Monday, December 7, 2015

Snowmen for Everyone

This past Friday, I had a program called Snowmen for Everyone, for ages 3-5, which I created solely based on this blog post from Huckleberry Love (found on Pinterest, obviously). I thought the fake snow looked like so much fun to make and play with, plus it even looked easy to make! I took this, combined it with the fact that there are so many great snow books for ages 3-5, and, viola, a program was born!

About an hour before the start of the program, a page and I made the snow recipe according to Huckleberry Love's blog post. The recipe calls for 2 cups of baking soda + 1/2 cup of hair conditioner. But once we did that, we found that we had a small amount of each ingredient left, so we just kind of eyeballed adding in more of the two ingredients without measuring. It turns out that the recipe doesn't actually need to be too exact to be snow-like. We dumped in all the rest of the stuff, added a few toys into each bin, and we were ready to go!

Naturally, I started the program off with a storytime. I read Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner, followed by Snow by Uri Shulevitz. For some reason, the kids got a little antsy during the storytime part of this program. This was kind of a surprise to me. I've done a lot of programming with this age group (and these specific kids!) in the past and haven't had a problem holding their attention before, but last Friday, they were antsy! However, of the two books, this group was slightly more into Snow (although, in the past, Snowmen at Night has been a hit with kids this age). When I was reading Snow, the kids got really excited to spot and point out the tiny snowflakes on the grey skies and I think it made them feel smart to find them so quickly too.

Then we moved on to the craft part of the program: simple snowman-making. (This is about the time when I started my playlist, which began with Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from the Frozen soundtrack). I did a decent amount of prep work for this craft to keep it simple for the kids. Each child's work area had: Two dinner-sized paper plates stapled together, the top one with three holes punched in it to attach the arms and the head; one dessert-sized paper plate with a hole punched in it (the head); two brown or black pipe cleaners (the twiggy arms), a paper fastener (for attaching the head to the rest of the body), pre-cut paper carrots, pre-cut paper hats, and pre-cut paper bow ties. Plus I put out glue and crayons for extra decorating.

In my sample, I made a snowy scene on the bottom paper plate (inspired by this Hallmark ornament series) because I worried that otherwise, it would be too much of the kids just gluing things mechanically and not enough being of them being creative. This worked well. The kids liked decorating their snowmen in all different ways. We had a winter scene, an under the sea scene, and lots of different varieties of colorful buttons. But, even without the crayons, they would have still had fun. They actually got a little creative with the glueing of the carrots, hat, and bowtie. Go figure! Anyway, here are some snowmen in progress:

And here are a few kids with their pretty (and all very different) snowmen. Notice the "chef's hat" style hat on the left. So creative!:

As the kids finished up their projects, I started to bring over the bins of play snow. THEY LOVED IT. What a fun, sensory mess! The kids made animal tracks and car tracks, some built snowmen, some used the animals to scoop and dig like shovels, and some just picked the stuff up and put it down. I wish it stuck together a tiny bit better (maybe if I had measured the ingredients more accurately, it would have), but the kids didn't care. They could have played with this snow for days. Several moms even asked me how to make it at home. Similarly, other moms thanked me for giving their kids a chance to play in a messy way because they didn't want to make something like this at home. Both were great compliments!

At the end of the program, I was left with a LOT of mess. However, it was a relatively easy mess to clean up. The snow bins were simple and lightweight enough to just dump out and the remnants of the ingredients left behind all washed easily down the drain. Quick, quick quick. Plus, even though there was a good amount of the concoction left on the floor, it was vacuumed up easily and it even left the room smelling nice and fresh! 

What worked least: Sadly, the books worked least. I've found that this age group usually pays more attention during the stories, but last Friday morning, many of them just weren't feelin' it.

What worked best: The fake snow was just awesome. This kind of sensory play helps kids develop their motor skills, helps them focus and calm down, and let's them be creative! And most of them had to be pulled away. It was definitely a big hit.

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