Activities To Do With Your Children At Home

If you’re running out of ideas or struggling to keep your children engaged and happy, don’t worry! We have compiled a list of activities that you could do with your children. Have your children choose one to two activities to do per day!

Science

  • Bake something.
  • Play with a tub of flour/cornstarch and water.
  • Inventory the plants & wildlife (from bugs on up) in your yard.
  • Learn the parts of plants/flowers & how they function.
  • Conduct easy “kitchen chemistry” type science experiments that are easy to do, like making slime, baking soda and vinegar reaction, etc. HERE are some examples.

Art/Music/Movement

  • Dance Zumba or other dance-along videos on YouTube.
  • Have a shadow show in the reading tent.
  • Host an Olympics with a bunch of events competitions – funny ones, helpful ones like cleaning and really fun ones like minute to win in style.
  • Create an obstacle course.
  • Explore a National Park or a museum virtually. HERE are links.
  • Create music instruments with recyclable materials and form a band.
  • Make edible snack art.
  • Choreograph a dance together.

Literacy

  • Have each kid write a letter and/or emails to a different friend or family member each day.
  • Write a story cooperatively.
  • Write a short story & illustrate it.
  • Draw maps of places or items around the house and then make directions from one place to another to see if someone else could follow it. Add clues and words on your map. You can also hide an item and create a treasure map to find it!
  • Listen to a story read by a celebrity! HERE is the link. The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning and Daytime Emmy-nominated children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams imaginatively produced videos featuring celebrated actors.
  • Go on a letter/word hunt around the house. Hide the letters/words for the kids.
  • Put on a play.
  • Make a time capsule using a mason jar.
  • Trace shapes/letters/words on child’s back with your finger.
  • Draw a picture of your bedroom and label all the things in it.
  • Watch Lunch Doodles With Mo Williams Author of Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Knuffle Bunny. Each short episode features Willems in his studio, teaching kids how to draw characters, and talking about his personal artistic process.
  • Join the Los Angeles Public Library OverDrive collection. This collection includes ebooks, audiobooks, movies, and magazines.

Connection

  • Facetime grandparents and friends a lot.
  • Have your child pick a topic they’d like to learn about and spend 30 mins each day on that topic.
  • Make tents and reading caves. Include flashlights, tidy snacks, books, and pillows!
  • Practice a mindfulness activity. Here are some examples.
  • Create a gratitude or vision board.
  • Have your child interview you about when you were his/her age and how life was the same/different.

Maker

  • Code using Scratch or Scratch Jr. Free download HERE.
  • Try stop motion animation with playdough (Instructions HERE to make playdough at home).
  • Create your own board or card game!
  • Build with Legos.
  • Turn your Lego maze into a coding activity. HERE are instructions.
  • Do card making/scrapbooking projects.

Math

  • Bake with your child. Have him/her measure out the ingredients.
  • Use a deck of cards and play war. To make it harder, throw down two cards instead of one and have your child add/subtract/multiply the total.
  • Go through your kitchen cabinets or office drawers and group objects.
  • Play boardgames that involve counting.
  • Identify shapes in your home.
  • Make a map of each room. This helps with spatial language. Ask questions about where they’re located and how close together they are.
  • Take out a measuring tape and measure items around the house.
  • Make collections and draw them. Find 10 leaves/rocks and sort them by size.
  • Graph the people in your family by the color of their eyes, hair, favorite things to do, etc.
  • Look for shapes around the house.

Hope these activities will help!

Remember, it’s also very important that we allow our children to be “bored” and not always provide them with activities to keep them entertained. Constructive boredom allows children to become creative and self-sufficient.

For more resources and information, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

6 Mindfulness Activities To Do With Your Child!

“We actually don’t want to get rid of the thoughts and feelings and urges. We just want them out of the way so they don’t prevent us from seeing clearly.”

Right now is the perfect time to practice some mindful exercises with your kids!

