Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter eggs, naturally

After a lovely, traditional, Easter-y morning, we set about to dye eggs with ingredients from our kitchen.
We used purple cabbage, grated carrots, turmeric, coffee grounds, red onion skin, pine needles, baby greens, a few red raspberries, and tea bags (Red Zinger), as well as vinegar and aluminum foil.  These were all things we had on hand, but other herbs and kitchen ingredients would work well, too.  I'm thinking grated beets, grape peels, sumac berries, blue berries, goldenrod, etc.

Some of our hens lay white eggs, which work beautifully, but we also tried a couple of the paler green and tan colored ones.  I let Camille, Sylvia, and Ayla loose with the food stuff, and each egg was wrapped in a separate square of foil with the chosen dye ingredients.  The girls really enjoyed experimenting with color combinations, and most eggs had several ingredients wrapped around them.  

  When they were all tightly wrapped, we simmered then for 15 minutes in a stock pot.  We added a glug of vinegar to the water to help fix the colors.

 About an hour later when the eggs were cooled, the girls unwrapped some of their creations to see the effects.

 I knew the colors would be much subtler than the brightly colored dyes we've used before, but I didn't realize how stunning they would be as a whole.  I love the marbled designs that appeared.  Sylvia and Ayla rubbed a dab of coconut oil on some of them to give them a little shine.

We went for a long walk to enjoy the sunshine even though it had just finished sleeting.  Ack, this spring weather!
 It was cold and windy, but the skies were blue, blue, blue.

Back at home, we finished unwrapping and admiring the eggs and proceeded to eat several of them.  I think little Ayla ate at least three.

No day seems to be complete around here without some dress-up play.

 So, there was that, and a living room light show.

I love an Easter (or any day!) filled with love, light, beauty, nature, and sweetness.  

P.S.  My kids first learned this technique for egg dyeing at a homeschool class at Aldo Leopold Nature Center.  

P.P.S.  Camille left one egg to sit in its foil wrapper overnight, and the results were even more rich, saturated colors.  If you try this technique and have the patience for it, I would recommend leaving them sit longer than an hour. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

the importance of play

The importance of play and self-directed learning goes well beyond the pre-school years, even well beyond the childhood years.  You don't have to be a radical unschooler to believe this :). There are countless studies and articles and scholarly talks and anecdotal evidence that backs this up.

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” -Leo F. Buscaglia

Engagement and creativity are necessary ingredients for learning; and we are never more engaged and creative then when we are involved in some form of play.  Whether your kids enjoy playing with pine cones and mud, or Legos and videogames, or baby dolls and princess dresses, do you take some time to play along with them?

Some days are busy and distracted. Some things need to be taken care of, but this week I spent two days just focusing on play.  Not directing it, but participating when asked, giving attention when wanted, and providing food, space, and freedom when they were warranted.

Without further ado, here's about a million pictures from our two days of play, and a handful of links addressing the importance of it, from nature play to technology play and everything in between.

Importance of Play (book chapter from The Play Years: Psychosocial Development)
Play, Creativity, and Lifelong Learning (post on Why Play Matters for Both Kids and Adults)
Research-Based Case for More Play and Less Pressure (annotated article: Alliance for Childhood)
Child-Driven Education (TED talk)
Play is More than Fun (TED talk)
25 Quotes About the Importance of Play (collection of quotes)

Wednesday (at home)

Literacy and artistic play:  Sylvia and Ayla and I read books in bed first thing in the morning.  Camille spent most of the day knitting, reading historical fiction, and creating color pencil art.

Performance play ("Watch me, Mama!  Watch me!"):  Sylvia and Ayla put on an extended living room talent show complete with oodles of costume changes.
ball bouncing and ball throwing

 dancing and scarf twirling

 shaking it

 rocking out with guitar

 cooking show

 broom twirling and air bending

 After they filled up on Mama-attention, they settled in to play on their own for a while.

Outdoor and Physical play:

After much time spent sledding, running, puddle jumping and rope climbing, we went back in, played Wildcraft (a board game), and worked puzzles.  We did movement and finger play games from A Child's Seasonal Treasury, which turned into lots of silly galloping, duck-walking and hopping on one leg.  Ayla went to bed early and Camille and Sylvia watched My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic while giggling, shouting, and wrestling together.  The day flew by.

Thursday (within 8 miles of home);

Rough and Tumble Play:  Whenever the girls (and I) wrestle, tickle, shake, and roll around like puppies, we have a strict Stop Means Stop! rule.  This provides everyone with a measure of control over their own physical comfort level.

"Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, tickle, tickle, tickle, tickle.  Little sack of sugar, I could eat you up."  ~Woody Guthrie

We drove 8 miles to our nearest library and took the time to stop many times along the way.

Cafe Play :)

Park Play:

 When we are in the car, we often pull over to check out anything that is interesting to us.  We sometimes like to imagine what animals are thinking.

 a walk along the bike path
Sometimes, when we're 'on a walk', we keep a slow meandering pace, stop to look at things closely, or stop any forward motion at all :)

Backyard Play:

 Back home in the early evening, while Papa and I were watching episodes of Downton Abbey, the girls were out in the yard practicing cartwheels, skipping rope, giving piggyback and wheel barrow rides, and who knows what else.  Shortly after dinner, the two oldest elected to go to bed early.  Whew!

This big focus on play isn't much different than how we choose to live our everyday lives, except that we're a little less busy, and I'm choosing to be less distracted.  Over the last two days, I have observed increases in problem-solving, interpersonal skills, risk-assessment, pushing boundaries, pulling back, asking for help, and testing out new ideas and theories.  It could be because of the thawing weather, but we all seem to have felt an even greater sense of joy, connection, and well-being during these last two days.

The form of play isn't important, other than that it be open-ended and self-chosen.  It will vary widely based on ages, temperaments, interests, days, seasons, and energy-levels.

It is a happy talent to know how to play. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wishing you and your loved ones a playful day . . .