Music and movement…and a lot of fun!

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Kids in general are action oriented…they love moving, shaking, dancing to music…they enjoy fingerplays and action songs and use their bodies without inhibitions in such creative ways.
Music helps children develop in a variety of ways…language and communication, self expression, imagination, pre-math skills through rhythms…it help develop concepts, evolve language…it is a fun, safe and natural form of self expression. Children enjoy music and movement and that ties so closely to their language development as well (Linda Carol Edwards).

I have been thinking about music and movement with preschoolers …. more because in recent classroom observations I found a very basic minimal use of music and this bothered me. And since it was on my mind i thought about getting my boys to interact a little differently with music just for fun and to see how it could also be used in a classroom. we do a lot of singing at home but i wanted to try something else today.

When they got back from school today i asked them to sit down on the floor and close their eyes. They obliged. Then, i talked to them about imagining that they were in a forest with the wind blowing through the trees, the leaves rustling, butterflies flitting about, birds chirping and different animals sitting or moving around. I asked them to choose to be something in the forest…a plant, a bird..whatever they felt like being. Then i put on some nice instrumental music (i used Kenny G). It was really wonderful to watch them…Sid became a tree and Nish decided to be a spotted hyena. Amu was just amu…running around to the music! The tree soon became a baby hyena and the two hyena boys crept through the forest doing a most rhythmic and graceful frolicky chase to the music.
For the next song we mirrored each other and for the third song each person came to the center and danced while the other three watched him/her (this was Sid’s idea). we danced slowly, fast, shaing a lot, swaying gently, gliding, jumping, sitting, rolling…exploring space, rhythm, force and emotions through the music and our actions…this activity lasted for a little over 30 minutes and we all had a lovely time.

Something one can do in a preschool classroom quite easily…it required very little set up, was not very noisy and taught the boys to listen, appreciate, express themselves creatively. They also had to respect each others space in the process and learn to wathc and observe each other and learn from that.

The boys enjoyed it…and i did too! Will be doing more stuff with music and movement and will keep you posted!

A mermaid, some shells and a whole lot of questions

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We were at a friend’s place for dinner last week. Her daughter’s room is done up in an underwater theme…manta rays and octopuses and shells and …a big life size mermaid on the wall behind her bed. The twins have always been most fascinated with the room and love to ask K (my friend’s daughter) about the different fish on the wall.

Last week however, they were more interested in the mermaid. Sid stared at her for a bit and then placing his palms on his chest he looked at K and asked…”Why does she have those shells on her chest?” (His hands on his chest indicated exactly what he was asking…no room for any doubt). K’s jaw dropped as she racked her brains for how best to address that question. But Nish jumped in promptly “That is her bra!”
Sid: But there are no strings or straps. How can it stay there like that without anything holding it?
Nish: I’m telling you it’s a bra
By now K was looking at me for some help. I kept a straight face and told Sid that it was probably a fancy bra with transparent straps that were camouflaged in the picture. He fortunately seemed quite satisfied with that answer and so we moved on to other pieces of perhaps less interesting conversations :)

Fossil Cookies…yummy recipe!

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Cars, trucks, constructions toys and now Dinosaurs…the current thing my boys seem to be into. As we were reading about dinosaurs last month we came across a whole section on fossils and that was another thing that caught the twins’ fancy.

So, i decided to make hem fossil cookies. We played with some playdough and they loved putting their plastic bugs on it to make ‘fossils’. taking this one stwp further i googled for fossil cookie recipes and came across a really nice one by Martha Stewart:
http://www.marthastewart.com/345396/fossil-cookies

They were pretty simple to make (the only part that really took a little time was toasting the walnuts in a pan and then putting them into a mixie to get a powder. But that walnut meal packed a lot of taste and texture into the cookies and generally made them more nutritious for the boys as well. The recipe is on the Martha Stewart site of you just click on the link.

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making the most of cardboard cartons

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we had 3 cardboard cartons (all intact) at our place last month (it just so happened that we had 3..which was indeed lucky)…i asked the boys if they would like to make something with the boxes. I sat with Sid and Nish, my four yr old twins, and we checked out options on pinterest…naturally they gravitated towards cars (though nish quite interestedly said we could work on a doll house next time).

Before getting started I asked the boys to think about what they wanted their car/vehicle to be like. We had very different approaches to the whole process. Nish sat and planned out exactly what he wanted ..the color, the kind of car (it needs to be like McQueen), what he would paint…what he would stick, what he may need help with. he thought long and hard about whether he wanted a car he could sit in on the floor or whether he wanted one that he cold carry and run about in (he opted for the latter). Sid on the other hand just decided he would do a ‘blue car’ (“it’s a friend of mcqueen” he explained). He was pretty clear he would work through the thinking part as we went along and was categorical that he wanted no help whatsoever. Amu generally joined in the action, more interested in what was happening than actually trying to plan anything or do much.

