Valentine’s Love in Your Classroom

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to discuss emotional wellness and student self-care.

Traditionally the emphasis was on card and gift giving, whereas now we often tend to promote love and kindness on Valentine’s Day. Discussing the different types of love, whether for our parents, neighbours or fellow classmates, allows students to think about the huge concept of love and what it means to them. This provides the perfect opportunity to delve into greetings, giving and gifting.

Greetings

Morning meetings in the classroom often include a greeting and this can take many forms, including a “Good Morning,” a wave or a handshake.

Often the greetings and responses need to be taught and modelled to help students understand the cues and expectations. Modelling helps students understand how to use eye contact and pressure in a handshake, voice intonation in a verbal greeting and facial expression in a wave.

Giving

Where I grew up in Northern Ireland, Valentine’s Day was not celebrated, unless in a romantic relationship. As a teenager, it was awkward and to be avoided. As an adult, it was somewhat similar. When I moved to Canada and had my first child, I discovered that Valentine’s here is about showing love to everyone, a celebration that I really enjoy participating in.

Taking time to recognize everyone in a daycare room or classroom helps children understand that although they may not be best friends with everyone, they can give everyone respect. Just as greeting everyone is a way to show respect, giving cards is a similar way to acknowledge respect.

Making Valentine’s cards is a fun part of our routine now and we try to change our designs each year. Make your own Paint Printed Valentine’s Cards with Creative Paint Rollers.

While many of our students do not make cards, the act of writing a name on a purchased card offers a wonderfully authentic writing experience.

Some students may be new to Canada or new to the experience of giving cards, so a communication home to explain our Valentine’s Day customs can help clarify expectations to parents. Another suggestion is to give students an opportunity to write/make cards in class and then everything is done in school, relieving the pressure to complete cards at home.

Gifting

Gifting can also be part of Valentine’s celebrations and we often make something with students that they can take home and gift to family or friends. This is a wonderful way to demonstrate and focus on the joy of giving.

In the past, we have made Heart Crayons from that box of old crayons you have lurking in a dark corner. As a collaborative effort, this could be achieved by a class quite easily and gifted to a friend or younger sibling.

Having a class party is another way to show love, for food, dancing and fun!

Tips as an educator

  • Be clear about expectations for giving Valentine’s cards/gifts and communicate to students and parents
  • Allow opportunities to talk about Valentine’s day and what it means to each child
  • Encourage children to make Valentine’s cards/gifts for special family members in their lives
  • Emphasize the message rather than the material focus that is often placed on Valentine’s Day
  • Have fun and celebrate love in all its forms
Written by Chris, an elementary and middle school teacher in Pembina Trails School Division.

The Importance of Messy Play for Young Children

Messy play allows children to explore their world learning from the materials they are interacting with. The open-ended opportunities of messy play allow children to explore in an inviting, non-threatening way, there is no right or wrong way to play. The lack of focus on making something or an end goal gives children freedom and confidence.  Messy play is a wonderful way for children to develop the use of their senses, especially touch, through hands-on activities. Yes, the mess is unavoidable but the benefits far outweigh the temporary chaos and summer is the perfect time to enjoy many messy play activities outside.

Types of Messy Play

Water:

Water play is the perfect way to explore so many scientific concepts. Pouring water from one object to another helps children to understand volume, measurement, gravity, pressure, and displacement. Playing around a water table develops social skills as children share equipment and space.

Food:

From babies trying new foods to preschoolers building meals for themselves, exploring food teaches children to try new things. Giving them autonomy in food choices encourages an interest in the food we eat and hopefully leads to less fussy eaters. Helping to prepare a meal as children grow helps them understand and appreciate the work and love that goes into the food they eat. Pasta, beans and lentils make great small scale sensory materials for indoor play.

Sand:

The sandbox is a wonderful way to explore mathematical and scientific concepts such as empty, full, and half full, wet and dry, and force. Older children can practice writing in the sand with room for error. Fine motor skills are developed as tools are used to play. This sandcastle will not work if the sand is dry and we all know how relaxing the feel of sand is under our feet.

Nature:

Now is the time to get outside and explore nature. Our summer is short here in Canada and we tend to try to be outside as much as possible. Grass, dirt, mud, leaves, stones, trees, flowers, snow, puddles, all provide wonderful opportunities to play and learn in a messy way.

Paint:

The options are endless: on paper, on a variety of surfaces, on their bodies, printing with paint, painting with flowers, twigs and water.

Adult Role

Often children are discouraged from getting messy at home and struggle to relax into messy play.

Having smocks available for play can help to reassure those who are nervous and also calm parental worries. Some children wear new clothes to daycare and school no matter what they are advised.

Open-ended questions are an important way to encourage critical thinking “I wonder why that happened?”, “What would happen if…”. These questions are also a way of showing children you support their learning and that it is good to get messy in this situation.

Preparation is key when planning messy play. Often clean up can take time or children are engaged for longer than expected. Allowing lots of time for messy play and then the clean up afterwards is necessary.

