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Mindful Squares

We are continuing with the Basic Shapes activity plan from Clever Clovers.  The activity we are sharing today is one that I feel is very important and thus aligns closely with my philosophy of education.  Please take a look!

Mondays and Wednesdays I choose one activity we did today from the Clever Clovers curriculum and share our experiences (starring my twin babies)

 This week’s Theme: Basic Shapes

Activity Description Mindful Square: Using tape, mark out squares on the floor for each member of the family (who will be present at the time of activity).  Ring a bell and sit up straight and quietly in the square.  Do this activity daily and try to lengthen the amount of sitting time day by day.

This Activity’s Main Area of  Development: Emotional

Specific Skill: Self – awareness

O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 18 months + 1 week

Today was not the first time we did this activity (we started about a week and a half ago).  So I will write a little about how I introduced them to the mindful square.

1. I showed them the squares on the floor.  We talked about the colour of the tape and tried to trace the squares with our hands and feet.  (Place the squares in a quiet, comfy area of your home)

Mindful squares for sitting in

Mindful squares for sitting in

2. I showed them a picture of Padmasambhava (part of our spiritual practice) and explained that he is gentle and kind – you can use any spiritual image that is important to you BUT, please know that you do not need to have any image and you don’t have to associate this activity with religion or spiritual practice for it to be of benefit.

Our mindful area

Our mindful area

3. I introduced the bell by saying “bell” and ringing it.  They loved it!  I told them to listen to the sound, I let them have a chance to hold and ring the bell.

Our bell

Our bell

M tests out the bell

M tests out the bell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Next, I explained that when we hear the bell, we will stop what we are doing and come to sit in the square.

5. I rang the bell and modelled sitting in the square quietly and invited them to join me.

6. Then we played a little game where I would give them a task (dance, jump, play) and I would ring the bell indicating that they should stop and come sit in the square quietly.

7. Now that they understand, I ring the bell at random times throughout the day:

    • In the morning for our morning prayers & mantra chanting
    • When I hear them fighting
    • When I see them get overtly frustrated with something or having a tantrum
    • When it occurs to me (practicing MY mindfulness)
    • This can also be done on the hour or half-hour (or any regular interval of time) – And in a classroom

8. During the subsequent days we have been working on sitting up straight with legs crossed, our hands on our knees, very quietly, and focusing on the image or closing our eyes. (It’s so cute, they can close their eyes on command but only for about 1 second, and they really have to focus to do it).  I have extended the sitting time day by day.  (The main objective is to get them to sit quietly for a given length of time).

O & M sitting mindfully

O & M sitting mindfully

O focusing on posture, M focusing on the image

O closes her eyes, M focuses on the image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O focuses on her posture and sitting position

O focuses on her posture and sitting position

8. Eventually I will take away the squares and add little meditation pillows; this activity will evolve to guided mediation.

 

See us in action!

What is Mindfulness?

Good question!  And let me assure you, that I am no expert on the topic.  Much has been written about it but I chose to share this simple definition with you (from an on-line dictionary): “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment”.

How is Mindfulness Beneficial to Learning?

Here is an excerpt from a book entitled “Planting Seeds” by Thich Nhat Hanh:  “Mindfulness is an essential educational tool because it develops attention, emotional & cognitive understanding, and bodily awareness & coordination, as well as interpersonal awareness & skills.  Also, being mindful diminishes stress, anxiety and hostility; enhancing our total well-being.  Often the focus of education systems is on competitive performance, with little emphasis on social and emotional learning.  While it is important to teach the key academic skills, it is critical to focus on helping children develop emotional stability and social tolerance.  Mindfulness is a powerful tool to help children develop the skills to promote peace in themselves and in the world around them”.

To me, everything is possible from that point forward.

And remember………

To successfully share mindfulness with children, you must first practice it yourself.  Your presence, your calm, and your peace are the biggest gifts you can offer to your children and students.  

