Friday, July 29, 2016

Her Camp.

How often are we able to offer our children an hour of our time?

What is the value in offering our full attention to our child?

Why is it important to follow the lead of our child through his/her play?

So, this summer...My daughter started her own "Camp".
She wrote it on the calendar in advance so we wouldn't make other plans on that day.
Each "camp" is about an hour class, maybe 90 minutes.
"Who will we invite?" I ask.
"It's just for us, Mama...(meaning Me, her brother, and Dad when he's not working.)" she answers.
You may (or may not) be surprised but I sort of struggled with this weekly camp thing in the beginning.
Over the summer, I work part time. But, I typically work weekends on planning, prepping, and shopping for Wonder Studio and then spend Mondays and Tuesdays physically working Wonder Studio.
By Thursday (Camp day), I am definitely excited to have a little free time.
My daughter's camp is sort of demanding.
She expects her brother and I to be full participants.
It goes without saying that Phones are not allowed.
(I did manage to get a few pics, with her permission, of course.)
The first few "camps" were frustrating for all of us.
She wasn't quite satisfied with the "structure" of the camp, she really did not appreciate her brother's lack of enthusiasm.
She felt stressed when the hour didn't go the way she thought it would.
Gosh, it was gut-wrenching to watch her process this information each week.
She held strong though.
We talked about her frustrations.
We talked about ways to get her brother on board. 
She began to adjust her plans as well as adjusting her expectations.
"Why don't we invite some of your friends to your camp?" I ask again and again.
I am thinking to myself...gosh, I feel silly playing Freeze tag in the front yard. She should be leading other kids, not me!
One week, she finally clarified it for me.
"Mama, I really want camp time to be "time" for just us. It's a way for me, you, and brother to spend time together every week."
Wow. Light bulb moment for me.
The funny thing is...I have always felt as though I offer my children a lot of my time.
I read them books each day.
We have great conversations at the dinner table.
We cook dinner together on occasion.

But, I realized that most of the time I lead by me and what I want to do with them.
My daughter craved time where she could lead.
My daughter asked for time where I would follow.
My daughter wanted our time spent in Playfulness.
Hey, wait a minute...this is sounding familiar.
I think I started a similar program...
Guys, it's no joke...that our children have sooooo much to teach us.
I learn so much from my children each and every day. 

What could an hour a week of your undivided attention offer your child?
Well...just a Lifetime of connection.
Following the lead of my daughter helped her to understand her role in our family.
Following the lead of my daughter showed her her own value to me.
Following the lead of my daughter allowed her to value our time together.
Following her lead didn't mean, I didn't have a say.
I offered her some constructive feedback.
After, my Vertigo attack earlier in the summer...she was disappointed (as was I) that I couldn't run around the house multiple times as she had planned.
She learned to adjust to modifications that her brother and I clearly presented.
Spending time in Play, not just routine or adult-led ideas is as important as making sure they brush their teeth.
Conversations at the dinner table are important.
Reading books with your children are key.
Play is the stuff of dreams.
Play creates memories.
Play creates Connections.
In a sense, my daughter just showed me the mission behind what I have been trying to do through Wonder Studio for the past 7 years.
There is tremendous value in offering your children a time and a place where they can Lead you in play. 
Maybe, you feel silly like I did.
But, I promise you that the memory will sustain you through the coming years when our children will  no longer ask us to play with them. 
The sad truth is, they might even forget how we played with them.
But, I will not.
I will always know that there was a time when my daughter said, "I just want to spend time with you, Mama."
Thank you Darlin...thank you so much for your beautiful play.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Why we do Wonder Studio...

Our Guest Blogger: Joan

The Wonder Studio is multi-sensory, “messy,” and open-ended experience for children age 18 months and up.  At six and nine, my kids represent the “and up” end of the spectrum, and sometimes people seem surprised that I still take my kids there.  So why do we still go?  Well, quite honestly the creativity, imagination, learning and play inspired by the Wonder Studio is just as important for older kids as it is for their younger peers. I like to think that it is good for the little ones to have an older kid to play with sometimes and I know it is good for my older kids to learn patience and kindness when dealing with little kids.    

Recently we went to the Summer Studio on a Monday and Tuesday since I had the week off from work.  And I got to watch my children display their confidence, experiment with budding interests, practice mentoring and sharing, marvel at the beauty of art, and wrestle, with larger issues like finding inspiration and considering life and death.  These are all things that help them to grow and develop into better human beings and that make my Mommy heart glad.

