In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and National Make a Difference Day (October 23rd), we share a story of generosity, hope and joy told across the Spanish-speaking world, from Mexico and Guatemala to Puerto Rico and Spain as retold by WBUR's Circle Round Podcast. Then, we give you ideas about ways to use the story as a jumping off point for the kind of colorful play that can make a real difference!
Step 1: Enjoy a Story. Listen to "The Horse of a Different Color" on the Circle Round storytelling podcast. Wonder together about the story. Some ideas for questions: How do you think Greta, Maria, and Valentina are similar? different? What made the horse so special? Why do you think Valentina decided to send the rainbow horse to someone else at the end of the story? What would you have done?
Step 2: Invite Exploration. Wonder, "Do you think we can find anything as beautiful/colorful/special as Valentina's Rainbow Horse out in the yard/park/your favorite outdoor space?" Decide it's worth a try, pack a snack and head outside. You can bring pretend binoculars (or real ones), a magnifying glass or just your senses (your most important tools!).
Step 3: Hunt for Color. Once outside, look for things that your child (and you!) think are beautiful and special to behold. Look for colors that you love. Try to make a rainbow out of the objects you find in your space. If, given the season, you can't find all of the ROYGBIV colors, make a rainbow that fits the season in your biome. In New England, our autumn rainbow has amazing reds, oranges, yellows, greens and browns, for example. Look high, low, far and near. If sight is a challenge, you can use other senses to smell, listen or feel for beauty, too.
Step 4: Create. If you like, create something using the treasures you see or gather. You may simply use a phone or other device with a camera to take photos of what you find beautiful—a lovely way to make memories and leave no trace. You can also use contact paper or double-sided tape on sturdy paper to make a beautiful collage, nature crown or sun catcher. Use cardboard and rubber bands to weave your nature treasures. Rub the colorful treasures you collect on light colored stone, paper or fabric to make art as well.
Step 5: Share and give. Make a difference in someone's day by sharing the images or actual creations with that person. Let them know that you were thinking of them and that you hope these colorful treasures or creation from nature fills their bucket with happiness. Include a wish, too, for them to have a great day, a happy autumn or whatever pops into your child's mind. Wonder with kids who might really enjoy (or even need) a boost. Ask kids, "How do you think this will make them feel?" and then enjoy every bit of giving and finding out.
Why is this activity great for kids?
This story introduces children to timeless and universal lessons about fairness, generosity and kindness. When you build on the magic of the rainbow horse, you can also easily inspire kids to remember and experience, first hand, how colorful and beautiful our natural world really is. Searching for colorful, beautiful objects also gives kids' sensory systems a perfect workout! Then, when we share whatever we discover or create with someone, we spread joy and take part in a genuine act of kindness. That practice of thinking of someone else and caring for them through such acts supports strong empathy development, too (and it just feels so good!).
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Sample the additional activities and resources families get each week to keep kids learning outside at home.
By creativity, we mean the ability to both imagine original ideas or solutions to problems and actually do what needs to be done to make them happen. So, to help kids develop creativity, we parents need to nurture kids' imaginations and give them lots of chances to design, test, redesign and implement their ideas.
"Creativity is as important now in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
Why, you ask? For one, it is through being creative that a person is able to get senses, sensibility and spirit working together. Simply put, without creativity, we don't think our kids will live a full life.
On a more practical level, it's also the means by which humans of all ages make an impact on the world and other people around them. A lot of heavy stuff is going to go down in our kids' lifetime, and their generation will need to imagine and implement solutions to big and very complicated problems. Although our kids are still far from public office or the boardroom, today's political and business leaders worldwide are already pointing to creativity as the most important leadership quality for the future.
Although years from the art studio or design lab, little kids can learn to think and act creatively if you give them time and the right practice.
What does it mean to develop Curiosity?
Curiosity means the ability and habit to apply a sense of wonder and a desire to learn more. Curious people try new things, ask questions, search for answers, relish new information, and make connections, all while actively experiencing and making sense of the world. To us, curiosity is a child’s ticket to engaging fully in learning and, ultimately, in life.
Why does it matter?
As a parent, this skill is, perhaps, the easiest to grasp and has the clearest connection to a young children’s learning. We all want my children to wonder, explore and drive their own learning and, better yet, to experience the world fully. Most teachers would agree that the curious children so often seem more attentive, involved and naturally get the most out of time in school. Even the research suggests that being curious is a driver of higher performance throughout one's life, as much if not more than IQ or test scores.
What is Sensory Development?
Although some scientists classify as many as 20 senses, when childhood educators talk about "developing the senses," we typically mean developing the five standard senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. In addition to honing these senses, educators care about sensory integration, which is the ability to take in, sort out, process and make use of information gathered from the world around us via the senses.
Why does it matter?
The better kids are able to tune and integrate their senses, the more they can learn. First, if their senses are sharper, the information kids can gather should be of greater quantity and quality, making their understanding of the world more sophisticated. Further, until the lower levels of the brain can efficiently and accurately sort out information gathered through the senses, the higher levels cannot begin to develop thinking and organization skills kids need to succeed. Senses also have a powerful connection to memory. Children (and adults) often retain new learning when the senses are an active part of the learning.
So, if kids have more sensory experiences, they will learn more, retain better and be better able to think at a higher level. Makes the days they get all wet and dirty in the sandbox seem better, doesn't it?
What is Empathy?
Simply put, empathy is the ability to think and care about the feelings and needs of others. The good news is, the more we study, it appears that children are empathetic by nature. All we need to do is nurture it in them—that of course is now always easy. Even though young children are simply working on gaining control over their emotions and won’t learn to really think about their emotions and the cause and effect of their behavior on others until their school years, they can start to develop the foundation for empathy much earlier. Taking actions (and watching adults take actions) that benefit other people, caring for animals and their environment and even just wondering how other people or creatures are feeling helps build both positive habits and a strong base for the development of empathy.
Why does it matter?
Empathy is at the root of what psychologists call “pro-social” behavior—behavior that people must develop in order to develop a conscience, build close relationships, maintain friendships, and develop strong communities. Empathy also helps kids avoid bullying, one of the most worrisome social challenges young kids face. Being able to think and feel for others can keep kids from becoming either bully or victim and equip them to stand up for others who are bullied. Imagine if all kids had such tools!