Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Make a Joyful Noise Outside With a Wooden Xylophone!

The Curriculum team at The Children's Center of Austin is always looking for ways to keep the students active and engage all the time. We consider our playgrounds and fields as an extension of our classroom. On occasion, we find that our students looking for other activities which make sound or noise. We found a really great "how to" for an xylophone to add to our playground!

If you choose to build your backyard xylophone, here's a list of what you will need. 

  • Three 2x4x8 dried kiln (steer clear of pre-treated wood, it's bad for young children)
  • 15 feet of rope
  • One wooden dowel 
  • heavy duty stapler and staples (upholstery stapler will do the job)

Measure, cut, and sand your xylophone wooden bars.  Start by cutting the 2x4x8 pieces into 9 wooden bars.  Cut as follows: 36", 34", and 26". It's helpful to keep these 3 sets of cuts together. The next set of cuts are as follows: 30", 24", 22", and 20".  You last set of cuts are 28" and 32".  We used a belt sander to smoother the corners and the wood. 

Measuring, cutting, and sanding take up the most time. Assembly is a breeze! Measure and mark the center of each wooden bar. Start with the 20" bar and then measure out 2" from the center making a mark for which the rope will be stapled. The 22" should be measured 3" from the center, and continue adding 1: from the center to the next larger bar.  Find the middle of the rope and leave about 1' of slack to tie the xylophone off.  Start stapling the rope at the marks on the first "note" and leave 1 1/2" of space between notes as you staple.  (why 1 1/2"?  because that's what the scrap wood is).  Making certain the centers are kept in line.  Don't cut the ends at the long side, as they will be used for tying up the xylophone too.

When you hang it, the angle and enough slack on the rope of the xylophone will have an impact on sound so play around with it to get the best sound from yours. Sand the dowels and used them as mallets. You could even use traditional marimba mallets if you wanted to. Marimba mallets can be purchased at a music instrument store. Make joyful noise and enjoy!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Want Nothing Time"

You probably engage in "want nothing time" with your child don't even know it!  To be there for your child, to be in their presence, simply sitting with them for even a small amount of time reaffirms that your child is valued and important.  For your child, he will understand that he does not have to constantly try to impress you to get your attention.  You are coming to them to share time together.  For you, "want nothing time" can also serve to empty your busy mind of distractions and just be with your child.

This idea is part of "30 Days to Transform Your Play", and what a great series it is!  Read all about it here.

Source: "30 Days to Transform Your Play". Kate. aneverydaystory.com. April 13, 2014.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How puppets can help with social skills

Puppets are a common device for playtime, and it's easy to see how children love to play together with puppets.  Puppets are also a great example of learning through play.  But what you might not realize is how helpful puppets can be in helping to teach children social skills, such as conflict resolution.

The use of puppets can also help with modeling good classroom behaviors, like asking a teacher for help.  This great article explains how these concepts are achieved, and how teachers prepare an effective and fun puppet show for your child.  Who knew puppets could be so beneficial?

Source: "Circle Time Puppets - Teaching Social Skills" Play and Children's Learning in the Classroom, NAEYC.org. Julia Luckenbill. Web.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The importance of play-based learning

A play-based learning environment may just be the best thing for your child's skills and academic success.  The creating, questioning, imitating, dreaming, and sharing are a child's first connections to the world that transcends book-learning and encourages the child to actively engage with people and ideas.  

This article explains so many of the key points of play-based learning and why it's beneficial for children, and it's definitely worth a read!

Source: "Want to get your kids into college?  Let them Play." CNN Opinion. Erika Christakis, Nicholas Christakis. Web. 29 Dec. 2009.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On-the-go coversation games

Since my kids were small, we've played a handful of games in the car on the way to work, school, and on errands.  It's amazing how fun they still are after several years!  These games are often a great way to get my children to converse with me, and for me to connect with them, so I don't feel like just a chauffeur!  Our favorites are "guess this character" and reading half of a road sign so they can guess the other half.  Here's another idea that's great for on-the-go fun that will have you and your child talking!  Thanks to Family Fun magazine for this idea.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Celebrate the First Day of Summer

Summer is officially here!  Celebrate with these awesome backyard BBQ and grilled salad ideas.  You'll find so many recipes for a variety of meat and vegetable burgers, sides, and salads like that will have you wanting to grill a lot more often this summer!  These delicious recipes are courtesy of Parents.com.