Sunday, May 5, 2013

may faire

I've written a few times (here, here and here) about the May Faire at Naiya's Waldorf school.  It's my favorite of the seasonal celebrations held there and was a special treat this time around because of the amazingly warm weather that seemed to bring record numbers of community members out to join in the festivities.

The Queen and her court shared Spring's bounty of flowers with the children before their procession to the May Pole.

As always, the day was filled with music, dance, delicious food and wholesome activities for the whole family.

I didn't photograph most of them but this year the classes hosted a number of fun booths including paper boat making and races down the creek, the fashioning of fairie rings, garland braiding, a paper butterfly craft, a cake walk, a "Better Gnomes and Gardens" ring toss, fishing for stones with feet in the wading pool, bean bag tossing and pole fishing for all manner of undersea prizes. 

By day's end we were worn out and, with what seems a precursor to some illness, Naiya's voice was nowhere to be found.  She was tuckered and fell asleep early and easily. 

Yet another Spring welcomed in good company on a glorious day.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

may day hair garland

Each year for May Day and for the May Faire at Naiya's school we have been putting together hair garlands to lend a bit of natural decor to our festival garb and liven up our merry making.  I've even posted a garland tutorial.  (Click here if you're interested in checking it out.)

Often, however, these coronets stay in place for a picture or two and then end up on our gathering blanket to wilt in the afternoon sun.  They're lovely and Naiya and I both enjoy putting them together but, she complains, they can be a bit cumbersome and, especially for active children, not really that practical.

That's why this year we decided to try something new.  What you see in the photo above looks like a  garland but is, in fact, just a series of hair clips holding little bunches of flowers onto her hair in a circle round her head!

To make it, I pulled a little hair back from the front of Naiya's head, made a braid on each side and bound the the two plaits in the back.  I then gathered very small flowers into two-ended bunches and clipped them onto the braid in the middle.  She has five clusters round her crown with the largest in the back covering the band where the braids meet.

She loved her "garland" this time around and it stayed in place until her night-time bath.  No wires.  No floral tape.  No complaining.  And put together in about 4 minutes.  I don't know that we'll ever make a proper garland again!

Friday, May 3, 2013

screen-free week: gardening

Planting a garden is yet another wonderful way to encourage children and families to unplug during screen-free week.  Working out doors with living things in an herb or veggie garden allows children to see how some of their food grows and feel a connection between the earth and themselves.  (It can also cut down on grocery bills!)  A flower garden or butterfly garden likewise create connections between our families and the earth as we experience budding, growth, blossoming and decay through the seasons.

In my garden there is a seed,
I am the one who put it there.
Who will help it now to grow?
Earth and sun and rain and air.
In my garden there is a flower,
From a seed it came to birth.
Who then helped it to grow so tall?
Air and rain and sun and earth.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

screen-free week: play dough

Painting, drawing, sculpting and crafts of all kinds are great ways to give children
a creative but focused outlet for their imaginations.  

Many parents find that meal preparation times are an especially difficult hour to keep kids occupied and free of screens. When having children help with cooking is not an option, dough modeling can be a fun way to engage a child’s hands, heart and mind while parents are busy.

Every child loves to shape malleable materials and children can parallel adult kitchen activities by pretending to bake and cook or they can use whatever inspires them to sculpt shapes, figures and even tell stories through the medium of dough.

 I can make it 
You will see 
I roll and squeeze 
Then one, two, three 
From my hands 
Something will grow 
What it will be 
I don’t yet know...
a castle... 
an elephant...
a spider... 
a vase... 
a flower...
a snake... 
a cave... 
a tree...
what will it be? 
what will it be?

 “Children love to practice rolling out with a rolling pin and cutting shapes with cookie cutters. I have a collection of small animal- shaped cookie cutters, and after they have rolled and cut a few, I then encourage the children to play with them at the table. They can roll a little more play dough to make fences, or a barn, or nests. This encourages them to use their hand- dexterity in service of their imaginative skills. Great training for life!”
                                                        - from Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer

To make your own play dough, try this easy recipe:

 Play Dough
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/3 cup salt
2 Tblsp. cream of tartar
1 Tblsp. vegetable oil
food coloring

In a medium sized pot mix flour, salt and cream of tartar.  Add water and oil. Stir over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes.

Once the dough forms a ball, remove from heat and allow it to cool. Once cool, knead the dough on a floured surface. 
That's it!  You've got play dough!  If you'd like to add some color...


Separate into various balls (depending on how much of each color you would like).  Indent each ball and drop food coloring into indentation.  (For the colors seen here I used 10 drops.)