Nish chose his red paint and went about making neat strokes to cover the carton completely while Sid used a combination of a shaving brush and a sponge to cover his carton. Amu also chose a sponge and really enjoyed squeezing the paint out and spreading it with large smooth strokes (all over the carton and himself). he intermittently dabbed some blue on Nish’s pristine red mcqueen and we almost had a couple of meltdowns. Fortunately once i showed Nish how to paint over the intruding blue paint he was back in control. Nish asked me to cut out specific stuff that he stuck and decorated his car with while Sid was focused on doing things himself. it was evident he did not have a plan but he enjoyed gluing lots of stuff onto his ‘funky dashboard” of his “super cool car”. AMu basically painted his in patches, stuck a couple of things and then moved onto other stuff.

The boys were so proud of their cars when they got done and i finished up for them by putting ribbons for shoulder straps so they could pretty much ‘wear the cars’. Then we had McQueen and his blue friend zipping all over the family room with little Amu in tow.

Really a lot of fun…the process and the product…i feel like pushing the boys to think was nice – it allowed Nish to conceptualize,imagine.. create a plan of action to get to the finished product. With Sid, it was lovely watching him come up with ideas on the fly, he was also on task for nearly 40 minutes…painting…waiting for the paint to dry, sticking things and decorating, etc.

It’s a great activity to push for creative thinking, conceptualizing, fine motor skills, just getting kids to focus and work on something that interests them!

It’s been a month now and the cars are still going strong. Definitely a fun project and i am now looking forward to doing the dollhouse as an ongoing project too.
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More conversations!

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Once again my boys were busy playing ‘doctor doctor’. This time Nish was the doc, Sid the patient and Amu the nurse cum person who brought the patient in.

Doctor, armed with stethoscope, otoscope and syringe: What happened? What is the matter?
Amu: This is the patient ok? I am bringing him to the ‘hopsital’

Sid (lying down upon an old wooden chest that serves as our center table in the living room) – i will sleep here and you examine me pl. I am dead

Nish: I need a nurse. Amu you are the nurse now. Give me my bag

Sid: Doctor, coould you please hold my bowl of peanuts and give them back to me later?

Nish: OK

Amu: it is a girl patient doctor…she has a purse. Please give your purse also to the doctor. He will not take it…he will give it back

Patient (female) Sid obliges.

Doctor: OK what happened?

Sid: I am dead doctor. A car ran over me on the road and I had a lot of blood!

Nish: Wow – so you could actually see the underside of the car?

Sid: Yes i saw the underside!

Nish: OK now i will give you an injection and a kissie … tyhen you feel feel much better

Sid: Thank you

Nish: What car was it? The underside looks cool?

And then the doctor, nurse and fully recovered dead patient discussed BMW models and motorbikes…

THE END

Ramadan Moon – Book review

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“Ramadan, the month of fasting,
Doesn’t begin all at once.
It begins with a whisper
And a prayer
And a wish”

I love the way this picture book starts. Ramadan Moon, written by Na’ima B Robert and illustrated by Shirin Adl is a wonderful introduction to Ramadan for kids. It takes us on a journey of the waxing and waning moon, all that it brings with it…it gives us an insight into the fasting and the prayers, the thinking and humility and generosity and gratitude that this period symbolizes. In a simple, fluid and poetic style the author and illustrator help the reader experience the beauty, celebrations and excitement of the month. The book is a wonderful introduction to Ramadan for young kids. It is simple (yet not simplistic) and a wonderful snapshot into a world that some kids may not be familiar with. Mine were not…and they enjoyed reading the book and learning about something different from what they experience. What is lovely is the fact that the book reflects a child’s perspective and understanding of Ramadan.

The illustrations are gorgeous and in a style that combines various media – a style that would be fun to explore for kids! The style also reflects Persian inspiration! (And according to one of my twins, the moon has most probably been made by cutting out silver chocolate wrapping foil)

I think that since Ramadan has just started, this might be a good time to read this with kids. I am thinking of how to explore this more and better. Have shown the kids a mosque earlier but might take them to Mosque Road on of these days so they have a chance to see people praying and then will also engage in some conversations around some of the ideas if they seem inclined to it. I also think this is a wonderful book for schools to use to introduce Ramadan.

We’re going on a treasure hunt!

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I found a lovely idea on http://theimaginationtree.com/ a few days ago and promptly tried it out. The boys are totally into the idea of pirates and treasure thanks to a book we have been reading called Here Be Monsters…about a pirate who is looking for treasure.
While i was looking at the http://theimaginationtree.com/ blog I came across a treasure hunt activity which encourages kids to read words. So i made a little treasure chest using an empty washing powder carton and foam sheets (decorated it with some glitter foam circles and a big silver foam lock). For the treasure coins I used glitter foam sheets in gold, silver and blue. I cut up circles (about the same size as a 2 rupees coin or maybe a tad bit bigger). One surface of this paper was glittery and the other surface plain. I used a black permanent marker to write on the plain sides of the coin. One the blue circles I had numbers (between 0 and 10) – one number per coin. On the silver cirlces I put 3 letter phonic words and on the gold I had 4 and 5 letter phonic words. I hid the “coins” all over the family room and when the boys woke up I told them that they had to find all the treasure. I showed them the chest and told them that the “coins” they found could only go in if they could read what was on the back.

