All. The. Toys.

Lately, I’ve been paying close attention to Moms on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and the struggle is real.

Moms are frustrated by the insurmountable toys, books and gadgets; overwhelmed with clutter and the constant mess, and exasperated by their kids’ lack of ownership and responsibility for their things. 

Are YOU swimming in a sea of TOY OVERWHELM?

Toy takeover is a phenomenon we ALL deal with, but there are solutions. And the good news is, once you have simple systems in place, life with kids {and all their things} gets a whole lot easier.

Inside this blog post, I share the best tried-and-true systems for de-cluttering and getting toys organized, and some secret tips for getting kids to take ownership and responsibility for their stuff.

Less is More

Before we begin with systems, let’s talk about this important principle: Less is More.

Today’s kids have the biggest toy collections in history, yet they play LESS. (Gray, 2011).

What if I told you that one of the biggest reasons your kids are playing less is because they have TOO MANY TOYS?

Clair Lerner, a child-development worker, carried out a US government-funded study into the effect having too many toys. She found that too many toys can actually restrict children’s development, and worse, may even cause harm. “They get overwhelmed and over-stimulated and cannot concentrate on any one thing long enough to learn from it, so they just shut down.” 

In other words, too many toys can be a source of stress, overwhelm and distraction, and can negatively affect the brain’s function. Toy overwhelm can actually inhibit the ability to learn, think creatively and attend to the task of playing! This is a good reminder to focus on quality vs. quantity. (Hollis, 2007)

Even though I probably don’t know you, TRUST me on this: Your kid has more than enough toys. When you offer your child less to play with, they will play more, and for longer periods. Fewer toys of better quality is a great rule of thumb – opt for toys that are open-ended and allow for imaginative play, and can be used in a variety of ways and settings. 

 

 

Be sure to keep the “Less is More” mantra top of mind as you make your way through the following steps to toy organization.

 

De-Cluttering: Dump. Decide. Divide.

As you begin the process of streamlining your kids’ play space, look at the project in three phases.

  1. Dump
  2. Decide
  3. Divide

 

 

The process to de-cluttering is a big job, but you’ll be so glad you did it {and you’ll be rewarded with me-time tenfold!}.

Once you have a handle on your toy inventory, and get centres and toy organization systems in place, your life with TRANSFORM!

Your kids will play LONGER {giving you much needed re-charge time!}; they will learn to take responsibility and ownership of their things {win-win!}, they will play more imaginatively and creatively {we all want creative thinkers!}; AND your play space will be more inspiring AND organized {hallelujah!}

 

STEP 1:  DUMP

Creating an organized and streamlined play space for your kids begins with taking stock of your toys, and selecting only the best, open-ended, and most used.

Send the children away {their presence will only hinder the process, and worse – potentially kibosh the whole toy organization exercise!}

Dump all the toys on the floor. That’s right. ONE BIG HEAP. Get four garbage bags – one for recycling, one for donations, one for hand-me-downs OR sentimental value (for storage), one for garbage.

 

STEP 2: DECIDE

This is the streamlining phase of toy organization.

Pick out anything that:

  • is broken / is missing pieces / comes from a Drive-Thru (these go directly into recycling or the garbage)
  • Doesn’t get used / has been outgrown / has sentimental value (donate, or place in storage for hand-downs)
  • Blinks/flashes/plays music incessantly (these electronic toys do all the work for the child, and generally do not open up kids’ imaginations)

toy organization

 

Step 3: Divide

Dividing toys is the “sorting” stage, and will probably be the most time-consuming. This step is CRITICAL to a well-functioning play space and toy organization system.

I love using Learning Centres in my playroom designs. Early years educators understand the importance of creating centres. Learning centres encourage children to explore in their own way, ideas that interest them, allowing them to be self-directed in their play.