As they raced eagerly inside that first day it was good to see them feel so comfortable and in love with this place that they had been coming to since they were tiny tots.  They both headed straight for the spin art and started churning out works of art.  “I’m really good at this,” G. declared confidently as she began her creative work.  “I’m using blueberry sauce, ketchup and mustard,” announced J., showing hints of his recent interest in watching the Master Chef Jr. series on-line and working toward becoming a chef.  After warming up together they dispersed and wandered away from each other, searching for some creative inspiration.  

G. dove right into the mint green flubber with gold glitter.  She made wonderful “mini cakes” in a muffin tin and decorated them with gems and dinosaurs.  Then she began to offer them to various adults before telling me that she wanted me to walk around and share them with people.  Although I love the Wonder Studio I will admit that I would have felt pretty stupid walking around by myself asking adults to eat my flubber cakes.  G. kept insisting and so I admitted I was feeling a bit shy.  “Well that’s okay,” she counseled.  “Why don’t you start with the teacher and then go to some of your friends?  That will make it easier.”  She piloted me over to Miss Shannon first and then started pointing out different moms that she had noticed me talking to.  It should have come as no surprise that my incredibly social daughter would have some good advice for curing shyness.

Meanwhile J. decided to paint something at an available easel.  First he had to ask Miss Shannon for a new sheet of paper and then he sat there staring at all that blank whiteness.  “It’s hard getting started,” observed Miss Shannon.  “My art teacher says that you should start with a dot and then go from there.”  So J. picked up a paint brush and slapped a dot into the center of the paper and then sat there staring at it waiting for inspiration to strike.  I wrestled with my impulse to rescue him and fix this problem.  I wanted inspiration to not just strike, but to impel him to create something amazing.  It never struck and in a few seconds J. was drawn outside to the circular pipes loaded onto a central pipe with a crank.  No need to wait for inspiration here. 
It took only a few seconds for him to figure out how to scoop up the purple tinted water in the lower bucket and get it to come out the top and splash into the second bucket.  He churned away for quite some time using his engineer brain and then was standing near it while a younger explorer struggled to make something happen at that station.  “You have to do it the other way if you want the water to come out,” J. finally told him.  The boy started going in the other direction, but the water was still not coming out the top.  “You have to do it faster,” suggested J..  The boy started cranking faster and as the purple water surged out the top they both grinned in satisfaction as they watched the wonders of centrifugal force in action. 

By now G. had joined us outside and she was playing with a long clear tubes and plastic fish in a water table full of bubbles.  She had been there for quite some time when two little boys started having a problem.  One of them wanted the other one’s tube and was upset that he couldn’t have it.  “What do you want?” asked G. getting in on the conversation with the smaller children.  “Would you like this?” she asked, holding out her tube.  The boy nodded, suddenly happy as G. handed it to him and wandered on to the next activity. 

 Next it was time for face painting and both of my kids sat down together and got started.  Ultimately they each bailed on this project half way through—declaring it too itchy.  J. then spent a bunch of times with the shrimp—naming some of them.  Pincher, Snapper, Mr. Grandpa Fish, Squirt and Steve all became friends of ours. 
All too soon it was time to clean up together and then read a fantastic story about a watermelon loving alligator.  They loved it and as the rest of the class continued on into the singing part that J. never cares for he snuck over to the counter and borrowed the book and started re-reading it out loud for G.  This caused a little boy who was sitting next to him to exclaim, “You can READ?!  It was nice to see J. experience a rare moment of confidence in his reading ability.  As school he is at best a very mediocre reader compared to his school mates, but here he was a rock star. 

Day two of the Wonder Studio is usually a repeat of the first day, but although most of the activities were the same, the experience never is.  “I hope she brought her crabs,” J. declared on the way in and to my surprise the previous day’s shrimp had been replaced with fish and crabs!  J. rushed right over and began to inspect his new friends.  There were two tubs filled with water, some nets, some little metal tubs and an aerator making a lot of bubbles.  This station certainly attracted a lot of attention that day and there were a lot of discussions about life and death over in that corner.  Since we have fish as home, both of my kids are very aware that fish cannot breathe out of water, so they were quick to tell the younger kids to make sure they got the fish back into the water ASAP.  In fact, J.decided that the kindest way to transport the fish from one bucket to the next was to scoop them into the tin bucket so they stayed in water throughout their journey and didn’t risk getting tangled in the net and hurting themselves.  One of the little kids had put a fish in the second bucket all alone and J. quickly transported another fish to join him.  “There.  Now he will have a little friend to play with for a little while, if he survives.”  The kids also all seemed very scared of the crabs.  They saw those claws and knew they would use them.  At one point J. observed that the fish were all staying near the crabs to avoid being scooped up.  “I think they know we are afraid of the crabs,” he said. 

