Tag Archive for child development

How to Throw a MARVELOUS Art Party for Kids!

painting with leaves

Open ended art is super important for kids to experience. Crafts that turn out cutesy lady bugs or perfect cookie cutter American flags are cute, but giving kids an opportunity to really experience art mediums and have valuable sensory experiences is vital to their development. These activities also give kids the chance to be in control of the outcome and create what THEY find beautiful instead of what we tell them is good.

Creativity is established by age 8, and in the state of Oklahoma, art is not offered in school until 5th grade. What are we missing here? Where is the disconnect? Art is essential for children’s development! Click here to see 10 reasons why.


Children learn so much from open ended, child directed art. According to the National Association for Education of Young Children they learn:

“Social and emotional

Children relax, focus, feel successful, and can express their feelings

Language and literacy

Children may choose to discuss their art and add print to it (on their own or by dictating to a teacher)

Cognitive

Children compare, predict, plan, and problem solve

Physical

Children use small motor skills to paint, write, glue, use clay, and make collages”

There are a multitude of other things children learn from experiencing creating art. Click here to read the rest of the article.

At Little Sprouts, we do a lot of art. I was raised by an artist, and I have seen the impact of art on the world, myself, and children’s development. When my daughter Kayla was little, I made sure she spent a lot of time being creative and now she is perusing creative goals as an adult.

We love to have special art parties at Little Sprouts. It’s a great party to throw outside where the kids can get as into the art as they wish. I ask parents to send children in old clothes and send something to change into after the party. This would also be a great idea for a children’s birthday party or even a party for adults. If you don’t spend time creating things, you will be amazed what it will do for your stress level, your self-esteem, and your sense of accomplishment if you do some creating. Even our God loves to create, look at all the beauty He made and still makes? We are born to do it!

What makes an art party marvelous?

  1. Fun! Make sure the atmosphere is laid back and you are engaged and ready to support children’s efforts. Praising children with “good job” and other comments is not nearly as important as taking the time to appreciate what they are doing. You can ask children what they were thinking as they created their art or how it made them feel. Instead of saying what is it, you can say, tell me about it. You can also say, I loved watching you have fun making this, or I love how many colors you used. This type of feedback encourages children to appreciate their own efforts as well.
  2. Freedom. Children need to be able to explore the art mediums they are offered and use them any way they see fit to create. Avoid using terms like, you need to use the paint brush or do this or that. At our art party last week, the most common thing I said, is “You can use it any way you want”.
  3. Variety. For instance, when offering paint to children, don’t just give them paint brushes. Also offer some leaves or other natural objects to paint with as well as sponges, shaped objects, and of course, they can be free to use their fingers.
  4. Options. Don’t require children to participate. If they just want to put one line on a paper and move to another station, that’s perfectly fine. They are exploring the materials and its part of learning. Soon, you will see them take a deeper look at things and begin to use more creativity.

Here are some of the activities we did at our last art party. No two parties are the same here, I always try to come up with something new and different to expose the children to. Be creative when thinking of ways to encourage the kids to create!

shaving cream painting, art party

Shaving cream paint. Just shaving cream squirted into a bowl and a few squirts of paint added. This was definitely the favorite medium of the day. Kids loved exploring it.

art party for preschool

sidewalk chalk, preschool art partySidewalk chalk is always a fun outlet. Who doesn’t like to color on the ground?

Throwing a marvelous art party for preschoolColored pencils, crayons, and markers were available with stacks of paper to use.

Drawing with markers, preschool art party

watercolor relief art for preschoolLiquid water colors and paint brushes were a big hit. Everyone enjoyed painting with it.

murals painted with nature brushespainting with onion tops

Murals were available. I just used news print cut in pieces and stapled them to the fence. Children could paint with brushes, fingers, onion tops, leaves, branches, pinecones, and a number of other things I found around the yard.

painting with leaves

natural paint brushes

watercolors over glue, relief paint for preschool

As the art party began, children were able to make designs on these papers with glue, then at the end of the party, I gave them liquid water colors to paint over the dried glue and make relief art. They thought that was pretty cool.

There are so many other options, these are just a few we did this time around. If you want to get inspired with children’s open ended art ideas, check out Pinterest. It’s always a great place to get ideas!

To read an interesting article on how creative art can change the lives of neglected and abused children, click here.

I wish you art, I wish you love, I with you the peace in your soul that art brings. I hope you will create something today and tell me all about it!

