January Author Study Expands to NYC

LPS-451-New-York-Big-AppleAh, New York city, cooler older sibling to Chicago…we interupt our regularly scheduled monthly author study to bring you these hot tips from NYC transplant (and stellar Cortland mom), Libby Levandoski Wilhelm!

Libby was a teacher for many years in NYC, and I asked her to recommend some beloved authors from her experiences to further extend our Ezra Jack Keats study this month. We will carry these authors over in February as well, but thought you may want to check them out too.

Libby’s List of NYC Authors:

Mo Willems (Knuffle Bunny takes place in Brooklyn, but I think he may now live in MA.) You guys have already done an author study on him, but always worth checking out. *Cortland students love Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, anything Elephant and Piggie, and of course, the PIGEON! A shared pigeon book will be in our take-home special collection soon, photos courtesy of the Drost family, story courtesy of our 3-day class!

Donald Crews – think he now lives in upstate NY






Nina Crews (daughter of Donald – lives in Brooklyn) O.W. LOVES Below by Nina Crews.


Photos of Jack in this book were taken in Brooklyn. Jack is her nephew. He attended my school in Brooklyn.

The sequel is:


Miriam Cohen (lives in Brooklyn – stories about Jim are her better ones, in my opinion)




Ezra Jack Keats (born in Brooklyn)




Thanks, Libby! I’m sure there’s a bookworm and Big Apple joke to be found somewhere, but for now, I cannot wait to familiarize myself with some new urban authors.

Cortland Cookbook 2014


You can print your own Cortland Cookbook by using the .pdf file

I’ve combined last year with this year, so everything is there. You’ll see three section pages (savory, sweet, family traditions), a front and back cover, and a page at the end for notes.


Love from Ms. Amy and Angela Mead

Cortland Preschool Cookbook_2014

P.S. This didn’t make it into the cookbook this year as it was buried in a pile of my paperwork, but students made this with Ms. Alexa, and it is a fantastic Ranch Dip Recipe:

1/3 cup buttermilk powder
2 Tbsp parsley
1.5 tsp dill
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chives

Mix to combine, stir in plain, whole milk yogurt (small tub) to complete!

Book Club #1…The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius


Cortland Book Club #1
Hosted by the Mead Family
October 24, 2014

We came, we saw, we talked, laughed, cried, and noshed. Our Cortland Book Club is off to a wonderful start.

Parents suggest the books, anyone from the Cortland community may read along and join in the club. Those in attendance vote for the next read. Families volunteer to host if they feel comfortable. Everyone BYOBs. Cortland teachers provide childcare at the preschool for ages 2+. We build a sense of community while engaging in a supportive and friendly discourse. Next meeting in late January, book TBA on the eNews and Facebook.

What will we remember to take away from this read?

-“Maybe I’ll ask (for help) next time.”

-“Keep ties with your community.”

-“All children are amazing and special.”

-“I need to foster my daughter’s love of art.”

-“Don’t expect everyone to be the best at everything. We all have strengths and weaknesses.”

-“Helping and guiding my children—helping them be the best people THEY can be.”

-“Be your child’s advocate, no matter what door is shut in your face, be their advocate.”

-“Recognize that thing in every child that is so special.”

-“Don’t accept limits anyone wants to put on your child. Remember the tree house analogy.”

-“Notice what your kids are good at, what lights them up.”

-“Create a culture of support. Help your child engage in long-term projects he or she is truly interested in.”

A special thank you to Ms. Karen Louis, for a fun-filled Children’s Book Club of Go, Dog. Go! and for generously giving her time to the cause.

A special thank you to the Mead Family for graciously and warmly hosting, and for the delicious treats!

A special thank you to the many Cortland dads, grandparents, friends, etc. who babysat so that Cortland moms could have this night. I am truly grateful–this was a great night for all of us to be a part of.

Hope to see you at January’s meet. Stay tuned.

–Ms. Amy Ewaldt

Indian Boundary Park

Indian Boundary Park
Written by Heather Bruce Boran

More than a hidden gem or a respite from the usual city hustle and bustle, Indian Boundary Park is a destination in its own right. Parents and caregivers looking for something a little outside of the usual are in for a treat. Spanning over thirteen acres and situated just northwest of the Western Avenue and Devon Street intersection, Indian Boundary Park boasts an expanse of picnic-worthy green grass, climbable trees, and a beautiful lagoon from which we spotted numerous ducks, a turtle, and a few jumping fish.