Learning centres encourage children to freely choose and experiment with materials they find interesting. They encourage children to investigate, explore and discover ideas that are new to them, and make connections with things they already know. Learning centres also promote role play in order to understand and make sense of the real world, and their personal experiences in it. (Magnuson, 2010)

When dividing, consider sorting them in the following “centres,” which will be housed in baskets:

  • Literacy (books, paper, writing tools, stamps, paper punches, envelopes, stencils)
  • Art (paper, pencils, crayons, paints, paint brushes, buttons/beads/pom poms, markers)
  • Music (musical instruments, CD’s/iPod with music, headphones, notebook for notation/composition)
  • Dramatic Play (dolls, play food, toy animals, people, Barbies, superheroes, play kitchen, work bench, dress up costumes)
  • Construction (all building materials: Lego, wooden blocks, Magnatiles, KNEX…)
  • Discovery / Science (magnifying glass, toy insects, clipboard, tweezers…)
  • Transportation (cars, trucks, trains, roadways…)

 

Here is an example of Learning Centres in action in our playroom. The girls are mainly into art, dramatic play and music, and so our centres reflect these interests.


learning centres

 

 

ROTATE

Now that you’ve divided your toys into learning centres, it’s time to come up with a Toy Rotation plan. Because space is often limited, I suggest offering a few centres at a time, and rotating them as needs and interests change. Offer between 10-15 toys per basket, and house the rest in storage. (I like to use clear tubs with labels for Toy Rotation bins, and swap out toys when boredom sets in). The next post in this series will go more in depth into toy rotation, but for now, limit the toys to 10-15 per basket. (Same goes for books!) 

 

 

BASKETS

Your toys are much more likely to stay organized if they are housed in baskets. I love natural woven baskets like these:

baskets for books and toy organization

labels

But if you prefer a more economical option, Dollarama and IKEA sell neutral white plastic bins that are suitable for toy organization.

 toy organization

Each Learning Centre should have at least one basket, some may have more (for example, our Dramatic Play centre has several because this is the girls’ favourite: kitchen stuff, dollhouse toys, Barbies, toy animals, doll clothes…) A typical playroom may have 10 or more baskets, depending on the space you have available for play.

toy organization

There are many baskets to choose from, depending on your storage solution and budget.


Click here for a FREE shopping guide to beautiful baskets for my favourite toy storage unit: the IKEA KALLAX.


basket options for kallax


LABELS

If you want your kids to take responsibility and ownership of their toys, labels are CRITICAL. Labeling baskets is also a great way to create a print-rich environment: one that exposes children to reading in a functional way.  I love to use simple chalk labels, and they serve as a reminder that every toy and material has a home.

baskets for toy organization

Even though your youngest may not be reading yet, labels convey the idea that print carries meaning, and over time, your children will master the art of clean-up and organization, knowing exactly where everything goes. {This is also extremely helpful for dads who need a reminder too}. 

Pictures are not necessary, because over time, they will learn to recognize print.  I will be sharing my favourite ways to make and use labels in a future post, so stay tuned!

 

 

TEACHING + PRACTICE

Just like anything we want our kids to be successful with, proper teaching and repetition is key. Setting ground rules for how to use the “new” space, and practicing routines (cleaning up, putting marker caps back on, throwing scraps away instead of the floor…) are important for developing responsibility. Simple games (“who can pick up 5 red things?”), songs (“We like to Move It!”), as well as tiny rewards (a gummy bear or two) – encourage kids and promote cooperation. Celebrate when kids have shown responsibility by cleaning up, and be sure to praise them for their efforts.

I will be sharing more ideas to foster independence, cooperation and responsibility in an upcoming blog post, but in the meantime, here’s how our girls do clean-up: {so sorry about the black bars :\ }

When systems and strategies are in place, we are so much more in control of our environment. Systems take the “guesswork” out of the equation, making life simpler and more familiar. Children love and crave routines: once you have taken measures to create a system that works; they will be happier to play, more engaged and more responsible little people.

I would love to hear if you decide to implement any of the Playroom Organization Systems, or tag your pictures on Instagram with “#PlayroomSOS,” and share how the systems have helped your family! Also – be sure to share this post with a fellow mom!

 

Sources:

Gray, P. (2011) . The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathology in Children and  Adolescents. American Journal of Play, 3(4) 443-463.