The boys were most excited and set of with great gusto, peering behind curtains, under chairs and tables, between cushions…squealing with delight every time they found one. It was amazing and I have never seen them so excited about reading. I picked as many ship and sea related words as I could and that made it more fun. I had put the numbers in for my youngest fellow (2 1/2) who can recognize numbers upto 5 so that he would not feel left out of the adventure. They managed to find and read all and were super excited by the whole concept.

The following day when they woke up form their afternoon nap, Nish immediately asked if he could start looking for more treasure but sadly I had not made any more coins. Will work on more over the next few days and do another treasure hunt over the weekend I guess.

Definitely something to try…can do it with sight words, just alphabets, numbers, math sums, etc.

glitter glitter

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Just adding a little sparkle to paint can brighten up a super drab day so quickly. Day before was so rainy and the boys were getting restless at home. Earlier int he day i asked if they would like to paint but that idea was quickly vetoed. When the sky started to look an ominous grey again in the evening, I took out a palette, squirted some paint into each little depression and then generously sprinkled fine glitter (thanks to the Itsy Bistsy store) into each blob of paint. I pulled out an old chart-paper which has gotten wet in the rain and run color in patches and taped it down onto our plastic mat.

I pulled out some brushes, a few pieces of sponge and set up a couple of plastic containers with water. “Come to the balcony guys!” I called. As they boys came running up their faces instantly lit up and they oohed and aahed over the glitter. And the three little boys who did not want to paint were all on the floor collaborative painting the large sheet of paper. All the water stains soon disappeared under generous broad and thick coats of glittering shimmering paint and soon every singly part of the paper was painted on or stamped with the kitchen sponge! Of course the paint gradually found its way onto tiny toes and feet and legs and we ended our fun painting session with a nice warm bath.

The paper came in handy the very next day – we used it as a wrapping paper for a birthday gift!

I have picture which I have yet to upload but since I had a little time I decided to blog about this first and address the images later :)

Easy set up, easy clean up and lots of fun painting time! it’s amazing how a little bit of glitter can add so much sparkly to a grey cloudy day!

Three wise men on the beach

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We spent the last 2 weeks in Goa…and a lot of time on the beach. As always, there were lots of learnings and discoveries, ‘aha’ moments and deep discussions (i was not really a part of most of it). The three brothers (when they were not fighting and destroying each others sand castles) were trying all kids of stuff with sand and their sand toys. I was just enjoying watching the interactions and conversations. Here are some excerpts:

1. The sea is taking all our toys!
Sitting with their plastic sand toys right where the waves were coming in, the boys struggled to hold onto their belongings as the waves kept carrying them off. AMeya looked at the vast water body before him, sighed and exclaimed “The sea is taking all out toys Aai!!!”
However, something more interesting emerged from this dilemma… they soon figured out that if they filled their buckets with sand the waves were not able to “take them away”. Once they had this piece sorted at least their buckets were safe…

2. The filling of buckets however soon led to another discovery…reminiscent of Archimedes in a way. So, Sid had his bucket half filled with water. The boys started putting sand in it for fun and Nish noticed that “by magic” there was more water in the bucket. They put in more sand and the level rose some more. “Look!” said Nish, “the sand is doing magic. It is making more water in the bucket!” Scientific technicalities aside i would say it was quite a discovery!

3. Making lakes, rivers and dams: nothing like a beach to explore different phenomena. The kids made different types of water bodies by digging the sand in different ways. They made tracts in the sand that the waves flowed into and flowed back like little rivulets. When they dug a deep hole the waves filled it up and they got a pond. They also used bits of driftwood and large flat pebbles to make dams! It was a process experimetation, trial and error.

4. “look the sand does not fall!” They also discovered that when they took wet sand and added a little more water to it it developed a different consistency – one that barely budged from the bucket even when they held it upside down!

These were just a few of the discussions at the beach … we talked about tides (and the waves creeping in to take away our plastic mat), we looked at different prints in the sand…crows, gulls, dogs, cows and people, we looked for shells (and found some crabs too), we realized how much garbage gets thrown into the sea, we talked about water pollination – because we found all kinds of seeds and pods getting washed ashore.

All in all a lot of fun and tons of discovering. Some of the discoveries led to follow up conversations, some did not. But it is amazing how kids can find wonder and learning all around them!

my incredible little doctors

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This evening before bedtime, the boys were playing with their doctor’s kit. Sid was on the bed with his stethoscope and Nish and Amu cam along in an imaginary ambulance accompanied by lots of loud siren sounds.

“What’s the problem?” asked Dr. Sid
“The patient is here” said Nish, pointing to Amu
“What is wrong with him?” asked Dr. Sid
“He’s not well…he is dead” said Nish
“Ok…let me take his temperature…now an injection…it won’t hurt don’t worry” said Dr. Sid
And the dead patient smiled broadly and said “thank you Doctor, I feel much better already!”

Oh…the simplicity of early childhood!