April is national poetry month.
Poetry may not be something we think about after we are done with high school english class but it has huge benefits for kids of all ages.
From simple finger plays (here is the beehive, but where are the bees?) to Dr. Seuss to Shel Silverstein, poetry can enhance a child's ability to read expressively, introduces new sounds and provides some creative thinking skills.
Young children benefit from the rhythm of poetry. It exposes them to concepts like rhyme and meter. It is helpful for them to learn to distinguish between certain sounds or phonemes and can encourage them to "play" with language which is crucial for early talking!
Early readers can explore the humor or deep emotion through poetry. It can be helpful for reluctant readers to see whole thoughts in just a few words. It is even easier for them to approach the page as it doesn't appear so daunting.
Kids can learn about imagery. It is exciting to them that poems can be interpreted in any number of ways. And the complex thoughts and emotions that poetry expresses means that the same poem that makes a 2 year old laugh can make a 6 year old imagine and a 12 year old reflect and expand. This makes poetry great for using in multi aged groups like we as nannies often have!
So why not go to the library and check out a book of poems this month! What are your favorites? How do you use poetry in your job?
“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live 'em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give 'em.”
― Shel Silverstein
A friend of mine posted this article- I figured it was the standard article about internet safety and warning of some new way kids were in danger using social media.
I was half right. The article does warn of the new way kids are using instagram to hold beauty pagents. It is alarming and the author made good points. But I stopped short when she said that her kids had to share their passwords until they were 13. What? Then she goes on to say these kids including hers that were on instagram were in 4th and 5th grade.
I had the standard nanny reaction You know- we all love kids and most of us rail against thee kids using tech. In fact I am always boring people about studies that show that TV is so harmful for young children and have been very strict with my former charges who wanted Facebook pages or the like.
BUT I am going to challenge us to think about this for a minute. Technology is this funny thing- it doesn't go backwards. Just because it is dangerous to drive a car, we probably will never go back to the horse and buggy. Just because it is more comforting to communicate face to face- cell phones are not going anywhere. In fact recent studies have indicated that almost all U.S. kids under the age of 2 have a digital footprint already.
So if the new technology we are integrating into our society at a rapid clip is here to stay- shouldn't we be teaching kids to use it from the very start? We all know a 2 year old who can work an iPhone to get to the pictures they want to view or play a game. Shouldn't we also be teaching kids how to use it to learn? to get information?
As we teach manners and social norms to our young children, should we also be teaching them how to communicate online? Should we be teaching kids at 4 and 5 the right way to phrase things, the emoticons you need, to get along with others in a digital world? Because in light of the intense bullying and easy misunderstandings of kids in middle school- it might be too late by then.
When we teach kids about how to evade that white van at the playground and how to use their instincts about strangers perhaps we should be teaching them to detect online predators and find safe communities to interact with on their devices.
I am not so sure when is too early and when is too late. But I think it is time to start thinking of technology in some new ways. I mean we all know that we can not tell kids to eat vegetables and healthy foods and then eat Cheetos and drink soda for lunch. We know what that yields. So if the digital world is one where our kids are going to live (and it is) then we need to give them opportunities with boundaries to make mistakes and learn in a safe way.
I am still puzzling this all out. What about you??
When you approach art projects it is good to ask yourself what is your objective or goal. There are 2 broad categories that projects can fall into- open ended or closed ended. Open ended projects are my favorites. These projects are focused on the process as opposed to the product and allow for imagination and flights of fancy. Want to put the clouds on the bottom and the grass on top. Great! Open ended projects will not necessarily look like the sample. They are child directed and simply ask that you provide the materials and some inspiration. Some kids will not even need the inspiration.
But also important are closed ended projects. These projects have a more specific product in mind. We are making a sheep using cotton balls. We put the cotton balls on the paper in a certain spot to achieve artwork that looks similar to the example given. These projects were the gold standard of preschools and there was a big movement away from them. But they are important for kids. There are times in life where you need to follow directions. Visual skills are sharpened as kids notice details and process them into actions of their own. Product driven projects sharpen listening skills as well.
Figuring out your goal for projects can keep the process stress free for you and your kids and allows for you to make sure you are offering both kinds of opportunities.
Do you have a favorite project? Is it open or closed ended? Which kind is easier for you to facilitate??
Need an idea for quick and simple motor skill play? Great here is a simple one- make a line!
We just put a long line on the floor with masking tape. Can be on carpet or hardwood (but check in a spot first that the tape doesn't ruin hardwood in your home)
Then we hop on the line, hop over the line, skip on the line, dance on the line - you get the point. This is a great way to work on language skills as well as you can talk about over, on top of, as well as action words like crawling, skipping, hopping, tip toeing.....
Encourage kids to try some other deceptively simple tricks. Like keeping both feet on the line like a tight rope. Or try putting objects on the floor and having child stop while walking (or running or skipping) and pick up object without moving their feet. This is a tough skill for those 2/3 year olds!
Try putting on some music and asking kids to move on the line in response to the music. Is it fast or slow? Does it make you want to do something funny as you move or does it encourage you to move like a ballerina?? You can talk about rhythm and the effects of music on mood.
For older kids practice changing directions on line, make the line turn or be wavy. Ask the older kids to make up activities for the younger kids!
This activity increases equilibrium and helps kids coordinate movement. It works large muscles and also is helpful for the connections between their will and their movements. As you use music it can be a great way to incorporate some emotional words into the play and help them use their body to indicate mood.