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8 Spring Activities for Preschoolers

Need something new to do with your little ones as the weather warms up? Welcome spring together with these creative and sensory outdoor activities.

By Skyanne Fisher

After a long winter, preschoolers will perk up when you introduce them to new spring activities. Head outside in the sunshine, and celebrate the arrival of spring!

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Make Your Own Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk was a childhood favorite of mine, and it seems to be a timeless pastime, as every child I know loves it. Instead of just grabbing a box of chalk at the local store, create a new family memory by making your own.

To create chalk: Cut a paper towel tube into 3- or 5-inch pieces, and use waxed paper to line the inside and cover one of the ends. (Hold the paper it in place with masking tape.) Mix 2 to 3 tablespoons of tempera paint, ¾ cup of plaster of Paris, and ½ cup of water. Pour the mixture inside the tubes and let sit for a few hours, until solidified. Peel off the waxed paper and cardboard tube, and you have your own homemade chalk for hours of decorating your sidewalk.


toddler finger paintingDabble in Finger Paints

I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t love finger painting, and rarely do I meet a child who doesn’t “accidentally” get a little paint in their mouth. Most finger paints are labeled “nontoxic,” but I still like to make my own paint because I know exactly what is in it. Plus, helping you make the paint can be a fun activity for a child.

To make finger paint: Use a ratio of 1 part flour to 2 parts water. For one child and a few colors, I typically start with ½ cup of flour and 1 cup of cold water. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and heat it on the stove, stirring until it becomes a smooth mixture and the lumps are gone. Then remove the flour mixture from the heat and divide it into bowls, one for each color you’d like to make. Slowly add cold water until the paint is at the desired consistency, and stir in food coloring. Add a pinch of salt, which helps to stop the paint from spoiling, and you can store it in the fridge indefinitely.

Whip Up Some Homemade Bubble Mix

Bubbles are another springtime favorite. While it’s easy to run to the store to grab a bottle of bubbles, making your own is super easy. And witnessing a child’s excitement when they see the bubbles they’ve made themselves is far better than grabbing a bottle at the store. However, I do recommend picking up some bubble wands to get the most fun out of this activity.

To make bubbles: Combine 12 cups of water, 1 cup of dish soap, 1 cup of cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons of baking powder. You can also add 1 tablespoon of glycerin, but the recipe works fine without it. Combine all ingredients, taking care not to create bubbles as you stir. Let sit for 1 hour, then enjoy an afternoon of bubble fun!

OutdoorPlay-300x226Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Take a walk with your child and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Head through your neighborhood to the local park or, if you’re lucky enough to have access, walk along a creek bed. Encourage your child to explore and search for butterflies, salamanders, worms, frogs, birds, and other small animals. Ask them to count how many different types of flowers they see. Seeing nature “waking up” is the perfect introduction to spring.

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Fill Up a Spring-Themed Sensory Bin

Sensory bins are a great thing to have around throughout the year. Essentially they are plastic bins, boxes, or similar containers filled with objects of various sizes, shapes, and textures. They are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who are fascinated simply by the way things feel, and they are a great way to introduce children to new things. Sensory bins are particularly helpful during rainy days when the kids can’t get outside to play.

To create a spring sensory bin: Fill a plastic bin about halfway with dirt, sand, or pebbles. Then add things like flowers from the yard, miniature flower pots, kid-safe indoor gardening tools, plastic bugs or worms, and any other fun additions that you find around the house.

Craft a Few Bird Feeders

Making bird feeders each spring was a favorite tradition of mine and something I love doing with my children. All you need is a toilet paper roll and some peanut butter, birdseed, and string.

To create a bird feeder: First, put the string through the center of the toilet paper roll and leave at least 6 inches of string on either side of the roll before tying the ends together in a knot. This is how you will hang the feeder in a tree. Next, cover the outside of the toilet paper roll with peanut butter and roll it in birdseed. Make sure to cover the entire surface. Head out to your yard, select a tree, and hang it up. It’s fun to choose a tree that’s visible from the house so you and your kids can watch as the birds come to eat.

Mix Up Some Spring Goo

“Goo” is another great sensory activity — especially since this fun substance acts like a liquid and a solid.

