Favorite Quotes:

Child sitting on parachute: "Don't shoot me up too high, okay?"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Power of the Written Word

Notebooks and a variety of writing materials are frequently provided for our students, in order to encourage them to practice writing, regardless of where they are with their skills.  I have found notebooks with several consecutive pages of scribble "cursive", painstakingly and precisely written on each line.

Students in our classes use notebooks and paper to take orders, make notes about things that they observe, write down clues, label items, make signs, write letters, draw, and much more.  Prior to a class during which we use the notebooks, we often tear out the old entries so that the notebooks are fresh.  We find all sorts of interesting entries, but the above is one of my favorites. I keep it in my office, and it always makes me laugh.

With the ability to write comes power.  I remember being sent to my room as a child, and being so angry, that I wrote down the word "cripes" on a piece of paper. I remember thinking that my parents could control what I said out loud, but that I could write whatever I wanted on paper. I sure showed them.  Back to work - I have much to do. Doody doo doo poo!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Toddler Carjacking: News at 10:00

One Sweet Ride

You’ve all seen the red and yellow Little Tikes Cozy Coupes. You may notice when you pass some daycare centers that there is a whole fleet of these vehicles on the playground. The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe is the must-have vehicle of the toddler set, and without enough to go around, things tend to get ugly.

I remember working at a daycare center that had only one of the coveted coupes. It was a great facility, and the teachers were vigilant when it came to keeping an eye on all areas of the playground. However, just as in real life, you can’t always react quickly enough to stop a crime in progress.

One morning our little group of children (ranging from about 18 months to 2 years of age) was enjoying some fresh air when the heinous crime unfolded in slow motion before my very eyes.

One little man was going about his business in the coupe. He stopped briefly, and the moment he did, some other little man came and muscled him right out of his car. The perp opened the little yellow door, grabbed the driver by the jacket, and pulled him out of the vehicle. He then promptly got in, slammed the door, and drove away as quickly as his little Fred Flintstone feet would go.

The driver lay stunned on the ground. The diminutive innocent bystanders, who had stopped to watch the crime go down, resumed their activities.

Fortunately, the perp was promptly apprehended, and the vehicle was returned to its rightful (albeit temporarily rightful) owner. I am pleased to report that the driver suffered no injuries.

I have also seen children try to “tip” another child out of a Little Tikes Coupe. It’s like that scene from the original Superman movie, during which mini-Superman lifts a car by its rear bumper. The tipping method is not as effective in removing the occupant however, and by the time the aggressor is able to get the car off of the ground an inch or so, the law is on site to intervene.

What to do about this alarming trend in toddler crime? Does the Cozy Coupe need a panic button? Door locks? Solutions, anyone?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

On Resembling a Muppet

So, how do you know when it’s time to get your hair cut? A few weeks ago, when I was a bit overdue for a trim, one of my 3 year-old students sized me up as she munched on her snack. She said, 

“Miss Angela, your hair is kind of furry on top.”

Hmmm. No misinterpreting that.

It was just an ugly coincidence (or was it?) that when I got my hair cut later that week, I asked my hairdresser to trim my bangs a bit more, and she ended up cutting them super-short. I went around looking like Kristy McNichol for three weeks, (am I dating myself?) which is fine for looking like a “fox” in 1978, but not so much in 2010.

A different student inquired of another CreativeWorks teacher,

“Why do you have hair like a boy?”

I think that it would be a good idea for hair salons to have 3 year-old consultants on staff. That way, when the hairdresser asked if you wanted a little more off the top, you could get a truly honest opinion. (“No, you might look like a boy.” “Yes, your hair is too furry.”)

For a number of years I took my birthday party gig on the road, and for the fairytale theme parties, I came dressed as a princess character. Then came the day of truth, when I was told,

“You kinda look more like a queen than a princess.”

Not long after that, I hung up my glass slippers and pursued other characters. Granted, I am sensitive to begin with, but you know, these kids are telling the ugly truth, whether you want to hear it or not. The princess critic was like a little image consultant: “You know, this look isn’t working for you anymore. I don’t think that your customers are buying it. Let’s try something else.” All she needed was a Blackberry.

When children are very young, and are still working out the kinks regarding tactfulness, there is an interesting developmental period during which they call ‘em like they see ‘em, and there is a lot of adult cringing that goes on before things smooth out.  

Of course, in my classes, if an "inappropriate" comment is made, I address it, and we discuss when it is acceptable to say something out loud, and when it’s better to “keep your words in your head.” We talk about how and why certain comments affect people's feelings. But really, I'm okay with looking like an old Queen with a hairdo like Bert/Kristy McNichol. Really.