Hollis, L. (2007). When Toys Take Over. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/jan/20/familyandrelationships.family1  

Magnuson, A. (2010). Learning Centres: Why They’re Important.  Retrieved from:  https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/blog-posts/allie-magnuson/learning-centers-part-1-why-theyre-important/

3 secrets for getting your kids to play longer

16 Jul 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Do you struggle with getting your kids to play? Particularly, staying interested and engaged in play?

A study published in The American Journal of Play, noted that last 50 years has seen a sharp decline in children’s play. (Gray, 2011) Today’s kids have the largest toy collections in history, so why is it that our kids are playing less?

Parents are becoming increasingly challenged with supporting their children’s sustained play. Busy activity schedules, increasing demands of homework, and struggles of work-life balance make it difficult for families to carve out time for sustained, unstructured play at home. The decrease in free play can also be directly related to the increase of screen time: television, video games, “educational apps” and YouTube channels lure children in with their flashy, fast-paced, instantly gratifying platforms.

While most parents understand the benefits of play, and the importance of limited screen time, they are competing against some very strong forces indeed. {Can you relate? Do your children become transfixed while watching YouTube episodes of random children opening “blind bags” filled with ridiculously overpriced tiny toys?}

It is a powerful marketing force at play here, and parents best intentions are often overthrown by the hefty efforts of toy manufacturers. According to a report of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Advertising and Children, “it is estimated that advertisers spend more than $12 billion per year to reach the youth market and that children view more than 40,000 commercials each year.”

Keeping kids engaged in play for extended periods of time is not an easy feat in today’s technology-driven, commercialized world. Kids inevitably “check out,” get bored, start to squabble or simply become distracted.

But children need to play. Our brains are wired for play.

importance of play

Play is good for the brain. In fact, play is so important for optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.  Play allows children to exercise their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional growth. (Ginsburg, 2007) Play is the primary mode for which children come to form theories about their world. As they master their world, play “helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.” 

A hands-on, real-life, experiential encounter with the world one that engages all the senses – is the most important way for a young child to make meaning. Children do not learn to walk by watching a programme about walking. They learn to walk by walking. By falling down. And then getting back up. Over and over again.  {This is a well-known theory called Constructivism – that we learn through our experiences – not through the passive transmission of information on a screen}.

We know the importance of play for children’s developing brains, so how can parents incorporate authentic play into their child’s day, to keep kids engaged and unplugged, so that they “go deep” into sustained play, using important facets like creativity and imagination?

In this post, I share a 3 step secret formula for setting kids up to play for prolonged periods. I have used the process both in the classroom, and with my own children at home, and I get good results.  Like anything, sustained play takes practice. And the more we insist on play (vs. screentime) at home, the more children will come to accept it.

 

Step 1:  Set it up

Kids sometimes need a bit of motivation to play. I like to set up a “play prompt” – an invitation to play, if you will. Sometimes, this involves setting things up in a new way {placing dollhouse elements in a tray of rice or sand, moving the trains to the floor with Washi tape, taking play outdoors}… or setting toys up as though they invite a story to be told or re-told {placing three bears, each with a bowl in front of them, along with a doll to replicate The Three Bears}. Here are a few examples I’ve set up, and below you’ll find a Freebie for 6 Easy Play Prompts using items you already own:

easy play prompts

 

under the sea play prompt


Download your Freebie! 6 Easy Play Prompts {including Materials List} 

easy play prompts


 

 

Step 2:  Start them off

Does it ever feel like your kids need an instruction manual to plays? It seems like our kids have forgotten the art of play! But trust me on this one. INEVITABLY, each time I set our girls up to play {and get involved for the first few moments} they play longer! Just begin by introducing them to the “playscape,” and start pretending! It may feel awkward at first {and you PROBABLY may not feel like it}, but trust me, if you want to see your kids engaged {thus more time for you!} then you need to get them going. Sit alongside them, and engage with them. Be silly with them. Bring out your inner child. Five minutes is usually all it takes!