A helpful tip is to set a daily routine for practicing mindfulness to make sure you incorporate it. This could be a time before your child sits down to start his/her day or can be used during transitions.

Kids model after us. Make sure to do it with your child.

Here are 6 simple mindful practices that you can start.

S.T.O.P.

Stand up and breathe. Feel your connection to the earth.
Tune in to your body. Lower your gaze. Scan your body and notice physical sensations or emotions. Discharge any unpleasant sensations, emotions or feelings on the out breath. Notice any pleasant ones and let them fill you up on the in breath.
Observe. Lift your eyes and take in your surroundings. Observe something in your environment that is pleasant and be grateful for it and its beauty.
Possibility. Ask yourself what is possible or what is new or what is a forward step

Connect with nature

Take a 5 minute nature walk in your neighborhood or backyard to breathe in fresh air and to change the setting. While you are out there, encourage your child to look around and take in the environment with his/her senses.

Dragon breathing

Sit up straight, breathe in, stick out your tongue, and breathe out like a dragon. This is great for younger children. It may seem silly at first but it’s a great way to bring deep breathing down to their level.

Mindfulness 5-4-3-2-1

Use this technique to ground kids and young adults. Have your child look around his/her current surroundings and find five things he/she can see, four things he/she can touch, three things he/she can hear, two things he/she can smell, and one thing he/she can taste. By the time your child gets through listing all of those, they will be more present and calm.

Glitter jar

The glitter jar is a great visual metaphor of our roller coaster of emotions and thoughts. Create a glitter jar using a mason jar, glycerin, and glitter. Have your child shake the jar and feel free to use these prompts:

So what is the one thing we can do to get the glitter to settle and see clearly again?

And what happens when we are still?

When things become clear, we’ll know the wise next thing to do. In fact, that’s one definition of wisdom: seeing things as they are and choosing how to act.

While we wait, does the glitter go away? No, it stays at the bottom. Our thoughts and feelings and urges are still in our minds, but they are no longer in our way, clouding our vision.

An aspiration

Decide on an aspiration. Just ask yourself this question: What is my heart’s aspiration? Pause for about 20 seconds. Do this a second or third time and write down what comes to you. Perhaps it is to come from love, or to be kind to yourself or others or to be patient.

These are just 6 simple ways to be mindful. Remember, there is no wrong way to do this. Set your tone and create a consistent schedule of practicing mindfulness for a few minutes every day with your child.

Remember, a little practice goes a long way.

For more resources and information, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

Take A Virtual Field Trip!

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

John Muir

We know many of you are spending long hours at home and may be yearning for a field trip. Well, you’re in luck! You can take a virtual field trip to your favorite National Park or museum. And the best part, it’s free!

To help our Willows Community, we have compiled a list of National Park and museums you can visit from the own comfort of your home. From walking around The Grand Canyon to exploring the Louvre, there are plenty of places to visit.

National Parks

Museums

We hope you enjoyed your virtual field trip. Please check back as we will continue to provide resources and tips.

For more resources, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

Creating A Positive Home Learning Environment For Your Children

As we transition to distance learning, it’s important to create a positive home learning environment for your children. Their home is now becoming their school. Below are a few tips for helping you and your children ease into this new learning environment.

Developing a schedule

Write out a schedule with your child! It is important for children to have a visual of what their day looks like. Your teacher may have provided a temporary outline of what to do so please use that as a template!

Here is a sample schedule:

Please note that these schedules are flexible! If you aren’t able to follow it exactly, that’s okay! You can pick it up on a different time/day.

Creating a learning space

Help your children create their own special place at home where they will be most comfortable and able to do their best work. Consider creating a basket with school supplies your child might need such as paper, pencils, pens, scissors, glue, etc. You can even have them create a name card like the one they have at school!