For a related story, read Fair Weather Friends.  If you have a related incident that you'd like to share, please leave a comment.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thinking Outside of the Bag

Photo and sculpture by student/architect
Kapla Blocks
What might it be? (I'll start: A Fairy Hotel)
Respond in the comments section after this post.

One sensory activity that I like to do from time to time is a guessing game that challenges children to identify objects using only their sense of touch.

During this activity, a student reaches into a bag (without looking) and grasps the first thing that she touches. The student then tries to identify the item prior to removing it from the bag.

I make a point to include items that are familiar in shape, so that the children will be successful. For example, I may include a pair of sunglasses, a cup, a brush, a teddy bear, and so on.

Upon asking one of the students what he thought his object might be, he replied,

“A hole.” He then pulled out a bangle bracelet. A hole! Far out, dude.

We go around the circle: Spoon. Paintbrush. Paper Plate. Block.

Then we come back to the same little boy. He reaches in, pauses, and says,

“General Grievous.” I love it. (For those of you not in-the-know, General Grievous is a a bizarre skeletal robot from Star Wars). The boy then pulls a metal race car from the bag.

Hmm. Perhaps he was taking the question “what do you think it might be?” literally. It’s not nearly the same question as “what is it?”

It is a child’s natural state to “think outside of the box.” They are born outside of the box. Adults are the ones buying them the boxes, sticking them in there, and paying for rush shipping. It’s hard not to. We live in a giant UPS store. (Alright, enough with the box metaphors).

So, now I make a point to remember that what was originally a sensory exercise can be used as a tactile challenge or a creativity exercise, depending upon how the question of identification is phrased.

It’s ironic that I needed this reminder this from one of my students when, in fact, I’ve been using a similar creativity exercise at educator workshops for years. During the exercise, I give the teachers a simple object, and they then have to list all of the things that the object might symbolize in under a minute. For example, if they are given a piece of string, they might come up with: a leash, a hair tie, a tightrope, a fishing line…and so on.

We see a star flickering low in the sky, and we know that it’s a star. Most of us have lost that youthful ability to stop and imagine that it is a fairy, a beacon from a pirate ship, or a candle in a castle window. I just heard a series of beeps. It might have been a spy radio signal or a robot, but unfortunately, it was my dryer. Time to get back in the box.

Monday, February 22, 2010

They're All Dead!

I am a dog person without a dog, so I get my fixes where I can. If you’re heading out the door at Target, and you see someone near your parked car talking baby-talk to your dog, it is probably me. Don’t call the police.

The responses that I receive vary. There’s the “I’d be happy to go home with you, let’s go!” whole-body wag, the resolute “I shall ignore you, and avoid all eye contact, for I am waiting for my owner,” and the maniacal bark.

My husband and I are allowed to share a home with a type-A cat who would never permit his territory to be invaded by another being outside of our existing pride. Except for the occasional mouse, which, annoyingly enough, doesn’t faze him a bit.  So for now, we are dogless.

On one of our day-sucking Target-Petco-CVS-Staples-Michael’s-Mobil-Shaw’s-iParty-Bank outings, we passed a new doggie-daycare (a topic for another entry). We decided to go in and check out the facility (i.e., see the dogs) under the auspices of comparison-shopping for a suitable daycare for our beloved Rover.

At the time that we entered, a mother and her son (3 or 4-ish) was entering the building as well. We all went up to the suites/pens/stalls/cells/whatever and peered in at the dogs. One of the suites contained a group of puppies that were lying down and sleeping in that deep sleep reserved for infants of all species.

The little boy surveyed the puppy pile for a moment, and then said in a voice that conveyed part distress, and part utter disgust toward his mother for bringing him to view such a tragedy,

“They’re all DEAD!”

Well, you just never know what your Mom is going to pull on you, do you? One day it’s all ice-cream and playgrounds, and the next it’s viewing a pile of dead puppies. A trip to Grandma’s one day, a stab in the arm the next. Life is full of surprises.

Of course, the mother explained that the puppies were just sleeping (in a rather defensive sounding tone), but I don’t know if her son bought it. Perhaps his mother had uttered one too many white lies.

For example, I have heard:

“I am just ‘testing’ the camcorder.”
“Those gumball machines are broken.”
“It’s a place that sells playground equipment.” (McDonald’s with playscape)

Mmm-hmm. Riiiiiiiiiight.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It Can't Hurt to Ask

It’s so interesting to witness the budding personalities of the young children in my classes. You can almost pick out who will end up being an authoritative CEO, an eccentric artist, a caring teacher, a persuasive lawyer, or a ground-breaking inventor.

Recently, I was doing a train themed birthday party, and one of the little guests came up to me. She looked up at our new Thomas the Train set, running on a track above the party area, and she said,

“Can I have that Thomas?”