To create Spring Goo: Mix 1 part water with 2 parts cornstarch. Stir in flowers, glitter, or anything else you think might be a good addition. Goo can also be turned into a fun science experiment: It’s a solid when cupped in your hands or resting in a bowl, but it behaves like a liquid when you pour it from your hand.

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toddler in the gardenSpend Time in the Garden

Spring is planting season. Why not allow your child the chance to have his or her own kid-size garden? If you already have a garden, dedicate a small corner to your child. If not, choose a sunny spot and create a new garden bed together. Allow your child to choose the seeds, help plant them, and then tend the garden as one of their daily responsibilities. It’s an educational experience that also gives children an opportunity to connect with nature … while getting a little dirty!

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A Bejeweled Birthday Experience

bejeweled birthday party

Sometimes the idea of hosting the perfect soiree can put any mom into a tailspin.  In the era of Pinterest and the perfectly crafted birthday party, it’s a daunting task to try and create a memorable day without wanting to pull all your hair out.  So, how about this year you throw your unique girl a fashion friendly jewelry themed birthday party and let her imagination soar!

Self-expression is a crucial part of every young girl’s development. She is on a constant search for ways to not only express who she is, but to feel confident about that expression. Her birthday is the perfect opportunity to provide a way for your young lady coming into her own to really explore the depths of her creativity, vision and style.

dragonfly2Treat your young lady to a day of creativity, style and fashion on her special day with a few of her closest friends creating pieces of jewelry that they can be proud to wear!  You can let girls choose from different jewelry styles such as earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces, hair pieces and more!  A wide variety of beads will allow the girls to have endless fun creating custom designed pieces of jewelry to suit their own styles and color palettes.  Also, with the recent surge in loom bracelet popularity, guests can also explore the limits of the rainbow and their imagination with their own loom and a wide variety of band colors.  Whether they want to work with wire and glass beads or create a piece with a loom and colorful bands, the creative options are limitless!  There are few things more exciting than creating a beautiful pair of earrings or a stunning necklace and being able to wear it proudly knowing it was crafted with your own vision and skill.

dragonfly3Dragonfly Designs can help you throw a jewelry birthday party with a staff of creative and skilled instructors in the SF Bay Area, or you can order supplies online. With the skills they will learn in this experience, they will be able to create new, professional looking pieces for years to come!  Watch the confidence of your young lady flourish with each new project she takes on, displaying her originality and true style.

dragonfly4

Dragonfly Designs also has a line of handmade jewelry pieces you can browse online or at the birthday party.    Everyone can walk away with something beautiful, colorful, and made with love! If a party isn’t enough time for your daughter to make her creations, find a jewelry making class or camp.

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Choosing Musical Instruments for Kids: How Parents Can Help

musical instruments for kids
Photo by Flickr user tony kearns

The ability to play a musical instrument is a great talent that takes time and dedication. Learning to play music is a lot like learning to read—the earlier it starts, the better.

When your child shows interest in taking up an instrument, try to resist the urge to pick for them or let them pick on their own. Picking the right musical instruments for kids is a commitment that should involve both the child and the parent.

Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for the right musical instruments for kids.

Physical limitations.

A child with asthma might not have the best luck with a wind instrument, and a child with braces probably wouldn’t have much luck with a brass instrument.

Take into account your child’s physical characteristics—are their arms long enough for a trombone? Are their hands strong enough for a string instrument?

Cost.

Musical Instruments for kids can be extremely expensive, but just because your budget is tight doesn’t mean your child can’t play an instrument.

Do some research about the maintenance of each instrument and see what you can comfortably commit to.

Clarinets and oboes require reed replacements and string instruments need their strings replaced quite often. Brass instruments are costly but relatively low maintenance.

Personality.

Helping Your Child Choose a Musical Instrument
Photo by Flickr user ptcentrum

Does your child like to be the center of attention or prefer to hang back with the crowd?

Some instruments, like trumpet and piccolo, are more prone to have solos or leads while others such as percussion and tuba create more of the backbone of the music. Which fits your child’s personality better?

Instruments like piano require personal rehearsal time while other instruments are better practiced in a group.

