The bodies of tiny critters are truly amazing! This week at Tinkergarten Anywhere, we'll move our bodies just some tiny critter friends move their bodies to communicate. Then we'll use forest putty and the natural materials around us to build models of these amazing creatures or critters from our imaginations!
Step 1: Gather materials and make forest putty.
To help kids make models of tiny critters, try out our easy recipe for forest putty (homemade play-dough) or gather some store-bought play-dough or even mud! Have a variety of nature treasures on hand that kids can use to build their critters (e.g. sticks, leaves, acorns, pine cones, grasses, stones). If you'd like, you can also print out these printable Critter Movement cards to inspire kids' playful movement.
Step 2: Watch the Tinkergarten Anywhere Critter Camp video lesson.
Hop into your My Tinkergarten trial dashboard to watch the Critter Camp video lesson. Kids can watch how Meghan and other explorers move and communicate like tiny friends, then get inspired to play like tiny critters and make their own critter models!
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Step 3: Search for tiny friends.
Critters can be found in all parts of the world, under ground, in the sky, inside our homes and outside. Head outside and search for tiny friends in your biome. Read our Critter Hunt DIY for tips on where to search. Talk together about the shapes of the different body parts you see. Notice how each body part helps the tiny friend to move, gather food, etc.
Step 4: Move and communicate like tiny friends.
Invite kids to try moving like some of the tiny friends they saw on their critter hunt. How do they think these movements might help critters communicate with other tiny friends? You can also use these printable Critter Movement cards to help kids learn how some tiny friends communicate and to inspire playful movement.
Step 5: Make your own tiny friends.
Offer a ball of forest putty. Say, “I wonder if we could use this to make a tiny critter’s body?” Offer a collection of nature treasures. “What could we use to make those parts of the critter?” As kids build models of real or imaginary tiny friends, ask them about their critters, how they move and how they might communicate. Try out moving like them, too!
Want more ideas? Try out some of these critter-themed activities:
Learning about the ways that tiny critters use their bodies to communicate and giving kids a chance to move and play like critters can help kids learn how all creatures, including humans, communicate through body language. Mashing and molding the dough, blending pebbles and dirt into it, or sticking sticks into it are great examples of the connecting and transforming schema, universal behavior patterns that experts know develop the human body and brain. As kids use their hands to change the shape of forest putty and connect treasures to it, they are also practicing bending and blending, two important creative actions. Finally, learning about and moving like the critters we share our space with supports kids' empathy for tiny friends.
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By communication, we mean the ability to listen, understand, speak, read and write and more. In order to communicate effectively, kids must learn to understand what they want to get across, then decide on how to convey their messages, working to coordinate the mind and body to do so. They also need to learn to anticipate how the message will be received by another person(s). This is rather elegant and requires a symphony of physical, cognitive and social capabilities. The more children can practice, the better!
Why does it matter?
On a very practical level, kids need to be able to express questions and ideas in order to learn. Kids who communicate effectively can test ideas, seek help and let their formal and informal teachers in the world know what they understand and where they need support. Kids will also need strong and nuanced communication skills in order to work well in peer groups and manage relationships with authority figures, critical parts of life in classrooms and beyond. Later in life, they will need these skills to form close relationships, advocate for themselves within communities and be effective in the workplace.
What is Creativity?
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 are Fine Motor skills?
Fine motor skills refer to how we coordinate small muscle movements in the hands and fingers in conjunction with our eyes. Children begin with whole arm movements at birth and refine their movement, using smaller muscle groups as their bodies develop. With time and practice, children are able to enhance and strengthen the movements in their fingers, becoming able to manipulate small objects and perform a range of important life and learning tasks.
Why does it matter?
Kids need fine motor skills in order to perform every day tasks like using fork and knife, turning a door knob, cutting with scissors and catching and throwing a ball. These same skills are essential for tasks associated with higher level learning like hand writing and typing on a keyboard. If kids enter school without good fine motor skills, they can not only fall behind, but learning can become very frustrating. Moreover, they can develop lasting negative attitudes towards learning and themselves as learners.
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!