Sunday, September 25, 2011

Memories from Leaf it to Rusk

It was a lovely Leaf it to Rusk week-end! I hope most of you took advantage of the wide variety of activities that were available and geared for young children.
On Saturday, our 2011 Mardi-Gras Queen, Shelly Makina provided the commentary for a one hour tour of Ladysmith. The Indianhead Transit tour looped around Ladysmith, going out to the County Park, the airport, the Wagon Wheel Hiking Trailhead and boat launch, through the Indeck pellet plant, the Copper Park Trail area, the library, and back to the Visitor Center.
The Art Harvest, sponsored by RAAA took place at Christy Mountain. Phyllis Stevenson, Jennifer Matlack, and I, provided a pumpkin painting and a pumpkin centerpiece art activity on the deck of the beautiful Christy Mountain Chalet while Ruth Meszaros provided an artist trading card activity. Rides on the chair lift and hikes down the mountain were another part of the beautiful day with beautiful art to browse and purchase inside.
I’d like to share my favorite memories of the Art Harvest with you. A little girl was creating a pumpkin centerpiece with collections of natural weeds, seeds, and flowers. She needed to cut the flower stem shorter and told her mom she needed the “squeezer cuts” to do this. Another family with three daughters spent a relaxing time painting and creating. All the girls were independent in their work and needed almost no guidance from their mother. This would not be surprising to hear of for the oldest daughter, who was probably in upper elementary or early middle school. And it was amazing to see the three-year-old painting for the longest time, very aware and careful of rinsing and drying her brush before choosing another color. But I will tell you, it knocked my socks off to watch her sister, who was not even two-years-old, manage with almost the same level of skill and definitely the same focus and concentration for over twenty minutes. They were all a delight. Thank you to the parents for bringing their wonderful children to the activity.
Over 60 pumpkin gourds were decorated on Saturday, I still have many left from my garden. Please take a walk along Highway 8 in front of Toad House and let your little one choose a mini pumpkin to decorate at home. The Toad will be happy that you did!
The seeds from milkweed pods were part of the collection of things participants could glue onto the pumpkin gourds. This week you can take a walk into a meadow and find almost-ripe milkweed pods with your young child. Here is a special fall fingerplay for the occasion.

In a milkweed cradle
Soft and warm
Baby seeds are hiding
Safe from harm
Open wide the cradle
Hold it up high
Come on wind
Help them fly!

Cup hands to show milkweed pod, peek into cupped hand to ‘see’ seeds. Open cupped hands, raise hands, and blow. Do this in the fall, showing children the milkweed pods.  Save the empty pods to make lovely tree ornaments or bird feeders.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


We began a discussion on the humanities last week, finding ways of encouraging very young children to become tuned into beauty in all art forms. Fall is a wonderful time to plant and nurture those seeds. I can recall taking walks with the preschoolers in my class on the trail at the highschool. Marian Kolsky and I wanted the children to smell the fallen leaves, to see the beauty in the patterns, to feel of the wind, and to be amazed by the view above of the clouds rolling by on a cool fall day.
Some of our little friends would collect pretty leaves, acorns, and notice ferns and moss during the walk. Others seemed to be more engaged with the challenge of racing ahead, being the first to get to the end of the walk. We could not, of course, really share the value of the journey over the destination. We could, however, be amazed at each little acorn or leaf a child would bring to us. We could model behaviors ourselves that would hopefully help children immerse themselves in what it is to be fully human.
You will have a great opportunity this weekend to enjoy the beautiful out of doors and to enjoy and be amazed by artists’ interpretations Take the bus, or drive to Christy Mountain. You can hike around, take the chair lift to the top, and come indoors to view and to purchase the beautiful artwork of my friends from the Rusk Area Arts Alliance (RAAA) and other artists. Ruth Meszaros and I will be there on Saturday, with explorations in art for all ages, in the Art Harvest, sponsored by RAAA. Create an artist trading card, decorate or paint a pumpkin gourd, and enjoy the beauty during Leaf it to Rusk—art activities for the young@art.

Pumpkin, pumpkin
Big and round
I’m glad you grow
Upon the ground
I’m glad you don’t
Grow in a tree
For then you might
Fall down on me!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On developing humanity

When all is said and done, child development is a natural process. It occurs whether or not parents are inclined to provide environments and activities that support this development. I hope that some of the topics I write about encourage parents and childcare providers (grandparents too!) to pay attention to how the simple, everyday experiences they provide today will have a significant impact on achievement and quality of life for their children in the future.
This summer, we covered ‘baby academics’—literacy and math 001. As school starts for the older children, lets take a moment to consider experiences that we provide that develop our humanity. I am, perhaps, out on a limb here; I have never read any research on this topic. Yet I know at the very core of my being how vital this aspect of life is.
I am talking about developing a sensibility to beauty, nature, and the arts. I believe this begins when we help babies pay attention to details in their immediate surroundings. There are auditory details, such as the crickets in the evening or the birds in the daytime. “Listen,” we say to our babies, “Do you hear the music?” There are visual details. “The little spider has made a web! Can you see where he is sitting?” There are emotional details in the faces of friends. “Look at Joey’s face. Do you think he is sad?”
Now, when the older ones are in school, I invite you to come with your little one to the art gallery in the foyer of the Ladysmith Library. There is a beautiful exhibit in place with vibrant colors and varieties of textures. You can slowly walk around the exhibit pointing out the colors, textures, and things you find interesting to your baby. I know your baby will pay attention to what you are saying. The artwork, which will hang until the end of October, is a traveling exhibit in our state of artists of many ages with developmental disabilities—challenges that may set them apart in some ways, but not in their humanity.


See my pretty, pretty rainbow
Way up high
See my pretty, pretty rainbow
Up in the big blue sky.

The raindrops and the sun will bring
Red, yellow, blue, and orange, purple, green.

Tune: Somewhere over the Rainbow

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Prenatal learning about food.

It is always interesting to learn more about what babies may be experiencing before they are born. My friend, Ruth Meszaros, shared information about prenatal learning in regard to food preferences. I was able to track down an article with some research for us to ponder. The article I found was written by Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., and was from her website, Here is what she had to say.
At around twelve weeks of age, a fetus begins to swallow amniotic fluid. This fluid can take on the odors and flavors of what the mother has recently eaten. Then, around 28 weeks the fetus begins to respond to odor and odor is an important component of flavor. The question is, “Do babies learn about flavors before they are born?”
This learning has been documented in rodents and there is some evidence that it might be true for humans as well. Newborns prefer the smell of their own amniotic fluid but this preference goes away a few days after birth. Researchers wonder about the long-term effects of this learning. To help understand this, a study was designed that tracked 46 pregnant women. Babies seemed to prefer the flavor of the food their mothers had eaten while pregnant. It is important to note that one study with only 46 subjects cannot be the final word on prenatal food preferences, but it is something to think about.
Then there is the dark side of prenatal exposure to certain flavors. Rodents who have been exposed to alcohol in utero are more attracted to alcohol-tainted water after birth. Could this be true for human babies also? Studies have shown there is a link between fetal alcohol exposure and alcoholism later in life.  As my father use to say, “A word to the wise is sufficient.”


Yum Yum, don’t you know I love apples
Yum Yum, don’t you know I love apples
Red and green and yellow too
Yum Yum, don’t you know I love apples

Way up high in the apple tree,
I saw two eyes lookin’ at me
I reached for an apple
It started to squirm
Whoops I found a wiggly worm!
 (repeat first verse)

Rub tummy, point to self, use signs for apple, red, green, and yellow.
Point up high, circle eyes with thumb and index finger, pantomime other movements.