Parents role/expectations

Remote learning will most likely be new not only for your children, but for you and for your teachers. In the first days, you will discover how much support your children will need to make this effort be successful. Make sure to set expectations for learning. For the time being, their home is also their school. Have a conversation with your child and discuss what works and what doesn’t work, especially in the first couple of days. Remember, this may be a difficult transition for your child, so it’s essential that you take in their feelings and adjust appropriately.

We recognize that families may face complications including space and logistical concerns. Hopefully these tips will help ease some of that. Our goal is to be flexible during this time and assist in supporting your family.

Please reach out to your teachers for support if needed.

For more resources, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

Wondering How To Talk To Your Children During This Time? Here Are Some Tips!

“Kids worry more when they’re kept in the dark”

Rachel Ehmke, Child Mind Institute

During this time of uncertainty, it is extremely important that, as adults, we stay calm. Many of these younger children will not remember the facts and specifics about the coronovairus (COVID-19), but they are watching and observing us and will remember how they felt during this time.

The news of coronavirus is everywhere so don’t be afraid to discuss this with your child. Give them the safe space to talk openly and be a listener.

Here are some tips on talking to your children.

Allow them the space to talk

If your child is the type that needs to talk about their feelings and concerns, let them know at any time they can come to you and ask questions or re-open conversations. It’s important you do not “dismiss” how they are feeling. If your child shares his/her feelings with you, make sure it’s a positive experience so they learn that coming to you is a good thing!

Validate your child’s concerns or feelings

Children need to know how they are feeling is normal.

A dialogue could look something like this:

“It looks like you’re worried. I hear you and it’s okay to feel this way. Some people are also feeling worried about this. We are right here for you and we can talk about ways to make you feel safer. Let’s think about your worry as a way your brain is telling you to be safer by being more careful about keeping our bodies healthy. Remember a month ago when you were sick and couldn’t go to school? What happened when you went back to school? Sounds like your teachers all helped you catch up and helped make a plan on how to get your assignments in. It sounds like they took care of you. Did that help you feel better? There are a lot of other people as well that care about you and will help you again just like the time you were sick and missed school.”

Manage your own big feelings

“When you’re feeling most anxious or panicked, that isn’t the time to talk to your kids about what’s happening with the coronavirus,” warns Dr. Domingues, PhD, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. If you notice you’re feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child’s questions.

Adults set the emotional tone for our children. If you’re panicked and obsessed with the news, your child will pick up on that and they will focus on what they can’t control. If you’re calm and collective and provide small bits of information about what you can control, you will dial down your child’s anxiety.

A dialogue could look something like this:

“It’s great news doctors know how this virus gets spread. The means we know some things to do to stay. Healthy. What do you think we can do to stay healthy?”

Be reassuring

Make sure to discuss with your child how rare the coronavirus actually is and that only a small percentage of people would require hospitalization. Reassure them that the news doesn’t highlight everything and that the majority of people will be okay.

These are just a few tips on how to talk to your children. For more resources, please go to https://www.thewillows.org/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-update

Please reach out to us if you need any support at this time.

Poetry Behind The Scenes – 6th through 8th Grades: A Four-Part Series

6th Grade Poets: Evidence, Not Conclusions

POETRY IN MIDDLE SCHOOL builds upon all the elements of the previous grades, reinforcing the same principles with greater sophistication and then expanding upon them.

Poetry is taught as part of the art curriculum, so Susannah, our upper school art teacher, and I collaborate for three double-block sessions.

In sixth grade, we give students a chunk of time to create without prompts. They have 10 minutes for a Brain Sweep (free write) and then either further writing or doodling. Sometimes the process elicits a list of random thoughts; many times a poem fully emerges.

Here are some lines from a 6th grade Brain Sweep:

Hiding is what we’re best at.

We hide from the truth.

We hide from ourselves.

We hide from others.

We steal the truth, then we hide it.

– 6th grade poet

As we move into reading model poems, writing and sharing, we discuss the difference between evidence and conclusions—and aim for discovering “evidence,” the details which help keep a poem fresh and alive.

