Friday, April 24, 2020

Not All Screen Time is Created Equal

I've known that I wanted to write about screen time for awhile now, so I was very happy to see this article in this morning's New York Times. Catherine Price hits on all the points I'd wanted to make, and more.

Our notions of screen time have changed dramatically in the past six weeks, as have our notions about just about everything else. I've come to realize that not all screen time is created equal. There is a huge difference between spending time talking with grandparents and connecting with preschool friends on ZOOM and mindlessly playing video games. Watching a high quality television show together as a family can be a meaningful experience, whereas everyone staring at their own screen during dinner most certainly is not. Using the internet to find information or learn a new skill is not the same as watching YouTube videos all day.

Price explains this by talking about the 3 Cs: consumption, creation, and connection. "Once you’ve identified your screen time 'essentials,' it’s time to think about your leisure time (or what passes for it these days). Identify which of these 'C's feels good to you, and in what doses. Then brainstorm ways to do each both on- and off-screen. Bonus points if you ask yourself what kind of consumption, creation and connection makes you feel the best."

Bottom line: Don't worry too much about screen time right now. It's how you engage with the screen that matters more than how much time you spend doing it.

Go To Preschool/Kindergarten with ACPS every day

Go to Storytime with the Met every Thursday

Visit the Cincinnati Zoo

Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Visit Mount Vernon

Have you found other good virtual tours or online experiences? Please share in the comments section below.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Follow Their Lead

Written a month ago (and sent to me a month ago by a colleague), this essay still resonates. And yes, even though we're only five weeks into this new normal, some of what Teacher Tom says might seem outdated by now. But the overall point he makes remains true: "Young children were built for this. Young children are the masters of learning from whatever life throws at them."

I've been thinking a lot lately about what we mean when we talk about education, and I've realized that we're all talking about different things. For some, education is strictly book learning: reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. For others, it's about learning how to be an important part of a family, a community, and a society. For most, it's somewhere in the vast in-between.

It's very easy to feel stressed right now. As this crisis evolves, we're given new opportunities to feel anxious almost every day. But I believe what Teacher Tom believes, and that's that our young children will come through the other end of this just fine, especially if we follow their lead. Let them show you the way; let them show you what they're ready to learn.

Eventually, I promise, they will show you that they're ready to learn their letters. But right now, in this moment, they might need to spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get a stuck toy out of a tree, and might literally throw everything they've got at it. Let them do it. Don't make them stop to do something else that you think is more important. Let them find their own solution to a real-life problem. Let them flex their problem solving muscles and practice those skills in a relevant and meaningful way.

And when they come to you later, a little lost and needing a little direction, know that so much of what we have at home and do at home can provide delightful and meaningful experiences for young children.

Wash the Dishes
  • Fill the sink with soapy water, a sponge, and non-breakables and ask your child to help you wash the dishes. (motor and social-emotional skills)
Do the Laundry
  • Ask your child to separate the lights from the darks, put the detergent into the machine and push the buttons, and match the socks and fold the dishtowels. (motor, language, problem-solving, and social-emotional skills)
Set the Table
  • Give your child the job of setting the table every day for every meal. Even if they're too young to carry plates, they can still put out the placemats, fold the napkins, and count the forks. (motor, numeracy, problem-solving, and social-emotional skills)

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Getting Ready for Passover - Make Chocolate Matzah!

This chocolate matzah is truly addictive. You've been warned!

Children can easily help with all but the middle steps.
  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Line two baking sheets with foil (to help with clean up) and then put parchment paper on top of that.
  • Break 5-6 matzahs into pieces and spread them out on the baking sheets, making sure not to overlap.
  • Melt two sticks of butter and one cup of firmly packed brown sugar in a medium-size pot on the stove on medium heat.
  • Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil (about 2-4 minutes). Allow to boil and stir constantly for another 3-4 minutes. You'll know it's done when the mixture pulls away from the pot a little bit.
  • VERY CAREFULLY pour the very hot mixture all over the matzah. Use a spatula to spread it around, making sure all matzah pieces are covered.
  • Put the matzah in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 350. Let the matzahs bake for about 15 minutes. Check every few minutes to make sure they aren't burning. If they're browning too quickly, reduce the temperature to 325.
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Give them a minute to get all melty, then use a spatula to spread the chocolate around. You can also add chopped nuts, kosher salt, or sprinkles.
  • Put in the freezer to give everything a little time to firm up. Break the matzah into bite-size pieces. Store in the freezer.
  • Try not to eat it all at once!
This version of chocolate matzah comes from Marcy Goldman's A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, found on Epicurious (online), 2010.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Getting Ready for Passover - Make Charoset!

