10 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Your Child

As loving parents, we want our children to develop their creative potential. But sometimes we may get stuck in worrying about what our role should be in that process.

Sometimes the most helpful thing we can do is offer a starting point with many possible outcomes and allow the situation to evolve on its own.

Here are ten starting points for encouraging creativity:

  1. Let your children get bored. Do not rescue them from their boredom by giving them something to do; instead, let them rescue themselves. This is one of the best opportunities for a child to be creative! “Know that this means that your child has an opportunity to discover something about what and who they are, what they like to do and can do, and how to manifest ideas into reality,” says Oak Meadow teacher Amy Fredland.
  1. Get outside! Go for a walk or just sit outside and observe. Sometimes the best creative play opportunities arise when there is nothing around but nature. Changing the environment can give us a new perspective on ourselves and all sorts of other things.
  1. Invite your child to tell a story, compose a poem, make up a song, create a play, or invent a dance. Give them your attention when they are ready for an audience. If they ask you for a topic, invite them to come up with one on their own. Make it a family tradition to tell stories, sing songs together, and entertain with funny, made-up jokes.
  1. Consider that freedom follows form. Help your children learn established techniques which they can later experiment with. Help them gain confidence with craft tools and methods. “If we give a child some structure, but not too much, it opens more doors for creative expression,” says Oak Meadow teacher and former homeschooling parent Julia West.
  1. Keep appropriate supplies handy. Got crayons? Cardboard? Paper? Tape? Clay? Paint? String? Scissors? With safety and age-appropriateness in mind, make it easy for children to access materials when the creative urge strikes.
  1. Provide natural and recycled materials on an ongoing basis. The more varied, the better. A jumble of odds and ends can spark a series of creative ideas. What can you make? What can you build? What does this remind you of? What could someone do with this? The stories our children tell and even their most impossible ideas can be as important to their creative development as the things they actually make.
  1. Start creating something and invite your children to join in. Make a card, decorate something, or create art just for the joy of it. Make up a silly song, tell a funny joke, try out a new craft idea. Do you have creative hobbies that you can share with your children? Leading by example is one of the best ways to encourage our children to be courageously creative people.
  1. Allow things to get messy, disorganized, and cluttered. Creativity can be messy. “Don’t allow your need for cleanliness to take over your life! Many of us parents develop a feeling that it’s our job to keep things clean and ‘fight the mess’ continually. You could inadvertently be sending a message that kids are being inconvenient to you by playing or creating art,” says Oak Meadow teacher Sarah Boggia. But at the same time…
  1. …set the stage for clean-up success. Keep a plastic tablecloth, aprons or smocks, and old newspapers in a handy place, and help your children learn to prep and protect the area where they are working. Keep a trash can, a recycling bin, and some rags or paper towels in the area where arts and crafts most often take place. If extra-messy projects make you nervous, consider setting them up outside. It’s okay to encourage a balance between expanding creativity and keeping the cleanup job manageable.
  1. Offer possibilities and let things happen organically. Once your child’s creative juices are flowing, step out of the way. Be quietly available for support if it’s needed, but let them do the rest. If the end result is nothing like you thought it would be, congratulations! You did a great job encouraging your child to own his or her creative process and allow it to be separate from your own.

What are some other ways to foster creativity in yourself and your children?

Immersing Yourself in the Emerging Spring – Part 2

Here is Part 2 of “Immersing Yourself in the Emerging Spring”, written by Oak Meadow’s k-8 teacher, Sarah Antel. 

Into the Forest

The forest is a place where the spring awakening can be observed and experienced. It is often in the forest that magic can happen. Your child can experience hearing similar to that of an animal with large ears; have them close their eyes and cup their hands around their ears. They can slowly turn around and see if they hear noises they did not hear before. You could each try it and count how many sounds you each can hear.

1Mid May 2011 134A common place for many small creatures to hide is under rotting logs. If you slowly roll one over you may find a variety of insects and spiders, worms, fungi and molds, and perhaps a salamander! If you do find a larger creature like a salamander when you roll a log, set the log off the the side of where the animal is so you do not accidentally squish it. The animal will find its way back to its hiding spot. Keep in mind that salamanders are very sensitive as they breath through their skin. If you pick one up, make sure to not have lotion or bug spray on your hands. You can always rub dirt on your hands to help block the salamander from these products. 

