Posts filed under ‘Education’

Cleaning up the Conversation


I'm a Chipper MomThis past Friday I was so excited to come home from work because I knew the house would be clean. I’m not one to have cleaning help but after fostering three dogs and many family-and-friends travelers I raised the white flag and said “Calgon take me away!” The smell and the shine was worth the slip – one turn down the hallway in my socks and I was grabbing the wall to stay up because the floors were waxed (did I pay extra for that?).

Friday night is family night so at dinner I couldn’t help but bring up the conversation on how keeping the house clean and organized really helped me feel empowered to get through each day. A silly topic to kids, and maybe shallow thinking to some, but having an organized and clean house does make me feel like I’ve got everything in order. I do walk out the door feeling like I can get everything done. It’s my thing and I want it to be everyone else’s “thing” as well.

I’ve directed everyone over the years on what I expect them to keep clean in their bedrooms and what I expect everyone to help with around the home. Not one wanting to be the author of many “Chore” charts I’ve posted notes and raised my voice a few times – none of it really created consistency. So before taking the family dinner down the path of “don’t get anything dirty” I decided to ask a few questions.

  1. Where should we hike this weekend?
  2. Who needs what for back-to-school supplies?
  3. What’s for dessert and what’s our movie for tonight?

If you can believe – my youngest exclaimed: “Whatever we do we have to keep the house clean.” What? I couldn’t believe it so I asked, “How are we going to do that?”

Without another prompt my other daughter immediately shared a list she had created when she was little on how she would keep her room clean. It was full of pictures and symbols she said represented everything. With that simple prompt both girls set out to write up a list of items they would focus on to help keep the house clean.Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 12.09.20 PM

When presented Callie shared that she would include vacuuming because she knew how important a clean floor is when you are cooking. Callie presented her list to us, and wanted to share with other families. Her excitement and deliberation were so evident; her next goal is to laminate the list so she can check and wipe off to start again each week.

The power of conversation goes beyond the boardroom or cocktail party – bringing relevant topics to the family table like individual needs or weekend activity ideas sparks thoughtful conversation and engages kids on a new level. Kids are empathetic and they want to help – when we ask what they can do around the home or for us as parents/caregivers we ignite curiosity; executive function kicks in, leadership skills, and a sense of worth are a part of this as well.Chipper Family Moments | Cleaning Up with Kids

Parenting expert Jim Fay, co-founder of the Love and Logic website, says we all need to feel needed and to know that we’re making a contribution — even kids. “But they can’t feel that way if they don’t have chores and make contributions to the family,” Fay says.

Roger W. McIntire, University of Maryland psychology professor and author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times, says, “A child has to have some responsibilities.”

According to research, children even younger than 15 months have empathy and realize others and their needs. When we consider physical abilities and emotional readiness we can set personal expectations and engage with our children in a much more positive and constructive way. When we include our children in the conversation about all noted above they feel responsible to the overall wellbeing of the family. A strong sense of emotional responsibility is powerful in the most positive way.

Chipper Family Moments | Cleaning Up with Kids

Try posing a question over telling someone what to do. How does the person respond? Do you find the conversation and actions more positive? Model this approach with your spouse or partner, do you find the results more positive? It’s a simple switch in the way we communicate but the results are impactful and beneficial to everyone.

With a clean house and committed siblings the weekend was so pleasant – I’d like to know what questions will you ask this week?

August 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Chipper Recycle Craft: Contain Yourself!


Summertime is the perfect time to let kids explore while you’re outside; whether in your backyard, the beach, or a local park keeping everyone within eyesight or earshot creates a safe space for children to exercise some independence. And these explorations usually end up with kids coming back to you with pockets full of special “finds.”

This week we welcome our summer Chipper Intern, Alexa Swartz, and her ideas on where to put the treasures you decide to keep.

Chipper Intern – Alexa Swartz

I remember collecting things as a child when out hiking with my family. Many items are a part of nature so my parents always taught us the principals of Leave No Trace which meant we needed to leave most of what we found with nature and the animals using it as a resource for their habitat. But some items made it home and the mementos soon took over drawers and countertops. I like thinking back on this time and I realize it’s so easy to allow kids to contain these souvenirs with fun containers to store them in!

As an intern for Lets Go Chipper I will be posting weekly container crafts to offer ideas for all your keepsakes – they even make great packaging ideas for birthday gifts or housewarming gifts.

Not only will these crafts create a fun way for kids to store all their pieces of summer, but making crafts actually helps improve fine motor skills, strategic thinking and builds self-esteem in the process. Read more about the benefits of crafting!

