Supporting Play/Learning at Home: Water Play

To help parents of young children who are stuck at home due to COVID-19, I am beginning a series of posts with ideas to support your children as they learn through play.

Water play is an activity that can keep children occupied for long periods of time. It can be calming for children who are working through powerful emotions and is appropriate for a wide age range.

Do you have a small baby bath tub or a similar sized plastic container? Fill it with one-two inches of water; it doesn’t seem like much but it is all you need! Lukewarm water is probably best.

Glitter bottles
Use sequins, oil, water and food coloring to make these. Glue the lids tightly.

Each time you put the water tub out, you can try something new to use with the water. Observe your children to see what they enjoy the most. Repeat the favourite items. If your child put things into his/her mouth, avoid smaller items. Consider asking your children for ideas.

Here are some of my favourites for water play:

  • -a drop of food colouring, sequins, and strainers
  • -a few drops of dishwashing liquid and whisks
  • -plastic sea creatures or animals
  • -rocks or pebbles and bowls
  • -measuring cups and spoons
  • -plastic containers of various sizes
  • -bath toys
  • -ice cubes or freeze coloured water in yogurt containers with plastic animals inside
  • -flexible tubing to pour water through with turkey basters and spoons or scoops
  • -plastic greenery or flowers
  • -plastic babies and wash cloths to give baths
  • -any plastic toys or dishes that need washing plus small tooth brushes for scrubbing
  • -for children who love to paint place the tub of water outdoors along with paintbrushes. Paint the shed/house/sidewalk/driveway. Bonus: easy clean up AND learn about evaporation.
Kitchen items are great for water play
A drop of dish washing liquid and a whisk provides tons of fun.

If you are feeling concerned or frustrated with water spilling, here’s a tip. Give your children sponges, show them how to soak up the water and wring it out to refill the tub/bin. If they are working on a clean surface, they can replace the water themselves as it spills with repeated wiping up and wringing out. They will learn not to waste the precious water you give them if you refuse to refill and put the responsibility on them to savour the water they’ve got. It also helps our planet to use moderation with all things and this is a good opportunity to talk about water conservation.

If you want to take this further, have a look at Tom’s Sand and Water Play website for ways to really kick it up a notch. Keep it simple or go all out but water play is wonderful for young children in so many ways.

Want to make more connections to learning? Ask some questions. If your child is age 4+ these would be appropriate. Give your children a chance to experiment and find their own answers. Help your child record their discoveries:

  • What do you already know about water?
  • What do you want to learn about water?
  • What have you learned about water so far?
  • What do you need to help you explore further?

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Picture Book Research

If you’re a picture book writer, you know that in order to write great picture books, you must also read great picture books. And that’s the thinking behind Kristi Call and Carrie Charley Brown’s ReFoReMo Challenge.

The goal is to read 5 picture books per weekday in the month of March for a total of 105 picture books.

Book pile for week #1

Keeping it real, here’s a list of the books I’ve read during week #1: (Is it cheating if I started a day or two early?)

  1. This is the House that Jack Built by Simms Taback
  2. Around the Table that Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill and Jaime Kim
  3. There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klosterman and Ben Mantle
  4. Snappsy the Alligator Did Not Ask To be in This Book by Julie Falatko and Tim Miller
  5. Chloe and the Lion, by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex
  6. Z is for Moose, by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zalinsky
  7. The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross BurachAre
  8. We Pears Yet? by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Carin Berger
  9. Moon: Earth’s Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
  10. My Happy Year by E. Bluebird by Paul Meisel
  11. Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller
  12. Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival by Lindsay Moore
  13. Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jamey Christoph
  14.  The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Barretta; illus by Frank Morrison
  15. Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy; illustrated by Ekua Holmes 
  16. MOTH: AN EVOLUTION STORY by Isabel Thomas, Illustrated by Daniel Egneus
  17. GIANT SQUID by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
  18. Most Marshmallows by Rowboat Watkins 
  19. River by Elisha Cooper 
  20. ONCE UPON A GOAT by Dan Richards, illustrated by Eric Barclay

Reading the blog posts that go along with the challenge make it insightful, highlighting what can be learned from looking at mentor texts.

I expect to be making a few more trips to the library this month! And I must say, I am so grateful for the ability to place holds on the books so that they are there waiting for me when I stop in at the library.

What mentor texts are you reading? Feel free to share in the comments.

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Reflecting on the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference: Philosophy with Children

Imagine a community of learners where children are teaching each other in collaboration. Imagine the idea of supporting individuals AND the group.

How do we bring children to be able to collaborate with one another?

A starting point is to begin to understand that what I see/feel is not the same as what you see/feel. For example, if a big dog runs up to you, do you jump up and down with excitement or hide behind the nearest tree? If you were about to get on a roller coaster would you feel excited? or frightened?

Metacognition is thinking about your thinking:

Play with loose parts.

How do we teach metacognition? Suzanne Axelsson uses questions to encourage children to think more abstractly. She gave the example: “What colour is Christmas? Why did you choose that colour? The ‘why’ is the important part. Suzanne tells us she has noticed that as children mature, their reasons for choosing the colour change.

Suzanne Axelsson tells us she records what children say, reads back what they say, and checks in with them and to see if it is accurate, then she adjusts accordingly. She mentioned that she sends the questions home a day in advance to families with children who may have trouble coming up with answers or are a bit shy to speak in the group so that they can practice at home first.

How do we teach listening, recognizing that 40 percent of communication is listening?

“We listen with eyes, ears, mind and heart.” S.A.