It was another amazing day of play featuring G. baking a delicious cake in the sand kitchen and J. creating such a mesmerizing swirl of color on the corn starch sprinkled car ramp that he just stood and stared and murmured, “Isn’t it pretty?” to me when I came to look.  Then we concluded with an amazing story about a child and her cardboard box and all of the things she created with it.  My kids loved this because at the moment at home we have one cardboard box that is a two person car (complete with old license place on the back) and another box that they crawl inside when they want to pretend to be a package that is delivered in the mail.  Then when we got in the car J. surprised me with a new question. 

J.:  Mom, did you read the directions for grownups?
Me:  Yes, they send them to us in an e-mail every time.  Why?  Are they good directions?
J.:  Yes.  Like you should never have a plan and you should turn off your cell phone.

This made we pause.  I am the kind of person who almost always has a plan outside of Wonder Studio and who always has my cell phone on.  Maybe I should try to follow these directions from time to time in my non-Wonder Studio world.  Maybe that would help make the magic last for longer.  
Image result for Rules for adults during Play: Get on child's level, put cell phone away, have fun

Friday, July 8, 2016

We've been Waiting for You to come to this Place...Summer Wonder Studio Week 4

 "We've been waiting for you to come to this place.
Waiting for you to come to this place.
Where ever you're from,
we're glad that you've come.
We've been waiting for you to come to this place."
 I can still see her face...
I can still feel the goose bumps on my arms.

Seeing Bev Bos, the teacher, sing, dance, and speak at an Early Childhood Conference, at least 10 years ago,
was a huge moment for me.
 She sang that song and talked about the importance of making each child feel "seen" by their teacher. Not just seen...seen, heard, hugged, etc...

 Hello's and Goodbye's became something I started to pay closer attention to.

I ask each one of my students to let me know that they have come to this place (Wonder Studio) so that I can tell them I'm glad they came.
 I greet these children with a smile and some eye contact and then we move on to the fun stuff.
Sometimes, they will greet me back, sometimes they will hug me...
 They often look away or hide behind mommy or nanny's leg.
I'm really ok with that.
Sometimes, the parent or nanny really wants the child to say Hello to me, and that's ok too.
 However, I greet the children and adults at Wonder Studio because I want them to know that I know they are there.
And, I'm glad they came.
 My daughter tried out a summer camp last week...she came home and said, "Mama, they don't know my name."
I could tell she struggled to understand what her "place" was at this new place she was going to visit every day that week.
 The next day, I walked her into the room, sure enough...the teacher did not look up or say hello to her. 
Gosh, what a brought back to my memory that song (above)...
We finished out the week and sure enough on the last day, there was no Goodbye either.
 To be noticed. to be acknowledged helps us to understand our place in this world.
It's more than just manners or being polite.

 You will hear me often say children's names at Wonder Studio.

With over 75 different kids coming in each week, it can be difficult to get it right, and I don't always.

But, I study my "list" each morning before everyone enters and sometimes I just have to ask, "Remind me your name."
I remember when we named our own children. We thought so carefully about the names.
I looked up the meaning of the name...
I looked through books, family trees, internet, etc...
All of my dreams and hopes for my child seemed to be wrapped up in this name they would carry for the remainder of their lives.
Saying someone's name is personal.
Saying someone's name can mean they are your friend.
Saying someone's name means you know them.
When it's time to leave Wonder Studio, I want to say Goodbye to each child. Usually, it's a massive heap of hugs, high fives, fist bumps...but I try to say to each child...
"I'm so glad you came today." or
"I'm so happy that I got to see you today."
So, Goodbye is important too.
Sometimes, folks will want to "sneak" out quietly.
I guess they don't want to interrupt me.
I really don't mind being interrupted. 
Most of the time, I like being interrupted. 
I really like saying Goodbye.
I want you to know that some Goodbye's don't lead to another day's hello again.
That's why they are so important.
Well, I guess, there's just one more thing to say, then.
Goodbye...and I'm really glad you came.