Park-goers also can enjoy a new-this-year water spray feature and splash area, a brand-new nature center and surrounding nature play area that is as peaceful and welcoming as it is beautiful, and — our family’s favorite — a large wooden fortress of a playscape with plenty of room for imaginative play along with gross motor challenges for the toddler, preschool, and elementary school-sets. Our kids would happily spend an entire afternoon (and then some) hiding, sliding, balancing, and, as Sawyer puts it: “climbing up and up and up and up!”

The park’s historic tudor-style field house also houses painting, piano, dance and voice lessons for kids and adults alike, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago — in residence at the park — offers free concerts throughout the year. http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/indian-boundary-park/ For upcoming events including a Make Your Own Nutcracker on December 6.10653639_712648825479392_6690452587977754944_n

Cortland parent Heather Bruce Boran is a self-proclaimed, “corporate-lawyer-turned-part-time (adjunct)-law-professor-and-full-time-mom.” (6 photos)

Talking About Standards

Parent: What kind of standards do you use to inform your teaching? What can I expect my child to focus on in one full year?

Cortland: Many parents want to take a more active role in understanding what the State of Illinois Early Learning Standards are and how we (and every Illinois preschool) use these standards daily in our classrooms. You can print a full copy HERE for your records and better understanding, and I would encourage you to read them and share them with your caregivers as well–you can augment classroom learning experiences at home in a unified manner while enjoying a better understanding of age-appropriate learning.

State-mandated standards articulately and intelligently speak to all of the learning domains we work on at school daily (in our daily lesson plans) as children develop up to Kindergarten. Teachers have a separate set of standards for Kindergarten, and each grade following thereafter. Preschool standards have always been available on our blogsite (see the Standards tab above) but you can always google them (State of Illinois Learning Standards, insert grade level here) and follow along each year as the children rise through each grade level. This will help you better connect with them as students and also better connect with their teachers, as you’ll be aware of the expectations and benchmarks for learning development.

Parent: Some programs guarantee that my child will be reading or doing math to a certain level by a certain age. What’s that all about?

Cortland: We would be wary of any program “promising results”–every child develops cognitively at a different rate and uniquely. While there are baseline “norms”, all children have “dips and spikes” in different areas, depending. A real-world example: a gifted child may be reading at a 5th or 6th grade level at age 4 (and with demonstrated comprehension) but may find it difficult work to hold a pencil or other implements and write his or her name or draw / trace precisely (low fine motor.) The spike is the reading / phonic/ decoding ability, the dip is the fine motor.

As teachers, our job then becomes what is called “differentiated learning”–identifying each child’s academic “dips” and working to boost these low areas, while feeding the “spike” and keeping them challenged in above-average areas. This is what makes what makes teaching dynamic and exciting! We work to unite a child’s particular love-passion-interest with the work of the standards, so a genuine love of learning is fueled (and rote seat work is kept to a minimum.)

To better inform our older 3-day families and our 5-day families, you’ll see at our next round of conferences that summer is a time where we focus on math and language arts assessments. You’ll have a better picture of your children’s strengths and achievements, and also where they stack up when compared against State Standards.

Parent: What can I do to be involved in my child’s schooling? I don’t feel like I’m connected.

Cortland: It’s important to remember that preschool, like elementary school and beyond, is very much an equation–the time you put in connecting to your child’s education, you will get back in results of equal or greater measure. At Cortland Preschool, resources for getting / staying involved include:

-reading eNews and notes sent home
-regularly reading and sharing the classroom blogsite with your child
-Facebook posts at Cortland Preschool and Tutoring
-attending parent-teacher conferences
-reading parent handouts
-learning about the State Standards online, on your conference forms, and/or by asking for more info
-attending parenting sessions and events (GRASP Group, Tertulia, Book Club, etc.)
We provide these opportunities for busy parents to stay connected and better informed. It is important to find out what each new school will provide and/or expect parents to regularly attend to.