Does your child have the dedication to practice alone or would they prefer a group rehearsal?

Availability.

Your community may not have an oboe or accordion teacher to help your child master their skills. Perhaps your town is known for their impressive jazz band.

Your child may be better suited to take up something that provides opportunities in the area.

Look into what sorts of specialists you have locally. However, don’t discourage your child from playing an instrument because of a lack of opportunities in the area. Being the only bassoon playing in the metropolitan area might mean a greater chance of a scholarship in the future!

Introduce new instruments.

Which instruments has your child been exposed to?

Are they interested in the drums because they played them at a friend’s house?

Most kids haven’t been exposed to many instruments so their interest in a certain instrument may be ill-guided.

Take your child to a music instrument store to see and learn about all sorts of instruments. Some stores will even let kids handle and test the instruments to see which best suits them.

Musical preferences.

Helping your Child Choose a Musical Instrument
Photo by Flickr user Crystal.

Does your child have a love for jazz music or rock and roll?

Kids are more prone to be interested in an instrument that fits their musical preferences. Asking your children what sort of music they like listening to and what their favorite part of that music is can help to uncover what the right musical instruments for your kids are.

Your expectations.

How important is learning an instrument for you?

Is it important to you that your child study classical music or will you allow them to choose their own path?

Think about the practice time at home—if there are instruments you can’t stand, you probably won’t be too keen on hearing it for hours in end. Choosing an instrument should be a group decision.

Written by Sarah Antrim

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources

Kids Activities Are Crucial for Your Child: 10 Essential Reasons Why

1. To find something he loves doing.

Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life, said the former Mr. Jennifer Lopez. Most of us dream of being able to make a living doing something we love – being able to share our talents with the world. Having a passion in life is a gift, and it is important that children be allowed to explore their unique combination of interests and talents to find something they truly love doing. Whether or not it leads to great success, or even a career, the opportunity to find true joy in an activity or organization can be a source of lifelong happiness.

2. To learn how to lose, and to win.

 Any activity done over years will involve competition — both with others and beating one’s own personal bests. Like it or not, competition is a fact of life, and understanding how to deal with competition builds character. Committed participation in an activity helps children see that defeat and rejection are not the end of the world, and makes losing a teachable moment. Long-term involvement in an activity also shows kids that success is not an endgame, but rather a jumping off point toward a new goal.

3. To find identity and community. 

When a child finds a pursuit to which she wants to devote herself, it redefines how she presents herself to the world. As this sport, subject or art form becomes a deeper part of herself, she will likely want to explore it further by reading, doing research online, going to professional events or by starting her own groups. This identity will unite her with a new support system or “family” of people who share her interests, goals and possibly, worldview.

4. As an emotional refuge. 

Bullying currently occupies a large and troubling space in our national dialogue about childhood and adolescence. With the current prevalence of bullying, it is crucial for kids to have a space, both physical and emotional, where they feel safe and valued. A place where a child comes to practice a favorite activity with friends with similar interests can be, quite literally, a life-saver.

5. To have a way to express herself. 

People express different aspects of their personalities in different settings. Many famous people including Brad Pitt, and (really!) Lady Gaga are shy in person. A boy who is introverted and withdrawn may be a colorful and dramatic actor. A bookish and quiet girl might manifest an aggressive tenacity on the debate team. A high-schooler who could write a master’s thesis on being popular, might have a gift for working with small children or performing community service. An activity can bring out hidden facets of your child’s personality or skill set, and give him or her an outlet to shine!

6. To develop a strong work ethic. 

There is no happiness, Henry Ford wrote, except in the realization that we have accomplished something. Successful people find joy in working toward a goal. In their chosen field they live by the idea that anything worth doing is worth doing well. They know that success doesn’t happen overnight, and they take responsibility for their own process. They learn from their mistakes. The disciplined, exacting approach that comes from mastering an art form, sport or subject is a foundation for achievement in any endeavor.