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.

Pablo Picasso

 

Benefits of Outdoor Play!

 

Outdoor play is on the decline at alarming rates. Studies show the massive amounts of sedentary activities for children such as multiple forms of screen time are increasingly affecting their health. Childhood obesity is on the rise as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, and adult onset diabetes which is so common among young children that health care professionals are calling it Type II diabetes. As many as 80 percent of preschoolers are not spending time outside each day. That is an alarming number.

What do kids learn outside? EVERYTHING!

  • Outdoor play enhances social development, learning skills, and physical fitness as well as reduces stress and anxiety. It also helps children develop stronger immune systems. Studies show outdoor play at a young age can even prevent the development of many allergies.

DSCN5348 (2)

  • Children tend to be more physically active outdoors since the terrain is more appropriate for running, jumping, and climbing. They are more creative outdoors using a wider variety of make believe play. In addition, children develop better social skills outdoors as the environment leads to less stress and pressure. They are more able to express themselves socially. Many studies have shown children are more likely to be creative outdoors as well as are more able to concentrate on their school work after having time to play outdoors. Vitamin D, which is critical for growth and development, is increased when spending time outdoors in the sun.

outdoor play with kids

  • Improved long distance vision, gross motor skills, and sensory development are a few of the physical benefits of outdoor play, but the list is immeasurable.  In addition to the physical and emotional benefits, there is also a lot of cognitive learning that can be done outside.  Observing insects, animals, and plants teaches science.  There is math everywhere, even counting the leaves on a clover.  Playing outdoors covers a multitude of things children need for successful development.  We could all use more time outdoors.  Fresh air and sunshine benefits everyone.

outdoor play

 outdoor play with kids

What does this mean for schools who are reducing recess and physical education time in order to give more time for academics?  I find it sad and alarming.  I see behavior disorders on the rise, health problems on the rise, and other problems on the rise, and I see the public school system putting more pressure on children to perform on tests and less emphasis on physical well being.  I’m not sure that’s the right answer.  Research shows outside play increases attention span, so why are we not using the research to plan our schedules?

outdoor play with kids


Remember back to your childhood and you will probably have fond memories of running, riding your bike, or skating all over the neighborhood.  Those were the times when you developed endurance, imagination, motor skills, balance, relationships and so many other things that are vital to you.  Safety today is more of a concern than it was during my childhood and exploring unsupervised is no longer an option in our current culture today.  Kids can still spend time outside, we just have to do more to be present with them.  There is still plenty to learn and explore right in your own back yard.  Kids just need a chance to get out there.

Do your best to get your kids outside for at least a few minutes every day. Their mind, body and soul will be better for it! And so will yours.

 

Music and Movement is FUN!

What’s the big deal about encouraging the kids to sing and dance?  Rich environments produce rich brains and every experience we present to the kids we provide care for is another way to enrich their learning.  But is music and movement really important to development?

music and movement time

Obviously it helps develop motor skills, develops a positive attitude toward physical activity, and is just plain fun, but there are deeper reasons to expose young children to music and movement opportunities.  I totally geek out when it comes to brain development in young children.  I am in awe of the mold-ability of children’s brains at the age I teach in my home preschool.  Sometimes I get a little sciency when it comes to this subject, but I am totally enamored with the power we hold in our hands as we teach!

Brain development


Music and Movement

Listening to music and playing music games helps children use both sides of their brain at the same time.  It stimulates the frontal lobe, which develops language and motor skills.  The rhythm of music reinforces language.  Since the brain goes through a major growth spurt between ages 2-6, music and movement is of utmost importance in the toddler and preschool years.

music and movement instruments

Endorphins

Movement causes the brain to produce endorphins, our feel good chemicals.  These chemicals increase energy levels and the ability to learn.  In addition, movement increases oxygen in the blood which sends more oxygen to the brain helping in thought processes.

music and movement dancing

Music and movement activities include cross lateral movement, or crossing the midline of the body.  Think of making big scissors with your hands in front of your body or giving yourself a hug.  This movement is incredibly important in brain development.  When children’s arms or legs cross the midsection of the body, both sides of the brain work together which strengthens brain connections exponentially.  This stimulates critical thinking, and problem solving, as well as math and reading skills.  Music and movement is full of opportunities for producing stronger brain connections.

music and movement, preschool

Benefits for everyone.

