"Although there are many anecdotal stories of breakthroughs resulting from daydreams - Einstein, for instance, was notorious for his wandering mind - daydreaming itself is usually cast in a negative light. Children in school are encouraged to stop daydreaming and "focus," and wandering minds are often cited as a leading cause of traffic accidents. In a culture obsessed with efficiency, daydreaming is derided as a lazy habit or a lack of discipline, the kind of thinking we rely on when we don't really want to think. It's a sign of procrastination, not productivity, something to be put away with your flip-flops and hammock as summer draws to a close.
In recent years, however, scientists have begun to see the act of daydreaming very differently. They've demonstrated that daydreaming is a fundamental feature of the human mind - so fundamental, in fact, that it's often referred to as our "default" mode of thought. Many scientists argue that daydreaming is a crucial tool for creativity, a thought process that allows the brain to make new associations and connections."
Read the whole article in the Boston Globe here.
Wild Child by Lynne Plourde and Illustrated by Greg Couch
This amazing poem of Mother Earth putting her child (Autumn) to bed is a continued favorite around here! In years past, I have pulled this book out near the end of fall to welcome Winter (the child who awakens just as Autumn finally dozes off to sleep), but since this story is so much a part of the fabric of our lives, it has made its appearance at the start of the season this time around. I highly recommend it, not just for the sweet tale, but also for its rich imagery both in words and actual illustrations!
I'm so very excited about the upcoming release of the documentary "Consuming Kids", put out by the Media Education Foundation.
Here's the trailer (caution: some of the images are disturbing):
I've been lucky enough to have met and talked and listened and learned with/to/from many of the people featured in the film and am so glad to see the film finally making its way to the public. And if you are in Oregon, or within driving distance, you will get your chance to see the film on November 13th (yes, it's a bit of a ways out, but this time of year people seem to need extra notice) as part of the Salem Progressive Film Series. I'll be the guest speaker that night and would love to see you there!
It’s that time of year again; we turn a little more inward and move our activities a bit more indoors. For many kids, school is back in session and often our learning tools look more like paper and pencils than the previous month’s water and lemonade stands. And with that, our opportunities for exploring and encouraging creativity still abound.
Paper is an everyday part of our world. It is a perfectly simple tool to explore with and learn from. It is such an everyday common item that children are not mystified by its presence, so they can really go further with their thinking and problem solving through their play with it. They can observe it, understand its special properties, experiment with it, and play with it. Whether you just put the materials out (sometimes with a how-to book appropriately placed near to it, sometimes not) or are leading a more organized group lesson, there are many opportunities to explore with paper and make discoveries.
Origami is the art of folding paper (ori is to fold; gami is paper). The goal of this art is to create a given result using geometric folds and crease patterns. Folding paper, the possibilities are endless. Make a paper cup and see if it will hold a liquid. Next time you have a present to wrap, try folding a box. Play with how you can make a hat for your dress up corner. And don’t forget the all important and wonderfully fun paper airplane.
For simple folding that is still truly mesmerizing and even meditative, show your children the simple technique of folding back and forth to make a fan. It can double as a curtain for a favorite stuffed animal that likes to perform plays for you.
For some folding with a purpose, go here to learn about folding peace cranes (in honor of Sadako Sasaki who was two years old at the time of the bombing of Hiroshima and died tens years later of leukemia.)
The Science and Math of Paper Folding
How many times can you fold a single piece of paper? Go ahead and try it. Take a piece of paper, any size or shape, and begin folding it in half. Then, folding the same direction, in half again, and so on until you just can’t fold any longer. Count how many times you fold it. What did you get? Four times? Five times? Six? Did you possible even get to eight? Try it with even a larger piece of paper. What are you results? Well, the science and math of progression tells us it is impossible to fold a piece of paper more than eight times. Go here to see the story of how one high school student solved this problem and see the picture of her 11th fold! Now that’s creativity at its best.
Cutting paper (whether in the shape of jack o’ lanterns, snowflakes or otherwise) is a powerful learning experience and avenue for creativity to emerge. The use of scissors offers its own wonderful way for children to develop fine motor skills: cutting on lines that are straight, squiggly, or cutting out shapes are great! Even just cutting a piece of paper up into tiny little bits can be a wonderfully empowering little meditation for kids. Then add a fold to that cutting and see what happens. A fun way to add extra dimension to an abstract piece of art might be to cut silhouettes out of dark paper. Check out the book Easy-to-Cut Silhouette Designs by Betty Christy for some great silhouette projects. And for the more intricately minded/handed, introduce the creation of your own paper dolls. How can you make a series of dolls to hold hands?
And finally, a very wonderful tactile and fine motor developing experience with paper is to tear it. Tear it into big pieces, small pieces, even smaller pieces, or try tearing shapes or letters. Then try gluing the pieces back together. Explore the art of découpage with gluing those pieces onto a recycled bottle or some other item your child would like to breathe new life into.
Through observation, exploration, folding, cutting, tearing, and most of all, playing, the opportunity to develop and express creativity through paper! Dare I even say it happens ten fold with paper? No, maybe that’s 12-fold!
We're soaking up the last few bits of sun, for while I am approaching each day as though this sun is always here and it is always warm (the way I wish it could be sometimes), I am very aware that I am in the Pacific Northwest and the rains will come soon. Of course, that will mean my own built in watering system, lots of puddles to jump in, a house filled with warmth and the scents of fall time cooking, and of course Zeal is looking forward to his ritual of collecting the rain water and all the experiments that will bring.
For now, on with our soaking.
