By Lydia Bowers, author of We Listen to Our Bodies and Shawn Forster, vice president of Peaceful Schools and artistic director of Peaceful Schools Productions
Started in 1971 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Week of the Young Child® is a springtime celebration of young children and their families. Early childhood (birth through age 8) sets the foundation for children’s success throughout life, and we have a week’s worth of ideas to help you celebrate! Follow Week of the Young Child® activities April 10-16 on social media using the #WOYC21 hashtag!
Do you remember putting on your favorite song and dancing around your room? Can you recall how certain songs would make you feel? Music brings us joy, pumps us up, and often speaks to the deepest part of our soul.
Create a playlist of songs, as many as you want, that vary in style and tempo. Start with a classical song, add a country line-dance track, mix in a power ballad or two, follow it up with some cool jazz, and finish with a rock anthem!
Explain to your young performers that when the music plays, they should use their whole body to move around however the sounds make them feel. When the music stops…FREEZE! Advance to the next track and let new movement begin. Your little ones will have so much fun movin’ and groovin’, finding the connection to each style as you cheer them on. Ask them, “How does this song make you feel?” or tell them, “show me with your body” / “imagine you are the music.”
When the dance party is done, grab a glass of water together to review the playlist and chat about how each song made their bodies feel. Using music to connect our bodies and emotions is a powerful tool in developing self-control and self-regulation, building empathy, and creating positive mind-body wellness.
Additional Music Monday ideas:
- Free Spirit book: Gentle Hands and Other Sing-Along Songs
- Free Spirit blog: If You’re Learning and You Know It, Sing a Song!
- Free Spirit blog: 40+ Songs for Supporting a Growth Mindset
- Playing with Music at Home
Question: How do fruits and veggies count as a social-emotional skill? Answer: When you do a taste test and talk about similarities and differences! Gather a variety of foods, including some tried-and-true favorites as well as some that are a bit more unfamiliar. Try different foods, and talk together about what you think.
When we start learning how to recognize what we do and do not enjoy, we become more in tune with our own bodies and emotions. It’s okay for some people to like papaya, and others to prefer jicama (you get to literally compare apples and oranges here!). Work together to create a chart of taste-test descriptions and recommendations.
Additional Tasty Tuesday ideas:
- Free Spirit blog: Bringing Social-Emotional Learning to Snack Time
- “I Helped Mama Too!” Cooking with a Tiny Helper
- Free Spirit blog: 13 Fun and Healthy Habits for Kids
Work Together Wednesday
Work together to grow plants like flowers, veggies, and herbs. Research what plants grow best in your climate, and start digging in the soil! It may take some teamwork to water, weed, and tend to sprouts. Caring for a garden provides a shared goal, as well as an opportunity for celebrating together when the plants grow.
But what if you don’t have a garden space? Take a note from Jayden’s Impossible Garden, and make a coffee container planter. Download directions here for making your own garden anywhere!
Additional Work Together Wednesday ideas:
- Create a service learning project
- 10 Prop Box Ideas: Mini Learning Centers at Home
- Free Spirit blog: Helping Children Learn Social Skills Through Play
Art is more than painting! Dramatic play allows children to explore roles and identities, think creatively, and find visual and kinesthetic ways of representing the world around them. Have you ever put on a play? Grab some popcorn and a favorite book. Have children act out favorite parts of the story and try to guess what scene it is.
Don’t forget to applaud loud when you get it right and when the children take a bow! Costumes can be found or created. Can you work together to create a costume and prop box? Check out the Free Spirit book Weird! and the musical based on it, created by Peaceful Schools. You can even watch some video clips of how they brought the books to the stage.
Additional Artsy Thursday ideas:
- Meaningful art projects parents can fit into a busy day
- Free Spirit blog: 10 Fun STEAM Activities for Do-It-Yourself Learning
- Integrating Music, Drama, and Dance Helps Children Explore and Learn
Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo
Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo
Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo
How many times have you sung the Baby Shark song at your house? Does your family look like the baby shark family (baby, Mommy, Daddy, grandma, grandpa)? Maybe…but likely not, because there are so many different kinds of families out there.
On Family Friday, design your own shark family! Download the “Who’s in Your Shark Family” page and talk together about what makes a family. Who do you consider family? What do you call the people in your family? What are their favorite colors? Design your own shark family, and sing that version together instead!
Additional Family Friday ideas:
- Free Spirit blog: Setting Family Goals
- Free Spirit blog: Don’t Miss the Moments
- Free Spirit book: I Belong/Yo pertenezco
- Free Spirit resource: Siblings: 5 Ways to Forge a Fabulous Friendship
Lydia Bowers is a speaker, consultant, and trainer who happily exists in the Venn diagram overlap between early childhood and sex education. After spending almost two decades working directly with children as a classroom teacher and a parent, she is passionate about reframing sexuality conversations. Lydia now teaches families and educators how to talk to children about subjects like gender, reproduction, and abuse. When she’s not traveling around the country for conferences and speaking engagements, she lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children and adds to her growing collection of children’s book character tattoos as often as she can. Follow her on TikTok @lydiatalksconsent and Instagram @lydiambowers.
Shawn Forster is Vice President of Peaceful Schools and Artistic Director of Peaceful Schools Productions, combining his passion for musical theatre and social emotional learning. He has a broad expertise in SEL curriculum development and instruction, mediation, and one on one skill building. Shawn has trained educators around the country in conflict resolution, mediation, and de-escalation. Since 2003, Shawn has enthusiastically led the creative process for Peaceful Schools with his artistic and theatrical skills, experience as a performer on national and regional theatre tours, and as an award-winning director. As Artistic Director of Peaceful Schools Productions he directed, performed, and served as dramaturg for the first official touring production of Have You Filled A Bucket Today? The Play. He is also co-creator and original cast member of Rise Up!, a touring character education talk show for kids. Shawn has been writing songs since he was very young and scored a top 1o hit on the iTunes Children’s Chart with The Bucket Filling Song. Shawn and the Peaceful Schools team recently adapted Free Spirit Publishing’s The Weird Series by Erin Frankel and Paula Heaphy into a stage musical. This past year, Weird! The Musical was nominated for numerous Broadway World Awards winning Best Original Script of the Decade. Shawn is excited to continue collaborating with Free Spirit as songwriter for the We Say What’s Okay series, further continuing his mission of connecting social-emotional skills through arts-based experiences.
Lydia is the author of We Listen to Our Bodies.
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