Nov 14, 2018

Anji Play: Recording the entire arc of play

Frequently, over the past three years, I've taken videos of play and then when I share them with the Anji Play professionals they tell me the video stopped too soon or doesn't show the whole arc of play.  While capturing the beginning of a particular arc can be hard to predict, sticking with it until the end is a skill that can be honed. What does that look like? The 20+ minute video above shows a whole arc -- from the first frustrated attempt (a lucky catch on my part) until at the end of the video, he's going back for more and saying, "This is fun!"  Yes, that took 20 minutes.  And yes, there were a few distractions for me during that time, but I am so glad that I stuck with it and got this one long video so that you can see how the play evolved.

Many times, parents, caregivers, staff and volunteers have agreed to get some video of kids playing, but everyone starts to feel nervous when the play that is being recorded begins to stretch longer than a minute, then longer than 3 minutes, then longer than 5 minutes.... are you going to run out of space on your mobile device? (maybe...) Are you going to be able to share this video with anyone or will it be stuck on your phone forever? (I recommend uploading it to Google Photos and then deleting it from your device, then you can share it with anyone.) Do you really have the patience to stick with this one instance of play when there's so many other interesting things going on?  What if you miss something else amazing?  After three years, I've learned that you just have to rely on other people to catch the other amazing things.  Sticking with one group of kids playing until they are "done" with that particular play allows you to observe more closely, notice nuance, find patterns when you watch the video and have a better sense of the abilities, interests and personalities of each of the children involved in this play. My final tip is that even if you THINK the play arc is complete, continue to record for a little bit longer.  I can't tell you how many times I've stopped recording RIGHT before the kid said or did something really meaningful or interesting.  I'm slowly learning to just keep it rolling a bit longer.

What do you notice in the video above?  How does watching it make you feel? What are the children actually doing? What are they saying? What has changed from the beginning of the video to the end and how did they get there?  Watch this with open ears, open eyes and an open heart.  If you find yourself wanting to step in and tell them how to solve this or to shout "good job!" realize that that is perhaps a natural urge, but also totally unnecessary for these kids.  What's the longest video you've ever captured?

Sep 19, 2018

Slime for the masses

This past summer, I hosted a Slime Party at my library.  My wonderful colleague Janelle had put together a set of ingredients and instructions for a party at her library earlier in the summer AND she was generous enough to come help me run my party and I was SOOOO grateful!  We had about 90 people show up for our program and it was a bit of a tight squeeze.  During the process, we learned a few lessons that I'd like to remember just in case I'm nutsy enough to host this program again, so I'm posting those tips here for myself, but also for anyone else who's looking for the simplest way to throw a slime party for a large group.

Tip #1 -- if possible, require registration!  Being surprised by a large group with a project this messy and popular is stressful for the adults running the program.  Sometimes though, your program requires a drop-in format.  If that's the case....

Tip #2 -- When buying glue, one gallon of glue will make about 15 batches of slime.  It's nice to have a choice between white glue and clear.  Plan accordingly.

Tip #3 -- Have everyone make the same base recipe for slime (though some can use clear and some use white glue) in a baggie.  I recommend the saline solution version. Do it assembly line style: each kid gets a bag, then walks down a table of ingredients, measuring and adding each to their bag, then zip it closed and mix.

Tip #3B -- TEST YOUR RECIPE.  Make it just like the kids will -- in a baggie. Do the quantities work out as written?  Does it work to squish it in the bag instead of stirring it in a bowl?

Tip #4 -- Individualize slimes by having add-ons on a separate table that kids can go to after their base slime is mixed and ready -- food coloring, glitter, fake snow, styrofoam pellets (note: have a bowl of styrofoam pellets and ask kids to put their slime into the bowl and work in some pellets that way rather than trying to pour pellets into the ziplocs), confetti, pom-poms, air dry clay (Daiso brand is often recommended), rock salt, gold leaf.... or try out your own zany ideas!

Tip #5 -- for the purposes of your assembly line, it might be useful to know that small Dixie cups are approximately 1/2 cup.

Tip #6 -- although it might be easier to mix in a bowl than in a baggie, most disposable bowls are too small for a recipe's worth of slime and if you use re-usable bowls, you'll spend an hour and a half scraping slime out of bowls and then washing them clean.  REMEMBER: SLIME SHOULD NOT GO DOWN YOUR SINK DRAIN unless you want a really slimy clog.  Slime scraps and failed slime go into the trash only!

Tip #7 -- do the program outside or at least on a moppable floor surface.  Trust me (and Janelle) on this point.

Sep 17, 2018

Evolution of an app maker: Cowly Owl

Recently, I got an e-mail from one of my favorite app makers with news of an exciting new direction for the company.  It's such an important message about how he's taken the research about kids benefiting most from apps that encourage playing with another person and turned it into a credo for his brand.  Take a minute to read it here.  I especially love the sneak peek into the different owl sketches he considered for his new logo!  Then check out my review of his newest app designed for two players, Sizzle & Stew.

Sep 14, 2018

Interview with an app maker: Yatatoy

I enjoyed this article about one of my very favorite app makers: Yatatoy!  I love learning amazing details like the fact that the three developers who created this company live in three different countries and haven't even all met face-to-face! Unfortunately, the article is only accessible via Apple mobile devices, but just in case you're reading this blog post on one of those, click the link above!  You can read my review of the Bandimal app here.
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