Get Face to Face with Triangles

Hi everybody!  We are continuing with the Simple Shapes activity plan and today is all about triangles.  I made each triangle out of foam because I figured they would be eaten and squished – which they were.  Excuse my drawings…art was never my best subject!

Mondays and Wednesdays I choose one activity we did today from the Clever Clovers curriculum and share our experiences (starring my twin babies)

 This week’s Theme: Basic Shapes

Activity Description Triangle Faces: Make some faces out of triangle shapes (instead of the typical circle).  Draw on faces showing different basic emotions (happy, sad, angry, silly).  Hold up the triangle and make the face also.  Encourage your baby to mimic.

This Activity’s Main Area of  Development: Emotional

Specific Skill: Beginning to identify different feelings

O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 18 months

1. As an introduction we reviewed the four shapes and sang one of the songs from the Clever Clovers activity plan.

2. Next, I held up each individual triangle, named the emotion and made an exaggerated facial expression to match.

I'm calling these emotricons..get it?

I’m calling these “emotricons”..get it?

3. Finally, one at a time, I asked them to mimic the facial expression I was making.  We had so much fun doing this that I couldn’t even get good pictures of them because we were all giggling so hard.  (They were giggling at the faces they were making, and I was giggling at them giggling).

Angry

Angry

O's angry face (the wagging finger means "no!")

O’s angry face -the wagging finger means “no!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy

Happy

M's happy face

M’s happy face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silly

Silly

O's silly face!

O’s silly face!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sad

Sad

O doing a sad face, M laughing at her

O doing a sad face, M laughing at her

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revision:

This activity also afforded us the opportunity to review vocabulary and concepts from three other Clever Clovers activity plans (Colours, Parts of the Face and Counting).  This idea of bringing language/concepts forward as they are learned are integral to the curriculum and to language learning. – (See: Bringing Language Forward, pg.4 of the Clever Clovers Curriculum Guide)

Extended Learning:

They were really enjoying the activity and were pretty focused so I took the opportunity to turn this into a matching activity (I made two of each “emotricon”).  They performed it very well the first time around and then lost interest as soon as I pulled out the video camera…..oh well!

Basically what I did was give them all four “emotricons”.  Then I would place one on the table and ask them to find the match, (Ex. “Can you find another happy triangle like this one?) until they were all matched up.

Matched in pairs

Matched in pairs

 

Feet Are Neat!

Today’s post is about feet!  I didn’t do a great job at documenting the activity today – sorry, sometimes, it’s difficult to do that!

Mondays and Wednesdays I choose one activity we did today from the Clever Clovers curriculum and share our experiences (starring my twin babies)

 This week’s Theme: Hands & Feet

Activity DescriptionAnimal Feet: Animals have feet too!!  Play with toy animals and make special mention of their feet!

This Activity’s Main Area of  Development: Social/Emotional

Specific Skill: Making connections between self and others

O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 17 months + 3 Weeks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

1. Today’s warm-up was reading the book, Who Has These Feet? by Laura Hulbert.

book title

 

2. Next, we sat together and reviewed what we have already learned about feet.

 

3. Moving into the more formal part of the activity, I explained again that animals have feet too! (The first time I explained this was during the story).  I introduced the animal toys and we talked about their feet.  I gave them the toys so they could manipulate & interact with the feet too.  I compared the animal feet to their baby feet to help them make connections between themselves and others (skill focus).

(This video is a bit slow but it shows how I explain the concepts and how they are focused and processing the information.  If you’re looking for a lot of action, this one’s not for you!)

 

4. Lastly we had free play with the animals.  During this time, I narrated what they were doing and made mention of the words “duck feet, frog feet, turtle feet, etc”.  (whenever applicable)

 

Remember not all activities have to have a tonne of action and excitement to have an impact.  During parts 1&3 of this post, I could really see them making the connections; that these animals/toys were similar to them in some way.    Being able to make connections between self and others is a bridge to showing/feeling empathy – which is an important skill in the upcoming stages of learning!

