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Friday, July 7, 2017

Making Literacy Tangible

 As a preschool teacher, I put it upon myself to 1. read many, many books to my students, 2. help them fall in love with reading at an early age, and 3. fill my classroom with amazing picture books.

This counting book I love so much.  Why?  The art is incredible.  I believe picture books are pieces of art with words.  And children can visit an art museum every time they open a book.
 I love setting up invitations to play around a book.  This book I discovered while searching for books about Africa.  That's the great thing about books - they can show you things, places, people that are thousands of miles away.
This book lends itself to a wonderful invitation to play.  I used safari animals from the book.  These are all by my favorite company Schleich.  I hand painted the peg dolls and used faux trees and greenery and some rocks (aka treasure!) that were found on a nature walk.

One day, I hope to get to Africa, to meet the people, to see the landscapes for myself, to hear their music (and maybe dance!).  I has been said that if you go to Africa, you will fall in love with it. Africa is #2 on my travel bucket list - just behind England.

With simple items, this book comes to life in a child's hands.  The learning is in the play.

Have a fun and playful day,

He loves me!

So...my husband does not buy me flowers.  In almost 18 years of marriage, I have received 2 bouquets.  Two.

He doesn't like to buy flowers, because "they just die."

Instead, he buys me toys.

He recently came home with 2 Schleich Giraffe Calves - that's better than a dozen roses any day!

He grinned that grin that STILL gives me butterflies (yes, even after 18 years!) and said, "So you can stage your play mats."

Gosh, he's cute.

And I...I am a lucky girl!

Have a fun and playful day,

Pictures from around the world

 I am sharing pictures that customers (and friends!) have sent me of my play mats from around the world.  To see more, follow me on Instragram @melanieshanks35

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Revisiting Memories through Play

 Every year in the month of June, we travel to Michigan for vacation.  It's a week of just us.  My late father-in-law would call this "making memories".  Being the shutter bug that I am, I take about a million pictures.  Okay, maybe not a million, but I have been known to take as many as 4000 in a week on vacation. (insert my husband's eye roll here.)
As a child, we spent our summer vacations at the Englewood Beach in Florida.  Those are some of the happiest childhood memories that I have. But...Once vacation is over though, there's laundry to do and a car to clean out and sometimes those pictures stay on the camera.  Why not make those memories tangible?  Why not revisit those happy times through play?
 With a few simple props, your vacation can continue - a mini vacation, if you will.  We go to Michigan to the lighthouses and beaches.  So I would use a beach play mat, a lighthouse, and some peg dolls of the family to recreate our vacation.
Through play, children can bond with their caregiver or parent. They act out scenarios.  They are developing their language and vocabulary by retelling events (or embellishing stories!)  Play is essential for brain development.  And why not relive some of the happiest times of their childhood?

Board Books - not just for babies

 Board books are works of art in the hands of children.  Usually colorful illustrations accompany simple text.  This is what makes them perfect for early readers.
 Want to encourage a toddler or preschooler to get a bath? Read a book like this where different animals get different kinds of baths and pair with an animals.  Let them take the animals into the bath with them.  Clean the animals. Clean yourself.  It's a parent win!
 Board books are great for teaching early concepts like counting and letter sounds.  One Tiger is thee perfect counting book!
 Add animals to any book for kiddos to get excited about storytime and reading.  Someday, when I decide to go get a PhD, I am going to write about how making characters from a book tangible to children helps them to comprehend and retain the book more completely.  And, hey, how cute is this Schleich Bear?  When children have props, they can later act out or retell the story.
Make the story come alive.  Preschoolers love the book Dinosaur Roar!  let them retell it with their favorite dinosaurs.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Power of the Peg Doll

 I am happy to share that my peg dolls have been purchased and shipped all around the world along with my play mats, mountains, boats, & more.  As an early childhood educator and parent, I know that children's imaginations are sparked by the simplest things - a cardboard box, a stick, a peg doll. These simple wood turning dolls are handcrafted by a fellow Ohio artisan and hand painted by me.  They are sealed with a natural, non toxic sealer safe for children.
 Peg dolls can be anything and everything. One simple doll painted with a green body can be a zookeeper, a fairy, a mommy, a garbage man, and so much more.
 No bells. No whistles. No batteries. No small pieces to break off.  These peg dolls are unisex and hold a whole universe of imagination within them.

 Children have BIG ideas for these little peg dolls.  Adults do, too.  I have heard that they are being used for imaginative play, home decor, in classrooms, and even in play therapy!  I love the fact that not only are my peg dolls part of your children's childhood, but also that they can be part of the healing process for children. That's the power of the peg doll.  My heart is full.
This is the magic of childhood.

Have a fun and playful day!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tell Me A Story - A Young Prince

 Once upon a time
 there was a young prince
who traveled to a far away land
where he met people
with beautiful songs
beautiful hearts
and beautiful smiles
He fell in love with the people
the land and their song
He asked how he could help
They needed a well dug,
a school built,
food and clean water
The young prince worked tiredlessly for weeks
he dug the well alongside the people
who sang as they worked
that song filled his heart
After the gardens were planted
the young prince knew that it was time to return to his kingdom
but he promised again
to the beautiful people of this beautiful land
The people sang him a song that stayed in his heart for a year
 Their song stayed with him
and he returned the next year with friends and resources
The people again greeted him with a song
He loved how they were always singing
He felt like he was home
The young prince and his friends finished the school for the children
they planted many fruit trees
They began construction on a new medical center
The young prince cared for the people and the animals of this beautiful land
His heart was full
He promised to return again
And he did
year after year until he died
The prince tended to the gardens, protected the animals,
and danced with the children.
They sang their beautiful song in celebration and thanks
to the Prince
Though his kingdom was hundreds of miles away from them
their song stayed in his heart forever