Jan 18, 2023

Observing play as a form of meditation

 Sometimes watching children play is pure joy.  Seeing them make their own discoveries, noticing an a-ha moment, those times when they surprise you with their innovative ideas are some of the main reasons I feel so passionately about protecting the rights of children to experience True Play.

Other times though.... it can be a real challenge.  It can get messy, both physically and emotionally. It can be excruciating to sit back and let your child be frustrated with something even if you know they'll eventually figure it out. Sometimes their play vaults us right back to our own childhood experiences and our memories can make mountains out of molehills. Or... maybe you just don't want to have to deal with a paint-covered toddler mess.

Or perhaps you hear a voice of obligation telling you that you should be interacting with your child more? Asking them what they're doing or telling them how to do that thing the right way?

I have a challenge for you, dear reader. The next time that you're watching children play and you start to feel anxious or annoyed, pause to ask yourself these questions:

1. Is my child truly in danger?  (if yes, PLEASE STEP IN and make sure they're safe!)

2. If my child is not actually in any danger, what emotions am I feeling?  

3. If I'm worried, what am I worried will happen?  If I'm annoyed, why is their behavior annoying to me? What is at the root of my emotional response to their play?

I also challenge you to think of watching play as a meditation. Focus on it so deeply that you're no longer running through your mental checklist of to-do's for the day. Lose yourself in curiosity about what your child will do next. Blend into the background and simply observe. 

I personally find that taking pictures and videos of the play while it's happening (with as little interruption of the play as possible) is a great way to keep me present in the moment.  If I'm tangled up in my own emotions, I know I can go back and watch the video later so that I can enjoy the play after I've worked through my own feelings about it.

Jan 4, 2023

True Play gives us all new eyes


In 2022, I started a new program at my library that I called the Tiny True Play Studio.  All of my play programs in the past have focused mainly on the physical, whole-body types of play and this one I wanted to focus more on the sort of play that happens in "art spaces." Each week, I'd bring out paper, markers, stickers, fancy scissors and hole punches, paint and retired COVID sneeze guards (which make excellent easels and painting surfaces, btw) and then step back to see what the kids would do with those materials.

Most adults, when they walked up and saw the program, or when I tried to describe it to them would say to their child, "Oh! An art program! Do you want to draw something, honey?" but I quickly discovered that this program was so much more than a kids' art program.  Although some adults had difficulty resisting the fully understandable urge to instruct their kid to paint or to draw or to make SOMETHING with these art supplies, those who were able to step back were rewarded with some of the most interesting and innovative play I've seen.


I observed invented games with acorns, hole punches and paper


 the wind became an entertaining play material

Scissors became tools to pick up leaves to create a pile to jump in with friends.

Markers and caps themselves became objects with which to create a collage/sculpture....
And more!

The wonderful thing about this realization is that (1) you likely already have these materials or similar materials on hand.  Play doesn't have to be about purchasing particular materials. (2) You might even already be doing programs that use "art materials" and all it takes is for you to step back and give the caregivers in the program encouragement to allow their kids to explore the materials however they want.  Even if (maybe especially if) it means that you don't have yet another "thing" to take home at the end of the program to stick on your refrigerator. You're welcome.

Mar 6, 2021

Favorite Family Media during a year of the pandemic


Image result for kipo and the age of wonderbeasts 

It's been about a year since our family started staying home full time to stay healthy and stop the spread of COVID-19 the best way we know how.  And in that year, we have consumed a LOT of media as a family -- TV shows, movies, podcasts, apps... I've talked a lot about apps elsewhere, but I don't think I've ever given TV show recommendations and I've only done a few podcast reviews, but those are TOTALLY media and as a librarian, media is my jam, so why not extend recommendations for those as well?  In that spirit, here are my family's favorites from the past year (or so) in the order in which we discovered them:

TV Shows (all animated)

Hilda -- based on a graphic novel series starring a blue haired girl tuned in to the supernatural creatures around her, this was a great adaptation for television. Some of the situations she encounters are genuinely creepy, so if you've got really young kids or kids who are prone to nightmares, pre-watch a few episodes in the middle to make sure your kid can handle them.

