Sidney, B.C. Two Hundred Boxes!

About 5 years ago, when I first began working at Sidney Preschool, I introduced a new and special day to our program. I called it our Cardboard Box Extravaganza! We had our parents collect and bring in boxes and the children were give some simple materials to work with as well as an opportunity to use their creativity to go wherever their imaginations may take them with the collection of boxes. This was a huge hit! And each year proved to be a little different as new children and parents brought their own unique ideas to the event.

Small boxes can be great for creative minds as well.

And that is why it does my heart such good to see this event taking place in Sidney. Two Hundred Boxes is an event for the whole family and takes place February 16th from 10 am to 4 pm at the ArtSea Gallery in Tulista Park. I have no idea how this event came to be but what a wonderful opportunity for family and community engagement. Castles, towers, tunnels, neighbourhoods, forts, planes or trains could all be part of your experience as you work with the boxes. This event is totally free of charge. Kudos to the Community Arts Council for organizing!

And because I am a huge supporter of children’s literature, let me add a couple of great picture books that encourage creativity with cardboard boxes. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and What To Do With a Box by Jane Yolen. Do you know some other great books on the same subject? Have you and your children created something amazing and wonderful with a cardboard box? Share in the comments.

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Fostering Creativity in Young Children

What is creativity? The ability to produce work that is both novel and useful.

Why is creativity important? Creativity will allow us to generate and execute innovative solutions. Creativity will influence how we approach a challenge.

How can we foster creativity? I want to share this awesome website with you. Harvard Graduate School of Education has Project Zero, an exploration of creativity. You can learn more by searching age categories or subject categories. There are book recommendations too. There are more resources and professional development too. If you value creativity and want to support that or learn more, check out all the Project Zero has to offer!

If you look under resources, for example, you can download family dinner conversation cards with age appropriate conversation starter ideas for you. And there is much, much more. How do you use your creativity? Are your children creative? Share in the comments! I’d love to see all your creative projects.

Play Grows Brains.

When you hear that play helps with brain development, what kind of play do you imagine?

I would define play as self-directed, freely chosen, and intrinsically motivated activities.

Makers of electronic toys would have us believe that we need these educational toys to ‘teach’ our children something. And yet the research has shown that the most simple toys that do not actually ‘do’ anything (non-electronic) are the best for play. It turns out that the electronic toys do not encourage parent-child interaction, whereas the simpler toys do allow for more interaction. It is those interactions (often compared to the serve and return) that facilitate neural development.

Glitter bottles
Sensory bottles are simple to make and are wonderful playthings.
Creative play with basic materials is so valuable!

Simon Nicholson’s Theory of Loose Parts has been a force in early childhood education and shows how play with basic materials above promotes creativity and discovery.

Do you imagine play in organized programs like gymnastics, soccer, swim lessons, piano lessons, karate, t-ball, and others? Yes, these programs may have a playful element; however, are they self-directed? Are children intrinsically motivated to participate? Maybe. And maybe not. In my opinion, organized sports are best saved for children ages 8 and up.

Read this Harvard Research Brief, The Science of Early Childhood Development to learn more.

Aside from educational benefits, there is another less obvious reason to promote children’s self-directed, freely chosen, intrinsically motivated play, one that is biological. In a review in the American Journal of Play (yes, there really is a scholarly journal on play), evidence is provided from controlled studies in rats and some primates. These studies show that when young animals are encouraged to play they develop improved social competencecognition, and emotional regulation later in life. Play experience also makes them more adaptable to unexpected situations.

Do children need commercially produced toys to improve their development?

No. That is all just toy company marketing.

It turns out the ‘toys’ that are going to benefit children’s development are for the most part free and easy to collect. And this is very good news for young families who are on a budget.

Reference:

Suggested citation: Center on the Developing Child (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development (InBrief). Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.

Victoria Art Gallery: Family Sunday!

Did you know that the Victoria Art Gallery features Family Sundays? https://aggv.ca/events/family-sunday-30/ The program happens on the third Sunday of the month and provides an opportunity for hands-on art making activities for all ages.

Art meets science with food color, dish soap and homogenized milk.

Sunday, January 19th from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Victoria Art Gallery at 1040 Moss Street.

What do you like to do on Sundays? Share in the comments!

Lego Inspiration at the Sidney Museum

Here’s a wonderful event that we are so lucky to have here in Sidney! On now through March at the Sidney Museum, there is a popular Lego Exhibition. https://sidneybia.ca/calendar-event/lego-exhibition/

A gift from one of my piano students!

Have a look at all of the displays and be inspired to see what you can create. At our house, we have quite a lego collection and though some of it is sorted into actual sets, much of it is a jumble. That really is no matter, though because the random pieces allow for new projects to emerge; ones that don’t match the picture on the box. And for some of us, it is best to work without an end product in mind and just see what unfolds.

The endless possibilities of lego.

So take your family to the Sidney Museum and see what creative potential may emerge. Do you have a photo of your own lego creation or one done by your kids? I’d love it if you’d share! Let’s see your lego creations.

A Real Life Katie Shaeffer

Though this does not count as inspiration for the book, here’s a great example of a real life Katie Shaeffer.  One of my preschoolers, age 5, wanted to bring something for show and tell and it could not be a toy.  He and his Mom showed incredible initiative, resourcefulness and creativity to visit the beach, collect the items and then using a glue gun, put together this awesome pirate ship.

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Celebrating the real Katie Shaeffers of the world and their trusty assistants who help make it all happen! Creativity can be part of your lifestyle just like Katie’s in the story.

Check out Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker, an inspiring book for you and your child!

Collections

Katie Shaeffer would just love this tray of miscellaneous items!  

It always amazes me how a simple collection of items can be so inspiring for a child.  My group of preschoolers can do amazing things with the most random objects.img_3206

“Katie assembled and constructed; she glued and she taped; she stacked and she hammered, until finally her creation was done.” -from Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker

Here are some real examples of creations made by young children with miscellaneous items:

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I believe young children are capable and can do amazing things if given the opportunity! That belief together with the inspiring creations I see children make daily helped inspire the story Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker!

Here’s a synopsis of the story:

Join Katie and her friend Baxter in this fun story as they use a passion for collecting and building to find a way to realize Katie‛s pancake dream! This upbeat energetic tale with great potential for reading aloud will appeal to adults and young children alike. The book includes a predictable rhyme that will have children chiming in as the story unfolds. Children will celebrate with Katie and Baxter as their pancake dream becomes reality! Recipe included. Author: Cynthia Mackey Illustrator: Paula Nasmith

Contact me if you are interested in receiving an advance review copy of the story! I hope to have these available soon.

authorcynthiamackey@gmail.com