Addressing parents’ reactions to messy play can be challenging. Not all parents understand the need for their children to engage in messy play. This wonderful display board from my son’s childcare center explains the concept beautifully:

When your child comes home messy…. look deeper. Your child has been exploring… but most of all your child has had fun!

Skills developed:

  • confidence
  • creativity
  • curiosity
  • social
  • independence
  • communication
  • well-being
  • reasonability
  • imagination
  • identity
  • respect

What a wonderful way to explain the importance of messy play for our children!

Tempera Paint Sticks Review

As a big fan of paint, I was not sure how to react to a mess free alternative to the paintbrush and liquid paint. Tempera paint blocks or cakes, you know the ones:

They are still popular in classrooms and centers but I find they don’t give great coverage. Sometimes students are frustrated by the wateriness of the paint. Learning to apply paint from a tempera cake, without ripping your paper with too much water can be a challenge! However, they have a time and place and are great to pull out quickly, with minimal cleanup.

Liquid tempera, you know the type:

It is great for coverage but can be messy to apply and clean up!

As a fan of the process rather than the product, my initial reaction to Tempera Paint Sticks was the hope that they would not replace the process of painting, which I believe all children need to explore, learn and enjoy.

I am a huge fan of oil pastels and wondered if they would be similar.

Turns out they are even more awesome! They are smooth to apply as they glide over the paper and yet they look like a glue stick. They dry almost instantly with full coverage. Check it out:

My daughter’s reactions were funny. Daisy said “Oh these are cool, they are kinda like a crayon and kinda like an oil pastel.” and “they go on really easy”.

Rose said “awesome” and “can we use them later?” when I told her to get ready for the bus.

They were both engrossed in their art.

They are so easy to apply, drawing is a natural reaction to using these paint sticks, as you can see from the photos.

We applied liquid watercolour paint on top of the tempera paint sticks and it stayed put. Not bad for newsprint paper!

The paint dries almost instantly so artwork can be taken home the same day.

Let’s face it there are times when you want great colour impact but don’t have time to pull out the paints. These tempera paint sticks give the colour impact without the mess of paint or the smudging of oil pastel. What more can I say?

Testing Watercolour Pencils

I enjoyed using watercolour pencils as a child and loved that moment when you added water and your art turned into a painting. As with many things the memories from childhood are a little betraying. While teaching an art class recently, I was disappointed by the watercolour pencils I tried with my students. They seemed grainy and not very vibrant.

I was then challenged to try out different brands to see if the brand I had tried were weak or if my memory was failing me.

The four brands were:

The girls got straight down to “work”!

We used a printed colouring sheet and dived it into four sections. We took care to use the allocated brand of watercolour pencil in the correct section.

Comments included:

  • Prang- soft and makes chips or dust, kinda crumbly, it is hard to colour lightly
  • Crayola- it has a hard lead, you have to press down hard
  • Lyra- doesn’t erase easily, I like it best because it doesn’t dust
  • Sargent Art- it has a hard lead, it takes too long to cover

These comments were shared while colouring. We did try to erase them all. Lyra was the most difficult to erase, while the rest were more successful. As you can see from the photo we were on a rough surface, not dissimilar to a school desk I imagine.

The excitement of adding water was quite the thrill!

The wonderful no spill water pot saved the day.

The girls enjoyed watching the colours blend together as they used paintbrushes and water. They did need to wash their brush off after each colour change but the results were beautiful.

Our favourites in terms of blending power as you added water, were probably the Crayola and Lyra with the Prang and Sargent Art coming close behind.

Yes, apparently my memory has failed me. While the watercolour pencils did what they needed to I was thinking more of these I think….

I guess I will have to try them next!

Paint Pipette Exploration

Rose loves playing with these paint pipettes:

Coloured water play, as well as paint, is a hit. We used them last to create moon salt art and the children who participated loved the squeeze action of the pipettes.

Here is the invitation:

The messy paint trays are a perfect fit for a 9 x 12″ piece of paper so we used one as a blank canvas.

The paint we used was a little thick as it had been sitting unused for many months. Adding a little water would have made the process easier for little fingers.

This is a great strengthening action for the pincer grip.

A mini craft stick was used to mix paints. This is not necessary, but fun and prepared Rose for the colour mixing which is about to occur.

Adding paper and firmly patting.

Revealing the print.

We managed to get two prints from the paint. Beautiful!

Fall Tree Window Art

We have been suffering from withdrawal from messy art activities. Too much gardening and preserving happening in preparation for winter, so we decided on a perfect fall painting task.

Fall colours were chosen; green, yellow, brown and red. Just enough paint was added to cover the dish and coat hands.

Rose provided a stencil for the tree and branches.

And paint was liberally added with a brush while Buddy the pug watched.

Painting technique was discussed:

  • place hands in the paint
  • gently pat them together
  • paint your leaves on the window
  • chose to get more paint or wash hands for a new colour

Messy happiness

Pure joy

Adding final details

Our beautiful fall tree window art.