We just concluded our celebration of Advent at Appleseeds. In the nursery, we celebrate Advent as simply a time of light in a darker time of year. I love that at this time of year, so many holidays include the lighting of candles and a focus on letting light shine into the dark parts of the world. So many cultures have brought this about and I am so grateful for the diverse backgrounds that bring us to this place. I know it enriches my holiday times to have a wreath with Advent candles for my family to light each night leading up until Christmas. I love thinking about how many people around the world are doing something similar in their own way and how humans yearn for light in darkness, universally. In the nursery, children took turns each day putting a golden star up onto a royal blue silky sky above our toy shelf. They also each took turns picking an item to put onto our Advent "wreath" each day. This wreath is different from my own family's wreath in that it focuses on the elements in our world that we are grateful for, as each family has it's own way of acknowledging the season and this way brings light into the occasion without being exclusive to one way of celebrating. The nursery children each picked an item from the mineral kingdom during the first week of December. So in our treasure box they could choose from shells, a shark's tooth, or stones. One child had a turn each day. During the second week, the children chose from treasures from the plant kingdom; dried apples, dried oranges, pinecones and flower blossoms. During the third week, the treasure box held small wooden animals to celebrate "birds and beasts both large and least". Had we been together for the fourth week, we would have celebrated humans and put figures of people on the wreath. For each candle lit, we had a short verse that we sang.
Our little take-home project for this festive time was a window star. The children painted blue and purple on watercolor paper, which I then cut into a star shape with a window of wax paper. Each child glued some stars into the wax paper. The two sides of the star were glued together and I punched holes along the side. With a yarn needle and yarn, they helped to sew along the edge for added flair.
What a wonderful honor it is to work with young children! To see humans at the very start of life. To see how vulnerable humans can be and yet how all-embracing as well. It is a wonderful chance to be able to sit and watch the children playing. There's so much to learn just in watching their interactions with one another. In an environment that is not rushed from one task to another, you see children sitting to console one another with hand-holding, kisses, and hugs. Sometimes they have to back-up, change directions, and make way for another. They have to take time to figure out a game that will suit everyone involved. There's time to work things through and time to enjoy one another.
We had a cold, rainy couple of days at the beginning of the week, but thanks to rain pants, snow pants, and plenty of warm jackets, the kids were able to play outside for the usual couple of hours. We flipped over the picnic table under the carport and this made a nice boat that stayed dry while the rain fell. I also added some big shovels to our sand area. It was time. The strong digging the children are doing helps keep them warm on these chillier days. Some more sweet potatoes were dug up as well.
Inside, we made some jingle bell shakers to use when we sing our jingle bell songs. It was a challenge for the children to figure out where to put the pipe cleaner through to make the jingle bells stay on, but well worth the effort! The children enjoy singing the bell songs which have parts where bells are played and parts where the bells must be still, and they are all excellent at refraining from shaking the bells during those parts. It's a fun lesson in refraining from something and then participating.
Another fun and tasty activity was separating pomegranate seeds from the pith and putting them in a bowl. We had these seeds with our snack. It's nice when a little fine motor skill exercise leads directly to food; some children did not save the pomegranate seeds until snack time! Another inside game, created by the children, is what I call "candy cane delivery cats". This is when the little kitties unexpectedly drop a little candy cane (which the children made) into your lap. The children love doing this back and forth to one another. I've also noticed them making pretend "Stone Soup" based on the story I've been telling about stone soup.
To exercises our bodies while we're inside, we've been playing a little imitative game sung to a song that goes like this; "I traveled over land and sea. I met a man who said to me, I met a man who said to me 'Oh where do you belong to?' I belong to crawling land, crawling land, crawling land, and everyone who can crawl like me, well, that's where they belong to". We go through quite a few movements and then do our little winter circle. We'll have many more games like this that get the children rolling, reaching up high, crawling and jumping.
We have begun our season of giving this week. The children each put a little something into each of three baskets to take to my neighbors as a holiday gift, and also to thank them for their patience with not-so-occasional loud "VROOOOOMING" coming from our "vehicles". While we were out, a visitor left a sack of parcels on the doorstep! We opened it and found little packages for each child with a clementine, cookies, a bell and a note. Turns out St. Nicholas had his eye on us! The children enjoyed the sweet little snack and hearing what St. Nick had to say about each one of them in the note.
We've been spending more time out in the forest. The children have loved crawling or chasing one another through a hay maze. We've been working on trying to forge a path through the woods, so they like to help me pull up the weeds growing around. Sometimes, we get lucky pulling up all the ivy and recently uncovered a little salamander in his home! Today we found a snail and the children sat patiently and waited until it came back out of his shell and had a look around, but no one was too interested in letting it crawl on their hands. With children being so busy outside, it's amazing that they can also stop for quite awhile and wait for a creature to slowly emerge from its shell. It's a good reminder to us as parents in a fast-moving world!
This week and last, we have been unearthing some more sweet potatoes. It's exciting to dig up something that is so bright pink! You never know how big it will be and they require some digging but it is worth it to find a little "treasure". I also had some help putting a bit of treasure into the ground as we planted some bulbs last week. We tucked little "bulb babies" into the ground and covered them up with a little dirt blanket. Hopefully they'll come out in spring dressed in their prettiest clothes!
With our short week last week, we did a little Thanksgiving baking of pumpkin pies. Going along with this season of sharing and giving, I am telling the story of Stone Soup, about a man who visits a town where no one helps one another or welcomes him. He begins to cook a soup, using only a stone. Out of curiosity, the towns people come one by one and add a little something to the pot. In the end, they've made a delicious soup together. The man leaves the town a happier and more loving place.
The children made some candy canes this week by threading some red and white beads onto a folded over pipe cleaner. They've been using the candy canes in their kitchen play, but were eager to bring the ones they made home to hang on their Christmas trees. Understandable. We have been shaking some jingle bells for some of our songs at circle time and they will soon be making their own to play. There will be much jingle jangling to come in the nursery!