Here are first-draft excerpts from another poem:

RECYCLED ICY BROWN FOLLOWED BY OPINIONS

WAVING LEAVES SHIVERING WITHOUT CONTEXT

I SENSE THAT IT’S TIME TO GO

– 6th grade poet

Over the course of these three double blocks, we explore the powers of memory, imagination and observation. I love to bring in prompts that challenge the eye, the ear, the mind and the heart.

Finally, students choose one poem for the anthology and we conference and edit their work together.

7th Grade Poets: Words and Intention

This year, seventh grade poetry develops out of the weaving curriculum in art. Once again, we use movement warm-ups, Brain Sweeps, reading model poems and writing with—and without—specific forms.

The following piece is inspired by Evie Shockley’s “color bleeding.”

One year, I carried purple with me, like that one part of the sunset, you can see a hint of purple.

Purple has meaning, it’s like an outcast, foreigner, or misfit, never at its best by itself, better with others, the most visible stain.

Purple lightning, one of the 3 main colors of lightning, which has its sound delayed, just like purple’s popularity. Like x or z, seen but never utilized much.

Treated like the math test when it’s actually the fire alarm, it’s a hidden hero.

Purple: beautiful and abstract. Nice light and dark, saturated and edited, the most meaningful color – purple.

– 7th grade poet

This year, these students have also imagined the potential impact of their words on others. Check out the forthcoming Willows 2019-20 Poetry Anthology to see how seventh graders responded to a model poem called “What I Want My Words to Do to You.”

8th Grade Poets: Beginnings and Endings

Everything gleams like rhyme

Images going through my mind

Past future present

They’re mine

– 8th grade poet

As in the lower grades, eighth grade poetry lessons take inspiration this year from the weaving curriculum in art. Each of these students also has the chance to reflect on themselves as a unique individual leaving The Willows (and, in a sense, childhood) behind.

I never knew I loved the tricycles I trip over on the yard

The frigid temperatures of Brian’s classroom

The sink that spatters on my shirt

And the sound of the bullhorn at carpool…

– 8th grade poet

In eighth grade, we still use Brain Sweeps, model poems and a variety of forms. We still incorporate movement warm-ups.

We also play with rhyme, rhythm, and the visual impact that fonts and formatting make on a typed piece.

Eight graders leave us with a lot to remember when they leave The Willows.

Poetry Night in Middle School

In Middle School, participation in Poetry Night is optional. And so, a “company of Willows poets” performs at the end of the schoolwide presentation in the gym.

This year, our company of poets is a mix of sixth, seventh and eighth graders who have been deeply (and playfully) engaged in developing and writing our piece. What a joy to be in the presence of such accomplished writers and delightful humans!

We’re also lucky to work with Liza, our theatre teacher, as we rehearse the piece and get ready to share it with all of you!

After the performance, more middle school students—and alumnae—gather in the Art Room for an Open Mic poetry reading that is a fun and special way to cap an evening full of words, ideas and inspiration.

Join us in the gym at 7:00pm on February 19th for Poetry Night at The Willows… and then afterwards for the Open Mic in the MS Art Room.

To learn more about what Deb does, feel free to check out her website at: www.debstudebaker.com

You can follow her on Twitter: @mindbodypoetry

Poetry Behind The Scenes– 3rd through 5th Grades: A Four-Part Series

3rd Grade Poets: Ordinary Magic

IN UPPER ELEMENTARY, Poetry continues to be an interactive experience. As children develop their reasoning skills, I give them increasingly challenging forms and techniques. The poet, the scientist, and the detective all share similar traits: they observe, they find clues, they experiment. Bit by bit, the pieces come together.

By third grade, students are familiar enough with poetry to start putting words together in surprising combinations. The results are often fresh and fascinating.

connected sentences

green moment

blue apartment

small life

fly, world

– 3rd grade poet

The idea of painting word pictures takes on a deeper emotional resonance now. We reach inside to feel our feelings and express our thoughts. Movement helps us wake up the brain and encourage such mindful awareness.