Knead until the color is distributed evenly throughout the dough.  Once the coloring is mixed into the dough it will, oddly, not stain hands or surfaces.  (During the initial kneading, however, watch those clothes, countertops and hands!)

Store in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag.

“Artistic expression is an essential element of a balanced “diet” of experience for our young children. In artistic work, we accomplish two essential tasks of childhood: the training of the hand and the training of the heart. Together these lay a firm foundation for the training of the mind.”
                                       - from Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

may day

They're back!  Just as in years past, the fairies have chosen today to return in full force and our back yard Queen left Naiya a beautiful bouquet and a sweet gift on the step.

Let us take our baskets early
   To the meadows green,
While the wild-flowers still are pearly
   With the dewdrops' sheen. 

Fill them full of blossoms rosy,
   Violets sweet and gay
Cowslips, every pretty posy
   Welcoming the May. 

Then our lovely loads we'll carry
   Down the village street,
On each door, with laughter merry,
   Hang a basket sweet. 

Hey-a-day-day! It is spring now,
   Lazy folks, awake!
See the pretty things we bring now
   For the May-day's sake!
                                                                                                                    -Evaleen Stein 

A most merry May Day to all!

screen-free week: storytelling

“Story-telling is almost the oldest art in the world - the first conscious form of literacy communication.”   - Marie L. Shedlock, The Art of the Story-Teller

For today's Screen-Free Week hand-out we provided copies of a sweet tale called "The Bubble Story" from the Wynstones Press book Summer as our take home activity.  Along with the story was this short list of great storytelling resource materials for very young children:
(We're providing these materials primarily for children of pre-school and kindergarten age.)

What better way to fill our screen-free time than with the endlessly imaginative world of stories? As entertainment goes, listening to and reading stories are probably the most parallel replacements of television shows and movies that weʼll find. Not only do stories serve as fanciful diversions, they likewise help children develop concentration, memory, creativity, literacy, morality and verbal communication skills. They also aid developing people of all ages in understanding both their inner and the outer world.

One very important element of Waldorf Education in the early childhood years is the fostering of a childʼs creativity and imagination. It does this, not through providing fantastic stories that excite children, but rather through creating an environment which allows and encourages a child to exercise the parts of his or her being needed for life-long creativity and original thought.  To do this, the child must be inwardly active. This is accomplished when the child must, out of her own inner picturing, create what the “castle” or “princess” or “dragon” is.

When images are supplied for children, we rob them of the opportunity of creating them themselves. Even illustrations in books take away from the childʼs exercising of her image- forming capacities. But with illustrations at least the child must bring those pictures into movement using her imagination. In video form, the pictures that move by themselves can actually hamper a childʼs development.

Stories, of course, come in all shapes and sizes ranging from simple incident narratives to exceedingly complex, interweaving machinations. Of course, stories will be different for each of the changing stages of a childʼs development, but there are endless supplies of books, anthologies and real life experiences that can be the source of tales told as we sit enjoying quality time together.
We can read stories from books, perform them as simple puppet shows or even act them out.  Remember that our own lives, personal history and imagination are some of the greatest story resources we have.

     “One of our most human capacities is the ability, as well as the need, to create stories. It is through the medium of story that we make meanings of our life. We each have our own personal story, which dynamically changes as our understanding and integration expand. Bruno Bettelheim tells us that the young child achieves “understanding, and with it the ability to cope, not through rational comprehension... but by becoming familiar with (life) through spinning out daydreams - ruminating, rearranging, and fantasizing about suitable story elements in response to... [life] pressures.”
     Through the use of story, we can give our children powerful tools necessary to make sense of their lives. Stories offer our children examples of solutions for the difficulties they will encounter as they grow and develop. They also image for our children various qualities of character that will aid them in these difficulties. These images can lay a foundation of strength that will serve them for a lifetime...
     Not only does the realm of story help growing children make sense of their inner experience, it can help them understand the way the outer world works, as well...””
                -   from Heaven on Earth, A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Sharifa Oppenheimer

“In his book A is for Ox, Professor Barry Sanders develops the thesis that true literacy, and the ability to reflect upon oneʼs self and oneʼs actions, which it encourages, can only be based upon a firm foundation of oral language. His book provides a fascinating and cogent argument why, as he states, “The teaching of literacy has to be founded on a curriculum of song, dance, play, and joking, coupled with improvisation and recitation. Students need to hear stories either made up or read aloud. They need to make them up themselves or try to retell them in their own words... He also shows that this continuing emphasis on the spoken word in schools needs to be built upon the oral foundation provided by the parents in the home, through conversation, singing, nursery rhymes and stories...”
                - from You Are Your Childʼs First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy
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