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Monday, October 29, 2012

Invitation in Green

This summer we struggled to maintain enjoyed the benefits of a bountiful garden. We had more summer squash than we knew what to do with, so we gave a lot away and made a lot of squash muffins (think "zucchini muffins" but with squash...yes, it works, but it's not the same). We also had a lot of okra - yum! And we soon discovered that it was better to pick small okra in the morning because by evening they were too tough to eat (seriously, they grew THAT fast). Anyway, one day we had some giant okra, so I decided to create an invitation in green. We'd already done the Yellow Invitation using the squash so it made sense - why not?!

 I set up an invitation on the light table after collecting a number of green tools for measuring, cutting, writing, and general exploration. Lately Addi shows interest in having a variety of collected items to create with, so I really did include a a lot (last year this many items would have overwhelmed her, so it's important to research your child's individual interests and needs when setting up an invitation).

Addi immediately took the lid off the homemade light table and brought it to the ground along with all the supplies; she always knows just how she wants to play, lol. Then she set to work pouring the paint into the translucent cups.  She noticed the cups with paint were now opaque and explored how to completely cover all the cups...the green popsicle sticks worked well.

"I can see through these, but not that one. Can you help me? Oh, I got it."

This summer her interest in letters grew, so I try to include them in most invitations. I didn't know how she would use them in her work; she started off by painting around them while singing a song from one of her favorite books (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom).

"Weeee said D to E F G I'll beat you to the top of the coconut tree."
"K is out of bed & this is what she said, dare double dare you can't catch me..."

And she painted her hand, around her hand, and made a hand print.

"I'm painting my fingers, not your fingers. Is that cool?"

Luckily there was quite a lot of paint on the ground because Addi LOVES to spray and wipe up...well, she loves to spray. And she likes knowing she can get her own cleaning cloths out of the closet.

I make my own cleaning products, so she's welcome to spray away!

Researching our children's interests can be a fun challenge as long as we don't set ourselves (or our children) up for failure. There are several ways to do this:
  • Does your child work more deeply with a few items or many?
  • How does lighting affect his/her play?
  • Include your child's favorite colors
  • Include an object your child visits often (lion, letters, etc.)
  • Consider a theme: color, animal, letter, medium (art, sand, water, etc.)
  • Give yourself a pep-talk before setting up a potentially mess-making invitation, "This is going to be messy and fun. The more mess the more learning. I will ignore the mess until after dinner if I have to, even until after bedtime." If you start to panic, focus on the sheer joy on your child's face!
  • Keep your sense of humor and playfulness.
  • Follow their lead: if they want you to play you can whisper, "what should I do?" Otherwise you can simply enjoy the show.
  • Jot down their reactions and responses. Their facial expressions and words can bring new and deeper meaning for everyone.
  • Let go of how you want the materials to be used and instead notice how your child chooses to use them - become curious! "Why did he paint the cup rather than the paper? Interesting: she took apart the light table before using the other materials! I wonder why she included the horse?"

Raising children is full of magical moments when we are able find within ourselves the time and space to watch and listen. I hope you'll find some today...or tomorrow!

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