The new story leads everyone into laughter and the joy of summer. The sticks could now explode bubbles, which still allow Professor Worm to feel the power in the story, and it is reframed in a way that allows less fear and more joy for others.
Current Work, peer communication, storytelling with preschoolers

Turning Upset to Joy: An Experiment

My co-teacher wrote a post about my work with our children that demonstrates how we practice moving through the gifts of the seasons to turn upset into joy. This work of changing the stories we tell is powerful and the children make it look easy. I offer her words to you here in hopes of explaining some of the work we are doing together.

While playing, Professor Worm feels powerful with sticks that he calls bombs.
By hiding behind grown ups’ legs, Lightning shows us that she feels fearful that Professor Worm intends to explode Everything. Power and fear are both winter traits.


Katie steps in with a plan (spring) to recreate the story. The new story leads everyone into laughter and the joy of summer. The sticks could now explode bubbles, which still allows Professor Worm to feel the power in the story, and it is reframed in a way that allows less fear and more joy for others. A_L_MovetoJoy

This is a brilliant example of Katie leading the children through the gifts offered by the cycle of the seasons. In this way, she helps them both feel comfortable, without taking away what they needed in the moment (power AND safety). She brings them into partnership by partnering them both during the conflict.

Katie’s plan was to ‘tell another story’, which is a technique from her Masters work in Transformative Leadership and Social Change. Creating many stories that retell an upset moment in many different ways can help us let go of being stuck in upset.

Adults can practice this skill with amazing results. So can children.


Materials for Busy Mamas

I’m recently experimenting with an Art Lab. I invite some mamas and their babes to come hang out and use some art materials. I put out five or six different opportunities in addition to three easel spots outside and books inside. My intention is to offer art material exploration in community. It’s been two weeks now, of RADLabs Art Lab, and in talking with some of my mama friends, I realize that a post about materials might help some folks. A question I hear often is, “What can I use that can be quick?” The short answer is: Tempera Paint in a good cup, Liquid Watercolors, markers, and different papers.

This week, we used tempera paint at the easel. I like the spill proof cups and I prefer the ones with white lids because if the paint doesn’t match the color of the lid, it seems confusing to little ones. What I like about this type of paint cup is that if we don’t use up the paint, I can save it for another day. The no-spill lids can go in the dishwasher if the top is too messy. I store these filled cups in a large plastic bin in the shade of the porch.

Painting at an easel with bulb handled brushes

Bulb handled brushes allow for an easy grip and ask for large movement across the paper.

Liquid watercolors offer bright colors with easy clean up. We had a sensory table full of river stones and some liquid watercolors to paint with this week. You can put out small palettes of a few colors or water them down a bit and put in a paint cup. If the cake watercolors are all you have access to, spend a few minutes prepping them before beginning. To prep the watercolor pans, drip a little water onto each color and scrub it with the stick end of a brush to create lots of juicy color in a puddle on the surface. I do this for myself when I am painting and it allows me to move quickly from color to color without having to spend a lot of time to get the color that I want onto my brush.

art materials

Prep watercolor pans by scratching the surface with a few drops of water until you have a bright puddle ready to be used.

Construction paper crayons and oil pastels are bright and work well as a compliment to watercolors. I like water soluble crayons and find that children often do not choose them. The provocation I put out for my mama friends this week had graph paper note cards, water soluble crayons, oil pastels and watercolors. This would be a quick and totally doable art prompt for a busy mama. I might add a Flair pen or thin sharpie to use once dry too. Ten or fifteen minutes at a time, on note-cards or half sheets of vellum, a creative mom could get into the flow and create some serious joy and well-being for herself!

So, my mamas, I know you’ve got dishes and laundry and Facebooking to do, and I wonder what good it will do you to set yourself up for success in this way? Lots, I say. Let me know how it goes.


Can You Make a Monster?

It had been a while since we played with Wikki Stix, and we smoothly jump right back into using them with confidence.

It takes about thirty seconds for us to begin dramatic play at the table as our Wikki Stix monsters evolve.

Drawing with Wiki Sticks

Using waxed covered colored string to make monsters builds our fine motor control and our problem solving skills.

Three friends choose to stay at this table for over half an hour while other friends are cooking and exploring the clay. As we sit together, we describe what our monsters can do and how they will attack and defend. In this way, we show what we know about the world and reflect things we are learning in other parts of our lives.

K: “My monster is a Hydra, with three heads!”

A: “I made a crossbow, pew pew.”

S: “My guy comes to cut off one of your heads.”

K: “It grows back two, now it has four heads!”

When we revisit materials that we lost interest in months ago but haven’t seen in a while, we have a chance to make our ideas visible in a fresh way.

