Shadow Play

October is the perfect time of year (where we live) to play with shadows. We spend time on the playground, on our asphalt driveway, and wherever else we go looking for and exploring shadows.
One of my earliest “learning” memories of my kids was my son chasing light on the floor of our living room. The light floods in through the windows differently in winter than summer, and we get these “patches of light”. He was fascinated, at around 11 months, with how the light was on the floor but wasn’t really there and with how he could manipulate those patches by holding his hand over them.

We now play in a similar way, holding objects up to our walls to see how the light changes. It offers great opportunities to talk about opaque, transparent, translucent, angles of refraction, and more.


We love watching our shadows change on swing sets. The length of certain body parts, what’s visible from different directions.



It’s fun to compare the shadow to the original. Why might the shadow seem wavy if the board seems to be straight? Why is the shadow at an angle? 


One of my daughters is obsessed with flashlights, so we set up various objects in front of the light to see what they create.


Our driveway is perfect for shadow observation. We use chalk to draw each others’ outlines (and then fill in the details) and to mark the shadows of the trees at various points during the day. We play a version of “freeze tag” where if someone steps on your shadow, you’re frozen and the “home base” is anywhere your shadow is hidden by tree shade.


Shadows offer accessible introductions to how light moves, the change in the sun’s angle because of earth’s rotation (and revolution), and great opportunities for line drawing. And kids love them too. 

Your turn: how do you play with shadows? 

Natural Innovators

If you had walked by our house a couple of weeks ago, you would have seen this.

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My periodic-table-obsessed 6yo was experimenting with different ways the table could be drawn and expanded. He drew 4 different variations on our driveway.

We had just watched PBS’s documentary about how Mendeleev developed the precursor to our modern table, and suddenly, in his mind, the table was no longer a fixed set of rules but instead a fluid construct that could be improved upon. So he set out to do just that.

His goal, at least for the day, was not to develop a new system but instead to play with the current system and bend it to see how it responded.

This is not an isolated incident.

We play a board game, and after a couple of rounds, he wants to change the rules, see how tweaks will affect game play and outcome.

When playing with Think Fun’s (aff. link) River Crossing this summer, he was much happier creating his own challenges than simply solving those provided on the cards by the game.

It’s like his brain is hard-wired to ask, “What else?”

This used to drive me crazy (and still does sometimes).

I’ve learned not to take it personally, that his rejection of my options A-D in pursuit of Q is the way his brain works, not a direct assault to my parenting. If I offer choices, logically, there must be more choices out there to be discovered.

We as his parents have also learned how to clearly communicate what is negotiable and what is not, which has been very helpful.

This innovation, this ability to think outside the box, is a huge asset that will serve him well later in life — if we can figure out how to navigate these early years in a way that celebrates and  channels his creative impulses.

That is the big challenge for us as parents and educators – how can we celebrate this unique ability to think in unorthodox ways, not squash their enthusiasm, but also help them learn when it would be helpful for them to choose to follow directions and be part of the group.

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I’ve recently been taking a gentle approach. We haven’t been participating in a lot of rigid activities but have been doing things like origami where the payoff for following directions is clear and immediate. Sometimes, there’s so no room for negotiation, but when there is, I’ve been trying to give space and freedom to create, to try new things, and then gently suggest checking the instructions if frustration starts to set in.

And who knows – maybe someday the periodic table will be updated, and I’ll be able to say I have the first drafts. 🙂

I share these things, not as an expert in any sense, but as a parent who has benefited from reading about others’ experiences and in the hope that some of you will be saying, “Me too!”

This blog has been part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page’s Blog Hop. “Hop” on over to their page to read various perspectives on creativity and productivity, as it affects the gifted population.


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Please Stop Telling My Kid He’s Smart

Dear World, 

let’s talk. I’ve been spending hours upon hours on character training, talking about kindness, respect, reading books that model healthy social relationships, and you seem insistent on highlighting my kid’s intelligence.

We know he’s smart.

He knows he’s smart. He’s been told since he was 1. In fact, he’s overconfident in his own abilities.

Every time someone plays the “smart” card, that reinforces that he needs to show off his intelligence for people, which is not what we want him to do. At 4, it was cute. At 6, it’s sometimes cute. Soon it’ll be obnoxious.

You know what you could say instead? Maybe something that can be learned, practiced, that helps others.

Kindness.

Respect or concern for others.

Creativity.

Curiosity.

Courtesy.

Helpfulness.

Solid work ethic.

Resourcefulness.

Resilience.

These are the things we value and want him to value as well. 

Thanks. I really do appreciate your taking the time and wanting to say something nice to my son.  He’s more than his brain, and I’d love your help getting that message across. 

It’s Not that Simple! – Big Emotions and Major Life Events

My 6yo was at the dentist, and naturally, he got asked about the tooth fairy.

“The tooth fairy doesn’t come to our house.” – his matter-of-fact reply.

The dental hygienist cast me an inquiring glance – what kind of horrible parents are we, anyways?

It’s not our fault, though. Really. When he was 4, my son rejected the tooth fairy. Even if it was only pretend. Even if it meant he would miss out on special surprises. It didn’t matter to him. He wanted to throw those bothersome old teeth away and had no use for the tooth fairy.

Recent New Yorker Cartoon about the Tooth Fairy
The same was/is true of Santa.