You will continue to be your children’s greatest advocates for excellence in schooling by continuing to ask questions that help you gain greater understanding. As you move forward, continue asking great questions–What can I do to support my child’s learning in the home? Where is my child struggling? Excelling? What kinds of experiences can support my child in these areas? What resources do you recommend? Good teachers work with parents as a team and want to work in complementary ways. What is your child excited about? How can we all work together to support your child’s self-directed interests and ideas?

We are always happy to talk with you at length, provide supporting articles or documentation, etc. with regards to the education of preschoolers. Thanks for asking great questions!

Nanny Shares–Our Experiences

Nanny Shares–Our Experiences
written by Cortland mom, Megan Canty

Selecting the right child care situation for your family can be overwhelming, and living in a city like Chicago, the options are very different from what my husband and I experienced growing up (we both basically went to a neighbor’s home.) We had our first child before anyone else we knew well in the city had children (and neither of us is from the Chicago area), so we were on our own in navigating this process.

After visiting and researching day care center options, we decided those would not be best for us, considering there were none very close to our current home or offices, and since neither of us drive to work; taking one or more children on the CTA to one destination and then heading to work and doing it all again every evening sounded like a poor option. We knew our actual time together as a family would be limited given that we’d be spending so much time commuting every day.

Next we looked into having a nanny. Having in-home care and one-on-one interaction sounded great but our two concerns were first, the cost, and second, the lack of exposure to other children.

My research led me to www.npnparents.org where I found message boards, informational posts, and actual events, like one we attended on child care options, where we first heard about nanny shares. This sounded like a great option for what we wanted—a home environment, another child for our son to interact with as he got older, personalized attention, and not as expensive as paying for a nanny on our own.

I can say we have been so happy and fortunate with both nanny shares we have been in. Our first share lasted for two years, and we are still friends with our “share family” and our nanny. We found the share family through the NPN message boards, where many people post child care classifieds.

Once we found a few people who lived in our neighborhood, we communicated over email to discuss what everyone was looking for in a nanny and in a share, and eventually met with
this family. We hit it off right away and hired a nanny together through an agency. Agencies charge a fee to help you and it can be pricey, but that way we knew everyone we interviewed was ok with taxes being withheld, had the kind of experience we wanted, etc. Agencies do all of the reference and screening work for you, which is nice, and I felt like everyone we interviewed was a strong candidate.

The first share wasn’t without its bumps in the road–we had two nannies who did not work out until we found our amazing nanny, but having a great relationship with our share family
made it all work out. I think it’s incredibly important to make sure you take the search for a share family as seriously as you take the search for the nanny, since you are making a lot of decisions together and your children are spending so much time together. A family whose ideas about raising children are in stark contrast to your own is not going to be a good fit, so you want to essentially “interview” each other. For that share, we walked our son the few blocks to the share family’s home each day and picked him up, which worked out very well.

We are now on our second nanny share–we moved when our son was two just before having our second child, and unfortunately our new home took us out of our neighborhood, so our first share ended. We were so sad to leave that share and wondered if finding another would be hard.

The second time around, it took us many tries to find a family we were comfortable having a share with–we had been incredibly lucky to find the first family so quickly, but eventually we found another great family. This time we wanted to host the share at our home, as my husband had recently changed jobs and would be traveling a lot more, and I wanted to make my commute each day as simple as possible since I would be on my own fairly often.

This time, we actually found our nanny through the NPN web site as well as our share family. Sometimes families will post about how great their nanny has been, and how they want to help him or her find a new job if the family is moving, children no longer need full time care, etc. Nannies will also sometimes respond to a classified you might post, which is what happened in our case. Also, sometimes you find a family who already has a nanny and is just looking for a family to share with, so you can interview both the family and their nanny at the same time and see if it is a good fit.

Since we did not go through an agency the second time, we had to do the screening and
paperwork ourselves, but it was not difficult and we once again have a great nanny share.

Overall, we love doing nanny shares–our children have regular interaction with other kids, they get a home environment for child care, and they have very close attention from our nanny. We’ve also gotten to know some great families through our experiences.

The main advice I have on nanny shares is this:

1. First, make a list of your needs. How many hours do you need? Do you want to host some days or every day or not at all? If the share will be in your home, what do people need to know (for example, do you have a dog?) What are things about other people’s homes that you would want to know if a share will be hosted there? These basics help to rule out situations which simply won’t work out because of differing schedules, or an allergy issue,
aversion to smoking, etc.