P.S If you’re looking for more animal activities click here 

OR

If you’re looking for more emotional learning activities (ages 15-18 months) click here

We Heart Pig

We are moving nicely through the Farm Animals Activity Plan from Clever Clovers.  The girls are enjoying themselves very much.  We have been watching Babe during our TV time and the girls have been so excited to see the animals interacting on the screen.  I can’t wait to take them to the farm! BTW…Friday’s post will be delayed because we have decided to visit the farm over the weekend as a family outing.

Mondays and Wednesdays I choose one activity we did today from the Clever Clovers curriculum and share our experiences (starring my twin babies)

 This week’s Theme: Farm Animals

Activity Description: Toy Time: Find a toy sheep and play with it in such a way that you are taking care of it. For example, feed it, give it a bath, give it kisses and cuddles, etc.

This Activity’s Main Area of  Development: Emotional Learning

Specific Skill: Being affectionate and nurturing

O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 17 months + 1 Week

1. Our warm up activity was singing, using the farm animal figurines as props.

2. We used our stuffed pig because I couldn’t find our stuffed sheep.  We also had a stuffed cat – (which often appears in farm related things so I thought we could use it, but M soon refused preferring a baby doll she had).  I explained to them that these are our babies and we have to take care of them and love them.  On their own accord they hugged and kissed the toys but after that, I came up with all the different ways to take care of our “babies” (except for the last).

M kissing and hugging the baby

M kissing and hugging the baby

 

  •  Brushing (hair and teeth)
O brushing the pig's teeth

O brushing the pig’s teeth

M brushing the baby's teeth

M brushing the baby’s teeth

O brushing the pig's hair

O brushing the pig’s hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Strolling
M taking the baby for a walk

M taking the baby for a walk

O takes the pig for a bumpy ride!

O takes the pig for a bumpy ride!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually O’s pig fell out and she ran over it saying “uh, oh, uh, oh”.  It was a good opportunity to say “ouch, the pig is hurt.  Can you help the pig?” After stepping on his head  3 times (accidentally; it was entangled in the stroller)  she eventually gave the pig a hug and kiss and placed it back in the stroller.

 

  • Feeding
O gives her pig some water

O gives her pig some water

....then she ran to give the baby water too (this seemed quite important to her)

….and to the baby too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to keep reminding M that she was feeding the pig and not herself :0)

I had to keep reminding M that she was feeding the pig and not herself :0)

...she gives it a try!

…she gives it a try!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...a bit lower O, good try though!

…a bit lower O, good try though!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Soothers (you can’t really see the soothers, their hands are covering them)
M shares the soother between them both

M shares the soother between two

O gives the pig a soother

O gives the pig a soother

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Bathing

This was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, I had a bit of a problem with O.  She kept taking M’s baby out of the bath which was turning into a bit of tug-o-war between the two of them.  I was saying “that’s not gentle” and all of that kind of stuff but what I finally came to realize (thanks to O’s persistence – albeit grumpy/screamy persistence) was that O was trying to take the baby’s clothes off for the bath!  How clever!  I didn’t even know that they came off.  Second, after the “bath” O pointed to the hand towel and then gestured toward the pig.  Other than the hugs and kisses at the beginning of the activity, this was the only time that they initiated some caring action toward the pig/baby (the rest of the ideas were mine – which is totally age appropriate so don’t worry if your baby does the same!)

M puts soap on the pig

M puts soap on the pig

O rinses the soap off using the cup

O rinses the soap off using the cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O attempts to wrap the pig in the towel.

O attempts to wrap the pig in the towel

..a little help from Mom and the pig is dry & warm

..a little help from Mom and the pig is dry & warm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This activity is a wonderful way to incorporate emotional learning into play.  It is imaginative play which they are beginning to understand and it helps them practice being gentle, nurturing and caring.  It was a very timely activity for us because they have started to argue with each other more and they have been throwing toys too.  The concepts and language used in this activity can be brought forth when I need to help them settle disagreements or explain to them why they should not throw their toys.

