Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Very Preschool Halloween

Table Pumpkins

How do you celebrate Halloween with little ones? Carefully. Some children are easily scared, but most twos really don’t get what all the fuss is about. At our school we focus on the seasonal aspects of Halloween. There’s a lot of orange and black, some extra dress-up available, and subtle room decor changes. Children who wish to wear their costumes to school may, though that’s our everyday rule and not a change for Halloween. Sometimes the whole pre-K class decides as a group to wear costumes and they visit the other classes to show them off.

In my classroom we put some pumpkins out in the kitchen area (above) to change the decorations slightly from our usual fruit bowl. Since we had sand in the sensory table at the same time, you canBlack and Orange Paint at the Easel be sure that everything that started in the kitchen ended up holding sand at some point. We also had plenty of orange and black paper and paint. I’ve resisted trying it in the past, but this year I used the “Make it Shimmer” and “Make it Glitter” paint additives you can buy so that matching paint and paper would show up against each other. I do actually love glitter paint, but I’ve never bothered to make my own with the additives before. I must say I liked the effect, though you can’t really tell from my picture.

Older children have the opportunity to nail golf tees into large pumpkins (like we do with styrofoam), and sometimes we open up pumpkins to show to the children. This year the week before Halloween was short because of fall break and we had many absent children, so we skipped the pumpkin opening. Pumpkins and their guts get dumped in the garden when we’re done so we can watch the vines grow in the spring. Older children are also presented with a variety of face paints in addition to extra dress-up.

The only thing that might be counted as crafty is that we let the kids paint their own mini pumpkins. We tend to stay away from crafty activities because art for twos should be about exploring the medium rather than beginning with an end in mind. Some of the mini pumpkins were so covered in paint it was hard to tell there was a pumpkin underneath!

I didn’t take a picture of it, but we also try to have Halloween books available. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find Halloween books for young twos. Yes, I know that Five Little Pumpkins is a great book/fingerplay. But much of what’s out there seems to be for older kids. I’d love some ideas if anyone has them.

So what do you do to celebrate Halloween with young ones?

Painting Pumpkins

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Too Many Pumpkins

Too Many Pumpkins

Too Many Pumpkins, by Linda White and Megan Lloyd, is my favorite pumpkin book. I truly enjoy looking for it when we pull down the Halloween box each year at home.  I got my copy through a book club order because it was the 99 cent book of the month. How could I lose, right? Anyway, the art in this book is just fabulous. The little details are great, especially because the book has a lot of words for a picture book.

In the book, Rebecca Estelle (and her cat Esmeralda) hate pumpkins.  Through a pumpkin truck accident they end up with more pumpkins than they know what to do with and they come up with a creative, kind, and generous way to get rid of them all.

Besides the enjoyable art I love that the book goes through a whole year and the cycles of the seasons as though they were nothing special.  Nothing screams, “fall is when we harvest!” at you, like so many other books do.  I love that the protagonist is an older woman who has a history that informs her current preferences.  I love that several of the pages end with, “until…” implying that something new might happen and letting you guess what it might be before you turn the page.

This is not a book for very young children.  The main problem is that the very first page has a lot of words and very little art other than the page border and a small drawing.  3-year-olds who love to read may be able to sit for it.  I’d say it’s more for 4s and 5s. 

This year, my own kids (who are 6 and 8) informed me that I didn’t need to read it to them when we pulled it out of the Halloween box.  They told me they could read it themselves (which they can), which deprived me of my snuggle time with them and my enjoyment of the book.  In desperation I read it to the Kindergarten class at my school.  I figured only a few would listen, but most of the class sat and paid attention.  They loved the page with all the carved pumpkins.  At least someone wants to hear about Too Many Pumpkins!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Baby Washing

Babies for Washing After I took this picture I realized how creepy it looked, so let me explain.

We sometimes put soapy water in our sensory table.  We often wash dishes or just play with the water.  We also like to wash the babies (well, baby dolls).  The kids get great joy out of this activity.  We provide lots of washcloths and large towels so the babies can be washed, dried, and wrapped up in a nice, warm towel.  They usually get fed at some point after this, too, and then put to bed.

Our school has special babies for washing.  Yup, they live in a crate in the supply room labeled, “Babies for Washing.”  Why?  Because babies with movable limbs get water inside that’s difficult to get out and that eventually gets mildewed.  Our washing babies are either sealed or they are old enough that we don’t care much what happens to them.  While we’re washing babies I put our regular classroom babies out of sight so the kids aren’t tempted to add to the collection of bathing beauties.

The tricky thing, whether it’s dishes or babies, is that other things will migrate to the sensory table.  It’s helpful to decide in advance what you’re willing to allow so you’re not caught off guard.  My personal feeling is that if I can clean it up and there’s no harm to be done by letting them try, I let them.  But things that might rust, mildew, or dissolve I don’t allow.  You’ll have to decide if you can stand painty water from hands that were just at the easel; I don’t have a problem with it.  You have to wash and bleach the dolls at the end of the day anyway, so what’s a little paint?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Water: The Simplest of All Art Supplies

Water on Dark Paper

Teaching twos is kind of like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.  Some years, we have paint-eaters.  Other years, we have paint artists.  Some years, we have both in the same class.

I like to start the year with something simple at the easel.  I’ve had one year when no one knew what to do at an easel because they’d never seen one before, so it’s good to start simply.  Here’s a shot of my beautiful art (the kids hadn’t arrived yet) using water on dark paper.  Any dark paper works, so if you’re feeling purple, blue, green, red, or black this is the activity for you.  Fat brushes seem to work better than thin ones.  And since this picture was taken on the first day I supplied three cups on each side of the easel so that if everyone wanted to do it at once we could manage it.

The one negative with water is that you can’t really take the art home with you unless you’ve impregnated the paper with something that will bleed.  That’s a whole other art activity, in my mind.  The beauty of water is that you can reuse the same piece of paper over and over.  You get to watch the art disappear and you get to use words like, “evaporation,” and wonder aloud about where the water goes.  If someone puts on so much water that the paper disintegrates, well, that’s another good word to use.

In my classes this year we seem to have lots of painting pros.  We didn’t have to keep the water more than a few days before it got old.  In other years we’ve spent the first several weeks with water at the easel because of the aforementioned paint-eating (actually it’s more like brush-sucking).  Some kids like to put brushes in their hands and walk around the room.  I usually let them do this but substitute super fat stubby dry brushes so they’re less likely to stab anyone or hurt themselves.  It’s typically more about having something in hand than having a particular brush.

On a personal note, I used to set my own kids up with brushes, dark paper, and water when I needed to cook a meal.  If the water spilled it was no biggie and they felt like artists without much adult intervention.  Try it!