Star Wars and Stars in Nature

Star Wars is certainly a people-made phenomenon while real stars are from nature. In order to see stars in nature, we have to wait until night—most of the time. We can even eat stars or, at least, eat around in appleStars in nature may be as close as your fridge or bowl on the counter. Are there any apples at your house? When we cut an apple in half, starting at the stem and going to blossom, we see the core in the middle. But it looks very different when we cut the apple in half going the other way, that is across the equator. This way the core makes a star! (You may have to shake out a few seeds to better see the star.)stars in natureFrom a star in the sky, to one on the beach, to a star on the table. Nature uses patterns and finding these is a way of encouraging a connection to nature. We often limit our idea of nature to what is happening outside, but we are part of nature, and so is the food we eat. Checking out the star in an apple is another way for kids to think of nature as what’s happening up close and personal. Now, kids will look for more stars in there any other things in the fridge that make a star? Although you likely won’t discover any, kids will look at what is there in a different way. A carrot is pointy like part of a star, a cauliflower (if you can afford one these days) has little tiny parts that are sort of like stars, and a banana looks more like the moon. Sometimes in the store, there is a piece of fruit called star fruit. Have you ever tried one?To find a star with other foods, we might just have to cut in a star shape, like this sandwich Discovering a star in an apple, isn’t a “play-of-the-day” but it has encouraged a connection to nature, used action for problem-solving,  sparked curiosity, and  raised a new question—what else has stars?

Apple Sensory Bin

Putting together a sensory bin for your child can be intimidating! There are some amazing ones on the internet that, by comparison, make me green with envy and red with embarrassment. But, the idea of a sensory bin is to put some simple items together that invite kids to play. Remember, kids will play with anything. With that in mind, I was able to find some things that the kids liked, plus I had fun making a bin.

apple sensory playMany sensory bins will use something small like rice, lentils, oats, garbanzo beans, pasta, or wooden beads for kids to measure and pour, sort of an alternative to sand. Another day, I may add something like that but to start, there were some small metal baking dishes, plastic utensils such as spoons, flippers, and spatulas, a container of clay pellets left over from some plant pots, beads,  plastic jars, bamboo tongs, various sizes of plastic jar lids in red, yellow, and green, an apple paper weight,  small wooden apples, and two real ones.

Both kids are beyond the everything in the mouth stage, so some of the objects were quite small. Big Sister used the things in the bin for lots of imaginative play, making things to eat, pretending she worked in a bakery where she made goodies that she sold to Little Sister. Little Sister had a very different sort of play, putting the small objects in the container and stirring or pouring them. She carefully put the string of beads into the skinny jars then tried to pour it out. She made a few attempts to get them out, then put the jar aside and played with something different. Both of them spent several minutes with the one pair of tongs, picking up the small wooden apples. Since there was only one pair, they had to negotiate who would get them, which they did, more or less.

Children will play with objects in their own way. Some children may only spend a few minutes with a sensory bin the first time, going back to it often throughout the day. Others will find many different ways to play and be fascinated for a long time. This will depend on their needs and moods. However they play, they will be having fun and learning at the same time. Have you tried some sensory bins for your child?

Apple and Fall Fingerplays and Songs

Here is a post from a couple of years ago with an apple fingerplay and a fall song. Somewhere, way in the back of your memory banks, you may find a fingerplay or song that you remember from your own childhood.  Although they are simple, songs and fingerplays help to make complex brain connections needed for different kinds of learning. There are countless videos on YouTube of young children using songs and poems as a form of play.

Songs and fingerplays are a sort of fun and learning language toy. They can be done in quick minutes as you pour breakfast cereal, wash a face or zip up a jacket. Kids learn new words, language patterns, and rhythm. The rhymes and the rhythm are powerful tools to help us learn and remember, as well as the music. They can stretch our memories and encourage careful listening. In order to say the words and do the actions, kids have to coordinate their thinking. That’s a lot of learning in little bits of time!

photo by Kim Plumley
photo by Kim Plumley

Apple Tree Fingerplay:

This is the tree with leaves so green. (bend arm at elbow, point fingers up and wiggle, other hand points to the leafy-fingers)

Here are the apples that hang in between. (close hands into round fists)

On the ground, the apples will fall. (lower fists, one fist taps on top of the other)

Here is a basket to gather them all. (if appropriate, extend arms out in front like a big circle and “gather” your child in a big hug)

*Kids love this one, especially when parents tease, “I got you now big, juicy apple.”*

The tune Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is used for this song about leaves:

fall fingerplays and songsMother Nature Did You Sneeze?

Falling, falling, falling leaves.
Mother Nature did you sneeze?
Red ones, yellow ones, orange, and brown.
Big ones, little ones on the ground.
Falling, falling, falling leaves.
Mother Nature did you sneeze? A–a–a–choo!

Sneezing and throwing leaves is fun, before raking them up and ‘falling’ in. There are countless more songs and fingerplays. No matter what ones you do with your child, they are a way to play, have fun, and learn all at the same time. Do you know of some other ones?

Getting Groceries with Kids for Fun and Learning

Even if we don’t need apples at our house, we need other groceries, and a trip to the grocery store can be a fun and learning event for kids.  When shopping with kids, a list is helpful. For one thing, it’s easy to forget something important with kids asking questions every two minutes. Plus, when … Continue reading Getting Groceries with Kids for Fun and Learning

Apple Sizes and Comparing Activity

Did you know that comparing sizes is a complicated thinking skill?  It’s a great deal more than learning the words big and little and requires considerable brain connections. Size is all about relationships instead of being about the bigness or smallness of something. A riding car is pretty small compared with a real car, but … Continue reading Apple Sizes and Comparing Activity

Making Applesauce Worth Doing Every Fall

Learning happens when a task or activity is done frequently. Every fall, there is a great opportunity for both fun with kids and encouraging their early learning by making applesauce. The directions of: wash apples, cut them, remove core, cut into smaller pieces and cook with a bit of water , are so standard that … Continue reading Making Applesauce Worth Doing Every Fall