Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Two Ducks Theatre Company's Rainbowtown: Teaching young children about colors, emotions, and perseverance

My 4 year old and I had the pleasure of learning together in a unique way this past weekend, thanks to Two Ducks Theatre Company's original play titled Rainbowtown.

The plot of Rainbowtown focuses around Queen Annie who lives in  "graytown" where everything is "fine". But, she wants life to be a little more than just fine, so she sets off in search of a new place to call home. As she travels from town to town looking for her new residence, children are taken on a colorful, interactive journey that includes music, audience participation, and lots of laughs.

Where does Queen Annie decide to build her castle? Experience the fun yourself to find out!

You can catch a performance of Rainbowntown at Radnor United Methodist Church in Bryn Mawr:

What's the real value of Rainbowntown

At the heart of the play is a lesson for children on emotions and perseverance - two important topics in early childhood.

Talking about feelings with children is important to their social and emotional development. By doing so, children can better understand and interpret their own feelings and the feelings of others. Children with emotional competence also tend to have strong social skills which are necessary for successfully interacting with adults and peers. Rainbowtown provides a unique opportunity for families to initiate a discussion about feelings which can strengthen skills in children that are not only necessary for learning new information, but for succeeding in life.

Rainbowtown also teaches children skills regarding how to react in the face of adversity. Despite becoming discouraged after visiting a few towns that do not suit her liking, Queen Annie never gives up until she finds the place that is best for her to build her castle. Children may identify with her situation and reflect on how she copes and perseveres. By helping children learn how to react in difficult situations, parents can foster emotional skills, namely resilience.

Learning Tips and Activity Extensions for Rainbowtown

It's always fun to discuss a movie or a play after you view it. Here are some conversation starters and activities based on Rainbowtown for promoting emotional development in young children.

  • How did Queen Annie feel at the beginning of the play?
  • How did Queen Annie feel at the end of the play, and why?
  • Can you describe a time when you felt like Queen Annie?
  • Which characters in the story did you like or dislike, and why?
  • Have you ever given up on something you've tried to do? Why? How did it make you feel?
  • Identify all of the colors and feelings in the play. Why do you think a particular color was paired with a certain feeling? Would you add any colors or feelings to the story?
  • Draw a picture of a time when you showed determination and perseverance like Queen Annie.
  • Queen Annie was upset in parts of the play. What would you have said to her to help her feel  better?
  • Identify and discuss what traits Queen Annie possessed that allowed her to persevere. 
  • Read a book with your child about feelings such as My Many Colored Days by Dr Seuss or The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy Two Ducks Theatre Company's Rainbowtown with your child in the coming weeks. Take advantage of this play as not only pure entertainment, but also a cool learning experience, too!

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. We received free tickets to Rainbowtown in exchange for this post, but opinions expressed are honest!

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Super Simple School Bus Craft

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

We've noticed lots of school buses on the streets of our town this week! While my two little ones are still too small to ride the big yellow bus to school this year, we had lots of fun learning with a school bus book and craft. 

The Bus for Us Gus by Suzanne Bloom is one of those books that your child will want to read again, and again, and AGAIN (trust me on this one). While the text follows a predictable repetitive pattern, the pictures allow the child to guess what comes next. My little 20 month old just loves to turn the pages to see if the little girl Tess is ready to hop on the bus. There's also a certain silliness to this book when the page is turned and it's not the school bus, but a different vehicle. My son just loves to shout, "No Tess!" and laugh. 

School Bus Craft

We paired this book a super simple school bus craft that only uses construction paper and glue! Here's what to do to create your own at home.

1. Gather materials: yellow, black & orange construction paper; glue stick 
2. Cut the yellow paper into a shape of a school bus
3. Cut the black paper into 2 circles, 1 rectangle, 4 squares, and 1 triangle
4. Cut the orange paper into 1 small circle, and two rectangles
5. Glue the shapes on to the school bus outline

(note: you could add a red octagon for the stop sign, too)

Great way to practice colors, shapes, and counting, too!

Don't have The Bus for Us Gus? Try pairing this craft with School Bus by Donald Crews. It's also great for little minds.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back to School Time: Books about School for Infants, Twos, and Threes

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Some children can't wait for the first day of school to begin, while other young children have a more difficult time making the transition from summer to "back to school". Today I'm sharing some simple books with a school theme that are especially appropriate for very young children (infants, twos, and threes). The simplicity of these texts, along with their vibrant pictures, allows for a great opportunity to discuss what your child might expect in school - whether it's his first time in a new school or are a returning student.

Books About School: Top Picks for Young Children 

All of these books can help young children understand the ins and outs of the school day routine. What is also so great is that they are easy to read with very young children who might be in a day care setting, but are interesting enough for preschool students who might be returning to school after a summer break.

Click on the picture or link to find out more information on Amazon.

My First Day of Nursery School
by Becky Edwards and illustrated by Anthony Flintoft
Bloomsbury USA (2004)

by Robert Neubecker
Hyperion Book reprinted (2011)

We Love School 
by Marilyn Janovitz
NorthSouth Books (2007)

                                              Maisy Goes to Preschool
by Lucy Cousins
Candlewick (2010)

Let's Go to School
by Fisher Price (TM); Doris Tomaselli
Reader's Digest (2009)

Tips for reading these books to your child:
  • Point out how your child's school will be similar to or different from the classroom's in these books.
  • Talk about how the characters are feeling in the books. Relate these feelings to how your child is feeling about going to school.
  • Use the books to help you describe to your child the types of activities that she will do in school.
  • Identify behaviors in the books that are expected of children who are in school.
  • Observe any friendships between characters in these books, and talk about making new friends.

By reading these books with your child and using these read aloud tips before you snap that "FIRST DAY OF" picture, you are giving them a head start on being ready to learn. I hope these books are a wonderful beginning to your child's school year!