We take time to ponder where poems come from: what do we hold inside us that sources our ideas? Is it a place, a color, a particular landscape, a type of weather? Something else?

Third graders explore this notion and then write; under the guidance of Kristy, their art teacher, their words become calligrams, also known as “shape” or “concrete” poems.

After my five lessons with these students, they continue to write with their classroom teachers. Soon we’re getting ready for Poetry Night and working to create a whole-group performance piece! It starts with an original script, based on a style or form we used in class.

Creating the script is literally a hands-on writing and editing process. Third grade poets take their original words, lay them, out rearrange them, and piece them back together!

Poetry Night in third grade involves collaborating with specialists. This year, we’re working with Kristy and Susannah (art), Liza (theatre), plus the third grade classroom teachers on a piece inspired by the fall art curriculum: weaving.

We’re in rehearsals right now. Come see the finished product on Poetry Night!

4th Grade Poets: Exploring Different Voices

think

create

anything

the mind

wants to make

– 4th grade poet

In fourth grade, we look closely at patterns, and how to compress ideas into a certain arrangement of words or syllables. Movement helps us feel the beat of the syllables.

We pair random words to see what new images they generate. This student happened to choose “inspire” and “universe” and wrote this poem:

Inspiring the Universe

don’t tell me what to do / says space. I have my own / ways. how about some stars? / NO! how about some light? / NO! how about a night sky? / NO! how about a life or a / heart? I don’t know? NO? YES? / then how about those stars? / share them. how about that / light? give it. how about the / night sky? open it. how about / a heart? show it. how? let / me free! stars, light, night sky / and a heart.

– 4th grade poet

As Poetry Night planning gets underway, we build the group performance piece on one of the forms we’ve already studied. This year it’s the lanterne style, a simple format with a specific syllable count.

The entire fourth grade builds the foundation of the poem, connecting it to their curriculum by writing about the environment. Next, a smaller group collaborates to edit and fine-tune the piece.

Soon we’re ready to work with Kristie (music) and Marissa (movement/dance) to stage a performance piece filled with speakers, movers and musicians.

We couldn’t do such a big production without the creative involvement of the fourth grade teachers!

We hope you’ll be in the audience on Poetry Night, February 19th, at 7:00pm.

5th Grade Poets: Free to Write

In fifth grade, I introduce the “Brain Sweep.” It’s a timed free-write; students have three minutes to put words on the page in whatever manner they choose. Some compile lists of bullet points. Some jot down what they observe in the classroom. Some reflect on what they’re going to do after school. Others pour their hearts onto the page in poetic style.

The only rules are to keep the pencil moving, to avoid editing, and not to think too hard. One more important element: we always begin with one minute of silence: it’s a time for daydreaming and settling the mind.

This year, without any prompting or coordination, a handful of fifth graders wrote frequently about the writing process.

I’m anxious. I’m scared. I have so many thoughts. I’m stuck. But there you are, you’re the thing that brings me up… I can write about anything, an alligator, a bee, but I choose to write about you. My love for poetry. You free my mind and I thank you for that...

– 5th grade poet

Before we know it, it’s time for Poetry Night planning! Our talented young poets contribute ideas, short poems, and editorial suggestions; the spirit of camaraderie and collegiality among these students is truly refreshing.

Soon we’re ready to put it all together with Marissa (dance/fifth grade teacher), Mike and Greg (music), plus Dakota, Liz, and Debbie, the rest of the fifth grade teaching team.

Fifth grade Poetry Night is quite the theatrical experience! This year, we’re going for a Beat Poets vibe with musicians, movers, and speakers, so come along and be prepared to snap your fingers…

Join us in the gym at 7:00pm on February 19th for Poetry Night at The Willows!

To learn more about what Deb does, feel free to check out her website at: www.debstudebaker.com

You can follow her on Twitter: @mindbodypoetry