18796358_f248You and your child can make a terrarium so observation skills can be practiced even if the weather is inclement as well as learning the invaluable skill of caring for a living organism. There are almost as many ways to make a terrarium as there are things to fill it with. One of my favorite methods is to use a quart sized canning jar.

 

Begin the collection of materials by examining the forest floor. What can each of16a01348109b26f970c016304b39c5a970d-pi you see when you look closely at the layers of soil in the woods? Scoop some of these layers up and gently lay them in the bottom of the jar. What does your child notice the next layer is in the woods heading up from the soil? Try and use materials from each layer, as is appropriate to the size of your jar, to create a miniature habitat. You can plant seedlings and moss in the soil, insects and other small creatures can be added if you do not plan on keeping the terrarium much longer than a week. Once the terrarium is complete, sprinkle some water into the jar if the soil seems dry, then spread a piece of plastic wrap over the jar top, use a rubber band or canning jar ring to hold the plastic in place, and carefully poke several small holes into the plastic wrap to allow fresh air to circulate.

Finally, you may want to build a fairy house with your child; this is a long time favorite 1b40d695e828a3993e309e9543a892a32outdoor activity that effectively explores the magical side of our surroundings. I like to use natural objects from nature. When I have built these with children, I ask them to allow plants to grow, that is, trying to not uproot a plant or use leaves that are attached to a living plant. I have had fun with students by altering the fairy house when they are gone in such a way so the child imagines that fairies or gnomes visited during the night. Two books that I have found inspiration in are, Fairy houses… Everywhere! by Barry and Tracy Kane, and Fairy Houses written and illustrated by Tracy Kane.

191VB0ZlJQyLSpring holds so many promises of new discoveries with each day. A favorite book from my childhood that I still use is the true story of a family that ventures outside the night of each full moon of the year. They wrote about what they did and the animals they saw; I highly recommend Walk When the Moon is Full by Frances Hamerstrom.  I hope you are able to take the time to slow down with your child and spend some extra moments with a discovery or question that may be found in nature.

What on Earth is happening?

The first “pendulum seismoscope” to measure the shaking of the ground during an earthquake was developed in 1751, but it wasn’t until 1855 that faults were recognized as the source of earthquakes.

(From the U.S. Geological Survey Homepage)

If you have taken, or are taking, the 7th grade Earth Science course with Oak Meadow, then you know there is a lesson about earthquakes and plate tectonics. It’s a fun lesson because you get to eat pancakes while you perform experiments with the pancakes to demonstrate Earth’s movements!

I find it fascinating that the Earth, which I think of as so firm and steady under me, is actually in movement all the time. Every day the Earth’s movements are recorded and reported. If you are interested in seeing where in the world the biggest earthquakes have been this week, you can go to Earth Track.

Some scientists that have studied fracking have found that if fracking occurs near fault lines, it may be the cause of an increase in earthquakes in certain regions. injection-well-jpgOther scientific studies point to the injecting of wastewater into deep wells as the cause for an increase in earthquakes.The wastewater can come from fracking, or even from oil and gas production waste. These are called injection-induced earthquakes. Human made earthquakes! It is more than moving pancakes around in a frying pan, that’s for sure!

 

This is a controversial issue that is interesting to read about and discuss.

 

 

 

 

Immersing Yourself in the Emerging Spring – Part 1

Oak Meadow’s k-8 teacher, Sarah Antel, wrote this inspirational two-part article.

The light is winning over the darkness of night, the snow patches are becoming far and few between, and evenings are spent out on the porch again. While I am sitting watching nightfall, I find myself holding my breath and listening hard for one of my favorite harbingers of spring: the song of the spring peepers, a small frog that sings mightily this time of year. 1spring-peeper-frog_722_600x450

In the spring there are many events occurring, almost daily it seems, as plants and animals begin the annual spring awakening. One’s senses seem almost to explode with information from your outdoor environment. You can help your child to experience this sensory wonder through some favorite activities.