2. Next, decide on financial issues–how much can you afford to pay and how much are you willing to pay? (Most nanny shares split the rate in half between the two families, but if one family has more children than the other, that ratio will change. Simply, if you hire a $20/hour nanny, a fair split is $10/hour for each family.) How will you handle taxes? Are you willing to pay an agency fee for help with a nanny search, or is that not in your budget? Once you have a nanny, do you have a budget for outings or classes for the children etc.?

3. Next, decide what you want in a nanny and what you want in a share family. This includes both the qualities you are looking for and the type of relationship. In terms of finding a share family, is this going to be purely business or do you hope to befriend another family and have your children spend time together outside the share? It’s best to be clear upfront.

4. Once you’ve answered these questions, you can really start your search since you know what you are looking for. Make sure to keep in mind that there will always be new questions and some problem solving to be done as families’ needs will change over time. The most important feature of a nanny share, in my opinion, is communication–between you and your share family, and between the two families and the nanny, making sure the nanny is getting clear and consistent information from both families, and making sure everyone is comfortable with the share situation. I hope you’ll consider the nanny-share option for your own family!

Dramatic Play Games from Mrs. Samara

Each week, the 3 and 5-day classrooms enjoy the benefits of Dramatic Play with our wonderful teacher, Mrs. Samara. Here are some of the latest acting and improv games we’ve been exploring in class–we hope you will try them at home!

Mime encourages confidence and awareness of self and of others. It encourages physical control, simplicity of thought and movement, and more importantly it stimulates the imagination.

Sub aims:

To introduce relaxation exercises and understand their role in a drama class.
To promote group work and co-operation.

Relaxation exercises

Be a star: Lie sown on your back and spread your arms, palms up to the side and open your legs. Stretch the limbs all together. Feel you are making a four pointed star. Suddenly the star collapses. Feel the tension disappear.

Be Hercules: In the same position, imagine that the body is being pushed down by a heavy weight so that all parts of the body are being pressed into the ground suddenly the weight is removed. Feel yourself float on the ground.

Shake off the ants: In the same position, imagine you are tied to the ground but you can wiggle. A colony of ants finds and begins to crawl over you. Commence to wiggle the body until the last ant leaves you. Then collapse.

Be a rubber puppet: Imagine you are made of rubber and there are strings attached to your shoulders which someone can pull from above. You are being pulled up and you find your limbs fly out in all directions. Even the feet can be pulled off the ground at times, finally the strings are cut and the body relaxes.


All the students sit in a large circle. The teacher asks them to imagine there is a magic box in the center of the circle. The teacher can ask: what size is it? What color is it? Ask, Can everyone see it?

Tell them it can be a different shape and color, depending on where you are sitting in the circle..this is because it is a magic box. The teacher goes into the center of the circle first and mimes opening the box and taking out an object. She then mimes holding the object and the class must guess what it is. When the children guess correctly the teacher mimes putting it back in the box and closing it. The child who guessed correctly takes a turn at taking an object out of the box.


This is a follow on from the Magic Box game. The teacher mimes taking an object out of the box, for example a mouse, a rotten egg, a cream pie, chewing gum, lipstick or a puppy, and the children guess what it is. When they have guessed she passes the object around the circle. The children should react as if they were holding the actual object in their hands. Eventually the last child in the circle gets rid of the object and the teacher goes to the box and takes out a new.


Get the students consider the ways that people walk. The teacher gets the children to walk around the room. Then call out different ways of walking

Walk like a…

• Toddler

• child in high heels

• child wearing heavy wellington boots

• child splashing in a puddles

• child stuck in mud

• child walking on stony beach

• child walking on hot sand

• someone walking on fire

• someone walking wearily

• an old frail person


Divide the class into 2 or 3 groups. Have at least 6 in each group. Number the students from one to six. Get each member of the group to leave the room except for number one. The other groups stay in the room. You then give number one an action to mime. You then call number 2 into the room and number one mimes to number 2. They do not talk. Number 2 can not say anything and she has to do mime exactly what she saw to number 3, then number 3 comes into the room and watches number 2 very carefully. Number 3 does the mime for number four and so on. When number 6 comes into the room she has to guess what the original mime was. This is like broken telephone but it is done through mime. Here are some suggestions for mimes:

• Riding a horse

• Skiing

• Washing dishes

• Eating hot food

• Counting money

• Telling someone you love them

• Eating spaghetti

• Singing

• Playing tug of war

• Washing your dog

• Ballet dancing

• Moon walk

• Playing basketball

• Singing opera

• Walking in the desert

• Playing tennis

• Making pancakes

• Opening a present that you do not like

The other groups watch how the mime changes with each person. This is a fun game and helps with observation skills.

