Art from the Heart

Homemade play-dough. Finger paint. Hand puppets. With a little encouragement from parents, preschoolers can let their imaginations soar. It’s a special time, when they haven’t yet been forced to color in the lines. And that’s a good thing.

As adults, we have been trained to follow the rules, to maintain order, to conform. It’s sometimes tempting for us to work behind our children as they create craft projects. We tend to want to reach over them and correct their work, straightening the eyes, nose, and mouth pieces so their self-portraits look more like mass-production stamps than original works of art. What would Picasso think?

Arts and crafts are important parts of childhood development. They allow children to practice crucial fine motor skills such as cutting, tracing, drawing, and maneuvering small art pieces with specific goals in mind. Children gain self-confidence when they complete a task independently, and they learn basic language concepts such as colors, shapes, and prepositions. Cognitive skills are learned too as they follow simple directions and identify which art materials are used in various ways.

However, when trying to teach all of these skills, it’s important to focus on creativity and artistic expression as well.

Next time you spread out the crayons and construction paper, sit back and let your kids go wild – artistically that is. Challenge them to power up their brain muscles, and get their creative juices flowing. When they hand you a drawing that other adults might not consider pretty, frame it for proud display on your wall. Keep in mind that those creations not only track their developmental stages over the years, but they stand as proof that there was a time when we could all think outside of the lines.

Easy Ways to Stimulate Childhood Creativity

1. Provide various art materials and encourage children to create something that makes them feel happy. Talk about why they chose certain colors or textures as opposed to other choices. Play happy music in the background and take turns naming things that make you happy while you work.

2. Give children an empty shoebox and some glue. Add various scraps of materials and tidbit items found in the recycle bin or junk drawer. Think plastic bottle caps, laundry detergent scoops, rubber bands, twist ties, popsicle sticks, cotton balls, paper clips, etc. With supervision, encourage children to create a make-believe world. Be sure to talk about their ideas while they build a fantasy.

3. Take the challenge outdoors. Use baking pans, funnels, spoons, buckets, colanders, plastic knives, etc. to set up a nature kitchen. Help children bake mud pies, acorn cakes, and twig casseroles. Be sure to leave some sweet snacks for the fairies and elves who inhabit those magical corners of your back yard.

4. Choose a sunny spot to create pretend characters with no materials at all. All you need is you body to twist, turn, and stretch into various shadow forms. Give these imaginary friends names and talk about what they like to eat, where they sleep, and what color they are.

5. Use sidewalk chalk to sketch a city. Encourage your child to build a world for you to travel through. How do you move around this world – walk, drive, fly, swim? Who do you meet there? What does a school look like? Where do you eat? Ask questions to prompt children to create an entire community all from their imaginations. There are countless ways to encourage children to use their creative energy. Just remember there is no right or wrong way to approach art. All you need is a little time, patience, and wonder…and you might be amazed at what you find within those little minds.

More Speech & Language Answers

 

Thanks to all of you who have reached out to me regarding communication disorders. I’ve still been sorting through your email questions about speech, language, and hearing; and I’ve tried to respond personally to any messages that raised serious red flags.

Many of you had specific questions about your child’s development. In order to answer as many of those in one generic swoop, I’ve pasted some important milestones below from the the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

Please remember that developmental charts are based on normative data and that all children develop at different rates. While your children may not reach every milestone according the these charts, it is recommended that you speak to your family healthcare provider about any of these stages that aren’t met accordingly. 

Birth to 5 months

  • Reacts to loud sounds
  • Turns head toward a sound source
  • Watches your face when you speak
  • Vocalizes pleasure and displeasure sounds (laughs, giggles, cries, or fusses)
  • Makes noise when talked to

6-11 months

  • Understands “no-no”
  • Babbles (says “ba-ba-ba” or “ma-ma-ma”)
  • Tries to communicate by actions or gestures
  • Tries to repeat your sounds

12-17 months

  • Attends to a book or toy for about two minutes
  • Follows simple directions accompanied by gestures
  • Answers simple questions nonverbally
  • Points to objects, pictures, and family members
  • Says two to three words to label a person or object (pronunciation may not be clear)
  • Tries to imitate simple words

18-23 months

  • Enjoys being read to
  • Follows simple commands without gestures
  • Points to simple body parts such as “nose”
  • Understands simple verbs such as “eat” or “sleep”
  • Correctly pronounces most vowels and n,m,p,h – especially at the beginning of syllables or short words
  • Begins to use other speech sounds
  • Says 8 to 10 words (pronunciation may still be unclear)
  • Asks for common foods by name
  • Makes animal sounds such as “moo”
  • Starting to combine words such as “more milk”
  • Begins to use pronouns such as “mine”