At the Water’s Edge

Creeks and ponds are beginning to swell with both plant and animal life. Take a little field trip to a creek, river, lake, or pond. Your child may see newts or tadpoles in the water; they may observe green leaves emerging on a pond’s bank. Many of the creatures living in the water are too small to see with a glance; most are insect larvae, or baby insects not more than an inch or two long.

You and your child can observe these fascinating creatures by creating a net to temporarily catch them with. All you need is a metal coat hanger, a stick, sticky tape, and an old pair of tights or nylons. Bend the coat hanger to make a diamond shape; take one of the legs from the nylons and stretch it over the diamond. Have your child find a stick outside about half his height. Unbend the hook of the hanger and tape the stick to it to make a handle. When using the net, make sure to scrape along the bottom in the mud, as this is where many of the smaller creatures hide.

Rocks are usually easy to come by along a river’s or creek’s banks. Your child can choose two rocks that easily fit in her hands; she can get them wet, and then rub the rocks together to see if they are soft enough to form ‘rock paint’. After rubbing the wet rocks together, have your child run a finger along one rock, if rock paint was made, she will see the colored natural paint on her finger. Your child can paint with it, or he can put designs on his face, hands, and arms.

Spring Shoots

 

3.1415 Celebrate Pi Day!

 

Pi Day is coming soon! All around the world pi day will be celebrated!

Pi (?) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. To honor this never ending number, people all over the world celebrate it!

Get your pi cake ready, because the big celebration is coming!! images

When? March 14, 2015

March (3rd month) 14 (day) 15 (year) = 3.1415

The Exploratorium in San Francisco originated the celebration of Pi Day and there are lots of activities scheduled there for their celebration. You can visit their website at http://www.exploratorium.edu/pi/ to find activities for your own celebration! Here is one activity from their website that I thought was fun:

Materials:
Internet access

To Do and Notice:
Pick a number sequence that’s special to you—perhaps your birth date.

Go to the Pi-Search Page and type your sequence in the search box at the top of the page. This web site will search the first 200 million digits of pi in a fraction of a second. (See “How it works” on the Pi-Search Page to find out how this is accomplished.) If it finds your sequence, it will tell you at what position in pi your sequence begins and will display your sequence along with surrounding digits.

No result? Try another sequence. The shorter the sequence, the better the odds of finding it.

ENJOY YOUR PI DAY CELEBRATION!

I’m sending you an infinite number of smiles for your celebration!

 

 

It’s Sugarin’ Season!

1-Sarah AntelOak Meadow’s k-8 teacher, Sarah Antel, shared this wonderful article on her thoughts regarding the tapping of maple trees. I hope you enjoy reading her wit and wisdom on the subject of the “Sugarin’ Season”!

It is hard to imagine on a subzero day, but trees will soon be ‘waking up’ as their life-giving sap starts to flow from the roots, where it was stored in the shortening days of autumn, to the leaf buds awaiting to unfurl. One tree in particular in the Mid-West and North Eastern United States and Canada provides more than beautiful scenery.

The Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum, is tapped this time of year so humans can harvest its sap; the liquid will ultimately be boiled into maple syrup or maple sugar. The Sugar Maple is tapped because its sap has the highest sugar content relative to other tree species (2%-3%). North America is the primary producer of maple syrup.  The weather is ideal for this sap flow; the nights are below freezing so sap stops flowing, and the spring days are warm and often sunny, which encourages sap flow. A weather pattern such as this prevents the tree from turning sugars to starch. Once the nights are above freezing, and the days warm into the 50s, the sap will turn and is no longer ideal for making high quality maple syrup.

1-Sap-Buckets-in-the-SnowThe modern maple sugaring industry has made sugaring an efficient and scientifically driven business. However, many of the tools used now still have distant roots in their ancestry. The Native Americans were the first people to make maple syrup. There are many stories of how this wonderful tradition was discovered. One story tells of how a warrior sunk his tomahawk into a tree trunk and water flowed out; his wife then boiled meat in the water and it made syrup. Another legend tells of a Native American finding a sweet icicle formed from the liquid of a broken maple branch.