Basic Situation: Divide the class into small groups and they must use body language and facial expression to 5 ways of showing that their are

• Cold

• Hot

• Surprised

• Frightened

Other ideas/themes for group mimes: Camping, the circus, a pirate ship, going on a bear hunt

Starting to use mime in a Drama sessions

Start beginner groups on occupational mimes and later move to emotional mimes. Mime starts within and is then portrayed by the body. Never forget that through mime is that art of movement it is also the art of stillness.

Occupational Mimes: lift a bucket, box, brush. Place the same objects on a shelf or table, place them, carefully on top of each other. Use scissors, shears, pickaxes, fishing rod. Use activities such as sewing buttons, cooking, putting on clothes, painting, cleaning windows.

Character Mimes: Portray different types of character, the young girl, the old woman, the rich lady, beggar, clown. Watch people around you.

Emotional Mimes: These are the hardest to portray. Feel, understand, convey happiness at receiving a gift. Sadness at hearing bad news, shock, horror, love etc..,


Place a chair in the center of the circle and participants take turns to mime what they imagine it to be, for example: a post box, a kitchen sink, a dog, a new car.

The person who guesses correctly takes their place in the middle.

Take over

• in a circle, walking on the spot

• leader makes a gesture, in time, that the everyone else imitates

• continue for 8 beats or so, then shout the name of a participant and they must change or add to the action

• this can continue until the group has warmed up


All sit in a circle. Give everyone an occupation (e.g. policeman, astronaut, postman, teacher). Use each occupation twice, and make sure the occupations are kept secret.

Students use the space to mime their own occupation. Their task is to spot the person with the same occupation as them. When they have done this they should approach their partner, and without speaking, check that they are both miming the same job.

They should sit down in their pair when they think they have found them.

The game continues until everybody is sitting down. The teacher should check they are all correct at the end of the game!


This game was originally named Change 3 Things, but I simplified it for my preschoolers to just 1 thing. They absolutely love playing this game and it will absolutely get giggles out them. Divide your students up into two lines of equal number facing each other. The persons directly across from each other are partners. They quietly study each other closely for one full minute. One line turns around and hides their eyes. The other line changes one thing about their appearance. They may take off one shoe or un-tuck their shirt or roll up a pant leg. After all have changed one thing the other line turns around and guesses what they changed. This game is all about being observant. After the changed item has been identified, the lines switch parts and continue to play. This is fun to do as duos with the rest of the students as the audience too!

Pair students up and tell them to pick an A and B.
Tell A’s that they are looking in the mirror. (Optional: Tell them it is morning and they are getting ready for the day.)
Tell them to move VERY slowly. B’s are the mirror and must follow A so closely that an observer would not be able to tell who is leading and who is following. Encourage them to mirror not only body movement but also facial expression.
Have them switch after a minute or so. Then tell them that neither is the leader or follower. You will probably have tell them to go slower a few times.
Start again with A’s but this time tell them that they are talking to themselves in the mirror as B’s follow. Again let them switch and then try it with no leader and no follower.

Purpose: A simple way to get even the most shy child acting bold in front of the group.
1. Players stand in a circle.
2. One player starts a small gesture.
3. The next player takes it over and makes it even bigger.
4. This continues all the way around until the last person takes it to the EXTREME.
5. After a couple times with just movement, tell the players they can add a sound as well.
– Encourage the kids to never lose a sense of the original gesture in their exaggerations.
– This can be a great lead in to character development, taking small traits and enhancing them to extremes.

Ode to Seuss

Opposites, syllables, playful language, metaphor…Seuss continues to delight us just as much as when we were small.