2-3 years

  • Understands about 50 words at 24 months
  • Understands some spatial concepts such as “in” or “on”
  • Understands pronouns such as “you,” “me,” “her”
  • Understands descriptive words such as “big” or “happy”
  • Says around 40 words at 24 months
  • Speech is becoming more accurate but may leave off ending sounds
  • Strangers may not be able to understand much of what is said
  • Answers simple questions
  • Begins to use more pronouns such as “you” or “I”
  • Speaks in two to three word phrases
  • Uses question inflection to ask for something: “My ball?”
  • Begins to use plurals such as “shoes” or “socks” and regular past tense verbs such as “jumped”

Remember, the best way to help a child develop appropriate speech and language skills is to interact as much as possible. Talk to your child about everything you are doing. Read. Sing. Play. Laugh. Love. And report any concerns to your healthcare provider.

Happy Summer!
julie

Five Fabulously Fun Ways to Bond with your Kids in Five Minutes or Less

Got five minutes? Then you’ve got plenty of time to give your little ones pure, undivided attention – and have fun doing it!

1. Poke holes in the bottom of an empty margarine/butter tub using an ice pick. At bath time, help your child fill the tub with water and make it rain in the tub! Sing the family favorite: “It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring. He went to bed with a bump on his head and didn’t wake up until morning.”

2. Snip several drinking straws into various lengths. Keep them in a Ziploc bag and when you’re stuck in a doctor’s office waiting room, help your child organize the straw pieces from shortest to longest. Remember to start slow. Toddlers may need to start with three pieces. Increase level of difficulty by following your child’s lead.

3. Turn on some fun music and have a dance party. There’s nothing any child loves more than seeing mom or dad get silly. Sing along at the top of your lungs, even if you do sing off key. And whatever you do, just dance! Kids will have a blast and cherish those memories forever.

4. Get down on your hands and knees and see the world as your child sees it. Point out all the wonders you can find as you explore your home together. You might be surprised at all you’ve been missing by not getting down on their level.

5. Get nurtured by nature. Take a walk…and take time to share your child’s wonder. The best time to walk is after a rainstorm. Jump in puddles, help earthworms find their way back to the garden, listen to the birds and see if you can find them in the trees. Count new spring flowers (early crocus blooms are already popping up in my neck of the woods). Collect treasures. Smell various flowers and trees (did you know some pine trees smell like vanilla?). Savor the day.

Don’t forget tickle fights, pillow fights, stories, and snuggles. Hugs, high fives, and happy smiles. Even a simple thumbs-up can make all the difference in a day.

Whatever you do, try to take time to look your child directly in the eye and really listen when they talk to you.  Turn off the computer, tv, cell phone. Let your little ones know that they matter most to you. This holds true for children of all ages — as we all know that even tweens and teens really do want your undivided attention. Give them every reason to believe, without a doubt, that you are on their side in this world.

Peace,

julie

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Celebrate the imagination of America’s favorite children’s book author, the incredible Dr. Seuss (whose birthday is March 2)! One of my favorite Seuss books is Horton Hears a Who. I found this very simple craft online, and it would be an ideal way for kids to engage in meaningful roleplay activities after reading the book (and perhaps watching the movie).

 

Use hot glue to attach a pink pom-pom to a green pencil or popsicle stick. Then glue a tiny white pom-pom (or portion of cotton ball) to the pink clover. 

Now, help your children pretend they are Horton. The entire fate of Whoville rests in their hands. Be careful not to drop the clover! 

Give them daring challenges. Cross the bridge – a row of pillows on the floor; Jump the ravine – from one hoola hoop to the next; Don’t let the sharks get you – climb on outdoor play structure without letting your feet hit the ground, etc. etc.  Be sure to keep the activities child-friendly and age-appropriate with adult supervision at all times…and whatever you do, don’t drop the clover!

Visit you local library or bookstore for other fun Dr. Seuss reads. While younger children may prefer the simpler books, you may also want to try some of my personal favorites:

  • And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street
  • Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go
  • Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!
  • Great Day for Up!
  • Hooper Humperdink…? Not Him!
  • In a People House
  • Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!
  • The Butter Battle Book
  • The Lorax
  • There’s a Wocket in My Pocket

Also visit www.seussville.com for fun online activities.

Olympic Torch Project for Kids

 

Help your children carry the ceremonial Olympic torch with this simple project.

Materials

  • 1 sheet of white construction paper or poster board
  • Clear tape
  • Red, yellow, and orange tissue paper (12″ x 12″ square of each color)
  • White craft glue

Instructions

  1. Roll the construction paper into a cone shape and secure with tape.
  2. Layer the tissue paper squares, red on the bottom, then orange, and yellow on top.
  3. Gather from the center of the squares and hold in your hand like a bouquet of flowers.
  4. Put some white craft glue into the sides of the opening of the cone.
  5. Place the tissue paper into the cone and let the glue dry completely.

