Goodbye November +Advent Calendar

November is over. And thank goodness. Somehow it turned out to be so much more stressful than I was hoping it would be. There were quite a few shocks close to heart and there were and are a lot of things to ponder and re-evaluate.

What have we been up to:

-Lots of field trips: We went to Denver Art Museum and saw Glory of Venice and Japanese Fashion Exhibits. We went to Denver Museum of Nature and Science and saw Extreme Mammals exhibit, as well as Mummies (D. loved it so much, C. on the other hand hated it, “too many dead bodies”, I must say it was interesting but I didn’t enjoy it as much for the same reason). We went and listened to an awesome Drums of the World performance by Colorado Symphony. Even got to do Mannequin Challenge with them. We took a tour around Denver Center for the Performance Arts. D. and I did it once when he was in the first grade, but we had an awesome guide this time around and, since I am so much more in touch with my artistic side now, I achieved new levels of appreciation for the backstage workers, designers and craftsmen.

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-The weather was fickle, with winds, first snow and some icy rain. But plenty of sunny days too.  We were busy with extracurriculars too- both kids had a dress rehearsal for the choir concert (C. can’t wait to debut, I unfortunately will have to chaperone and watch her from the backstage instead of the audience), both participated in karate tournament. C. did extremely well, was brave and endured long waits. D. did well too, but he also got hurt, not seriously but enough for me to consider taking him to the ER. He was ok in the end, very thankful for that.

-Also thankful for friends that we were finally able to have over for dinner, thankful for everyone being overall okay and even husbands medical concern isn’t serious and very treatable.

-We have two intense weeks ahead of us, two concerts for each of the kids, tournament training at karate, I will most likely cancel our mid-year testing, I don’t think kids will handle 4 hours and then a long rehearsal all in the same day. We all need rest.

-As usual I have made an advent calendar for kids, they ask for it and really look forward to simple activities we do. The list is pretty much the same as last year, the only thing I added is “grant each other’s wish” (with a reminder to keep it realistic and kind)

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Kids read a lot in November: D’s favorite was “Marvels” by Brian Selznick and C. loved Grace Lin’s “Starry River of the Sky”. I am hoping to do a little book advent as well as the one with the activities we’ll see how it goes.

Hopefully, December is kind to all of us

Digging the earth, talking to the plants

What a bliss, no plans, no engagements…we had most wonderful start of the week.

sunflowerous days summer 2015

During breakfast on Monday we decided that we will definitely try to make a tiny container garden this year. There were less successful attempts before, but this time we are determined.

But first we read a little bit about plants.

A Seed is Sleepy by Diana Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long is one of the most beloved and most beautiful books about plants we have, and even though we have read it before, we marveled again at the beauty and complexity of a seed coming to life.

The Where, the Why and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science is a recent addition to our home library and it was this book that answered questions of whether trees do or do not talk to each other and how long do trees live. Also whether plants eat animals and why, this was especially fascinating to children.

books about plants

Second we went out on the patio and started digging. We turned the soil in all our pots and added some new. We planted tiny seeds for herbs and flowers (not sure if flowers will come up actually). We moved our poor lavender (which we though had died, but it came back to life) into a roomier pot. C. was so good about planting and replanting. She sang to plants, and wished them to grow strong and be well. She was the first one today to rush and check if the soil dried up.

digging the earth

planting seeds

Today we continued our adventures as we purchased a geranium and a viola and our patio instantly looks more cheerful.

But the most important thing we did is we started! our very first! FAIRY GARDEN! Can you tell how excited I am. I regret not doing it earlier, as D. is turning 10 this summer, and I am not sure if this very first fairy garden might also be his only one. Anyway…

I got small shallow pots as I wasn’t sure if children will be into it at all or not, and now we are thinking to add a couple more. We put some dirt, some pebbles and some moss in it. We got a tiny strawberry plant and some ground cover plant from the nursery today and added to a landscape. C. got a tiny table for fairies to have their cake. Kids added shells for additional seating options and some glass pebbles for festivity. I don’t think they are finished yet, so it is work in progress, but boy does it look cute.

D.'s garden

D.’s garden

C.'s garden

C.’s garden

We also watched a fascinating documentary What Plants Talk About on PBS (it is also on youtube for those that can’t access PBS) , and some things blew our minds like plants sending distress signals (little C. was very aware to plants “screaming for help” today, so if you have a child that is easily impressed or is very young, please use caution), or a network of communication between plants of the forest. Very very interesting.