7. As a way to focus a frenetic mind and body.

Children with ADHD, who often have some combination of behavioral, social, emotional and academic issues can benefit immensely from a constructive way to organize their thoughts and direct their impulses. Kids activities such as martial arts, basketball or soccer, where there are specific skills and constant movement done under close direction, are an excellent way for a child to focus and develop his or her gross motor coordination. Studying a musical instrument or the fine arts can also develop muscle control and focus. Furthermore, if a child comes to excel at a given activity, her success will likely downplay the negative aspects of her condition in her own eyes and others.

8. To work closely with adult role models.

Parents know that they will not always be the sun, moon and stars to their children. Adolescence is often a time of disillusionment with other adults, as peers replace grown-ups as confidantes and idols. A child who is involved in a longtime activity has the opportunity to interact with nurturing adults who love and understand the activity in question just as much. An experienced and well-respected coach, or dance or music teacher can fill a void in a teen’s adult interactions, especially when it comes to providing valued life and career advice.

9. Because competence breeds confidence.

Self-esteem is fabulous. Kids need it. But it has to be based on something – getting a trophy just for showing up gives kids a dangerously wrong message and that in the end leaves them feeling empty and defeated. The “Tiger Mother,” Amy Chua was taken to task for her decrying of Western parents’ emphasis on self-esteem at all costs. But Ms. Chua understands that a child’s self-confidence comes from excelling at something. It comes from working diligently and not giving up and being better than one was before. It comes from knowing that s/he’s good at something.

10. To have a higher purpose. 

Children are extremely susceptible to the message that material things and being friends with the right people bring happiness. Having something healthy, something bigger than themselves to aspire to – to occupy their whole beings – body, mind and soul is an important life principle.

 

 

 

Keesha Beckford

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After-School Activities

Music Master Diaries: Ernest Kinsolving, Fiddle

Ernest Kinsolving is a pro at placing a different spin on the typical music lesson experience. With the San Francisco bay area swarming with aspiring performers, Ernest focuses upon refining skill and inspiring a love of music in a fun and relaxed environment. In addition to the traditional summer camp experience your child may be craving this year, consider some time with private music lessons. Playing something out-of-the-ordinary like the fiddle only adds to the fun and quirkiness of your child’s summer.

Q: Tell us more about your class philosophy.

A: When I was a kid studying music I was actually fired by my piano teacher for not practicing enough.  I don’t think that really

helps much.  Kids (and their parents) are busier than ever and sometimes the only chance a student has to practice is during a lesson. I start from wherever the student is when they walk through the door, even if they’re mostly asleep and forgot to bring their fiddle (it happens!).

Q: What surprises/delights the kids most about your class?

A: I welcome and celebrate what makes them unique – from the student who chooses to never speak during lessons to the one who likes to end every lesson with a Rubik’s cube competition. I expect them all to be different, and I make plenty of room for their individuality.

 

Q: Which student milestone do you look forward to?

A: I love it when a student comes in and shows me something that they’ve worked out on their own; that’s when I know that they’re excited about what they’re learning.

Q: What is one important question that parents should ask you before joining this kind of class?

A: It’s really a question they should ask themselves and their children: are you here to have fun and explore, or are you here to excel and conquer?  If you’re here to excel and conquer, then you should be looking for someone strict and inflexible, but if you’re here to have fun and explore I’m eager to help.

Q: What is the one thing that kids can only do in your class and not anywhere else you know of?

A: When a young fiddler is too timid with their instrument, I have them concentrate on making the loudest and most horrible noise with it that they can.  They love that…  But I encourage them not to practice that particular skill at home.

Q: A tip or technique or any other useful bit information for students/parents?

A: Something small and actionable: ex: do 5 pushups before and after every meal, soon you’ll be very strong; practice music first thing in the morning when you don’t have to worry about homework. (sorry, these were my best guesses!)

My best tip is this: when you’re practicing a new skill — whatever it is — there is no such thing as a mistake.  What you think is a mistake it just your body telling you to slow down, focus, and try again.  If you can truly see it that way, you move forward much more quickly and happily.

Interested in checking out a private fiddle lesson with Ernest? He’s located in Mountain View, which makes it a great gateway point for both San Francisco and South Bay parents who are looking for a summer opportunity away from traditional summer camp programs. He can even throw in a tin whistle lesson from time to time.