Suzanne brought up an important point about children who require extra support. Rather than just the adults sorting out how to support the child who needs it, what about asking the child’s classmates? What if we shifted the mindset from each child’s individual learning to learning while being supported by peers. How could we as educators encourage children to support one another in areas where they need help?

Loose parts provide endless possibilities and a springboard for communication.

My reflections:

Communication skills are the foundation of collaboration. So teaching these skills are key to working together as a group towards both individual and group success. When you think about the whole picture of communication skills, we are talking about reading, writing, speaking and listening. In my mind, greater value needs to be placed on speaking and listening. Early childhood educators have opportunities to encourage children to express themselves in full sentences and to listen to one another with the intent to fully understand. The process of asking questions and recording children’s answers and then going back to check the correctness of the written record is a really useful tool in the support of developing early literacy. During the process, the children get practice with speaking and listening skills AND they see reading and writing skills demonstrated for them. The model of writing and reading is the first step in learning these skills in the same way we model speaking and listening.

What will my next question be? I want to ask the children about their parents. If your Mom/Dad was an animal, what animal would they be? Why did you choose that animal? I’m looking forward to the discussion and cannot wait to hear their answers, especially to hear the reasons for their choice.

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Be Gone, Dreadful Cold!

If you’ve been paying attention to my past posts, you know I have been looking forward to the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference in Vancouver, B.C. that happens Thursday, Friday and Saturday. https://authorcynthiamackey.com/2020/02/17/counting-down-to-hundred-ways-of-thinking/

And of course, as timing would have it, I’ve come down with a nasty cold just days before the event. Sigh.

Green Tea with honey to soothe the throat

So now to make the cold go away as fast as possible…

I have done the following:

  • – 3 vitamin C boost drinks with 1,000 mg of vitamin C in each one
  • -warm salt water gargle twice
  • -breathing steam in the mornings
  • -eating oranges
  • -spoonfuls herbal cough syrup ( I had run out so I bought some today)
  • -drinking tons of tea

And I’m out of days to get better as tomorrow I get to take the ferry! Living on an island means lots of ferry travel. Here’s hoping for a restful sleep tonight.

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Have a wonderful day!

Counting Down to Hundred Ways of Thinking!

Okay, how many more sleeps until the Hundred Ways of Thinking Conference? I am so excited! Woot! Woot! And spring is almost here…

Spring is coming to Victoria!

Join Suzanne Axelsson from Sweden at our 2020 Conference for two days of playing, learning and reflecting! 

As luck would have it, I seem to be developing some mild flu symptoms just days before this wonderful conference. Ugh! Though I feel lucky for the family day weekend and the extra day to rest. I am filling up my body with vitamin C and hoping for the best! I did get the flu shot so fingers crossed.

Here’s the weather forecast for Vancouver. I know there’s been some snow so I am grateful for the slightly warmer temperatures. Looks like we will see Vancouver in it’s typical rainy fashion on Friday and Saturday.

Looks like we won’t see much sun over the weekend.

These conference organizers are amazing! Just look at what they sent out to everyone. They are so thoughtful. Which Vancouver restaurants should we try?

From the Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House organizers!

Four more sleeps and I get to go and visit my hometown! Yay! Though sadly, I won’t make it to North Vancouver, which is my absolute favourite place to visit. Not enough time. Sigh.

Stay tuned for more conference updates on the way!

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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.

Family Literacy Week!

Did you know Family Literacy Week is January 26 – February 2 this year?

Supporting literacy does not require a lot of materials. It can be as simple as having conversations together, going for walks and noticing environmental print, reading a story or making a grocery list.

This year’s theme is “Read Together”.

Bookshelf at The Children’s Bookshop in Sidney, B.C.

Look here for some free downloadable resources you can use to support early literacy.

If you are local, you can also visit the Sidney Museum’s Lego Exhibit or at Mary Winspear, there’s a production of Matilda the Musical based on a story by Roald Dahl. Or look for similar opportunities in your home town. Family events like these are great for promoting literacy too.

How do you make literacy part of your family’s every day life? I hope you’ll share in the comments.

Promoting Physical Activity for Children

A Western University study suggests children attending child care may not be getting enough vigorous heart-pumping activity. In British Columbia, child care centres are now required to have an Active Play Plan to address this issue.

Research indicates that when outdoors, children are 10 times more active than indoors so getting children outside is the first step. Outdoor play has been associated with improved self-confidence. Read more here.

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”
-Plato

Based on my observations, there are some children who are less likely to naturally engage in physical activity and may need extra encouragement to get active. I do believe if we find the thing we love and feel successful with, we will participate. This is true for children and adults.

What barriers are there to ensuring children are engaging in physical activity? How can we overcome those barriers? Let’s talk about it!

Cover Reveal!

Drumroll please…. time for the cover reveal of our illustrated early chapter book titled the Lullaby Monsters coming in 2020!

THE LULLABY MONSTERS by Cynthia Mackey and Paula Nasmith

Stay tuned for more information on pre-orders, book swag, release date and more! Go to my facebook page to sign up for my email list and receive notifications. You’ll receive a free downloadable resources for teachers and parents.

Synopsis: In this night time adventure, big sister Kelsey is always her brother’s hero. She bravely helps with lost teddy bears, scraped knees and favourite picnic foods. But when Thomas cannot sleep because of the lullaby monsters, Kelsey isn’t sure if she can help. Then Thomas’ precious lullaby box is stolen and Kelsey must face her monstrous fear. In doing so, she discovers that the lullaby monsters are a lot like Thomas.

Illustrations in progress by Paula Nasmith

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” -Joseph Campbell

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