parents, caregivers and children seeking a break from the heat and a chance to learn something new.

While the term “museum” may not bring fun, hands-on, interactive experiences to mind, many children’s museums and science centers have reinvented themselves to provide these types of experiences for children as young as toddlers.  When visiting museums with your toddler, preschooler or older child, keep the following in mind to make the most of your visit.

  • Let your children take the lead. Child-directed experiences motivate children to learn because they are engaging in activities for the joy of the experience, (i.e., intrinsic motivation) not for a reward. Research suggests that making choices promotes intrinsic motivation, which boosts creativity. Additionally, letting your children play a role in planning your outing helps them develop important decision-making skills;
  • Encourage your children to take risks. One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to let your children take risks, but letting them test their capabilities and push their limits are critical components of learning and other creative processes. Children can take physical and social risks in a museum setting. They might have the chance to climb high obstacles; use their fine motor skills to work with a new tool; or cut, shape and take apart objects in a museum program. They will also have the opportunity to share or collaborate with other children whom they have never met;
  • Allow time to explore and be creative. Research speaks to the value of providing opportunities for young children to experiment with a range of ideas and actions and then work out the consequences. Try to leave enough time in your museum visit for your children to engage in what researchers call exploratory play. Taking part in open-ended exploration and tinkering often lead to further questions. Museum activities are designed to be open-ended so children have time to generate, test and revise theories about how things work. Ask your children questions, such as “What do you notice about that machine?” or “How do you think that works?” to guide their learning and deepen their thinking.

National Plant a Flower Day Craft

Materials

  • Construction paper in multiple colors
  • Mixed dry beans (or seeds or beads)
  • Twine or yarn
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Instructions

Cut different flower shapes out of construction paper – stem, leaves and flower. Create the soil by cutting a piece of brown construction paper in half and gluing it to the bottom third of a piece of blue construction paper. Glue a strip of green construction paper where the brown and blue paper meet to create the grass. Then glue a bean or seed just below the grass to emulate planting a seed. Next, glue the twine or yarn below the bean/seed to create roots. Then glue the stem and leaves. Finally, add the flower and glue seeds in the center of it.

Be sure to talk about the growth process with your child as you assemble the craft. “The seed is planted in the soil, and then the roots extend, drinking in water and nutrients. Then the stem grows, which delivers water and nutrients to the leaves and flower. Seeds from the flower can be planted to grow more flowers!”