Wacky Wednesday was so much fun we did it more than once, ensuring that all classrooms had a chance to try on “wacky” for a day…the Ministry of Silly Walks was explored, lunch was eaten UNDER the tables, shoes and slippers climbed the walls, and children painted pictures with their feet!

Oh, what fun we had! We still ask regularly, “Do you like my hat?” and then segue into the “bit” from Go, Dog. Go!

Many more than ten books were read, bookmarks are headed home this week featuring your child “wearing” the reading hat. The Truffula Tree forest was sent home in pieces with the 5-day class, and Who-ville on the dust mote is being turned into a “traveling take-home book.”

Thanks for a fun-filled, wacky and educational month!

Book Drive and Tertulia #4

Used book drive at Cortland–baby books to 8th grade classics, books benefit Ms. Raven’s current school, DeWitt Clinton Elementary. Ends April 14!



…Friday, March 28, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Meet at Cortland and we will walk over to Multilingual Connections (2 blocks away) for a night of food, fun, and conversation in their facility. All are welcome!

Please bring a nut-free dish to share with all and your willingness to participate in Spanish conversation–beverages provided. RSVP to Señora Kate BEFORE March 24
Multilingual Kids LOGO

Mrs. Samara has asked us to share info about a very special concert…please consider attending this fun and worthy event!



Thanks to all that attended our second official Tertulia night! Students prepared the classroom, adults prepared the delicious food…we even managed to practice our Spanish as we talked, laughed, snuggled babies, and ate! Muchas Gracias to our maestra maravillosa, Senora Kate, for her planning and wonderful rendition of “Los Tres Chivitos Gruff!” Next Tertulia will be in February–stay tuned for info.




Humboldt Park is so beautiful right now…the playground at Evergreen and California is wonderful for gross motor development, hand strength, and balance. Children teach one another how to do new things, such as climb, slide, leap, and even play a hidden instrument. The Boathouse has clean public restrooms and a security guard, and the meander across the bridge and down into the pond / native planting areas allow for feeding wild birds. Be sure to stop at the wooded playlot as well–a whole different experience, though you’ll need to mind the tenacious, food-crazed squirrels!
Our Parents READ! Four fun science recipes long-promised to Lindsay B…xo

science_recipe1SLIME (great way to see if two liquids can combine to form a solid):


Brew #1: In a large bowl, mix 2 Tbs. 20 Mule Team Borax (laundry booster sold at most large grocery stores) with 1 cup hot to warm water. Pass around the table having children do 1-2-3-stirs and pass it on! Use a long handled spoon so that they do not drop it in the bowl each time.

Brew #2: In separate large dish, mix 1 cup Elmers Glue with 1 drop of green food coloring and ½ cup hot to warm water. Pass around the table having children do 1-2-3-stirs and pass it on! Use a long handled spoon so that they do not drop it in the bowl each time.

Pour Brew #1 into Brew #2—do not stir. Gently slosh side to side for 30 seconds. (I have the kids tap their fingers on the bowl and say magic words like “sham-a-lam-a-ding-dong!”)

Reach into the bowl and pull upward dramatically! Ta-da! Slime! Tear off small chunks to share with all. Knead out excess water & it becomes like silly putty! You can stretch it, roll it, bounce it, etc. Two liquids create a polymer that forms a solid. States of matter, oh yeah!

(when a solid and a liquid react):
Get two small cups and a plate or shallow bowl. Have children identify what kinds of things are liquids and what kinds of things are solids. Have them identify the items in their cups using the same vocabulary.

In cup 1, pour a small amount of vinegar (about an inch or two), squirt in some liquid dish soap, and one drop of food coloring. Swirl gently to mix. Model this to students and let each do their own.

In cup 2, put two teaspoons of baking soda. Set cup 2 on the plate or bowl—this will get messy. Have students hold up Cup 1 and make a magical “toast”—1-2-3-POUR CUP ONE INTO CUP TWO (or liquid into solid)…

Students delight as they watch the foam magically appear! Smaller cups work better because then the foam can cascade over the edge and down the sides. They can feel the foam and comment on what they see, smell, and feel. I usually have them play with this for a few minutes, and then we all make a “giant” potion by pouring our liquid into one big clean-up bowl.

