I am lucky enough to have an extraordinary mum who also happens to be an extraordinary Granma and also has had decades of experience in early learning. She is always coming up with simple ways to keep things interesting.
Enter Play Dough, I have always found it a little frustrating. Given Boston’s short attention span and strong impulse to explore everything with his mouth, the whole experience sometimes feels more effort then its worth. But mum shared a little idea that increased play time by 200% and decreased mouthing by 50%.
I am calling it Play Dough Discoveries! (clearly someone else probably named it this already) All you need is some play dough and smallish treasures. Wrap the treasures up in a ball of dough and set them out for little ones to discover.
We used a really simple recipe, the consistency and texture was pretty divine
1/2 cup salt
1 cup plain flour
2 tbs cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tbs oil
2 to 6 drops liquid food colouring (depending on your desired colour)
STEP 1 Bring water to the boil, dissolve salt, add oil and food colouring.
STEP 2 Mix into dry ingredients, then work into soft dough with your hands.
STEP 3 Allow to cool and store in a well sealed plastic bag or container.
Next time we are going to fill the discovery balls with large glitter flakes, hoping to create a breaking Geode effect. This would be pretty wonderful for older children who are learning about geology, something we will use further down the track no doubt 🙂
Our week has involved some situations that have me pondering the differences between how each child learns. As a mum of a little champion who has been monitored by physio’s, OT’s and doctors from birth I am all too aware of “normal” milestones and “normal” steps in achieving task A,B or C. Now as Boston gets older the emphasis of early intervention starts to encompass activities and situations geared toward school preparation.
You can do your head in worrying about the certain way your child achieves tasks (and to be sure… my head been done in quite a number of times). I can only imagine that when children reach school this is amplified for almost every parent as monitoring and testing becomes part of life, while the ability to cater to individual learning styles and paces becomes challenging. These days we have SO many labels and disorders and learning challenges. ADHD is a commonly used term and research shows prescriptions in Australia for Ritalin and its equivalents went up 300 per cent in seven years, in America over 6 million children take these drugs for educational purposes. We become concerned when our children act differently to the pack, we worry about their ABC’s and 123’s from an earlier and earlier age. We can become completely freaked out preparing them for school. We worry that they won’t be able to concentrate enough to learn in a class room environment, that they will be left behind, become a disruption or the target of bullies. That they will be labeled below average and what exactly will that label do to the way they view themselves. So we bend over backwards to help them keep up with the norm, we stress ourselves and our children with monitoring the “right” and “wrong”. We work against what is flowing naturally for them, potentially we work against the things that make them happy.
And…I have to wonder whether we are creating a whole lot of stress over simply fitting our kids in the “normal” box.
Now here I must say as the parent of a child who has quite a few labels to his name I do value the benefits of therapies and early interventions. Yup I am on the fence. My mind shifts between two paradigms (Yup it’s confusing up there, come join us for a mad hatter party some day). There are wonderful passionate people working in these fields that are a blessing to many parents. The tools one can gain from therapies are amazing…but I just do not want to use those tools to make a “normal” box…I want to use them to make a Boston Box.
The more homeschooling/unschooling stories I read the more I see how “normal” it is that every child learns differently…yes even siblings… in the same house… with the same teacher! I am addicted to these stories, these heart warming stories of children who were allowed to learn in their own way at their own pace, and who consequently genuinely love to learn. Just like I am addicted to seeing Boston find his own unique path to learning different things, in his own time, with some tools we have been given and some he has brought to the table all on his own. I am aiming to find a balance between utilising interventions and allowing Boston to find his own path. How? well that I am still figuring out, but for us it will be about being as aware and tuned in as possible to the individual person he is, constantly striving to apply the tools we gain from therapies and all walks of life in ways that support his unique learning path.
I would love to hear from those of you who are striving to embrace different learning paths. How do you stay tuned in? What little actions lead you to try different things? and for those with children who have complex needs and have experienced interventions what are your experiences and emotions heading down the sometimes confusing path of what is “normal”