“When we teach a child to draw, we teach him how to see.
When we teach a child to play a musical instrument, we teach her how to listen.
When we teach a child to dance, we teach him how to move through life with grace.
When we nurture imagination, we create a better world, one child at a time.” ~ Jane Alexander
In my last blog we discussed the concept of internationally popular Early Childhood teaching approach called: STEAM. These five letters represent the words: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. It is felt that these five skill areas are essential for developing higher order thinking skills in young children. Each of these areas invites your child to look at the world with both creative and critical “eyes”. Through Science, Technology and Engineering children learn to use the scientific method of observation, prediction and experimentation. These skills last your child a lifetime and are key to success in all later schooling.
The skill areas of Art and Math are also core curriculum for your child’s mind and growth. While we all know the importance of Math in terms of counting, calculating and computing, we often forget that ART is just as important. The ability to think creatively is key to problem solving and thinking. In an article on Creativity from the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education it was stated that, “Interestingly, Nobel Laureate scientists are more likely to be involved in the arts than their less eminent colleagues.” (http://dalailamacenter.org/blog-post/role-creativity) Your young child learns through exploring and “messing around” with art materials. In so doing, art becomes science and science becomes art.
Here are some great Art and Math activities you can share with your child…outside or in!
Art Explorations Outside
“Every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist once he grows up.” -Pablo Picasso
• Spray It with Water! What child doesn’t love to experiment with a spray bottle?!Collectrefillable spray bottles for using with water and eventually washable paint. Your child can take the water sprayer outside to spray on the ground, sidewalk, building and plants. Ask your children to notice how the surfaces change with the water. Ask, How is it different? How do the colors look now that they are wet?Of course, this is an “impermanent” art form because as soon as the sun touches the water the artistic effects of the water will dry up and change again! Bring a big piece of paper and invite your child to try spraying water on it. Ask, Now how does the paper change? Eventually you can fill spray bottles with washable paint mixed with water and a drop of dish detergent in each. (This helps the paint to clean up easily at the end of the activity) Show your child how to spray on the paper to create a design. Your child will love to experiment with the sprayers and with mixing colors. You can even use newspaper for this project. Place many sheets of newspaper in a row on the ground or attach to a fence. And then let your child spray away! Add a new dimension by providing shapes to place over the paper where your child is spraying. Take them away and they will see an outline of the shapes in the spray art!
• Rub It with Crayons and Paper! Crayon rubbings are considered a fine art form. But interestingly, they also help your child observe the textures of the world around her. This simple to do activity can be done inside and out. In fact, it is good to do both with your child over a period of time. This will help her observe her world with both artistic and scientific eyes. All you need to make rubbings is plain paper and crayons. The crayons need to have the outside wrapping papers taken off so that your child can use the side of the crayon instead of the point. Start inside by showing your child how to place the paper on top of something with an interesting texture and gently rubbing the side of the crayon back and forth over the object. Coins can be a good place to start! Then take the paper and crayons outside to explore the shape and texture of trees, sidewalk, rocks, and signs. You can take a feeling walk around to explore the “touch” of the different structures and natural materials. After your child has finished her drawings, put them together in a family art show!
• Weave It with Yarn, String and Paper! Weaving teaches your child about positions in space. To weave your child has to slip something in and out, over and under, up and down! Provide your child with a variety of colorful pieces of yarn or string or strips of paper to weave over and under, around and through a tree branch outside or bring one in to experiment with. Then your child can find other natural materials such as leaves, feathers, and dried weeds to place in the weaving. If you can’t find a small branch to use… just use a large piece of paper with strips cut out to be the “base” of the weaving.
Math Explorations Outside and IN
“Mathematics reveals its secrets only to those who approach it with pure love, for its own beauty.” Archimedes
• Measure It with String, Blocks, and Rocks! Before your child can understand measurements in meters she needs to understand the process of measuring using familiar objects. Start inside with your child. Invite her to make to use something simple like socks or books to measure items in the house. For example she can place a row of socks across the couch or a rug to measure it. Ask her to guess or estimate how many socks long her bed is. Then try it together. You can take non-standard measurement outside for a ton of fun math learning. Use materials such as your child’s blocks, lengths of string, and even rocks. You can ask, What can we measure? Encourage your child to estimate the length of the garden, the car, her trike or a bench. Measure everything! You can even ask her, What do you estimate is the longest thing we can measure outside? Measure and see!
• Flow It with Water or Sand! The concept of FLOW is essential to math exploration. When your child explores how sand or water flows thought things she is noticing the effect of the number of holes in a device and the amount and speed of movement. Not only is that fun, it is educational. You can experiment with this inside or out. Outside can be less messy and easier to clean up. Use Styrofoam plates and cups as your experimentation tools. Start by having your child try pouring water (or sand) onto a plate or into a cup. You can ask, Will the water pour out? When does it start to pour out? How much water is needed to make it spill over? Then provide a dull, chubby pencil for your child to carefully poke a hole in the plate. Then you can ask, What will happen when you pour the water (or sand) in now? What would happen if you put more holes in it? Try exploring flow in a dishpan of water or sand. After your child has thoroughly explored water she is ready to compare the flow of sand vs. water. Here is a question to ask, Which material will flow faster through the same size container with the same number of holes? Try it and see!
• Fill It with Stuff! Your child can experiment with the mathematics concept of AREA with this simple and fun activity. Do you remember the concept of area in your math studies? The mathematical term ‘area’ can be defined as the amount of two-dimensional space taken up by an object.You can create large shapes on paper with tape or chalk to create geometric forms for your child to fill. Start with simple shapes such as a square or rectangle. It might be easiest to do this on the floor or on a table. Invite your child to use her blocks to “fill up” the area of the shape. You can ask, How can you fill the shape without having any block hanging over the edge? How many blocks do you think you will need? You can even take the shapes outside to explore! If you have a space on your walk or driveway for your child to play, try drawing a shape for your child to fill with nature objects!
• Roll It with Balls and Toy Cars! Estimation of distance is an important math skill. Find an incline where your child can experiment with rolling different size balls and toy cars down. Or you can make an incline with a cardboard box and cardboard. If you have an outside play slide…it is an excellent MATH tool for estimating the distance an object can roll. Invite your child to collect different size and shape objects to experiment rolling down the incline or slide. Ask her to estimate many different aspects of rolling. You can ask, Which objects do you think will roll the fastest? Which will roll the slowest? Which will not roll at all? Which item will roll the farthest when it gets to the bottom? You can also try this inside with stacks of pillows or books. Over time your child will notice that the size and weight of the object affects the speed and ease of its movement.
What do you notice about all these learning activities? None of them are worksheet related. These are “real world” activities that have no “right or wrong” answer. This is how your child learns in the early years. They will have plenty of time for worksheets and homework later on in life. But now is the time to learn through experimentation, exploration and wonder. The experiences that your child received in the Kinderpillar classroom and play ground build on these skills and with these activities you can capitalize on this at home. Enjoy!