Wiki Sticks help us develop fine motor control

Foreman makes a poison rainbow with his Wikki Stix and says, “Nobody can catch me!”

construction play with preschoolers

A Lovely Day of Construction Play

When we engage in sensory play, we build the small muscles in our hands as we grip and grasp toys, we experiment with cause and effect as we figure out what happens if we throw a handful of sand at our friend or dump it on the floor, and we practice communication skills as we tell about what we’re doing.

And sometimes, the sensory toys we explore are an opportunity to work on conflict resolution as we navigate peer interactions and work on sharing a limited space with friends. When this type of thing comes up, we get to develop problem solving techniques and build social skills too.

sensory play with preschoolers

Foreman builds a house for his trucks.

When a new item is added to a sensory table, a few things can happen. We could completely lose interest, having played as much as we wanted to play in that particular material. We could be totally engaged, losing all interest in doing other activities provided. We could be slightly intrigued and spend a few minutes checking it out and then move on. Ideally, there’s a middle ground where the new addition brings just enough but not too much excitement.

sensory play for preschoolers

Rocket Constructs a Garage for the Cars

Today, as we play in our sensory sand table full of construction trucks, we notice that there are new magnet blocks added to the sand and we ask questions like: “Where did you get these blocks from?” and “How do they stick together?” As we talk with our teacher in this way, we show what we know about the world and build conversation and vocabulary skills.

art, collaboration

A Lovely Day of Mixed Age Group Play

My Tuesday group ranges from just over one to just under seven years old. If you’d asked me a few years ago if I thought this was feasible, I would have laughed and said not if you wanted to have a successful lesson!

Of course, not all of the activities we do are relevant or interesting to each child. And not all of the materials would be appropriate for all of the children to use alone. However, just as it is possible to have a successful and thriving home with children of multiple ages, it is possible to have a flowing classroom experience with this age range.

It struck me today as we worked on a drawing, just how special the arrangement is that we have. The youngest child in Tuesday’s group is the younger sibling of one of the other students. As we drew with permanent markers today, most of the students sat on the floor to work at the table and the toddler sat on the table. While the friends used the markers, he held one with the lid still on. He worked at getting the lid off of the marker while his older friends used the markers. He was safe, I sat right with him and included him in the conversation as we talked about the colors we used and what we noticed about how the colors mixed when used on top of other colors.

Mixed age classrooms can be a blessing for both age groups.

Mixed age group success is real!

Would I give a toddler a permanent marker and leave him unattended? Absolutely not. Did this toddler have a rich experience sitting with his classmates while they drew, absolutely, he did. I say it is valuable for the older children to see the ways in which the younger children can be included in their learning even if they are not doing exactly the same things.

dramatic play

A Lovely Day of Story Play

As part of our Library play today, we design a dramatic play game where we are superheroes traveling in a ship called the Bullet Mobile. The first stop is the zoo. Dr. Kitty and Lightning get out of the ship and visit the animals. Then they pay their entrance fee back onto the ship through the window to Professor Worm.

After the zoo, the superheros visit the North Pole and see Santa, some elves, and reindeer.

The next stop is Big Rock Candy Mountain where the friends gather candy. Lightning gathers candy with her feet making sure her tutu falls over her face just so, Dr. Kitty picks the candy with her mouth and eats it up, and Professor leans out of the ship to bring arm fulls of Chocolate Berries back inside. “Cause they’re my favorite,” he says.

The second to last stop is Antarctica, the children say they see penguins and polar bears. There is much excited announcing of which animals are seen. At the end of each leg of the trip, Dr. Kitty and Lightning pay to re-enter the ship. Professor Worm says, “ticket, ticket, ticket, ticket” as he waits for them to climb aboard.

Final stop on this epic journey is home to take a nap, the game shifts quickly to a version of the family play this group often engages in. As the friends tell about what is happening now that they are home, they say that Wonder Woman is going to have a baby (there is a Micky Mouse stuffed in her costume) and she is pretending to sleep on the ottoman.

Dramatic Play with Preschoolers

During a Library dramatic play game, the Superhero friends build a Ship and go on a trip together stopping at the zoo, the North Pole, Big Rock Candy Mountain and Antarctica.

In this way, my friends show me what they know about the world, they practice communicating their ideas to their peers and they develop storytelling skills.

Circus Play with Preschoolers

A Lovely Day of Projector Play

When we use the color paddles on the overhead projector, we practice color mixing and color identification. If we combine this exploration with the circus rings, we also have a chance to build the muscles in our arms and legs as we flip and twist. Watching our shadows interact with the colored light on the wall helps us experiment with light and shadows, which is a way to observe cause and effect. While we play in this unstructured way together, we build vocabulary skills, practice speaking our needs and use our imaginations as we interact with our peers.

Gross Motor Play with Preschoolers

Dr. Kitty and Lightening perform a show in front of the color projections.

Light Play with Preschoolers

Dr. Kitty shows some love to the paparazzi.

Circus Play with Preschoolers

Professor worm notices his shadow during his circus performance.