Back Before Elmo. A Trip Down Memory Street.

 

snuffy

I’m old. How do I know that I’m old? Because to my mind Elmo is still an imposter on Sesame Street. Will you permit me a short rant? Ok! How on earth did Elmo get to run the whole show when there were so many better characters to feature? His voice continues to grate even after all these years. Several key characters don’t even get any stage time anymore on that show. Hello? Sherlock Hemlock, Mumford the Magician, Biff and Sully, the guy who carried Oscar around, Herry Monster and (glack!) even dear sweet enormous Snuffy  who apparently is seen by people other than Big Bird all the damn time! Ah well, I suppose we had to throw poor Bird a bone after he lost his friend Mr. Hooper. (I will take this opportunity to also strongly recommend that you do not under any circumstances google what happened to David. Just don’t do it). Deep breath. Ok. I’m ok.

Now. Let’s go back… waaaaaaay back into the vault and see what we can find. And to do this we have to go to my mom’s house since she kept so many things from our childhood! And look what comes out of the tickle trunk! Taadaaaa! The Sesame Street Library! All 15 Volumes beautifully preserved and fresh and entirely loved by my little preschooler!

sesamestreetlibrary

Want more blasts from the past and ideas for classic reads that will entertain both you and your little one?

Check out the ROAM Curriculum at Artsy Startsy

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“Serenity Now!” or Why I Believe in Harping with Your Kids

harp

Why do I believe in harping with your kids? Because it is entirely healing and calming for everyone. Er… what?? Let me explain. I’ve discovered there are two methods of trying to attain calm in this household. The first is what I like to call:

The “Serenity Now!” Method: This is the one where I “harp” at everyone, telling themto calm down a million times until I am absolutely a completely disheveled mess. The only thing I’ve learned from this method is that telling someone to calm down is like telling someone “not to take offense but…” You immediately end up eliciting the exact response you are trying to avoid and you end up looking and sounding like this:

The second method, and the one which I strongly recommend, helps everyone come out the other side with their dignity and a sense of true peace. It is called:

The Classical Music Method: This week we started to discover harp compositions since the harp is our instrument for the week as we delve deeper into the ROAM curriculum’s spring semester! Just having these pieces playing in the background while we went about our regular routines had an enormously calming effect on everyone. I swear! Try it!

Want to inject more moments of calm into your day all while introducing your children to  orchestral instruments and classical composers?

Check out the spring semester of the ROAM Curriculum at

www.artsystartsy.com

Donald Trump Rocks?

blog 007This past week we were learning about the prehistoric era in art. Part of that exploration included the creation of  rock people as masterpieces since so much of the work of the prehistoric artists involved creative use of stone as canvas.

First, we took a look at the Lascaux caves to get a sense of the way in which rock was used as a surface for creating art. Next, we went on a nature walk and gathered stones that attracted our attention. Finally, we went into the craft cupboard and pulled out yarn, googley eyes and any other materials that seemed relevant.

As you can see, it was really the cotton balls that brought our rock person to the next level. Suddenly one of our rocks was transformed into a particularly hard-headed political figure.  After completing her work, Althea said “Look mama!  It’s ‘Mister  Trunk’!” Is it just us? Do you see the likeness?

 Want to join us on our artistic adventures? Check out the spring semester at www.artsystartsy.com

 

My Little Grasshopper

Dancing is big in this house. Almost every night there is some form or other of dancing as a family. Jukebox oldies never fail to get the kids (and daddy – who is normally a metal-head) moving.  Usually we all sleep better when we’ve gotten the “shakies” out. And then, when we rise, we play classical music and a version of dancing often happens as we listen to the pieces. I suppose it’s more “movement to music” than anything else and, depending on the piece, it can be quite an event! I’ll just say this: delicate objects get put well out of swinging, leaping, and twirling range.

culton_grasshopper

Last week, Britten’s “The Grasshopper” came on and it offered the perfect opportunity to ask Althea, “How does this make you feel like moving?” Guess what? Jumping was part of the answer. Once she knew the title of the piece we really got into it. We pretended to be grasshoppers hopping through the meadow and running away from birds and cats who were anxious to end our little dance.

 

Easel Starters

poem

Do you know what I love about this poem? It’s basically two separate images set side by side without any explanation. Ezra Pound doesn’t say the faces are petals or the crowd is like a wet black bough but by putting these two concepts next to each other, he elicits in our minds a greater overall sense of the scene at the station than if he had used the words “like a wet black bough.” I think it is just the most lovely poetry in existence because it suggests and doesn’t insist.

This same kind of artistic expression is at work in what underpins the idea of a preschool “easel starter”. Basically you do not insist or even suggest that your child create art. You simply provide the opportunity for poetry to happen! Here is a step by step set of instructions for how to do an easel starter with your little one:

  1. Prepare the easel or work surface.

alexeasel

2. Set out the materials of choice.

3. Say nothing. Wait.

clock

4. When your child stumbles upon the materials, pretend ignorance.

Unsure woman shrugs her shoulders in a questioning gesture of un

5. Watch the poetry in motion.

hughes

Dinos in the Snow

Are we ever happy to be able to explore outside again!!! There was a while there where it was just cruelty to even suggest taking a walk around the block at this house.  Cooping up kids who are used to observing and exploring nature in the great outdoors is so painful. However, even when we were down with colds and the wind howled at our door, we found a fun way to play in the snow: we brought it in!

It’s amazing how, even the most familiar of toys, got new life when they played in the snow. We’ve done this with our avengers, our farm animals and, most recently, our dinosaurs! ROAR!

