Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Day for Crayons

We've been collecting broken crayons for a long time.  Three oatmeal tubs were filled to the brim -- mostly casualties from my son's love of breaking new crayons in halves and thirds.   Broken things become new again in some sort of fashion here, so our buckets were actually filled with treasures enough to make 50 new beautiful crayons.  We all worked together with sorting, peeling, and color coordinating before melting them down. I was surprised that the end product didn't actually mean "color time."  The new crayons actually became trains, towers, and birthday cakes. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tree People Craft for Reading Time

I bought a most delightful, imaginative book for Sage and Indigo entitled "The Knottles" by Nancy Mellon.
When a family builds a new home at the edge of a pine forest, the children go to sleep in their new bedroom for the first time. As the full moon shines on the beautiful new pinewood floors, walls, and ceiling, they have the most surprising dream...out of a large pinewood knot climb seven little Knottles, who are the guardians of the pine trees. The Knottles sing and dance with the children.... When the children wake up in the morning, they are inspired to plant pine tree seedlings with their parents, and they promise to take good care of all their trees for evermore.

I loved the book and imagery so much that it inspired this craft.  It was really neat for Sage to see the Knottles come to life in her own home.  These little guys make great finger puppets and you can create your own story each day.  We cut pieces of fern and glued them to toilet paper rolls.  We collected small twigs and used them for arms.  If you don't have ferns, I imagine there are several other types of leaves or greenery you could use.  At the end of the day, our little tree people sit happily on our nature table. 

“Storytellers have as profound a purpose as any who are charged to guide and transform human lives. I knew it as an ancient discipline and vocation to which everyone is called.”
Nancy Mellon, The Art of Storytelling
 Nancy Mellon has guided storytelling and writing groups for many years. A former Waldorf teacher, she has given storytelling and art therapeutic courses at many locations in the US and UK. Her books include Storytelling and The Art of Imagination. She practices therapy through the arts and is a member of the visiting staff at Emerson College in the UK.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fall Garden & Tree Planting

Tonight is the harvest moon.  We were too late with Fall planting to enjoy even a small harvest today, but we've had fun with watching our plants grow and learning all about seeds. The Florida weather is more forgiving with a late summer planting.  We were finally able to get our nectarine tree planted, which I'm happy about.  We'll have to cover it on a few winter nights, but it will be big enough to survive on it's own. These past few weeks, we've planted kidney beans, butternut squash, tomatoes, basil, mint, roselle, and rosemary.  Each time, the kids worked hard with shoveling, watering and weeding.  They sweated and played and enjoyed making mud pies with the water hose at the end of planting.  We'll celebrate the Harvest Moon tomorrow with apple bread, popcorn necklaces and a leaf project to decorate the windows.   I'm also excited because we'll be creating our very first fall nature table with the items that Sage has collected in the past few weeks. I think the season is going to be extra special because of her age.  Oh to be in the company of a 3 year old!

Patting the soil down.

Indigo watering the new tree, but we wandered off course a bit and watered everything else too.

Kidney beans sprouting.

Butternut squash sprouting.

I knew the hundreds of wine corks that I've been saving would come in handy one day.  

"Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives." -Thomas Berry

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pine Cone Art

Few words are needed for this project.  Explore, collect, create and enjoy!

"Young children spending time outdoors with an adult who joyfully celebrates their discoveries will never have to be taught to love nature."

Monday, August 5, 2013

Guest Post: Yoga for Kids by Michelle Witherby

Yoga for Kids by: Michelle Witherby {OrganicContessa}

Some of the most important lessons kids learn happen at a desk
… some happen on a yoga mat” ~ Bent On Learning

When I began practicing yoga over 10 years ago – it was in a small studio located in a quaint neighborhood called Virginia Highlands in Atlanta, GA. The studio fast became my personal reprieve from the hecticness of life and at the time my “time-out”, so to speak, from years of really active athletic practices. Fast forward to 2013 and my yoga practice is still as special as it was then, yet even more intimate. Yoga has helped me to grow as an individual –the calm, peace and centeredness it brings to my life is almost unmatched to anything other than my meditation practice. In writing this I pause to think, if yoga can help me achieve such sweetness and balance in life…what could it do for a young, impressionable mind? A mind aching to connect in a world that most feel, as adults, has grown increasingly disconnected? How can the ancient practice of yoga inspire and affect our new world children, can yoga be for kids?
In speaking with friends of mine who are mommies and have enrolled their children in yoga, the answer is overwhelmingly clear; yoga can move mountains for children. Children desperately (and I don’t say this lightly) need emotional nourishment and activity in life. Yoga has shown to bring a level of centeredness, respect, strength and compassion to the hearts and minds of kids. Kids of all ages. Moms have mentioned to me that their children have a better sense of awareness of who they are as individuals, exhibit more confidence, and more appreciation of themselves which in turn affects how they relate to others around them. Doesn’t matter your age, when we KNOW better, we DO better! Right?!
Recently I sat down with a dear friend and NYC yoga instructor, Michelle Barge, to get the full view on how the practice of yoga can truly benefit children. Certified since 2005, Michelle is a renowned teacher and some years ago began bringing her craft of instruction to the mat at Bent OnLearning – teaching children the joys and discipline of yoga. To me, who better to really help us grasp the importance of yoga for kids then Michelle? Imparting an age old wisdom blended with joy and fun, Michelle shares more on her approach and a look into the children she teaches … I hope it inspires you as much as it did me.