Avatar: the last Airbender -- the longest series we watched and probably my kids' favorite, this tells the epic tale of three kids (2 siblings and one friend) trying to save the realm. In this realm, there's a nation for each of the 4 elements -- air, water, earth, fire -- and when the story starts, the Fire Nation has conquered pretty much the entire realm, but then the last Airbender (a person who can wield Air Magic) returns.  This series has a lot of battle scenes and intense action (so again, consider pre-watching a few episodes to make sure your kids can handle it) but also a lot of humor and friendship and even some elements of light romance. This series also has some related graphic novels!

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts --  This one is my personal favorite. Eternally optimistic, pink-haired Kipo explores her post-apocalyptic world, populated by sentient animals. I love how in this show even the most evil antagonists have fully developed storylines that make them into sympathetic characters by the end and while not all of them may change their behaviors at the end of the story, they are all given a chance to do so.  Plus, the illustrations are lush and imaginative and weird and delightful.


The Imagine Neighborhood -- I discovered this one after it won the Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award from ALA and my daughter and I both love it! While I normally wouldn't be excited to listen to a kids podcast about socio-emotional learning, these guys have spun together the PERFECT balance of silly characters, ridiculous storylines, music (not "kids" music--stuff you'd hear on the radio) and just enough talk about emotions that we keep wanting to come back and listen again.  We laugh out loud together AND STILL when asked to tell her grandparents what the show was about, she talked about the emotion content, not Princess Donnasaurus or Macho Supreme (two of my favorite characters). 

Discover the Forest -- My family had made big plans to travel to see some National Parks for Spring Break 2020 and although those plans were cancelled, we were able to enjoy "traveling" to some National Parks through this podcast.  I love that this podcast stars a Latino family, complete with Spanish phrases sprinkled throughout and their family dynamic is so joyful (ahhh... something to aspire to when we're all getting on each other's last nerve here at my house). This podcast is only available through a Pinna subscription.

Grimm, Grimmer, Grimmest -- Grimm Fairytales retold in podcast form by Adam Gidwitz, author of  A Tale Dark and Grimm and other Grimm retellings. Adam knows his way around 3rd graders and doesn't shy away from the gross, weird elements of the original Grimm fairytales. The podcast is even better than the books because he breaks off to have conversational asides with a class of 3rd graders and get their feedback about the story (which is sometimes the funniest part of the episode). I also appreciate that he ranks each story as "Grimm" "Grimmer" or "Grimmest" so that listeners can choose which stories are best for them to hear and he suggests that if a story starts feeling too intense that they skip ahead 30 seconds until the story is less intense.  These are GREAT self-regulatory suggestions for kids to try out! This podcast is most fully accessed through a Pinna subscription, but some episodes are also available for free on other podcast apps and websites -- search your favorite podcast source to see if you can access it there.

Feb 6, 2021

Top 5 Apps (and Podcasts!) video series

Throughout the pandemic, I've been creating a series of videos detailing my "Top 5" picks for kids' apps (and one for podcasts!).  I've been reviewing apps for SO long on the library's website that I thought it might be a little overwhelming to navigate even with the handy search tool that allows you to narrow your search.  Plus, there are some categories that are tricky to search for directly, so.... I created these little videos as shortcuts for families looking for my FAVORITE recommendations.  Here's a list of the videos I've created so far in this series:

Top 5 Free Apps for Big Kids

Top 5 Free Apps for Little Kids

Top 5 Apps for Off-Screen Play

Top 5 Spanish Apps for Kids

(also available IN (not-exactly perfect) Spanish here

Top 5 Video Apps for Kids (better than YouTube)

Top 5 Android Apps for Kids

Top Notch Podcasts for Kids and Families 


What other category of apps would you like to see a video about? 

Top 5 Apps for multiple players to play simultaneously?  

Top 5 subscription apps?  

Top 5 educational apps (as if your kid isn't getting enough screen instruction right now...)?

Top 5 paid apps for big / little kids? 

Top 5 Apps you've probably never heard of (but which you would love)? 

These are all themes I've got lists built for already, but what category can you think of that I'm missing? Which of the themes above are YOU most curious about?

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