Week 1: The Gum ContainerKids Recycle Craft | Collection Container

What you need:

  • A plastic gum container
  • Mod Podge, glue, or tape
  • Scissors
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Magazines, paper, paint or anything you want to stick on your container
  • Creativity

How to make your container: Kids Recycle Craft

  1. Set out materials on an easily cleanable surface allowing your child to create without worry. Breaking down a cardboard box is an easy way to create a workspace that protects counters or tables you don’t want to get dirty.
  2. Encourage your child to make a plan and think about what they want before immediately jumping in.
  3. Feel free to create! There is no right or wrong in this project so let their imaginations take flight and see what the container ends up looking like. Let them use any medium and design they want. This project is about the process and fun and memories that come from creating the container, don’t dwell on if the child will like the outcome and just let them enjoy the process.
  4. Enjoy! Fill the container with anything, from pens and pencils at school, to sticks and rocks found around the garden. Let it contain whatever the child perceives to be important to them.

What else would you do with this container? Share with Chipper in the comments below!

June 29, 2014 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

Chipper Activity + Craft: Nature Walk and Craft Project


Explore the outdoors with your little one(s) and collect nature materials to make cute critters! Not only will you a foster a connection with nature, your kids can also exercise their imaginations and creativity. There is so much you can find outside: nuts, rocks, sticks, leaves, petals, and more. 

Nature Animals | Let's Go Chipper

Picture from naturallymom

Chipper Playfully Teaches: Earth and Space Science, Creative Arts and Fine Motor Skills.

Adventure into the great outdoors with young children and use the natural materials as craft supplies for creating creatures from the children’s imagination or animals identified on the walks.

Collect with a Partner | Let's Go Chipper

Collect with a Partner

Timing: One Hour
Explore and collect: 15 minutes
Craft Time: 30 minutes
Extra 15 minutes:
 Travel time and padding because projects with young children will always take longer than you plan!

What you need:

  • Reusable tote to carry found treasures
  • Cardboard bases from recycled boxes and scrap paper and materials for accessorizing crafts
  • Glue and string
  • A partner or chaperone
  • Imagination
Create a crocodile | Let's Go Chipper

Create a crocodile!

Chippers Tips:

  • Explain the rules of staying together “You can play, but don’t stray!” and the project
  • Check off that everyone has their tote for collecting items. While exploring, be it in the backyard of a school facility, house, childcare center, or beyond the yard, keep children on track by talking about what they might find; the colors, shapes, texture and more.
  • Assist young children with glue or glue gun and string assembly.
  • Welcome conversation while exploring. What do you see, hear, smell and feel?
Get bit by nature...creatively! | Let's Go Chipper

Get bit by nature…creatively!

Upon returning, sit down and talk about the items in the bag and what can be made; a butterfly from leaves, a nature cake, a boat from sticks, a car from rocks and bark. Welcome the conversation and encourage the creativity!

Chipper Activity + Craft: Nature Walk and Craft Project

Image from WildlifeFun4Kids

May 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm Leave a comment

10 Chipper Tips for Gardening with Kids


A veggie garden is a great place to teach your youngsters valuable lessons while spending satisfying time together. Gardening is more entertaining than any video game; I have yet to meet a child who didn’t get a kick out of playing in the dirt, planting seeds and watching them grow. And finally, there’s no better way to get kids to eat veggies than to grow their own.

Gardening

Jasper the Jack Rabbit and Chipper help out in the garden!

So where do you start? These 10 ideas just might inspire your gardener-in-training:

  1. Take a field trip. Visit a farmers market or produce aisle and talk about what you see. Explain the life cycle of a veggie, from seed to fruit to dinner table. Have kids taste-test a few varieties, then help them plant the ones they like.
  2. Let them choose. While at a nursery or garden center, ask your kids to pick out a few seeds or plants they want to grow. Also let them select any extras, like trellises or containers. If they’re involved at the very beginning, they’re more likely to remain interested throughout the growing season.
  3. Give ’em some space. Pint-size gardeners love to have their own little section of a garden. They’ll treat this space with extra-special care. Let them make the decisions, from what gets planted to keeping the occasional “pet” weed.Let's Go Chipper Gardener Set
  4. Tools of the trade. On birthdays or other occasions, give your children a colorful garden tool, apron or hat. Make it a game to get dressed up as a gardener when it’s time to play outside.
  5. Family history lesson. Use your time outside as an opportunity to tell kids about your family. Was Great-Grandpa a gardener? Did Aunt Nora grow heirloom tomatoes? It’s a great way to get them interested in relatives and radishes at the same time.
  6. Theme gardens. Try an alphabet garden, where your kids choose everything from asparagus to zucchini. Or create a garden of miniatures with cherry tomatoes or mini-pumpkins.
  7. Be realistic. You can’t expect a 6-year-old to spend an afternoon weeding, so you’ll have to perform some of the mundane tasks yourself. When kids do tackle these chores, don’t expect perfection—a few jagged rows or a weed here and there won’t matter. Remember that kids have short attention spans, so make your garden a fun place where they can see real results.
  8. Let’s go crazy. Kids love unusual varieties, so don’t be a conformist. Instead, walk on the wild side with yellow tomatoes, white eggplants, purple carrots, brightly colored chard and giant pumpkins.
  9. Teachable moments. Explain how natural vegetable gardening promotes healthy living by providing safe, nutritious, low-cost food for the family. Also point out that growing your own veggies means more exercise, no pesticides and less pollution from delivery trucks.
  10. Continue in the kitchen. Invite your children to help you make dinner by adding cut-up garden produce to a salad or soup, and let them snack on a few as you cook. Don’t be surprised if they learn to love veggies.

