Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unplug… And Reconnect with Nature

It’s hard to believe that this week is designated as “Take a Child Outside Week.” The fact that we even need to have an initiative to motivate parents to go outside with their children and connect with nature is beyond comprehension for me!

During my childhood years, there was no better place to be than outside. In fact, our parents didn’t even offer us any other options; they just wanted to know that we were in the “neighborhood.” This could mean the woods near our house, down the street playing in someone’s backyard or at the school playground around the corner. We were always outside even as our parents stayed inside. Our parents didn’t have to “take us outside.” Our parents didn’t buy nor need to steer us away from the HDTV, video games, computers, phones and other technological gadgets that bombard the environment of children today. It seems a bit ironic that it’s the parent’s responsibility to get their children outside when it is they, the parents, who buy all the newest technology and allow (or even encourage) their children to learn how to use it. In Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder,” he quotes a fourth-grader as saying, “I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”

I saw an ad in the paper last week that had the following message, “There is no childhood obesity epidemic. (We just need better role models.)” We need parents to recognize that they are their children’s first teachers and that they are their children’s role models. One in three kids are overweight or obese and electronic media and junk food are partly to blame. And who is buying these pricey video games and high fat and sugar foods? It’s usually not the 4- to 8-year-old child. I feel as responsible adults we need not to be spending money on these items for our young children. Turn off the TV (I think there’s a designated week for that too!), and consider playing a video game or watching a movie a “treat” and not something to be consumed 5-6 hours daily!

What if we open the door and give children the time and opportunities to explore and discover nature on their own? Finding worms and dirt and leaves and sticks and rocks and bugs and whatever the outdoor space has to offer, the natural world is rich in sensory experiences for children. Smell the flowers, listen to the birds, feel the wind on your face, roll in the grass, stomp in the puddles or watch the shapes of clouds in the sky. Even in urban environments, children can experience nature. Provide
magnifying glasses, tweezers , and small shovels for children to explore a small patch of dirt or grass. Even weeds grow in sidewalk cracks, ants can be found there too. Place a thermometer outside and read the temperature. Watch shadows, use binoculars for bird or squirrel watching. You don’t have to be a naturalist to instill in children an awe of the world and a desire to discover and uncover what is around them. You can nurture children’s interest in nature simply by demonstrating your own excitement and curiosity. Let’s go outside! You are a role model!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Drawing Relay

Keeping kids up and active can be a challenge during the school day, but the following activity, courtesy of TeacherQuickSource, is a great way to incorporate movement into a fun, creative arts activity. This is easy to set up can be done indoors or out, which makes it great for any season!

Drawing Relay

Materials Needed:
A large piece of butcher paper or large individual sheets for each team
Crayons or markers
A large area for a group relay activity

Let’s Get Started:

1. Divide the children into 4-5 teams so that there are only 3-4 people on each team.
2. Attach the butcher paper, or individual sheets for each team, to a wall, fence or other barrier.
3. Tell the children that one person from each team is going to go up to the paper and begin drawing a picture.
4. At the end of 30 seconds, the teacher will blow a whistle. At that time, the child will run back and give the crayon to the next person on his team. That person then runs up and continues drawing.
5. This relay should continue until each child has had two turns.
6. Take down the pictures and have the teams discuss what they drew.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Morning Moving Routines

Get the blood flowin’ and brains growin’ when you begin each day with some physical activity! The start of a new school year is a great time to establish a daily morning routine that gets kids up on their feet and out of their seats. Here are some of my favorite ideas for active starts to the school day:

Super Hero Exercises
With a little imagination and your verbal cues, children will be smiling and moving as they perform each exercise. Count to ten aloud as you do each one with the children.

Superman Stretch: children attempt to keep their balance while up on their tiptoes with arms stretched over their heads. (Imagine: “Superman is flying!”)

Batman Bounce: children jump in place with feet together 10 times as they count aloud to ten. (Imagine: “Batman is jumping into his Batmobile!”)

Robin Run: children run in place as they count to 10 aloud. (Imagine: “Robin is running to catch up with Batman. Wait for me Batman!”)

Spiderman Swivel: children stand with feet are shoulder width apart. Twist from side to side with arms and hands moving across the body. (Imagine: “Spiderman is throwing his web!”)

Wonder Woman Windmills: children stand in with feet shoulder width apart and arms are stretched out to the side. Use the hand of one side of the body to touch the foot on the opposite side. To help children perform this movement say, “Turn, touch toes, and up!” “Up!” means body is in a standing tall position. Repeat instructions several times with children using opposite hands to touch opposite toes. (Imagine: “Wonder Woman is getting her Magic Lasso!”)

The As-If Game
Have the children act out each sentence:
1. Jump in place as if.... you are popcorn popping
2. Walk forward as if... you are walking through glue
3. Jog in place as if... a big, scary bear is chasing you
4. Shake your body as if... you are a wet dog
5. Move your feet on the floor as if... you are ice skating
6. Reach up as if... grabbing balloons out of the air
7. March in place and play the drums as if... you are in a marching band
8. Swim as if... you are being chased by a shark
9. Move your arms as if... you were juggling scarves

Ask the children to create their own “As-If” sentences for the group to act out.

These activities can be great fun for the young children in your classroom or home. Are you an early childhood educator or parent with an idea for an active start of the day activity? I invite you to share your favorite ideas, too!