Best Papier Mache

1 cup white flour
1 ½ cup warm water
mix it

½ TABLEspoon salt
mix it

¼ cup white glue
mix it

Have children tear strips of newspaper, and then go to town making your creations—a balloon filled with air can dry and become a dinosaur egg, hot air balloon, or caterpillar segment—not to mention planets, spheres, and heads for rod puppets! (Yes, we’ve actually done all of these.)

Have children sturdily glue and / or masking tape boxes and paper sculptures. Use papier mache to create masks or animals, robots, or “inventions!”

Bubble Print Painting
(note: bubbles can be whisked in a large tub by students or blown with a straw by an adult only—children will drink it otherwise, yuck)

3 cups warm water
1 cup liquid dishsoap
½ cup of tempera paint

(3-1-.5 ratio)

mix all items together, dump into a large, 4-6 inch deep dub (like a dishtub), let children whisk up bubbles, then gently lay paper on top to pop them and create “prints”…very cool effect, visual and fun. Adults may opt to blow bubbles into the solution with a straw and then let children be the “poppers”, but do not let children do the straw part.
Developing Dramatic Arts Appreciation at Home by Samara Harris Anderson
–look for opportunities to use everyday items as transformations…a giant box can be a really great catalyst for dramatic play and discussion…art supplies to decorate, finding sound effects or making them during your play, and letting your child lead you on his or her adventure helps develop awareness of and appreciation for theatre arts

–jukebox…play a wide variety of music for 30 seconds to one minute and ask your child to dance how the music makes him or her feel. You can also say FREEZE and tell your child to freeze like a different object or animal or person, for example, FREEZE LIKE AN ICE CREAM CONE! FREEZE LIKE A NINJA! FREEZE LIKE AN ICE SKATER! etc. Take turns being the “dancer” and the “freezer”—they love this! Consider making shapes and letters with your body as well, even if they don’t come out perfect…and add high and low levels…FREEZE LIKE A CIRCLE ON THE FLOOR! FREEZE LIKE A TALL LETTER T IN THE AIR!

–play charades…tried and true game, you don’t need cards but you can work with your child to make your own if you want…keep it simple, with basic activities such as brushing your teeth, putting on your shoes, washing your hands, petting an animal, holding a baby, painting a picture, etc.

–go to an age-appropriate play or musical. Talk about the “rules” of being in the audience and the special and important role the audience plays. Chicago has some amazing children’s theatre—get out there and have fun watching and participating! Prepare your child by discussing lights, costumes, what characters you might see and how they might act, what kind of sounds and music there might be, noticing the sets and the staging, and if you feel comfortable, talk about the roles of people backstage like the director, stage manager, house manager, etc.
North Park Village Nature Center by Elizabeth Salahuddin

Looking for something new to do, in the city, with your little nature enthusiasts? We recently discovered The North Park Village Nature Center and wanted to tell you more about it.
A short drive from Logan Square, located at 5801 N. Pulaski, the nature center includes a forty-six acre nature preserve and educational facility. The center is very rustic, currently showcasing a live caterpillar metamorphosis display, a table of animal fossils that the kids can touch and feel, an information and clippings area about the various habitats and some really pretty birds nests. Pick up a trail guide or ask one of the friendly volunteers to show you around and how to get out to the trails.
We followed the ‘main loop’ and saw: spiders (big ones!), butterflies, a fuzzy brown-and-black caterpillar, and lots of birds–no deer along the trail the day we visited, but we did see one roaming around the parking lot!

We spent about 90 minutes at the center and on the trail before it was time to head home. There is a ton to see and do, the kids loved it and for mom/dad/care giver, it’s the kind of place where the kids can really run and do their own thing without much worry.
For your visit:

* Wear supportive, comfortable walking shoes, preferably with socks. The gravel trails are dusty and some trails are mulch or in some cases, mud. Also, lots of tree logs along the path to climb on.
* Pack bug protection, sun screen and a hat.
* Bring a picnic or snacks. There are plenty of picnic tables outside.
* The public restrooms inside the center are neat and tidy and also have a changing table.
The center is open year round from 10 am – 4 pm daily. It also offers mostly free classes for the kids or as a family. A class description sheet is located inside the education facility.

If you haven’t already, we hope you have a chance to check out this hidden gem so close to home!