And, oh yes, by the way, this is a piece about problem-solving I was asked to write for Savvy Source that is featured today. I do believe the topic deserves its very own book, but for now (at least while the sun is shining so and while so many other projects are in the works), this will have to do.
My Top Ten List -
Excerpted from an interview over at First impressions.
A home that encourages creative thinking and expression would include:
1. At least one adult (preferably more) who engages the child with thoughtful interaction and also models wondering about the world and a desire to learn.
2. An understanding of the child’s unique ways of learning.
3. Easy access to a variety of materials that allow exploration and creation – there are many lists in the book that are organized by category, but they might include: a wide variety of art supplies, containers for collections, cooking supplies, dress-up materials, music, natural objects, and things to count, classify and organize.
4. An activation of all the senses. I believe children (and adults) should always have opportunity to see, taste, touch, smell, and listen to the world around them so they can really begin to understand it.
5. Stories: An important aspect of nurturing to love learning is to provide them with a language rich environment, which includes such things as labels, notes, and a wide variety of books that include stories, poetry, and informational text. Children also very much need our own words and stories and they need to not always focus on the printed word. When we tell stories to kids, we connect with them and use imagination in a different way than when we read to them.
6. Quiet spaces that provide an opportunity for children to absorb all they take in each day and rejuvenate themselves.
7. A regular connection with nature: studies show that children who play outside in natural environments (not just on playground equipment) play more creatively than those who don’t. So I think the most important creativity tool is the great outdoors.
8. Great questions that really make the child think about the world around them, including questions that allow children to ponder without being told an answer.
9. Laughter. Failure (which leads to success). Acceptance.
10. Less stuff!
Zeal loves to both weave and experiment with what floats and sinks. So what better combination than playing with water plants? Here's his few cattail boats that are still enjoying themselves in our kitchen sink and bathtub. Such fun!
Can you tell which one was only able to float on its side?
I'll begin by offering an apology for this issue of Wonderwise being a tad bit late - I spent the Labor Day weekend in bed with a mysterious and out-of the-blue illness, but am rearing to go again now.
I have to admit: September is always the hardest month for me to get a newsletter out to you. And, as some of you long time readers know, I have been known to actually skip it altogether in years past. I contemplated that again this year, but instead decided to break that nasty habit and share a few thoughts with you, as I so enjoy doing. :)
As a former elementary school teacher, this month has always been special to me: it's a busy time filled with self-reflection, renewal, and always lots of goal setting. And for our family, it continues to be that. This summer, as we do many summers, we spent a lot of time traveling and outdoors. And it's the first days of September that find us coming back inside and making plans for the next seasons to come.
So in this issue of Wonderwise, you will find a little bit about Goal Setting that I hope will inspire you to reflect on your and your children's dreams, as well as a little bit of writing about Water Play and where on the web you can find it.
Wishing you a very happy beginning to your September!
If you would like a forwarded copy of this month's Wonderwise, just ask by clicking on the contact tab above. Or sign up to start receiving it regularly here.
Here's Zeal's new favorite reading spot: legs over the arm of the couch, surrounded by pillows, with Bionicles lurking nearby and the doggy's listening in. Jammies are a must!
A love of reading never just happens, but when it can be done in the most comfortable of spaces it is certainly encouraged!
Kitchen and science "experiments" around here often lead us back to our favorite two ingredients to just play with: baking soda and vinegar! It seems these are the kinds of things that often show up in science fairs and a few classrooms. Around here, they might as well be considered everyday objects.
The ways in which Zeal likes to play with these two wonderful ingredients are more varied than I can probably recall and write down here, but here's the short list of some favorites:
-use an eye dropper to dribble vinegar on a pile or line of baking soda
-tape two plastic cups together, create a hole in the top and get baking soda and vinegar to react and ooze out the top
-add baking soda and vinegar to a bottle, cork it, and count to see how long it takes for the cork to pop! Repeat, and repeat again, trying each time to get the cork to shoot higher!
Zeal worked on this latest and more resembling of a volcano than any of his other baking soda-vinegar forays for a week: first building it from a container, tape and newspaper, then papier-macheing it thoroughly (a few days' project), then painting it,
and finally letting it blow! (or ooze, if you prefer)
Today, he pulled it out again and said, "Today is a great day for Volcanoes! Let's go to the park!" So we grabbed the necessary supplies and walked the few steps from our front door to our neighborhood park where he made it a community event.
Here's our favorite easy recipe for papier-måché:
Mix 1 part glue and 1 part water. Dip dryer lint, newspaper, or colored tissue paper strips into the glue mixture and gently lay them onto the object of your choice. Let your sculpture dry in a warm area for 2-3 days.
and our favorite combination of lava: baking soda, vinegar, red food coloring, and a touch of dishwashing soap (we keep Dawn around just for projects like this - it also makes the best bubbles!)
By the time they got past the initial eruptions, the kids got really into the "hands-on" experience and, eruption after eruption, the lava got redder and sudsier than ever. They had a wonder-full time!
We know that children are now marketed to like never before. As well, they are inundated with marketing and fast paced imagery and spend more time with media than ever before. It has also been proven that children before the age of 8 (and sometimes 10) cannot distinguish between media-related fantasy and reality. That said, popular culture can be creative, but we need quiet spaces for creativity to emerge. And in order to get to that creative space, we first need to simply look at what our children are exposed to. Here are a few quick questions to ask when evaluating media use and marketing to our children.
How often are children exposed to marketing in...
-The foods you eat?
-The places you shop?
-The music you listen to?
-The games they play?
-Organizations your involved in?
Do kids have an opportunity to...
-In natural environments?
-Choose quiet time?
-Activate all their senses?
-Have unstructured, imaginative play?