Native Americans’ methods of making syrup were rather ingenious. Some tribes collected the sap in birch bark baskets or hollowed out logs. They allowed the liquid to freeze overnight, then they removed the layer of ice as the sugar did not freeze. Several nights of freezing and removing the ice left them with a much sweeter liquid as the sugar content became higher. Another method, which may have been paired with the ice removal, involved adding hot rocks to the sap; this would cause the sap to boil and the water to evaporate. The sugar again became concentrated and the liquid thicker.

1-home sugarin' grandpaToday, no matter a person’s level of technology, the methods of making maple syrup remain essentially unchanged. If you live in a part of the world where the weather allows for maple sugaring, you can make your own syrup with just a few buckets to collect sap in. If you do not live in a maple producing region, you can still include this rich lesson in your curriculum. Sugaring has so many cross curricular connections; one can explore density, history, measurement, botany, nutrition, geography, etc. The list goes on!

Whatever you choose to do with the information, enjoy sugaring season where ever you are, and the next time you put maple syrup on your pancakes, you will know a bit more about where your food came from.

1-sugar shack

Springtime Storybooks and Expressive Activities

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

by Lorie Hill

March roars in like a lion

So fierce,

The wind so cold,

It seems to pierce.

The month rolls on

And spring draws near,

And March goes out

Like a lamb so dear.

Have you ever heard the saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?” This expression describes the winds that often blow in late winter and early spring. In addition to your circle time activities, your children might find it enjoyable to roar like a lion of wind, and then be like a breeze that blows as gentle as a lamb.

You could also include the following finger play activity:

Five little children one March day (hold up five fingers)

Went for a walk just this way. (march in place)

The wind blew hard and the wind blew strong (wave arms above head)

As the five little children marched along. (march in place)

It turned those children around in the street (twirl around)

Then it blew each one right off their feet! (tumble down)

ArrivalOfSpring-smAsk your children how the weather changes in spring. In my area, spring weather usually means windy days and lots of rain showers. The rain brings flowers into bloom, so we start looking for the new shoots of green. The breezy days are the best for a highflying kite, too! Ah, as I look at the window to a foot of snow on the ground, I can already imagine the smell of fresh spring air and feel the warmth from the sun. After a long winter, it’s refreshing and rejuvenating imagery!

Below you will find a thematic early elementary book list for spring. Most of these books may be found at your local public library. You can even turn it into a treasure hunt as your children try to search for the titles to these books on the shelves.

Waiting-For-Spring Stories by Bethany Roberts

Dandelion Adventures by L. Patricia Kite

It’s Spring! by Linda Glaser

My Spring Robin by Anne Rockwell

Spring is Here by Lois Lenski

The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

The Spring Equinox by Ellen Jackson

“The Sun and the WInd” – an Aesop’s Fable

Story of the Root Children by Sibylie Von Olfers

The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow

Ollie's ski tripFor those of you who are still encountering the more wintry side of spring, I highly recommend reading Elsa Beskow’s book, Ollie’s Ski Trip. It’s a delightful and imaginative picture book that involves Jack Frost, King Winter, Mrs. Thaw and Lady Spring. It’s a story that will be enjoyed by all!

 

Last but not least, in honor of the famous children’s writer and illustrator, Dr. Seuss, who was born on March 2, 1904, there must be made mention of the Dr. Seuss/Cat in the Hat color plus stencil book, Oh, the Things Spring Bring! Yes! May we all relish in the thoughts of the things that spring will bring!

 

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Planting seeds!

On this cold winter day I am thinking about spring! images-2

It is hard to imagine as I look out my window at three feet of snow, that spring is just a few weeks away.

This time of year I love looking at seed catalogs and dreaming about planting crops of potatoes, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, squash and cabbages! (In reality, the last few years I’ve been satisfied with tomatoes and green peppers in pots!) It warms the heart to think about fresh vegetables growing right in one’s own garden.

In the Oak Meadow science curriculum there are some assignments that require students to plant seeds. I found this great idea for seedling pots in Scratch Magazine and I just had to share it! I’m going to give it a try when I plant my seeds for my garden.images-3