I was asked by a parent the other day if our kiddos in program were notably more sick being that they were out in the elements so frequently. Kitsap County has had a rough virus season to be sure, but one thing that I have been delighted in is not being trapped in a room sharing scissors between sneezes. It seems to us that on the whole most kiddos have not dipped in their attendance with being sick, showing off their excellent immune systems.
Who says that you cannot go to the beach in Winter? Beach Days despite the cold, have not been spent huddled up under a blanket. The benefits of adding fire to the program stand out on beach days with that assistance of Barry's Dad Scott providing warm rocks for kiddos who need to give their hands a break! Then they are back to the sand. Another aspect of Beach Days that is beautiful is the variety of terrain that is available for the kids to explore while still being in view. Feeling quiet and want to be away from the crowd? Stand on the pier in the sun looking over the edge (with a grown up). Feeling the need to climb high? Climb the small cedars that border the beach, or the bluff (in view of an adult). Want to have NO plan and just wander? The water's edge is perfect!
As I am sure that you have heard us say, our program is still budding and finding its stride. We are always learning what works and what doesn't work. What a relief it has been to learn that kids have the most amazing imagination! So much time has been spent packing up materials, unloading, cleaning up...when it turns out (especially Friday's crew) that materials/activities are not really needed, or they can be minimal. The other day our staff members were given the hint from a group of kids that they had they play under control and that we didn't need to really participate, they just took off! We stood back watching them play and tears welled up a bit as we have watched these friendship circles grow and bring in kids of all ages and abilities. If you can pretend to be unicorn, you're in! If you want to run around aimlessly and try to tag each other, you're in! I'm just proud of all them!
A shout out to our NEW parent volunteer Kyle! Ryan's mom is coming every other Friday, and bless her, her first day was a beach day! Other volunteers can attest Beach Day is a lot to take in, and it was great to have some fresh eyes to have us refresh with the kids some basics for the beach. You can help your kiddo remember these on beach day:
1. Keep their layers dry by having toes in the water rather than the whole body
2. When playing at water's edge, eyes forward to the open water
3. Play in view of an adult (that is always a rule but is more of a challenge to stop and ask an adult to move to where they want to go...like down the beach)
Making Candles, Journey Sticks, and Cedar Wands
With themes like earthworms, evergreens and the coming of more light this season in the North West, there are so many activities that come to mind that kids would love to do, and where they would find a challenge.
During our week on light, the kids were invited to make their own candles! We had a mallet for them to break up the wax, and a container to put it in so it could double boil on the fire. Then they went gathering bits of forest floor, chose their essential oil, and then if they wanted to they could pour their own wax. We were not at all surprised by the excitement for the mallet, but were blown away by the skill some showed for pouring their own wax into the tin.
Evergreen weeks brought the making of "journey sticks" and "cedar wands".. These activities were great not only for fine motor practice but patience, and learning when to ask for help.We did the cedar wands during huddle groups so that the kiddos all got to practice the skill without the option of free play, which is lucky, cause there are many who would have ditched the activity and missed out on how empowered they felt afterwards.
In conclusion, we can plan all the fun activities we want and hope that the kids will love it, but when it comes down to it they love to imagine their own play, and really don't need much to do it. When the team sees a rainy day before the program starts, there is an instinct to pack lots of extra materials to help the kids cope. However, we find the kids running in the rain pretending to be dragons guarding their eggs, or using their fire to encircle people, only to undo it with a magical stare. They are all so closely connected through pretend play, games, and the projects they create. It's a joy to stand and watch.
Group Games, Worm Experiments, and Sit Spots
Group games have been a great way to gather together and teach a skill, all while making it accessible to all abilities. Some games we have learned would do better during huddle groups instead of the large group. In place of a lengthy gratitude circle, and a large journal time at the end, we have decided to play more games in program.
We also did an earthworm experiment where the kids got to help clear a square in the ground ready to receive a mixture intended to encourage the worms up to the surface. Most all the kids stared in anticipation, waiting (some longer than others). ALL wanted to hold worms. There were many observations made on their movements, size, and whether or not they had the "saddle"--showing that they were adult worms.
With all the excitement during a program day, we really treasure the slow moments: people arriving slowly and with different energy levels, sharing snack with one another, and sit spots. There was a time when we were putting this practice to the side; however, we have found the perfect opportunity after snack. When have packed up the kids have the chance to go off to a place by themselves (in view of an adult) with their journals or flannel pieces. It has been exciting to see them tote their journals to a place to take it easy.
Building Trust and Friendships
I've said it before, and I will say it again. The friendships forged out there in the wild are amazing to watch grow. At this point in our program we have the kids just naturally wanting to play in the same area, we haven't (with the exception of beach day which seems to stir a sense of wonder and need for exploring) had to wrangle/remind kids to stay in one spot and in view of one adult. Our mix of different ages and strengths is so apparent when someone needs a helping hand or a friend who feels the same way.
Here are some of our favorite friend moments in program:
- Seamus holding Lucy's hand across the icy parking lot to our beach spot, and then keeping her company on the peer.
- Jim making a crowd of unicorns and dragons a pot of stew after running in the meadow
- Barry helping Max through the ivy bush after they found some plastic litter they wanted to pick up
- Reed encouraging Pierson as he scrambled down the bluff at the beach
- Alsea and Lando both at different times helping Maria Sofia down the big steps on our hike
- Owen inviting anyone who was willing to join him in a game of "animals", much to Theo's relief who didn't have the courage yet to ask
We love all our little ones. Just the other day in the dappled sun, the kids all spontaneously starting singing our "Hello Sunshine" song as they walked back towards the parking lot. Myself and Reanne both just looked on with wonder and were blown away, they were all so at ease!
March is your month families to get the days you want for next year. Once April hits we will be inviting the people on the wait list to choose their days before opening to the public in May.
Do not miss out on the chance this Spring/Summer to join this workshop. Led by the amazing Krystal Meiners, you get an opportunity to connect with nature all while investing in yourself and community. https://www.barnaclesandbees.com/moon-mothers1.html
Hike Day and Beach Days
Please notes that Beach Days have you drop off at the regular spot with pick up at the beach: