Music and Movement is FUN!

What’s the big deal about encouraging the kids to sing and dance?  Rich environments produce rich brains and every experience we present to the kids we provide care for is another way to enrich their learning.  But is music really important to development?

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Obviously it helps develop motor skills, develops a positive attitude toward physical activity, and is just plain fun, but there are deeper reasons to expose young children to music and movement opportunities.  I totally geek out when it comes to brain development in young children.  I am in awe of the mold-ability of children’s brains at the age I teach in my home preschool.  Sometimes I get a little sciency when it comes to this subject, but I am totally enamored with the power we hold in our hands as we teach!

Music and Movement

Listening to music and playing music games helps children use both sides of their brain at the same time.  It stimulates the frontal lobe, which develops language and motor skills.  The rhythm of music reinforces language.  Since the brain goes through a major growth spurt between ages 2-6, music and movement is of utmost importance in the toddler and preschool years.

music and movement instruments

Movement causes the brain to produce endorphins, our feel good chemicals.  These chemicals increase energy levels and the ability to learn.  In addition, movement increases oxygen in the blood which sends more oxygen to the brain helping in thought processes.

music and movement dancing

Music and movement activities include cross lateral movement, or crossing the midline of the body.  Think of making big scissors with your hands in front of your body or giving yourself a hug.  This movement is incredibly important in brain development.  When children’s arms or legs cross the midsection of the body, both sides of the brain work together which strengthens brain connections exponentially.  This stimulates critical thinking, and problem solving, as well as math and reading skills.  Music and movement is full of opportunities for producing stronger brain connections.

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Children of any age as well as adults receive benefits from music and movement activities. Singing songs and doing finger plays and rhymes with kids are great ways to get them interested in the rhythm of music.  Exposing children to all kinds of music gives them an appreciation for a variety of rhythms and tones and increases their learning as well.  Every week we have music day where I play music on cds and let the kids dance with instruments and dancing ribbons and scarves.  It’s truly the highlight of our week.  We use disco music, oldies rock songs, kid’s songs, show tunes, and soundtracks from movies to get in the mood.  The kids get to choose what they want to dance to, but I will tell you that disco is king here.  I don’t know how the children I get all seem to come here loving disco, but it has NOTHING to do with me.  Finger plays are good for stimulating development as well.  Letting your kids make homemade instruments or dancing props is a great way to get their interest going.

music and movement joy

There are innumerable games, songs, rhymes, finger plays and chants available online to beef up your repertoire.  We usually learn one new song, rhyme, or finger play every two weeks or so.  When we have our daily music time, we usually do that activity along with two others the kids choose, so we focus on really learning the new one well.  How ever you choose to add music and movement into your day doesn’t matter, just do something to increase the kids’ exposure to it and you are on the right track.

Music is the life of my soul.  I love most kinds of music.  I love loud music, quiet music, elevator music, I don’t care.  I just love it all.  Music can soothe my broken heart, bring me into the throne room of God to worship Him, wake me up, get my heart beating, connect me to others, calm me, put me to sleep, and many other things.  There’s magic in the melodies and harmonies that are created by the artists who make songs.  I think people NEED music.

music with kids

The lives we touch are ours to change.  We make a difference every single day.  Whether you work with kids or adults, or whoever, be the best you that you can be.  Do something new today that will change a life for the better.

Share some music memories you have:

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Metamorphosis!

A few weeks ago we found these cute little fellas on the dill.  So we brought them in and continued to feed them fresh dill every day.  After a few days, they each formed a chrysalis.

A few weeks ago we found these cute little fellas on the dill. So we brought them in and continued to feed them fresh dill every day. After a few days, they each formed a chrysalis.

A couple of weeks later, one of the butterflies came out of the chrysalis.

A couple of weeks later, one of the butterflies came out of the chrysalis.

At first they pump their wings to dry them.  We let our butterfly open all the way up and then took him outside to release.

At first they pump their wings to dry them. We let our butterfly open all the way up and then took him outside to release.

It was a beautiful black swallowtail.

It was a beautiful black swallowtail.

The kids loved watching the little guy get ready to fly for the first time.

The kids loved watching the little guy get ready to fly for the first time.

Metamorphosis is one of the many amazing things the kids have discovered in the garden. We plant a row of dill and fennel with parsley and flowers to attract caterpillars to watch. It’s an amazing science lesson.

Find a garden and look for some magic, I know you will find some. 🙂

Guest Post-Andrea Pommer

I have found a kindred spirit on the internet. She’s a home daycare provider in Indiana that gardens with her kids too! I have been so excited to find a handful of other people who have a passion for teaching their kids to grow food. Andrea has been so supportive and helpful to me as I started this blog. Now she is sharing a post with us. I’m so excited for you to read it, check it out!

Kids and Worms; The Perfect Mix for the Garden
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Over here at my daycare home, we love calling ourselves ‘urban farmers’, but honestly, what is a farm without animals? Though we have been expanding our gardens year by year, we have not yet added those rabbits and chickens that we long for. However, while we wait for the right time for ‘real livestock’, our animal of choice is…WORMS!

Making or buying a worm bin and getting it established is a perfect way to include kids in the garden. And here are some reasons why:

1. Kids. Love. Worms.

2. Worm castings are an incredible addition to your garden beds. Filled with nutrients and beneficial microbes, the castings help your plants grow big, strong, and more able to fend off pests and diseases.

3. Kids get to see how compost works, and how plants come full circle–veggie scraps become nutrient rich compost that then helps grow new seeds into new plants.

4. Worms are a commitment, but an easy one. Kids will be introduced to taking care of ‘livestock’ on a tiny, low-risk scale.

5. Did I mention; kids love worms!!!

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Though there are simple plans online for making your own bin, we took the easy, albeit more expensive route, and purchased a ready-made bin. Since the bin came with everything we needed (except the worms, which we ordered separately), it was less intimidating for us to give this whole worm thing a try.

Now that we are quickly gaining knowledge about the workings of a worm farm, I feel more confident that we could definitely make one from scratch.

There are some days we go all day without even checking on our worms, but inevitably each afternoon someone will want to have a peek, dig their hands gently into the bedding, and pull out a healthy worm or two. We feed them once or twice a week (too much food is a bad thing, we discovered, as it will attract lots of mites), we make sure the bedding is moist but not soaked, and for the most part, we leave them be to silently work.

Our first harvest of worm castings will not be ready until late August at the earliest, as it takes a few months to get a good enough amount to collect. At that point, we will be able to harvest a new batch every couple of months. What we don’t use in the cold months on our indoor plants will come in handy next spring when our soil is ready for some nutrition and new planting!

To see how we faced and defeated our first challenge, click here. It was really not so hard!

Guest Post written for Little Sprouts Learning Garden by Andrea Pommer
Andrea blogs at http://www.littlebigharvest.blogspot.com

Not Interested…

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What happens when you have a great activity planned for the kids and no one is interested? What about all your hard work and preparation? What about the great benefits of the activity you want the kids to receive? I believe children should not be made to participate in activities they are not interested in. I invite everyone to join us in what I have prepared, but if a child does not want to participate, that’s okay. If several children are not interested, maybe I need to take a look at what I am planning for them. I might be missing the mark about what is appropriate or interesting. Usually once I start an activity with the kids, those who were not interested at first see that we are having fun and join us anyway, but if they don’t, it’s no big deal. And sometimes the kids who want to do something else draw all of us into their game. We are flexible.
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What do I do with the kids who are not interested in gardening? I built this giant garden for them to learn in, so they need to learn in it right? There are so many things the garden teaches it really doesn’t matter what they do in it, they are learning. I have some children who are still interested in picking weeds and harvesting and planting every day. But we have a massive garden and there is A LOT of work to be done in it. I let the kids plant until they don’t want to and then I finish it for them. I invite them to pick weeds but my husband and I spend many hours a week picking weeds so the garden can be successful. If they don’t want to pick vegetables, I have toys in the garden and a resting place for them to hang out. Everyone is happy in the garden, but they are happy doing different things. Some kids love to hunt for and watch bugs and creatures, some love to play in the gravel rocks and hunt for treasures there, and some like to pick produce every day the entire time we are in the garden. All of those are great ways to learn and they are all okay with me.
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If none of the kids ever wanted to plant or pick would the garden still be a success? Yes, because they are getting sensory stimulation of all kinds in the garden, a very important part of their development. Even if I never brought them in the garden, it’s still important for their nutrition. We have totally chemical free food picked at the peak of ripeness (most of the time) and full of great nutrients. For me, that is worth all the effort I put into the garden. And I feel GREAT when I’m eating out of the garden with them. I have more energy and I feel good about what I’m putting in my body. I know it’s worth doing for them.
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Since the garden is pretty big, there is a lot to do in it. Some children are losing interest because we’ve been picking and planting for months. That’s okay. Especially since they have already learned so much from the picking and planting they have done. Honestly sometimes I tire of picking and planting myself, but I know the amazing benefits we receive from it so I press on. And that’s my choice because I love the garden and I’m the one who wanted to do it. I’m don’t force the kids to participate. Doing that would make them dread the garden. People tell me all the time they won’t grow a garden as adults because they always had to work the garden as kids and hated it. I want the kids to come away from their garden experiences here with knowledge of how to make things grow, understanding the garden is ever changing and imperfect, and joy from the time they have spent in it. Letting them come in and out of the garden work is the best way to achieve that goal.
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Garden Glory-We’ve been pea pickin. What else are my Little Sprouts picking?

This week’s harvest has been bountiful!

Pea pickers.  These peas are huge.  The kids LOVE anything that's bigger than usual.

Pea pickers. These peas are huge. The kids LOVE anything that’s bigger than usual.

We harvested our garlic this week.  We got 88 heads.  We used estimation to weigh some tops and calculate that weight times how many cloves there were and came up with 18 pounds of heads.  Budding scientists here.

We harvested our garlic this week. We got 88 heads. We used estimation to weigh some leaves and calculate that weight times how many cloves there were and came up with 18 pounds of heads. Budding scientists here.

The main haul.

The main haul.

A few more cloves we saved for someone who didn't come until the afternoon.

A few more cloves we saved for someone who didn’t come until the afternoon.

One day's green beans, about 2 pounds.

One day’s green beans, about 2 pounds.

Five pounds of lettuce.  This is nearly the last of it.  We had been getting about 5 pounds every few days, but it's getting too hot now.

Five pounds of lettuce. This is nearly the last of it. We had been getting about 5 pounds every few days, but it’s getting too hot now.

Two pounds of peas and a few squash, hot peppers and tomatoes, plus our first ever tomatillo!

Two pounds of peas and a few squash, hot peppers and tomatoes, plus our first ever tomatillo!

Our sample plate for this year's first tomatoes and our little tomatillo!  We are excited to use a batch of them and some of those hot peppers to make some sauce!

Our sample plate for this year’s first tomatoes and our little tomatillo! We are excited to use a batch of them and some of those hot peppers to make some sauce!

Here's the rest.

Here’s the rest.

Here's the action.  Getting that tomatillo!

Here’s the action. Getting that tomatillo!

The garlic harvesting.

The garlic harvesting.

The harvest for today.  Yum yum.

The harvest for today. Yum yum.

They are so proud of what they pick!

They are so proud of what they pick!

All smiles.

All smiles.

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The kids are having a ball bringing in our scores. This week we picked about 33 pounds of produce, 18 of that was the garlic heads. Not too shabby! What are you picking from your garden?

Summer Time!

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School’s out for summer! At Little Sprouts that means some of my little kids leave for the summer and my school age kids are here every day. Obviously it takes a different finesse to teach and entertain a 10 or 11 year old than it does a 2 year old, right? Over the years of keeping older kids in the summer, I have tried every different strategy I could think of. But I always know the number one thing I have to do is my golden rule for child care of any age child. Keep them busy or they will keep you busy, and I don’t mean good busy. Basically you can give the kids something to do, or they will find mischief to get into, hard and fast rule of nature like the law of gravity. It’s going to happen. Now after 19+ years in child care, I have not had one single day go by where a problem of some sort didn’t arise. That’s just life, into each day some rain must fall, right? The kids are here for 10 hours a day, that’s a lot of time to fill. But here are a few tried and true things that we do here that help us!
Summer programs. I see all of these summer activities for kids, so I decided to make up some of my own. My husband is a personal fitness trainer and on Mondays he goes into work at noon, so we have physical education class every Monday morning. He teaches the kids sports techniques for football, basketball, soccer, and baseball. They think it’s fun. At the end of summer, we give out awards. We also made up our own summer reading program. The library had one, so we made our own and we have incentives for the big kids to help the little kids reach their goals by reading to them. It improves their reading skills, gives them confidence and teaches their younger counterparts. It’s a win-win. We give awards for that as well. Last year I had a couple of boys who were interested in outdoor survival techniques so we did a 10 week survivalism training program. I don’t have any expertise in that, so I bought some books. Then I divided up the info into 10 segments and every week I taught the kids how to do something to improve their safety. For DHS regulation purposes I skipped teaching them to use knives and make fire, but we all learned a lot. At the end of the summer I had them bring old back packs from home and I filled them with ponchos, flashlights, whistles and other things for surviving in the wilderness. You could do your own vacation Bible school, movie club, scout camp, or art camp. There is plenty of information available to help you teach the kids yourself, and you will have a great summer!
You can invite people to your home to do activities with the kids such as library story time. A police car, a fire truck, or an ambulance could be brought. Someone could bring an animal to teach the kids about. The OSU extension, health department and Cherokee Nation has programs in my area they can bring such as healthy eating, dental hygiene, exercise, Cherokee traditions, etc. We have had many special visitors here and the kids love it!
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Obviously our gardening takes up a lot of our time in the summer, so that helps a lot. Even when we are not “gardening” as a group, the kids like to explore and look around the garden. They might want to look for bugs, measure the tiny fruits on a plant, or even use a camera to do some photography. Some kids just like to sit in the garden and think because it’s so peaceful.
We always have a loose structure for the activities of the day. This year we have PE on Mondays, gardening on Tuesdays, art on Wednesdays, science on Thursdays, and games on Fridays. We plan water parties on a few days. The kids wear their bathing suits and run through the sprinkler or slide down a “water” slide we make with the hose. We also have other special events such as show and tell, art parties, or pajama days where they can bring sleeping bags or pillows and have an all-day “sleepover” atmosphere. We do a lot of cooking as well. Kids LOVE to cook! Another great idea is to let the kids plan an open house of some kind for their parents. They spend a lot of time preparing and they get so excited. We are having a garden open house this summer. The kids LOVED having it last summer and were so excited when their parents came to see what they had done!
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At the end of school or the beginning of summer, I always ask the older kids for ideas of things they are interested in doing and I try to plan how we could do them. This year we are trying an idea I have used before where the kids pick activities, and I write them on calendar squares so we get all their ideas in. My oldest wants to teach the younger kids the activities we chose, so he is going to. It makes the summer more exciting for him and the little kids love it to. Let your older kids take the lead on some of your summer plans, they are more interested in it if they are invested in it. Plan a lot and then be flexible with how your plans turn out. If you’ve been working with kids for any time at all, you KNOW that nothing ever turns out exactly as you planned it. But that’s okay! Happy Summer Ya’ll!
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Why Garden with Kids?

The excitement of harvesting!

The excitement of harvesting!

At Little Sprouts, we spend a lot of time in the garden. What’s the point? Why go to all the trouble? Well, for me, the main reason is that it’s fun. But there are so many other important reasons. I believe that our food supply is getting way too scary. Our grocery store food is so full of chemicals, pesticides, and so genetically modified that our dinner is more like a science experiment than a meal. And what is that doing to our children’s bodies? I don’t even want to think about it. But how can I serve food I feel is safe? The best way is to grow it myself.
A big harvest!

A big harvest!


Obesity is running rampant in our country with childhood obesity rates climbing in epic proportions. And we know exercise and plenty of fruits and vegetables in our diet helps control obesity, right? The garden is just that, a place full of healthy things to eat and lots of opportunity for movement. Other diseases are on the rise for children as well and it’s been proven in study after study that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables helps reduce the risk for many illnesses such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and heart problems. But it’s not always easy to get children to eat fruits and vegetables. For me, this is especially true if I have a day care child that eats mostly highly processed foods at home. Processed foods are not only full of chemicals, but they are very high in salt and sugar which dull the taste buds of the people who consume them. So fruits and vegetables may not taste strongly enough for those children to enjoy eating them. But children are 80% more likely to try a food they grew themselves. And they are even more likely to want to try something they helped prepare or cook. So growing our own food and letting the kids help cook it is the best way to get kids to try something new they wouldn’t otherwise. Hands on is the best way for people to learn anything, so it makes sense that the more hands on the kid’s meals are, the more they will be interested in them.
Another reason growing food with the kids will help improve their diet is the flavor. The flavor of freshly picked produce far exceeds that of produce that was picked across the country or world and shipped to our grocery stores. The time it sits in boxes in the truck traveling is time that it’s loosing nutrition and flavor. In addition, the kinds of veggies and fruits that will ship well aren’t always the variety that is tastiest. Here, we don’t have to worry how our heirloom tomatoes will ship, we just have to worry about carrying them into the kitchen 50 feet away.
I have seen kids each year we’ve been growing food come in as a new student in the fall and not eat much of anything I serve, but by Christmas time they are trying many new things. And usually by the time they leave here they eat far more variety of healthy choices. You have to be patient with them and let them try at their own pace though. Don’t badger them to try it, just offer it and see what happens. A new food must be introduced 11 times before it is no longer new, so be prepared to continue to offer it and don’t give up. Their good health is worth it!
So besides making their bodies healthier when they eat healthy produce and get the physical activity working in the garden provides, what other benefits are there to gardening with kids? The garden is an amazing place full of learning for all of us. I could never list them all. There are a myriad of sensory experiences in the garden. Think about the way a tomato plant smells, or a fresh cantaloupe. Obviously there are a diversity of flavors that come from the garden. The feel of a prickly okra plant or a soft leaf of an herb. Listening in the garden brings a multitude of amazing sounds. You can hear birds chirping, the wind blowing through the leaves and stems of the plants. It’s almost overwhelming to think of all the colors, shapes, and interesting things there are to see in the garden. The more our senses are stimulated the more we learn, even as adults.
We learn math in the garden. We count seeds, and veggies, we measure how tall our plants are, or how much water they need. We measure how close together seeds need to be or how deep they should be planted. We sort seeds by size and color and shape. We count how many peas are in a pod or seeds in a tomato. We read seed packets, make garden markers and learn a plethora of vocabulary including entomology, botany, germination, metamorphosis, life cycle, and the list goes on and on. The science in the garden is immeasurable. We learn how a seed germinates, how strong a seedling can be, how insects and wind pollinate. And we watch caterpillars hatch and grow and change into butterflies, we learn about beneficial and harmful insects. We learn about what animals do in the garden. We learn about animal and insect habitats and life cycles.
Yummy peas!

Yummy peas!


I am amazed every day at what I personally learn in the garden, and teaching the kids these things is one of my greatest pleasures. Plus I know I am teaching them skills they can use throughout life. I have heard countless stories from my day care parents about how the kids were identifying butterfly species for them at home or how they showed them which plants should be planted with other plants to keep bugs away from their crops, or how they identified a beneficial insect in the garden. It’s a great feeling to know I am teaching whole families and a future generations these things. And everything we do is 100% organic in our garden, so those organic methods are being shared as well.
It would certainly be easier to grow the garden without the kids. Things would look neater, and be more precise, but taking the time to teach them how to do it correctly is so worth the time. I’ve learned a lot of patience throughout the process and I can even see the older kids learning patience as they see the younger kids doing things that frustrate them. But we are all learning together and it’s making the world a better place.
If you work with kids in any way, I encourage you to try growing something with them. Even if you just have a five gallon bucket with a tomato plant growing in it, you will be surprised at how much you can learn and teach with just that. It is worth your time and effort, I promise!