Charoset is one of the traditional foods served at seder. It represents the bricks the Hebrew slaves were forced to make in Egypt.

In Ashkenazi communities, it's usually made with apples, nuts, and spices. In Sephardic communities, it's usually made with dried fruits.

This is super easy to make with children. Have fun!
  • Peel and chop three red apples
  • Chop a handful of walnuts
  • Add ½ tsp. ginger, ½ tsp. cinnamon, 1 ½ T sugar
  • Add 3 T grape juice
Mix well and refrigerate for a hour or two before eating.

Eat for breakfast all week with matzah and cream cheese. B'tayavon!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Our Community Garden

We had such plans for our gardens and grounds this spring! We wanted to build new garden beds, clean up the flower beds, and create a beautiful natural play space for the children around the climbing tree.

Last week, while on a walk that took me behind the synagogue, I saw the sadly neglected flower bed near the climbing tree play space. And I got an idea.

We're all taking walks and riding bikes and scooters these days. What if, when we went by the synagogue, we stopped for a few minutes to weed? I can prune the tree. And once the weeds are gone, I'll get some dirt. 

And then, maybe we can transplant a few flowers from our own yards, or pick up some annuals while at the grocery store, or even some herbs, and plant them in the bed. There doesn't have to be a real plan. I think a mishmash of sun loving perennials and annuals lovingly planted by our families during this time will be absolutely beautiful.

As our community garden grows, I'll take pictures and post them here.

Happy spring!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Sensory Tub

Activity: Sensory Tub

  • Using materials you have at home, create a sensory tub
  • Large, flat bottomed plastic tub that fits on your table (an extra large Tupperware will do nicely)
  • We often use a mix of uncooked rice, beans, lentils, pasta, popcorn kernels, oats, etc.
  • If those are currently unavailable, try shredded paper, ribbons, cut-up straws, cotton balls, small toys like marbles, puff balls, magnetic letters, corks, bottle caps, aquarium rocks, etc., really anything that is small and scoop-able and pour-able
  • If you want a messy experience, try water (and ice cubes!), dirt, sand, or shaving cream
  • You can also order kinetic sand online
  • Scoops, cups, measuring spoons, bowls with and without lids, etc.
Questions and Prompts
  • How many scoops will it take to fill that bowl?
  • Can you make me a chocolate cake?
  • Help me clean up everything that fell on the floor!
  • Ongoing
Skills Learned and Practiced
  • Social-Emotional - can be a very calming and soothing experience for some children
  • Language - vocabulary development, conversation skills
  • Cognitive - math and science concepts, open-ended exploration and discovery
  • Physical - learning to use all senses to take in information

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Bird Nests

Activity: Build a Bird Nest
  • Birds are busy building nests right now. Go on a walk and look for nests.
  • Notice the different materials the birds use.
  • Notice how big the nests are and how many birds and eggs fit inside.
  • Say, Hey! I wonder if we could build a bird nest just like these birds!
  • Pictures of birds and nests (find online)
  • Paper (to shred)
  • String, yarn, pipe cleaners, toothpicks, etc.
  • Packing materials
  • Small sticks, leaves (mud!)
  • Small rocks to represent eggs, a small toy or stuffed animal to represent the bird
Questions and Prompts
  • Why do you think the birds chose those materials to build their nests?
  • What materials do we need to build our nest?
  • What shape should your nest be?
  • I wonder why your nest fell apart.
  • What would happen if . . . 
  • Is your nest strong enough to hold one egg (rock)? Two? Three? What about the mama bird? Let's test it out!

  • 15-30 minutes
  • Easy to revisit as the weeks go on and you notice more birds and nests in your neighborhood

 Learned and Practiced
  • Social-Emotional - connecting with nature, learning about families and relationships
  • Language - using descriptive words
  • Cognitive - learning more about animal habitats, problem solving, scientific inquiry, close observation, perseverance 
  • Physical - getting exercise, fine motor work

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