How long have you been teaching yoga to children?
Since 2007 – when I became a teacher with Bent on Learning, an organization that brings yoga into the NYC public school system.

What are some of the overall ways children benefit most from practicing yoga?
At first, I saw teaching yoga to children and adolescents like teaching anything – tennis, martial arts, swimming….kids have to listen, follow directions and accomplish a task, as well as the group dynamics of course.  What I saw immediately though was a lovely curiosity mixed with respectful listening.
But overall and in general; enhanced listening skills, concentration, respectfulness, calmness

Children like to move and talk, both of which can be incorporated into practice, but what techniques do you use to hold their attention in class?
Like with adults, the minute you start throwing out directives to kids – look this way, hand that way, back foot turned in, they have to focus plus they are moving. The older kids, ages 9-13 on up, just usually get into it.  With the younger kids we connect poses to animals; for example fold over, touch your toes and pretend you’re an elephant’s trunk (after a demo of course)
Also yoga has a lot of respect in it inherent to the practice.   With the older kids, we do a contract together – what’s acceptable in class and what isn’t

I’m thinking there are probably many ways to incorporate “playfulness” into class. As mentioned, children love to assume roles as animals … do you find your students connecting to postures like downward facing dog, cobra, cat/cow?
We take each pose related to animals and explain how old the practice is and how the yogis used animals to explain the postures.  A great one is downward dog, thinking about a dog on its forearms stretching, OR showing the chest of a thin dog like a greyhound of whippet as that’s how – ideally – the chest should be as prominent in downward dog.

In what ways have you seen and/or experienced “change” in the children you teach?  Do many of them take their time in class seriously?
For the younger kids, the time is just pure fun.  Many of the schools don’t have PE (Physical Education), so this is their play time.  For the older kids, especially in NYC where the kids are pretty sophisticated, there’s definitely a cool factor.  But in general, kids 14 on up take it pretty seriously.  I have seen kids have a heightened respect level, ability to concentrate and just an expansion of the mind & curiosity.  Kids want to know about India, the music, other cultures.

If parents want to practice at home with their kids, is there a particular DVD you would recommend?
I don’t have a personal recommendation for a DVD, but this resource link might be helpful; KidsYoga

As a teacher, what wisdom do you wish to impart on the children you teach?
Most importantly just opening the children’s eyes to new experiences.  I mostly work with children who are in low-to-moderate income conditions OR being in NYC, some kids are just a little bit jaded – kind of been there done that, “oh yeah my Mom does yoga”. But when you get children’s curiosity piqued that’s super important for me.  Next is amping their listening skills and having them in just an electronic free zone for an hour.  But ultimately, to teach children that they can find peace and calm within themselves and that quiet and the ability to meditate and take savasana is a GIFT!

Thank you Michelle for sharing and for bringing such beauty into the world, and to Indigo + Sage for being a vital resource for education, family topics and encouraging a community to create an environment where children can positively thrive!

Namaste ~ OrganicContessa

Michelle Witherby {The Organic Contessa}. Blogs about personal interests relating to green living and sustainability. CEO & Founder of O&N Collective ; an online beauty & wellness apothecary specializing in world class, non-toxic skin & personal care products, her passion is for advocating safe & effective skin care as well as encouraging a way of life that promotes overall life balance. The Organic Contessa and Liv Well Team consists of contributing editors who are experts in yoga, green-living, beauty, wellness, nutrition, personal growth & spiritual wealth – with a  mission to encourage a lifestyle that’s not only better for our bodies but also for the soul, mankind, and plantet as well.  “Beauty & wellness begins from within” ~ Organic Contessa

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Imaginative Play with Ice Blocks

 This is super simple to create.  The cost is free.  It stimulates and encourages imaginative play.  The colors are beautiful and playing with ice is cool in more ways than one.  ;)

I used 4 basic colors, ice trays, muffin tins and plastic cups.

We started off using our play table.

I noticed that she was struggling a bit while trying to make her creations balance on the play table because the surface wasn't entirely flat.  We moved the ice to the deck and it was perfect.

She started off with a basic tower.

She decided to build a playground. 

Then she decided that we should have lemonade and food. I loved watching her creativity evolve.

She made a drum set and asked for sticks.  

I was surprised at how long this activity kept her attention.  She played until every last ice block completely melted.

"Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold." - Joseph Chilton Pearce, Contemporary American Scholar

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Homemade Lavender Pillows

These are very simple to make.  I'm not a seamstress and can barely sew a straight line by hand, so trust me.  They really are easy to make!  You can use dried herbs, flowers, tea blends or even whole coffee beans.

Fabric swatches - any size will do.  My pillows were approximately 4" x 4". 

Dried Lavender or Any Dried Herbs 
You can purchase them HERE or at any natural food stores.

Embroidery Floss
You can use a single strand or double the strand to achieve a contrast.

Fabric Sheers

A basic running stitch diagram.

Pair your fabrics and threads.   Instead of tying a knot when you begin, leave a small piece of thread at the beginning to use for tying at the end.

Stitch around the edges using a basic running stitch.  Leave a small opening and fill your pillow with dried lavender flowers or tea blends.

Finish stitching and knot your two pieces of thread.  

The kids will love them.  Sage takes hers to bed every night.  Lavender is a great smell for calming and relaxation.  They also make great handmade gifts.