 

 

 

Red Is Best

A couple of notes before I begin today’s post. I decided to continue with the Primary Colours (+1) activity plan for a third week because I felt the babies could use more practice with the concept before we move on (another demonstration of how flexible the Clever Clovers Development Program is).  Monday’s colour has been yellow but since you have already seen a couple of yellow activities I decided to do Tuesday’s activities today (red).  Ideally, I would have dressed in red too but I only have red pj’s and since this is going on the web, I chose not to be seen in my pj’s!

Also, I have wanted to share a reading activity for some time now to demonstrate different techniques to effectively & interactively read a story with your baby; promoting early years literacy.  Today I attempted to do this, and was met with camera issues on 2 occasions (the first one ran out of battery and the second one ran out of memory) – poor planning on my part.  So I was only able to capture a fraction of what we did with the story but I hope it helps give a couple of ideas.  I promise to post more reading activities in the future.

Mondays and Wednesdays I choose one activity we did today from the Clever Clovers curriculum and share our experiences (starring my twin babies)

 This week’s Theme: Primary Colours (+1)

Activity Description: Read the story Red is Best (Stinson) and talk about it as you go.

This Activity’s Main Area of  Development: Emotional Learning

Specific Skill: Exploring preferences

O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 16 months + 3 weeks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1. First, I sat with them and quickly reviewed their red clothing and gave a quick introduction about what the book is about. (Love it when M says, “la la la” to the word Elmo.  – if you don’t know, it’s part of his song)

 

2. In the clip below, you can see a few important things.  One, when M proclaims “ock” (for sock), I acknowledge her understanding and communication by repeating it with the correct pronunciation “socks”.  The second is that I am asking them to find the socks in the picture.  Sock is a word they know.  It would not be very productive to ask them to find something that they are not familiar with.  O points to something else first (either out of interest or as an incorrect response).  I still acknowledge her communication.  I don’t say “no, you are wrong”.  I give words to what she is doing.  I say, “this is the girl”, then continue back with the question, “can you find red socks?”.  Thirdusing the limited language they have, I am attempting to explain the concept of the story and today’s specific emotional learning skill (exploring preferences) .  I say things like “red, yes, yes, yes” with a smile on my face.  And when it is a different colour I say “no, no, no” without a smile.  These words are not in the story.  I am using the language that they already have an understanding of to help them understand the story’s meaning what it is to “like or prefer” something.

 

3.  The next clip shows an example of how to get your baby interactively involved with a story.  This helps with comprehension and gives them a break from sitting and paying attention.  (They get to move their bodies)

– Again, to begin, I only give them commands that I know they already understand (jump).  New commands can be slowly added in over time.  It wasn’t caught on camera but on another page I asked them to run.  They weren’t quite sure what that meant so I took their hands and ran back and forth with them, saying “run, run, run”.

 

4. The following is an example of changing the vocabulary in the story to suit your baby’s understanding.  In the story the word “jacket” is used.  My babies don’t know this word but they are familiar with “coat”.  So when I’m reading, I change the words.  You will also see me use an action when I say “cold”.  This helps with comprehension.  You will notice M pointing to her red sweatshirt at the end.  This shows that she is empathizing with the girl in the story and that she understands.

 

5.  The last clip I have, shows another example of changed vocabulary.  The story says “boots”.  I say, “shoes”.  You can’t see it because M is not on camera but she points to the top of her head, indicating “hat”.  I acknowledge her communication by indicating that the girl in the story has a hat but it’s not red.  In retrospect, I would have preferred to say something like, “yes, this girl has a hat, it’s green and white”.  (To frame it a bit more positively).

 

6. As I mentioned above, I was not able to catch the rest of it on camera but as the story progressed, they began to comprehend the “no, no, no” to other colours and “yes, yes, yes” to red.  They were nodding along and smiling when the colour was red. And shaking their heads and index fingers when it was not red. I hope some of these tips will help you engage your child more through reading activities.

Please leave me a comment to let me know how the tips worked for you!