Hmmm. Keep a straight face, Miss Angela.

“I’m sorry, I know that it would be really fun to have, but we need it here.”



“Well, because imagine how other children might feel if they came here to have a train party, and our Thomas the Train was gone. They would be sad.”

She nodded her head, and walked away.

Without the preconceptions that we adults carry around with us about How the World Works, this little girl was able to give it a shot. She truly thought that there was a chance that she would be walking out of there with that Thomas set. It’s more than that though; not every child would approach an adult with such a bold inquiry. I’ve had children ask me if they could take keep costumes, books, stuffed animals, and even party plates. At least they ask. I’ve seen a number of our smallish belongings stuffed into little pants pockets and walk out the door, and have had to pursue the perps for interrogation. I’m not too tough on them though, because I know that they’re still learning How the World Works, and because I know what it feels like to want. We all do. Whether it’s a tangible item or not, we all want something.

A five-year-old boy whispered his request into our wishing well at a Snow White party recently, and I heard him whisper “world peace”. I hope he gets what he asked for, but I don’t think that it’s likely. It can't hurt to ask.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

High Hopes

During our fairy birthday parties at CreativeWorks, children enter a room filled with giant flowers, colorful butterflies, twinkling lights, and shimmering balloons. It’s a magical setting, and especially magical for the birthday girl. Upon entering the room for the first time, one birthday girl said to me, “I think I’m going to fall down!” (as in faint).

Little girls dance about in fluttery skirts and gossamer wings, and delight in their journey to Fairyland. During the course of one of the fairy parties, I was releasing rocket balloons (which fly all around the room, and often end up stuck somewhere in the rafters of our 14-foot ceiling). When one of the balloons got stuck, one of the little fairies said with all seriousness,

“I will get it.” She peered up at the balloon, lodged some 12 feet above her. She then began making flapping motions with her arms while uttering small grunts and jumping a few inches off of the ground. After a few attempts, she looked at me, shrugged, and said,

“I can’t do it.”

A few minutes later, during a different party activity, we sprinkled fairy dust onto the wings of the fairies. It was shortly after this that I noticed the little girl go back to the same spot, and make another attempt at flight. She didn’t tell anyone what she was doing, she was just earnestly flapping away, and eventually, she gave up.

Sigh. A lesson learned. Part of growing up is experiencing a series of letdowns. Too bad fairy dust doesn’t work after all…

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lincoln is DEAD!

I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you, but he is.

So, it was the first day of class, and one of my three year-old students whom I hadn’t met until just that day (and who had not yet spoken to me) came up to me, looked up at me in horror, and said,

“Lincoln is DEAD!” (dramatic pause)

“He was one of our residents! (dramatic pause)

“They shot him right in the brains!”

Shocking news, indeed. The other children watched my face carefully, waiting for my response. Should they be concerned about this apparently recent and tragic development? How would this affect them?

“Oh yes,” I replied. “President Lincoln lived a long time ago, and it is very sad that he died,” I responded, dodging the topic of murder.

I spoke to his mother at the end of class; she gasped and held her hand to her mouth.

“I know,” she said. “We went on a tour in Washington D.C., and his older brother was talking about it the whole way home. I didn't think that he was listening so closely. I’m afraid that he got a bit too much information.”

Ah, the educational vacation…an oxy-moron in the minds of some, and an adventure for others. I don’t think that I was ever traumatized on any such outing, unless you count spending hours watching Holly Hobby-ish ladies dipping candles and mending lace on a lovely summer day that would’ve been perfect for swimming.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

I’ve often wondered what goes through a young child’s mind when he is too young to express himself verbally, yet can understand and process a lot of information. Sometimes the memories compiled in the non-verbal years have ways of coming to the surface while the child is still young, but not old enough to have forgotten some of those experiences.

For example, when conducting a “firefighter” theme camp this past summer, we discussed fire safety, and the responsibilities of a firefighter (see my entry, “Fire-farter Frank”). During the course of our discussion, a three year-old boy said,

“When I was a baby, my bum was on fire…but the firetruck didn’t come. My Mommy fixed it.”

There was a general look of shock among the other children in the circle. There was no laughter. This was serious news. Who knew that your bum could catch on fire? Sheesh. One more thing to worry about in the world. Was it some sort of accident, or was it a spontaneous combustion thing?

Anyway, the likely cause of his flaming bum was diaper rash. Not being in a position to view the actual flames, or to articulate his fears, his five-alarm diaper rash got filed away in his memory, and the topic of firefighters brought it back to light. And we wonder why we as adults develop weird phobias and O.C.D. Who knows what we experienced back in the early years that got filed into the way-wrong folder? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go throw away some fruit before it starts flying around.