What books do you read before school begins?

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Monday, September 1, 2014

When Your Child Won't Sit Still: Tips for Reading with Your Active Toddler

Reading to an active little toddler requires a certain skill set. Today my post is for parents who feel like it's impossible to get their child to sit down to read for even a second. 

If your toddler is anything like mine, he's climbing on the tables and chairs, throwing balls (or sometimes less gentle objects like blocks), and coloring in places he's not supposed to. One second he wants up. The next second he wants down....and what he definitely doesn't want is to sit still. 

So reading a story together? That takes actual effort! On my part, and his. 

What can you do when your toddler is more interested in climbing the coffee table and throwing books, than reading them on your lap?

Here are my best tips for reading with that busy toddler that I have found to work well. Follow these suggestions and I bet you'll begin to connect in ways that make reading more enjoyable for the both of you.

  •  Do an activity or craft before you read together to spark interest in the story. Make connections from your activity while you are reading for additional learning and repetition of concepts. 

  • Make reading aloud a more fun experience. Your child doesn't want to sit still? Then don't! Act out the story, use puppets, sing the words, or play games while you read. The bonus of this technique is that your toddler will be motivated to read again.

  • Let your child take the lead. Allow him to select a book that is interesting to him. If he seems more interested in the pictures than listening to the story, take a picture walk through the book instead of reading the words.

  • Take advantage of meal times when your child is likely to be strapped in his high chair. Sneak in a story before, during, or after his meal. Reading while eating is better than flipping on that TV!

  • Read before bed when your toddler is likely to be “played out”. There is evidence to show that bedtime routines that include stories aid in language development.

  • Did your little one “read” a book all by himself? Initiate reading on his own? Recognize a job well done. Give your child praise when appropriate which will help him associate accomplishment with the act of reading. 

  • Select books that connect to something going on in your life at the time. For example, if you are taking a vacation to the beach, read books about the ocean or sea animals. If the story is relevant, he'll more likely be interested in it.

  • Get rid of the idea of what a read aloud "should" look like. It's wonderful if your child sits in your lap while you read like you see in all of your Pinterest pins. Life isn't always ideal though. Read aloud while your child is playing. Even if it seems like he's not listening, he might be more than you think. He might even surprise you and wander over into your lap as you read, creating that picture perfect moment.

  • Read the same story over and over. If your toddler has a favorite book that he actually CAN sit still to listen to 100 times in a row - that's OK! Children learn through repetition. In this post, I share ways to keep the learning going, even when it's the 100th read through!

There will be good days, there will be bad days but aim for 20 minutes EACH DAY. 
You will be so delighted you put forth the effort!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Do You Know Pippi Longstocking?" Exhibit at the American Swedish Historical Museum: Books, Play, and Interactive Fun

The adorable red-headed rebel with the braids, Pippi Longstocking, is visiting the American Swedish Historical Museum in South Philadelphia!

A special "Do You Know Pippi Longstocking?"exhibit is now on display through February 16th, 2015. Children can learn all about Pippi and her author-creator Astrid Lindgren in an interactive environment that is not only educational, but loads of fun too.

We had the pleasure of visiting this museum and the exhibit for the first time a few weeks ago. It is an understatement to say that my children enjoyed it! The exhibit is full of bright colors that enchanted my little toddler, as well as imaginative play that engaged my preschooler.

Our fun family outing to the museum began with an impressive entrance. As we made our way into the Pippi exhibit we were in awe of the artwork, information, and child-centric learning activities!

Here's a glimpse of what we got to explore in the Pippi exhibit:

  • Pippi's horse

Pippi is one strong little girl! We got an opportunity to show off our own strength with this neat contraption that is rigged to allow you to lift Pippi's horse high in the air over your head. My daughter thought this "game" was really cool.

  • Pippi's Villa 

At the center of the exhibit is a playhouse version of Pippi's home known as Villa Villekula. We spent a long time role playing and cooking up a nice meal of fried fish, veggies, and cakes for dessert. There's also a fun "guess the smell" game included.

  • Astrid's book nook

A Pippi Longstocking exhibit wouldn't be complete without some of her beloved books! We took a few moments to relax in the book nook, meet the character, and delight in all of the different illustrations.

  • Pippi quiz

This quiz was the perfect way for us to learn about Pippi! We didn't know much about her before visiting the exhibit, but learned lots thanks to fun activities such as this one.

  • Dress-up play

We got a little silly in the dress up area, which included lots of options to pretend to be someone or something else!

  • Thing finding

"The whole world is full of things and someone needs to find them!" I think the biggest hit of the museum's Pippi exhibit for my kids was this chest of drawers. We discovered unique trinkets and displays and even toys behind the doors. I loved how this activity really spiked their curiosity!

  • Scavenger hunt

As you exit the Pippi exhibit to enter the rest of the museum, you'll find a map and invitation to complete Pippi's treasure hunt in each of the rooms! My preschooler was so excited to search for the small wooden box in each room, open it, complete the "game" and take a collection card. Once she collected all 10 cards throughout the museum - she turned them in at the front desk in return for Pippi's treasure. This activity allowed my husband and I to enjoy the rest of the museum, while at the same time making it fun for the kids.

The Pippi exhibit truly is fun for the whole family. It was a lovely way to spend the day learning and playing together. I sincerely wish we could have brought the playhouse home with us (that was my favorite part of the exhibit), but I guess we'll have to visit again soon.

Please visit the American Swedish Historical Museum website for more information about pricing, hours of operation, to become a member, or to read more about Pippi, Astrid, and this amazing exhibit!

Disclosure: We received free admission to the museum in return for this post. But, my opinions are honest, and our fun and learning was real!

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