Children of any age as well as adults receive benefits from music and movement activities. Singing songs and doing finger plays and rhymes with kids are great ways to get them interested in the rhythm of music.  Exposing children to all kinds of music gives them an appreciation for a variety of rhythms and tones and increases their learning as well. 

Every week we have music day where I play music on cds and let the kids dance with instruments and dancing ribbons and scarves.  It’s truly the highlight of our week.  We use disco music, oldies rock songs, kid’s songs, show tunes, and soundtracks from movies to get in the mood.  The kids get to choose what they want to dance to, but I will tell you that disco is king here. 

I don’t know how the children I get all seem to come here loving disco, but it has NOTHING to do with me.  Finger plays are good for stimulating development as well.  Letting your kids make homemade instruments or dancing props is a great way to get their interest going.

music and movement joy

There are innumerable games, songs, rhymes, finger plays and chants available online to beef up your repertoire.  We usually learn one new song, rhyme, or finger play every two weeks or so.  When we have our daily music time, we usually do that activity along with two others the kids choose, so we focus on really learning the new one well.  How ever you choose to add music and movement into your day doesn’t matter, just do something to increase the kids’ exposure to it and you are on the right track.

Music is the life of my soul. 

I love most kinds of music.  Loud music, quiet music, elevator music, I don’t care.  I just love it all.  Music can soothe my broken heart, bring me into the throne room of God to worship Him, wake me up, get my heart beating, connect me to others, calm me, put me to sleep, and many other things.  There’s magic in the melodies and harmonies that are created by the artists who make songs.  I think people NEED music.

music with kids

The lives we touch are ours to change.  We make a difference every single day.  Whether you work with kids or adults, or whoever, be the best you that you can be.  Do something new today that will change a life for the better.

Share some music memories you have:

Babies are Born to Learn

When children are born, they are naturally curious and processing information about the world through sensory stimulation. During the first three years of life, a baby has incredible growth in all areas. There is so much we can do as parents and caregivers to get children off to a great start of lifelong learning.

A baby’s genes serve as the main structure for their ability to learn, but there is so much we can do to help them improve. During the first years, a baby’s brain produces massive numbers of connections that will after the age of three begin to be pruned if they are not used. It is easier to form learning connections during this “plastic” or growing time in the brain. That’s why early childhood experiences are of utmost importance.

Positive experiences have a huge effect on children’s chances for happiness, achievement, and success. The more they are nurtured, held, and stimulated in the first three years, the better their brains will function for their entire lives. Not only academic learning is affected, but trust, problem solving, resilience and other emotional process are as well. Fifty percent of a child’s learning about the world is achieved by age 3.


Each person has billions of brain cells. Each cell has dendrites, or extensions like tree branches. They give and receive impulses to other brain cells which travel along pathways called synapses. These pathways send information from one cell to the other to form knowledge or brain power. Everything babies learn such as speaking, moving, feeling safe, recognizing objects, etc. travel along those pathways.

Pathways grow because of stimulation and nurturing. Repetition and routine are important to strengthen the connections between the cells. As an experience is repeated, it sculpts the brain. For instance, every time you nurture a crying baby, you are sending the message of safety and love and establishing trust. Nothing is more important to brain development than relationships.

So what can we do as caregivers to give young children the best chance at success? Spending time with infants and young children, talk to them, sing to them, play games, read to them. All of these activities build a foundation for children’s language. Encourage them to crawl, walk, climb, draw, hop, ride bikes, jump, skip, and dress themselves. In addition, it is vitally important not to rush children into learning skills their brains are not yet ready to learn. Not only does pushing children to learn things early cause undue stress that is damaging, but the connections that are formed will not stay because the child’s brain is not ready to receive those impulses yet.

Young children also need the proper amount of healthy fats in their diet so that the brain can function at its highest capacity. Breast milk is the perfect food to provide that to children. Healthy fats in natural food will give children the best chance of learning success they can have. Limiting unhealthy fats such as are in fried and processed foods is imperative for developing brains. Healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and natural oils present in foods such as fish help to protect the processes of the brain and help it reach its fullest potential.

Creating little geniuses or super brains should not be our goal as caregivers. Our goal should be to provide a safe and loving environment where children know that their needs will be met. When children can trust, they are free to learn at their personal pace. Our goal should be to provide a safe, structured and loving environment with plenty of stimulation for young brains to learn.