Alternative Materials: If you don’t have tissue paper, use construction paper or printer paper. Simply cut the paper sheets into flame shapes and glue inside the cone opening.

While your children may have seen highlights of the opening ceremony, including the lighting of the final symbolic torch, they may not realize that the torch had been carried across Canada’s beautiful landscape for 106 days (45,000 km)! Take a moment to view a video documenting just a few highlights throughout the breathtaking Journey of the 2010 Olympic Torch. Then, have fun discussing these interesting facts.

  • The torch was originally lit during a special ceremony in Olympia, Greece. It was then carried on an airplane all the way to Canada.
  • Nearly 12,000 people helped carry the torch across Canada.
  • The torch passed through more than 1,000 communities and special sites.
  • The torch was carried for more than 100 days.
  • Torch bearers carried the torch in many unique ways, including bike, canoe, paddle wheeler, and on top of the Grouse Mountain Sky Ride.
  • Anyone could apply to be a torch bearer. Even teams of up to 20 people could work together to carry the torch. And guess what — kids carried the torch too!
  • The torch relay was added to games the 1930s, but the tradition of burning a torch at the Olympics dates all the way back to the original Greek games.

Swifter, Higher, Stronger — Olympic Fun for Kids

 

Help children spread vanilla icing over five vanilla wafers. Then use colored sprinkles to make the five olympic rings: red, green, blue, yellow, and black. (Tip: Before adding the bling, place wafers in a cookie sheet for easy clean-up.  Also, make one cookie at a time…as the icing dries quickly and then sprinkles won’t stick.)

Show children pictures of the Olympic rings and talk about the Olympic motto: “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which means “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.”

Be sure to burn off all that sugar by running (swifter), jumping (higher), and playing tug of war or lifting weights (stronger). Use canned goods in the pantry if you don’t have small weights for kids.

If you prefer a sugar-free alternative, use the end of a cardboard tube (from paper towels) to stamp the Olympic rings on a white sheet of paper with the five colors of paint (red, green, blue, yellow, and black). Tape the paper to a straw or dowel for a child-sized Olympic flag.

 Happy Day!

j

Gobble, Gobble Games

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Teachers, do you want to get the giggles flowing in your classrooms this Thanksgiving? Nothing sparks a smile quite like saying the word, “Gobble!”

My children both loved this silly poem when they were younger. Preschoolers can act out the motions as they learn all about the funniest American with feathers.

Funny Bird
(Author Unknown)

A turkey is a funny bird,
Its head goes wobble, wobble,
All it knows is just one word,
“Gobble, gobble, gobble.”

Then once they’ve learned all about turkeys, it’s time to go on a turkey hunt!

Where is Mr. Turkey? 
One player is the farmer and the others are helpers. When the farmer leaves the room, the helpers hide a small toy turkey. The farmer returns with a mission to find the turkey. Helpers give clues by “gobbling” like turkeys. If the farmer is far away from the turkey, the helpers gobble very quietly. As the hunter gets closer to the turkey, the helpers gobble will increase in volume until Mr. Turkey is found!  Super cute!!

Start School without Tears or Fears

GodDay
 
Are your little ones anxious about starting school? Young children may be reluctant to leave the safety of home and enter the big world without Mom by their side.
God is with Me through the Day is an ideal book to share with your children before that big day. This light-hearted photographic picturebook will help them overcome their fears while building their faith in God.
 
GodNight
 
Plus — If those fears are carrying over into the night, then the partner book, God is with Me through the Night, is your key to a good night’s sleep.
 
Find these books at a store near you, or visit your favorite online bookseller today.
 Amazon.com           BarnesandNoble.com            Zondervan.com

 

Summer Hiatus

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I hope you’re all enjoying a fabulous summer in the sun. Like most of you, I am trying to soak up every single second with my family this summer. I will resume author visits in August.

Please contact me  to schedule a visit to your school, church, mothers’ group, library, or store: juliepcantrell@bellsouth.net

Thanks kindly for your continued support. I hope the books are bringing tons of smiles and snuggles to you and your kiddos this season.

Thanks Barnes & Noble, Germantown!

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On Saturday, May 30, I was treated to a sweet and stress-free storytime signing at the Germantown Barnes & Noble in Memphis, Tennessee. The kids were fabulously well-behaved and they loved talking about animals of every shape and size. This was a great way to end the book launch and start a fun-filled summer with my family.

Thanks especially to Melinda, the superiorly talented storytime lady who welcomed me whole-heartedly into her terrain with unmatched kindness. Thanks also to the professional and personable staff members, as well as the community relations manager, Valerie Schranz. I greatly enjoyed my visit to your store.