The bottom line? Kids imitate what they see. If you love to grow things, chances are they’ll be enthusiastic, too. And remember that one of the most important things you’ll ever grow is a gardener.Let's Go Chipper | Making Change for the Better | Build Communty Gardens

Plan a community garden for your school or neighborhood! Collect spare change to fund the project and teach your kids how they can help make change for the better!

10 Best Veggies For Kids To Grow

  1. Sugar snap peas. Kids love to eat them fresh off the vine and they are packed with Vitamin C!
  2. Lettuce. Easy to grow and lots of cool color varieties, plus it contains a considerable amount of iron.
  3. Pumpkins. Plant a smaller variety, like Jack Be Little, for your smaller helpers. Don’t forget to eat the seeds which help keep heart heathy!
  4. Radishes. Within a month, these fast growers are ready to pick AND they help keep away allergy sniffles.. Just for giggles, try red, white and purple varieties.
  5. Carrots. Quick-growing carrots are perfect for short attention spans. In addition, they are filled with powerful vitamins that support your eye sight.
  6. Potatoes. Kids really dig potatoes, which are as much fun to harvest as to eat. These nutrient-dense veggies can be cooked dozens of ways!
  7. Green beans. The big seeds are fun and easy to plant. Plus they are packed with Vitamin B!
  8. Cherry tomatoes. Little hands love to pick these tiny fruits. They are sweet and nutritious, filled with fiber, protein and Vitamin C.
  9. Sunflowers. These beauties take off without much work, and come in tall or small varieties. Plus, it’s fun to harvest the seeds, or leave out the seed heads to attract birds.
  10. Broccoli. Like many veggies, garden-fresh broccoli tastes sweeter than store-bought. Broccoli is also a powerful antioxidant and great for bone health.

What other veggies do you kids love to grow? Share with Chipper in the comments!

May 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm 3 comments

Chipper Tip: Only Rain Down the Drain!


Just Rain down the Drain

You see the signs right? And it seems obvious but millions of pounds of trash and plastic enter our waterways through our curbside drainage system each year. The effect on our plant and sea life is huge: about 22,000 bodies of water in the United States are considered “impaired” by the Environmental Protection Agency due to this pollution.

Let's Stroll Crissy Fields | Eco-Educational Book and App for Kids | Free Activities

As we celebrate National Wildlife Week and the theme being “water,” be inspired to take action over just acknowledging the importance of clean water for our animals on land and sea.

What we can do:

  1. If you see it, own it: Lead by example and pick up trash when you see it on the ground. Use good judgment, plastic/foil chip bags, paper bags, and plastic bottles are generally safe to pick up but be safe first.
  2. Make the grade: Collaborate with your classroom and take a walk through the neighborhood. A good stroll is healthy for both mind and body and the clean up helps foster a deeper connection with your community.
  3. Power to the Park Ranger – Chipper is the most enthusiastic ambassador in town and always pays respect to the ranger. Invite your local state or national park ranger, or junior ranger, into the classroom to teach kids about streams, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, even the little puddle along the path. All give life to the forest and eventually make it to the sea. Teaching kids the principals of Leave No Trace will inspire them to pick up any litter along the trails during spring and summer hiking and camping adventures

Here are some great tips and things to keep in mind:

Collaborate as a family, school, and community and join Chipper in Making Change for the Better – what we do as individuals makes a different for all! Print the label below, attach to recycled can, collect change, and donate to the Ocean Conservancy to help keep our water ways clean!

Making-Change-for-the-Better-Label_Waterways

Click here to download, print, and color!

 

Let’s go Chipper and remember to give a little thumbs up to the National Wildlife Federation!

