We have started the third year of Appleseeds this week, with new friends and new play things. Our "old" Appleseeds children have enjoyed meeting their new friends and showing them all kinds of new tricks. The weather, for now, is giving us delightfully cool mornings. We have been doing our circle time outside after we have cleaned up our outside toys. I've made our circle to incorporate lots of BIG movement, and so we pretend that we are Old Gnome, waking up and going out into the meadow to see what we can see. We crawl across the pine needles under the clothes line, climb up the hay bale mountain, crawl through a tunnel of "blueberry bushes" and out of our garden gate. Then we log roll down the slip n' slide mat and climb over the climbing dome and come to an "apple tree". We jump and jump to try to reach the (imaginary) apples, and then shake our bodies pretending that we're shaking the tree. We pick up all the imaginary apples, and crawl back up the hill, through the tunnel and over the hay bales. We dump out all the apples which roll all over (so we roll all over), then we settle down to make "applesauce" with our applesauce verse. As you can imagine, the kids and I are exhausted after such an active circle, and so we go in to wash up and have our snack.
Over the week, we've been working on making some pom-pom apples to hang on our branch in our nursery. The children wrap thick yarn around and through a pom-pom form. When they've wrapped it very thickly, I cut through the yarn and bind it in the middle. I remove the form, and then the children can trim up the pom pom so that it's round and full.
I told a story about Old Gnome this week, in which Old Gnome goes down to the pond to do some fishing. He instead finds that Froggy Boggy has been doing somersaults and has bumped his head, needing to be pulled out by Old Gnome. After Froggy is safe and sound, all the frogs and Old Gnome settle down to a nice afternoon of playing. During our lunchtime, I've been reading Peter In Blueberry Land to the children. It is quite a long picture book, so lunch is a perfect way for the children to practice listening to a fairly long story.
Our summers at Appleseeds are pretty simple. We make use of the sprinkler and pools for a variety of purposes. The children dig and build things, have popsicles, and we do a small craft. We let summer unwind slowly, and if it happens to be a nice, breezy day, we may stay out for an extra long time, enjoying a respite from the generally humid days. This summer, I found that the children really gravitated towards car washing and city pretend play, so much of their play was built around that. Outside, we used shaving cream and sprinklers to give both large and small cars a wash. Inside, the children loved building apartments and expanding from there. First one child would build an apartment, then another would add an extra apartment on. They would fill their apartments with toys, but then find they needed to clean it up in order to invite a friend over for "dinner". They would clean it up and have a friend over but decide to go to a restaurant instead. Then a restaurant would need to be opened by another child. They'd serve food and then run out, needing to have more delivered. Another child would become a delivery person. Then, a fire would break out in the kitchen. Luckily, some children were employed as firemen and quickly put it out. After that, the electricians would come and put up some new wiring, and so it would go. It was so lovely to watch the children go with one another's train of thought.
I try to make summer a rich sensory experience, allowing for children to feel both the heat of the sun and the coolness of water, how chalk gets brighter and dissolves when used on a wet surface, the grittiness of sand, the softness of bubbles. Our crafts, though not very fancy, allow children to experience the blending of watercolors, how to hold scissors and cut, how to master the fine motor skill of picking up sequins or tiny pieces of tissue paper and stick them "just so". But another very important reason for these simple crafts is for children to understand the idea of completing a project. It will become more important as they get older to sit and work on something over a series of days and to see it to completion. Sometimes they may not like the process, but they are always proud when they've finished the whole thing.