Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas stories

I ran into a parent of two former students of mine at the grocery store yesterday. I asked about the boys, and remarked that they must be getting to the age (at about 6 and 7 years old) where they aren't really sure wether to believe in Santa. She said Santa is real at her house. A friend informed the boys that there is really no such thing as Santa. It's only your parents pretending. Without skipping a beat, the younger answered, "Maybe Santa doesn't come to your house. He doesn't waste his time on people who don't believe in him."
Like a small child, I wonder every year, what is Christmas really about THIS year? I turn to stories for clues.
My very most favorite Christmas story of all time is Trina Schart Hyman's "How Six Found Christmas".  I use it in the classroom to get children thinking about the sounds, smells, tastes, sights, and textures of the Christmas season, and I really love the way it ends: "Christmas is not only where you find it; it is what you make it."
My next favorite Christmas story is "Star Mother's Youngest Child" by Louise Moeri,  also illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.  When the young star comes down to earth to experience Christmas here for the first time, he prods the first person he meets, a poverty stricken, grumpy, old woman, into celebrating with him. Their Christmas is simple, but "it is enough".

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Playing with baby

One of the joys of babies and young children is that you get to introduce them to the world, first through your voice and touch, then through giving them safe things to play with and talking with them about the things you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste together. Through play, children develop their minds and bodies and learn skills that will help them be successful their whole lives long. Playing with our children, having fun with our children, makes them smarter! 
Last night I gave eight month old River a lime to play with. She examined it carefully, turing it over in her hands, discovering that she could hold it better with two hands than with one, banging it on the table to see what sound it made. After a while I gave her a satsuma, too. She repeated her process with the satsuma, then picked up the lime again. She examined the lime, then the satsuma. I could tell she was comparing them, noticing how they were the same and how they were different. She won't have the language to express the differences until much later, but she's already examining the world with the eye of a scientist.
I'm doing a series of pastels and watercolors of children and their adults playing together. Here River is enjoying the way her mother is blowing on her cheek, and expressing her pleasure with a smile.