Let's Stroll Crissy Fields | Eco-Educational Book and App for Kids | Free Activities

March 18, 2014 at 5:45 pm Leave a comment

How Does Your Garden Grow?


ChipperMom_rev3_Chipper badgeWhen I first created Chipper his big adventures were to start at the windowsill of a bed and breakfast cottage nestled within a bed of color reminiscent of a Monet’s Garden painting. Chipper would delight in tales delivered by the cottage owner while guests were off exploring for the day; because Chipper knew kids were meant to be neither seen nor heard from here. I remember sharing the mission of my little squirrel with a producer whom looked at me and said: “Squirrels are rodents and I hate rodents in my garden.” That squirrels are active, curious creatures ready to explore and engage meant little to this producer …and, more importantly, passionate gardener.

Last week, I remembered my early inspiration after reading Weeds Find a Way, by author and poet Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher. That another writer would find beauty and personality in something otherwise destined to be dug up and discarded gave me a sense of camaraderie so I flipped through the pages. And then, I took the hardback book with me to story time. How would the kids see themselves when asked: “Are you a weed or a plant?” “And what is the difference?”

Both the story and illustrations captured the children’s (6-10 year olds) attention and the word for the day became “empathy.” The story excited conversation and reasons why we should just let the weeds grow.

There is a very whimsical rhythm to the flow of the text and illustrations and you feel like you are being blown carefree through the pages. Take time to discuss what it means to coexist and delight in the conversation. I highly recommend this book for the classroom and a perfect page-turner for the overnight with the grandparents. Pull the jacket cover off and save it as my ten year old did as she is determined to save this one for her own children some day. “I want it to look new again.”

The Chipper mom in me took to finding Jenson-Elliott so I could go knee deep into the weeds to learn a little bit more. I found a late bloomer to science and a teacher making up time as Jenson-Elliott designs Teacher guides to support her growing list of children’s books. Enjoy our conversation and happy planting:

Do you see children as weeds or flowers/plants? Weeds as plants are a wonderful metaphor for children. They are resilient, tenacious, beautiful, clever, adaptable, without all of our interventions, just as they are.

What is your earliest experience realizing the difference between a weed and a flower: I remember my curiosity about the difference between the planted and an unplanted world. I remember wondering around age four who planted certain plants. We lived in a really verdant area around Philadelphia, with yards that had probably once been landscaped but had reverted to a tangle of green.

We had a very overgrown rose garden that my mother struggled to bring to order, and I remember many afternoons running around in the back while she trimmed the thorny stems. We were new to the big old house, and it had been inhabited by a very old man before we moved in, so the formal rows of roses were leggy. One day I found remnants of a vegetable garden, broken down corn stalks, a tiny ear of Indian corn, growing behind the garage. All around it were wildflowers—weeds! —Queen Anne’s lace, black eyed Susans. One day I found a jack-in-the-pulpit. I have a very clear memory of seeing the little “man” inside his pulpit and how wonderful it was.

Living in suburbia, and seeing urban landscaping, a lot of kids—myself included—may think that someone went around and planted everything they see. I think I asked my mother, “Who planted those trees?” I really didn’t understand her answer: “No one, they just grew there.” It seemed mysterious and amazing, this world without people. Even today, I find that fact really moving, almost a relief. Singer Dana Lyons has a great line in his song, “Willy Says:” “Here’s a story that you may not comprehend. The parking lot will crack and bloom again. There’s a world beneath the pavement that will never end.” The natural world is so beautiful without our intervention. We don’t really have to do anything—just appreciate it.

What tips can you offer parents and educators on using the analogy of weeds/flowers and the lessons in developing friendships? I have curriculum in my free curriculum guide, downloadable on my website, that speaks to this issue. While I did not intentionally set out to teach a social-emotional lesson, I realized how embedded those lessons are after the book came out. Kind of funny that way—poets often don’t know what their poems are about until after they are written.

Weeds can teach us a lot in the social-emotional realm. They hold many qualities that we hope to engender in our children as human beings, and as learners. We hope they have grit – the ability to stick with something no matter what, withstand hardship, and thrive in spite of – and because of – challenges.

Weeds can also teach us a lot about appreciating the diverse qualities of others – the hidden beauties we may not see the first time we meet someone. Weeds teach us to look again at something we think we know well – or someone we think we have all figured out. When we have an opinion about someone – we think they are a “weed” rather than a flower, for example – we jump to conclusions about who they are. When we look more deeply, we can come to appreciate is that everyone has wonderful qualities – even thorny personalities.

Some wonderful curricula  and teacher training for helping children learn to appreciate each other in the classroom and beyond are the Responsive Classroom and Second Step, and my all-time favorite book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.