Why we don’t Sugar Coat the Timeless Tales

If you have decided to introduce your little one to fairy and folk tales there is no better place to start than with Paul Galdone’s collection of Folktale Classics. Galdone’s illustrations are both warming and so intensely expressive that they connect immediately to both child and parent.

galdone

In this house, we have made it a practice to take out one Galdone book from the library at each visit. His versions of the classics are consistently true to the original tellings and, unlike other abridged versions, they do not omit the scarier parts of the tales. This matters to me since I’m not a huge fan of altering the stories for the sensibilities of my little ones’ minds. Although it is true that some parts of the story are disturbing – like the fact that Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother is eaten by the wolf – I prefer her to ask questions and be exposed to the tale as it was intended to be read than to sugar coat it.

A friend and I were recently talking about the terror of nursery rhymes and the hilarity of reading them before bed since they are filled with references to drowning children and beheadings of political figures. She joked with me that perhaps parents in the middle ages tucked their children in with a kiss, a hug and a, “Good night, Sleep Tight, Hope you don’t get the plague…” I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!

But in all seriousness, I want my child to learn about different times and places and when I modernize and insert today’s values into those stories, I close the window that it could have opened for my little one to see the world as it was. Also – I really do want to re-read Little Red Riding Hood to her when she gets her period to talk to her about what many believe the “red hood” symbolizes in this story. There is so much richness and timeless messaging in the fairy tale world that I want to share with my little ones throughout their lives. But for right now, Galdone is a good place to start!

We will be coming back to his illustrations when we begin reading Eve Titus’ “Anatole” series which is an enchanting set of  first chapter books! Can’t wait! Until then next week’s Galdone selection is on hold for us on a library shelf nearby.

galdone-anatole-covers

Hearting Art

A wonderful woman and friend once told me that the best way to help your little ones fall in love with art is to purchase quality materials. Now. My eldest was two years old when I first heard these words of wisdom and, at that time, I was happy enough to purchase art supplies at the dollar store but, of late, I’ve become really aware of what she was referring to. The masterpieces that my daughter creates have so much more impact when we are working with quality brushes, paint and paper. But I will stand by this statement too: nowhere can you get such awesome sparkle glue as the dollar store and it’s the only place I’ve yet to track down contact paper (without which we would be lost)! So it’s a balance I suppose.

I’ve also discovered another lovely truth about art in preschool. It is so much more meaningful for a child to work on a piece while keeping in mind the individual for whom it is being created. The last two weeks, we puttered away at our watercolour valentines with doilies (guess where I found those…) and she literally sang a song for each of her friends as she painted. Afterwards, she made sure I properly labeled each work so that the correct valentine would go to the intended recipient. She absolutely was injecting her heart into each of the pieces she made.

valentines

Althea also received the most lovely gift from her friend Morgan who worked with her mother to make these pretty little rainbow crayons in the shape of hearts. Nothing compares to creating art for a friend with materials made by a friend!

heartcrayons

Well my heart is full as we start into this Valentine’s weekend! If you are thinking of starting a new medium with your little one, here are a few quality materials I can strongly recommend for beginning watercolour. In the case of the paints, a little dab’ll do ya and you will have these tubes for, well, in my case, it’s been over a decade. With respect to the brushes – remember always to use them with watercolour only since they are costly but worth every cent.

materials

My recommendation with respect to technique is to wet the paper itself in a sink of warm water and squeegie out the excess with a sponge on your painting surface. This way the colour itself stays relatively dry in the paint pot and mixing colours on paper becomes more of an organic process than a concerted effort. At the preschool stage, colour mixing in this way becomes a lovely process of discovery. We work with primary colours only right now and with these we are beginning to learn about the different secondary colours – orange, green and purple as they suddenly appear in our masterpiece!

Keep refreshing a glass of warm water for your little artist so as to keep the paints themselves from getting  muddled together and also because it’s fun to periodically check  on how the work is progressing. Hopefully, each time you enter the room you will see your little one falling deeper in love with art and with the pride of self-expression it permits.

 

ROAM-ing in the Spring!

springproductToday is the day! I’m relaunching the new and improved Spring Semester of Artsy Startsy and it is entirely focused around the ROAM curriculum and the feedback I’ve received from stay-at-home parents, caregivers, working parents, and preschool instructors. ROAM stands for Readers, Outdoor Explorers, Artists and Musicians. Why these areas in particular? I truly believe that preschoolers have each of these personas inside of them and they require only a bit of time each day with their caregiver to tap into each of these areas of the liberal arts and the natural world around them.

Also, as a caregiver, I have come to recognize that more than any other time, I most enjoy the moments in our day that are spent together with books, in nature, creatively expressing ourselves with art, and listening to classical music. By bringing these joys into our home I believe that I am creating both a peaceful and adventurous environment for my child and for myself. Quality time with my children is priority number one and this curriculum allows me to focus our days around that!

If you’re like me, you like to plan ahead and get yourself prepared for the season well in advance! For this reason, I am offering a sale on the Spring ROAM curriculum from now until March 31st! I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this sale which offers 20% off the Spring Semester and includes 8 full weeks of lesson plans for you and your little one!

I hope you will join us as we ROAM around learning about all sorts of wonderful subjects this spring! Making nature bracelets as the flowers begin to bloom, listening to Vivaldi, exploring the different sounds that the rain makes, touring the acropolis, keeping track of outdoor explorations with nature journals, sculpting with soap and so much more!!!

preschool

When we are not out in the woods near our home, here is where we will be undertaking much of this exploration of the liberal arts together. Our little solarium is where so much learning and quality time together takes place. It is a sacred little space for us! I will share regular updates with you as we undertake the lessons alongside you and your little one this spring.

Spring is right around the corner. So cozy up and start planning the upcoming season with us!

www.artsystartsy.com