Every December, we lecture our children on how it’s not okay to tell other kids that Santa’s not real, and then we hold our breaths and hope there are no sobbing children in their wakes.

He’s never accepted Santa, never been interested in him in the slightest. The concept of a stranger sneaking in to our home, even with good motives, is disquieting, at the very least.

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Where is this coming from? Anxiety? A deeper understanding of the world and of cause & effect?

In Sunday School and reading Bible stories at home, our little guy, even at 3 or 4, was bothered by the death and violence in these commonplace stories. I’m talking David & Goliath, Noah & the Ark, Samson. His empathy can be off the charts (thanks, overexcitabilities!), so these stories really bothered him.

I used to think that it was related to overthinking, but recently it’s becoming clearer that his unwillingness to approach these subjects is actually much more closely related to Emotional Overexcitabilities (OEs). He feels things so deeply that things which would, for others, be joyful, end up being excruciatingly overstimulating. The tooth fairy isn’t fun. She’s terrifying in the anticipation of when/what/how much.

Birthdays are tough, too. There’s all the build-up, the expectations ahead of time that will be impossible to meet. The self-awareness of it being your birthday and therefore not someone else’s, the stress that comes with being the center of attention.

Our kids are built this way. They’re not broken. They’re intensely feeling, hyper aware, amazing people who get crazy amounts of joy out of little things.

If we know that someone has a small appetite, we don’t try to shove a huge piece of cake in front of them. Instead, we honor their preferences and provide the size of slice they most likely will enjoy.

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last year’s marble birthday cake – we keep things simple around here
The same should be true of our kids. Instead of forcing them to be “normal” and to conform to society’s expectations, we release them from huge burdens of anxiety when we give them the freedom to tell us what portion size they can handle and then work to accommodate those needs.

When they’re ready, they’ll ask for more. In fact, my 6yo was just pretending this week to be the “tooth fairy” for his little sisters. Someday soon, we may actually get a visit.

 

This post has been part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page’s Blog hop.  Click on over to check out some helpful perspectives from all over the world.

Sept2017BlogHop

Chain Reactions in Slo-Mo

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. ANY LINKS TO RESOURCES ON THE AMAZON WEBSITE ARE PART OF THE AFFILIATE PROGRAM. WE ARE A PARTICIPANT IN THE AMAZON SERVICES LLC ASSOCIATES PROGRAM, AN AFFILIATE ADVERTISING PROGRAM DESIGNED TO PROVIDE A MEANS FOR US TO EARN FEES BY LINKING TO AMAZON.COM AND AFFILIATED SITES.
This summer, one of our favorite go-to indoor activities has been building chain reactions, domino runs, Rube Goldberg machines – basically anything with cause & effect.

In addition to random household items, a set of double twelve dominoes we picked up at a thrift store, and a catapult,
we have been loving the Hape Dynamo Kid’s Wooden Domino Set. It was a birthday gift (last fall), and it’s out all. the. time.

It makes wonderful, stable towers that fall in dramatic ways.

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It’s forgiving in setup & spacing, and includes some neat trick pieces, including a ball run, direction reverser, bell, and a little staircase. 

I love what it teaches the kids involving planning, fine motor control, patience, handling disappointment, spatial skills, and more, and they love building things to fall down, especially when we can film them in slow motion and watch again & again.

Homeschooling – 2 week update

We’re traveling a bunch in September, so I started counting and documenting our 180 days a couple weeks ago, just so we wouldn’t fall behind.

We haven’t actually cracked open a textbook, though. In fact, my kids have barely noticed a difference in their routines, because the reality is

When you engage your kids, every day is a homeschooling day.

I started sitting down in the afternoon and documenting what we’ve done that fits in various subject categories.


We’ve been busy. This creation led to a discussion of area, perimeter, patterns, and multiplication facts.. 

We’ve had lots of domino runs, towers, and chain reactions. These are so good for practicing find motor control, patience & resilience (when things accidentally fall).

We’ve been to the beach. A few times. Today we got to experience the tide coming in and filling the tidal pools, investigate the sea life, and watch the boats, as well as playground time too. Here, E declared that the birds were copying her.


We’ve done a few simple chemistry experiments, testing our hypotheses and asking follow-up questions. 


We’ve read. Lots of books. And created lots of mediocre artwork. And played games. 

We’ve been learning. Once our month of travel is over, we’ll settle into a regular routine and open those books, but this is good too. 

Easy Solar Eclipse T-Shirts

The eclipse is only 2 days away, and we wanted to do something to at the same time

  1. Anticipate what we’re going to experience with the eclipse (though we’re in a 70% zone) and
  2. Create something memorable to commemorate the event.

We’re not highly crafty, and I wanted a project the kids could really own.

So, we went to A C Moore & picked out shirts in whatever dark color they wanted and white fabric paint.

At home, we cut circles of various sizes out of a thick art paper (I used a rotary cutter) and tore up old cereal boxes to use as the inserts to keep the paint from bleeding through the shirts.


I used painter’s tape to hold the circles in place on the shirts, and put a bead of paint around the edge of about 1/4 of a circle at a time, direction towards the kids. They pulled the paint from the circle out onto the shirt for that quadrant, and then we rotated the shirts 1/4 turn & applied paint to the next section. We found that a cheap bristle brush worked best. 


All in all, for less than $5 a shirt, I’d call it a success.