What’s your favorite weed? In my neighborhood, I think cheeseweed is one of my favorites. It is in the mallow family, like many landscaping plants, and has geranium-like leaves. I would love to see fireweed, though, which Carolyn Fisher put in those beautiful final pictures in the book. I was not familiar with it before she did the art, but everyone I have shown the book to who is from Canada or the northwest says, “Ah! Fireweed! I love fireweed!” Carolyn, who lives in Canada, added many weeds I didn’t know in the art, and then I went back in and added them in the text.

How do your children inspire your storytelling? My science work with children has most inspired my work. I came to science late – in my early 30s –when I went back to school and took as many science classes as I could fit in before I had to go back to work full time. Every class was a revelation, a wonder, from biology to chemistry to geology and physics.  Teaching science and gardening, and writing about science and gardening, have been ways for me to explore ideas more deeply and share those with children. We learn science through experiencing that joy and wonder of the world, and I would like every child to have a chance to feel the awe of understanding something amazing about our extraordinary ordinary world.

Weeds Find a Way is available at Barnes & Noble.

Weeds Find A Way cover

 

March 3, 2014 at 5:41 pm 2 comments

Chipper Tip: Lessons in Condensation


Rainy season has arrived! Whether you are experiencing snow and rain in the North West or a sunny summer on the opposite hemisphere, condensation is a common occurrence that can turn into an educational lesson for your little one(s).

Learning about the water cycle and condensation | Let's Go Chipper | Eco-education for kids

In the car or at home, windows fog and water drops form. In the bathroom after a long shower, mirrors get fogged. Use these teachable moments to talk about the water cycle and it’s importance to our entire planet. Let your kids know about water conservation, especially during droughts, when bathing, brushing teeth, or washing dishes and clothes. As the saying goes, “Waste not, want not!” The more we save, the more have in the long run!

Water is important for our survival and also for the survival of plants and animals. During rainy season, explore the outdoors and search for little critters soaking in the rain like Chester the Wise Old Frog and Bruce the Banana Slug. Some animals and plants need more water than others. Humans, for example, should drink around 2-3 liters of water a day, where as giraffes get most of their moisture from leaves, so they can go months without drinking water!

Learning about the water cycle and condensation | Let's Go Chipper | Eco-education for kids

Teach your kiddos about the following terms so they become familiar with the water cycle! Try some of the activities to illustrate their meaning and give your child an opportunity to really understand this important ecological process.

1.  Evaporation is when the sun heats up water in rivers or lakes or the ocean and turns it into vapor or steam. The water vapor or steam leaves the river, lake or ocean and goes into the air, forming clouds.

Illustrate: Boil some water in a kettle so children can see the vapor rising!

Learning about the water cycle and condensation | Let's Go Chipper | Eco-education for kids

2. Condensation is when water vapor in the air gets cold and changes back into liquid, forming clouds. Clouds are made up of tiny water molecules.

Illustrate: Use a window, mirror or any glass surface and breath on it. Your warm breath forms a foggy layer that is like a thin cloud on your mirror! Use your fingers to draw a smiley face 🙂

3.  Precipitation occurs when so much water has condensed that the air cannot hold it anymore. The water molecules start to bounce and shake (precipitate), making the cloud so heavy that the water falls back to the earth in the form of rain drop or rainfall. The water can also fall hail, sleet or snow depending on how cold it is.

Illustrate: Pour a glass of cold water on a hot day and watch what happens. Or if it’s still cold out, place a cup of warm water on the counter. Then put some ice on to a plate and place on top of the cup. Water will start to form on the outside of the glass and drip down the sides. That water didn’t somehow leak through the glass! It actually came from the air. Water vapor in the warm air turns back into liquid when it touches the cold glass. This is precipitation in action!

Let's Go Chipper | Lessons in Condensation and learning about the water cycle | Eco-education for kids

4.  Collection: When water falls back to earth as precipitation, it may fall back in the oceans, lakes or rivers or it may end up on land.  When it ends up on land, it will either soak into the earth and become part of the “ground water” that plants and animals use to drink or it may run over the soil and collect in the oceans, lakes or rivers where the cycle starts!

Illustrate: After a rainy day or snow fall, go outside with your kids and try to find evidence of water collection: puddles form, street gutters flow, and plants soak in the rain! Take a little trip and visit your local water reservoir to see where your town’s drinking water comes from. The more they see and experience, the more your children will understand!

What other ways can you illustrate the water cycle? Share with Chipper! We love hearing about your outdoor adventures and educational stories!

February 26, 2014 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment

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