Today we also visited local working farm/museum  and were surprised to see how far along their garden is. I guess the fact that it is almost June haven’t caught up with us yet 😀 We sat in the shade of big trees, kids happily got into mud, ran around and looked at all the animals. We saw dear friends who joined us in our walk.

littleton museum

piggy

always something new to discover! we didn't realize there was a pond there

always something new to discover! we didn’t realize there was a pond there

Lovely, long days, perfect and carefree, how I missed those!

Week’s Roundup: January 5-January 11, 2015

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Long, busy-ish week

Picture of the week:

C. got a very cute teapot as a birthday present from my friend and a new tradition is born, every afternoon children spread out a napkin, prepare their special dishes and drink chamomile tea.

teatime

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Art Museum with Children

Today we went to  Denver Art Museum, always a joy to roam around it while looking at amazing art variety collected there. Our trip today brought to mind a post I made a very long time ago at my old (now closed) blog. Four years ago we were lucky to attend a workshop in DAM that taught us how to help children enjoy paintings. As children grew we added some of our own games as well. I apply these ways to looking at art albums at home and online as well.

Games to Play in an Art Museum

For children going to an art museum can be a challenge and quite an overwhelming activity, and I find that these little games help to keep even my very wiggly 6 y.o. interested. For D. these became a beloved part of a museum trip, he’s looking forward to them every time we go.

  • Portraits: Look at face expressions and try to guess the mood and/or personality traits of the person depicted. For older children looking at the details in costume and trying to guess the occupation or era in which they lived is another fun activity (D. loves looking at swords and hats)
  • Still life: What’s on it? Is it cold or hot? What would it taste like (for food)? What would it feel like (for other objects)? Would you take it home and why or why not?
  • Landscapes: Discuss weather, smells in the air, what would you do if you happened to be in the picture right now… etc.
  • Tell a story. Never miss an opportunity to tell a story about the scenery in a painting. I remember making up stories while looking at paintings one of the favorite quiet games of my childhood. Another interesting way to play would be to find a picture that would continue the story- this might be easier to play if there are several pictures of the same artist or the same style (that’s where postcard or stickers sets come in handy to play at home). For older children it’s a lot of fun to make up a name for a painting on the spot, describe the painting in two words only, remember your favorite painting/sculpture and write a short story about it (D. had a blast writing about Fox Games by Sandy Skoglund today)
  • Imitate a picture. Creating living pictures was a popular entertainment before the age of radio and TV. It’s a good idea to try and imitate a pose on a picture. If there are more than one willing child, creating a tableau can be a fun party game.
  • Find a color. Pick a color and try to find it on a picture or on many pictures in the gallery. At home we tried to play it bingo-style using playing cards sets from different museums.
  • Live inside a picture. Pick a painting and try to imagine yourself inside it. Where would you hide? What does it feel like? This activity is my absolute favorite, children love it as well. gorgeous landscapes are the best for it.
  • Pick a theme and try to find it on pictures, for example children pick a boat and try to find it on paintings throughout the museum, whoever gets the most of their chosen item wins the game.
  • Sketch! As children got older it became fun for them to try and copy a picture they see and particularly like. So we always carry small sketchbooks and a pencil case (those are available at DAM as well). It is not always allowed (sometimes there is plainly no room to sit) especially for travelling exhibits, it is good to check beforehand for areas where it’s permitted. It is absolutely rewarding to see children’s versions of great paintings.

Other tips:

  • For the activities listed above I find it easier to pick one game per visit for small children and for older to combine a couple.
  • Prepare for a special exhibit. It is always good to plan a trip, and it’s worth it to look an artist over and pick a painting to keep a look out for.
  • We don’t go to every hall in one visit, but rather concentrate on one or two.
  • We usually stay for two hours at the most. Hunger is another thing to consider, especially for younger kids.
  • Museums often have activities for children such as art backpacks and bingo cards, for example, so please check with your local museum for available activities.

Other resources to check out:

Google Art Project

Freely Educate just posted Art History Lessons for children 1st-8th grades

10 Best Art Museums for kids

How to make a trip to an art museum fun from Artful Parent