The past two weeks have been a time of cozy play inside, and very muddy play outside. Outside, we have seen the tips of tulips and daffodils just poking up out of the ground. They may not do much for awhile, but they are a steady reminder that things are going on underneath the surface, and spring will come again! Our circle right now is a gnome circle which includes much stomping and clapping at the same time, a large feat of coordination for young ones. They love it though, and watch intently, imitating me to the best of their ability. We had a story last week about Old Gnome, who discovers snow drops under the snow and makes an icy decoration with them to remind himself that spring will return. When Jack Frost sees Old Gnome's creation, he is delighted and adds a little decoration of his own before quickly flying off.
We did a little less hiking in our woods this past week, mainly because the rain had left it just a bit too soggy, such that even with boots and rain pants, water would still leak over the tops of boots, soaking feet and pants! So we did a bit more exploring of our own play yard. One of the favorites this week was building a fire station with the large blocks and wood planks. To an outsider, it was more obstacle course than fire station, but it provided heavy lifting and balancing for the children. There were many cake makers as well, and also children worked at dissecting an old stump using their hammers and fingers. It has been such a delight to listen to children work with one another and direct their own play. This is something that children rarely get to do unless they have a significant amount of time to let their play unfold with one another. An example would be a conversation I heard recently: A: I want the hammer. B: I'm using it right now, but there's another somewhere. A: No, there isn't. I need a hammer. B: Okay, when I'm done with it. But you know what I need right now? I need a bucket for some sand. You wanna get a bucket and make a cake for me? A: I'll go get it. B: Yeah, let's make some cakes. I'm done with the hammer, you wanna use it? A: No, let's make some cakes. As you can probably guess, this was a conversation between an older and a younger child. But the way they can be flexible with one another is such a useful skill.
....And this has been the state of our rain pants this week.
We started our New Year with a little three kings celebration and the traditional Italian and Eastern European story of Babushka, or Strega Nona. The children enjoyed making crowns in the traditional colors of red, green, or blue. Our circle time had the children galloping on horses and sweeping like Babushka. For children at this age, the image of strong kings riding on horses holds special appeal, and is also an aid to fostering pretend play with noble characters in mind. Later in the week, I heard many of the children pretending to be a king, and riding off on a horse. The story of Babushka is of an old woman who swept and swept all day. When three strange kings all knock on her door in turn, she continues sweeping. When she changes her mind and decides to follow them on their journey, she finds their footsteps are missing and she must search for a newborn king. She carries toys and cookies, and gives them to each child along the way. In many countries, on January 6, children receive gifts in their shoes from Babushka or Strega Nona.
When the children returned from winter break, we worked on stringing raisins, Cheerio's, popcorn and peanuts onto some string to make a garland for our now un-decorated Christmas tree for and birds and squirrels to nibble. The old Christmas Tree is outside of our nursery window so that we can watch to see if any come to nibble our garland. We'll be making some more edible treats soon for our little friends. On our make-up day, we also started working on using scissors to cut strips of paper into little squares. This is a Montessori exercise that helps children work on the tricky practice of both closing AND opening scissors.
As is often the case in winter, we had cold rainy days, very cold and icy days, and some cold sunny days. We made use of the rain pants on all days. The children enjoyed riding a "dragon" made of the outdoor building blocks, and later used the blocks to make a rocket ship and space station. Hammers came out for ice scavenger hunts. Children loved finding the ice and tapping away at it, and even discovered some "sand ice" in the sand box! Some children discovered that they've now grown strong enough to climb the steep banks of the dry creek bed in the woods. The children also discovered a "helping stick" that they use to give their friends something to grab onto and be pulled up when they are climbing.
We had a busy few weeks of Advent before our break. We started off with our lantern walk and puppet show, which was a cold, rainy occasion, but still with the happy ending of a warm baked apple. We made pumpkin bread and delivered it to our neighbors and had the pleasant surprise of St. Nicholas dropping off a basket with some tasty treats, jingle bells, and a letter to all of the children! We heard a story of Old Gnome decorating a pine tree outside with tasty treats for all of the forest creatures, and we sang many jingling songs with our bells.
The children had a little shepherd circle, which includes lots of skipping, jumping, and spinning. It is a happy little circle that children adore, singing "We are shepherds and we sing, of lots of jolly things, we can dance and we can shout, we can wave our caps about. The stars shine above us, the Earth flows below, and we are so happy in this wonderous glow". We also did some hammering outside on a stump, and the children have also been working on removing nails from the stump as well, which requires a bit more skill!
Inside, the children have been enjoying creating their own "stories" using silks, blocks, and some of the peg dolls and animals around. It's a wonderful skill when they begin to apply their imagination and imitate some of the songs and stories we've been doing, adding their own parts. They will often repeat parts of stories over and over again, and I imagine something is resonating with them.