Winter Brings Snow, Ice & Story Prompts

The recent Winter weather provides the backdrop for snow and ice exploration. As the snow, ice and rain descend on Portland, we mirror the outside world in our classroom interest areas.

After reading The Snow Rabbit by Camille Garoche –a wordless account of two children venturing outdoors to sculpt and ride on a giant snow rabbit– we invite children to imagine what kind of snow animal they’d like to ride on and where they’d like to go. We build on these prompts to write snow stories together. 

Image result for the snow rabbit

Children are invited to paint snowy backdrops to their stories using brushes, snowflake stamps and/or fork stamping to mimic a snowflake patterns.


We transform the block table into a snowy wonderland and fill the sensory table with arctic icebergs so children can continue storytelling as they imagine what these creatures might be up to.


As we head outdoors, we notice the special places in our play yard that hold icy magic. 



The banister is a slide with icicles at the bottom and the rain chain holds frozen pools between each cup.



Tree Stumps: Nature’s Play Prop

Loose parts are “materials that children can move, manipulate, control, and change while they play. Children can carry, combine, redesign, line up, take apart, and put loose parts back together in almost endless ways. The materials come with no specific set of directions, and they can be used alone or combined with other materials.” (“Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children”)

Loose parts enhance children’s creativity, initiative-taking, and cooperative play, and are by definition, open-ended. Children have lots of freedom to use them how they want; and since children have devised their own plan and rules, they’re deeply invested in their play. Using loose parts supports children’s learning with problem-solving, focus, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, language skills and more. At HFP, we use a variety of loose parts both indoors and out.

This trio engineered a “ride” using tree stumps and planks in the playyard. They negotiated a plan as they carried bulky planks and maneuvered heavy stumps, demanding significant cooperation. They seamlessly worked together to construct their invention and graciously took turns in the driver and passenger roles. How satisfying to see our open-ended loose parts put to such good use! 


Earlier this Fall, two children were a bit disregulated and rolling heavy tree stumps helped them get back on track. As I observed their wrestless bodies, I suggested a stump-moving challenge and they went for it. They needed physical exertion and some heavy work to fully engage their bodies and shift gears toward productive play. C & C developed an elaborate course, rolling stumps around the tree, up a slope and back again. They shifted from wrestless to engaged– from slightly agitated to joyful. Another successful use of our open-ended play yard tree props.


Learning About Trees

“If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.”- Rachel Carson, conservationist 

As part of HFP’s nature education, we invite a teacher from Talk About Trees to join us in our classroom each year:

  • To encourage awareness and appreciation for the value of trees and forests in our daily lives; and
  • To encourage an understanding about the protection, management and conservation of the renewable forest.

Our Family Share reminds children there are many kinds of fruit trees and prompts them consider a kind of tree fruit they like to eat. As children respond, they either write their idea or watch their parent or caregiver record their response. We offer pictorial and written cues to suppor each child’s understanding of our collective sharing. This is literacy development at its finest as children are personally invested in what’s being written. 

In anticipation of the Talk About Trees presentation, we offer a few tree-themed sensory activities: chestnuts from the giant tree adjacent to the playschool fill the touch-table, and green play dough with tree and leaf cookie cutters are ready for rolling, pressing, and cutting.

At circle, Joan wheels in her giant suitcase and asks the class if they think she is going on a trip. She pulls out prop after prop of varying sized leaves, pine needles, and seedpods to share about trees. She invites the class to stand as trees and to send their roots deep into the earth so that they can withstand the wind. We use our arms as branches and take in the rain water and sun so we can grow.

After circle, Joan invites pairs of children to make paper using pulp, water and a sponge. Some children are initially hestitant to try this new activity. They get to be observers and decide if they’d like a turn after watching friends try the process. Each child presses the pulp through a strainer to create a unique piece of paper with needles and petals within it. They’re excited to take this handmade paper home. 


We are excited to welcome Joan back once the foiliage returns to the trees surrounding our school. We will tour the grounds to learn more about how the abundant trees in our neighborhood keep our air clean and provde homes to so many critters. 


Open House/Hop To It!

We held our annual Open House in conjunction with our annual rabbit-themed event this year, Hop to It!  A special thank you to HFP alumni parent, Karin McTeague of Sinfullysoft for bringing her beautiful Angora rabbits for us to hold and pet! Thanks also to HFP alumni parent, Liz Eisman, who took time away from Embodiment, her yoga and massage practice, to assist those meeting the newborn rabbits. Just as she does in her professional work, Liz brought attentiveness, tenderness and joy to the visiting young people and furry critters.

We were pleased to offer rabbit-themed activities for the community to share. 


HFP student alum, Georgia, shared her facepainting talents along with our friend, Tess Scholl. Both volunteered their time to make this event special and memorable. If you are in need of post-partum assistance, Tess provides family support in Portland and the surrounding areas. Please visit her website for more information. 


Children created artwork and munched on rabbit-themed snacks of carrot muffins, carrots, and bunny crackers. 



Bunny tails and ears were seen hopping around every corner of our play yard..



Thanks to all who came out and braved the cold! Great fun was had by all. We’re already looking forward to next year!



Speaking Up for What’s Right

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I had the great fortune of seeing and hearing writer, activist, teacher and poet Clint Smith at Reed College’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Engagement yesterday. I find Clint’s honesty, bravery, grace and power deeply inspiring.

The Danger of Silence by Clint Smith

As we adults consider the power of our words, I continue to think about how we can nourish our children to use their voices for good. I think about how we can help build the foundation for young children to become change-makers. Children are clearly following our modeling, so we can take our daily actions most seriously; we can remember that young ones watch what we say and do, and they notice our silence and inaction. 

At HFP, we teach children to use their words to solve problems and to speak up for what is kind, inclusive and fair. On Friday, we shared a variety of children’s picture books depicting people who are using their voices and abilities to stand up for what’s fair. W, who is newly loving to write, makes signs that echo these sentiments: “No!, Stop, Enough, That’s Not Fair.” I laminate the signs and adhere them to our Family Share on the next day of school. I add the prompt “When something is not fair, people can say ‘no,’ ‘stop,’ ‘that’s not fair.’ People use their powerful words to make change and make things kind and just for those who are not being treated right. What do you say when you don’t like what is happening?” 


During class, we have follow-up conversations about situations children have experienced that don’t feel good or right;  and I share stories that highlight some societal issues of injustice and those taking action against injustices. More children make signs and laminate them. The laminating steps seems to be a key step in making it clear that we take these words seriously.  Later at circle,  we hold up our signs. We use our bodies as we say “No,”  and shake our heads, and we put out our hand, spreading out our fingers and say, “Stop.”