Step 3:  Thou shall not interrupt!

As tempted as you might be to commend the kids for such cooperative playing, RESIST the temptation! I am not sure what science there is to support this notion, but it seems that inevitably the moment I make a comment about how nicely our girls are playing {or how creative they are being, or how interesting their creations are…} THAT IS WHEN THE PLAYTIME CRUMBLES! It’s like they get taken out of “flow” and become distracted, and no longer wish to make believe. Unless there is an emergency, do not interrupt your kids!

Instead, document what you see. Write down your observations so that you can better plan for future play prompts, and make notes about which toys really get used. This information will help you with your toy rotation schedule. (A future blog post coming your way!)

Once you notice that your kids have “checked out,” and are no longer interested – looking for a change of activity, you can applaud them for such great, imaginative play. Be sure to provide concrete feedback about what you observed {“I noticed that you really got into character! Great job creating that scary story for your dinosaurs!} Make sure you also compliment their cooperative play: “I noticed how well you took turns and shared! Nice work!”

When your kids play, everyone wins.  As parents, we need to provide richer, more enticing conditions for kids to want to play, because we are competing against the strong forces of technology.  The space that surrounds kids, in addition to the quality of experiences we offer – through toys, loose parts, books and materials – will have the most profound effect on our children for years to come. Play is not a luxury, but a necessity.  

What does playtime look like in YOUR house? What kinds of play prompts have you set up for your kids? Share your ideas in the comments – I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for new ideas for our girls!

Sources:

Dansky, J. (1980). Make-believe: A mediator of the relationship between play and associative fluency. Child Development, 51, 576–579.

Ginsburg, K. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics, 119(1).

Kids love colour. When kids are surrounded by colour, they are opened up to a brilliant, vibrant world. But so many of us are afraid of colour, and fearful of making the wrong choices. {This was me, only five years ago!} Keep reading to learn 10 easy and stylish ways to bring colour into your kid’s space.

Via Lonny

While monochrome is definitely a big trend right now, I have a hard time believing that any child would want to play + live in a black and white world, don’t you? In fact, recent research cautions against an underuse of colour, explaining that colourless interior spaces can be stressful and nonproductive. In other words, an environment with a lack of colour may be as harmful as one that is over-stimulating (Gaines and Curry, 2011). Some studies have shown that active children prefer cool colours and passive children are more comfortable surrounded by warm colours (Torrice and Logrippo, 1989). Further studies (Morton, 1995) argue that the purity and contrast with other colours is more important than colour temperature. In other words, how we use those colours in relation to one another is a very important consideration in predicting its psychological and physiological effect on kids.

Via Project Nursery

 So how much is too much, and how do we weave colour into the environment without overwhelming our kids’ senses?

playroom brillante

I didn’t always embrace colour (remember my a colour-phobia story?), but I now consider myself to be fearless in the face of colour. When chosen thoughtfully, and in balance, colour has the potential to brighten + transform any space. My signature style is a neutral white wall, and pops of colour (that term is so overused) woven throughout the space {in moderation}, and in various forms. The one rule when bringing colour to kids’ spaces: balance. Painting an accent wall or adding wallcovering can be fun, but it is not the only way.  In fact, bringing colour into your kids’ space without permanence is easier than you think.

Here are some manageable ideas to integrate colour stylishly into your child’s space:

1. Art

A wonderful + authentic way to weave colour in to your child’s space is with her ARTWORK! If she has created something really special – at school, home or art class, frame it in a simple white frame, and let the colours in the composition do the talking! Here are some wonderful examples of art bringing in colour on a neutral wall:

Via The Imagination Tree

Look at how beautifully Anna from The Imagination Tree does this in her kids’ studio! Isn’t it brilliant? Just simple white frames, with lots of colour, letting the art tell the children’s story.

These colourful masks are a permanent fixture in our playroom, and are such a vibrant representation of the creativity and fun that goes on in this space

I love how cleverly Jennifer Jones of iHeartOrganizing.com transformed some old kitchen cupboards into the perfect white backdrop for her children’s colourful compositions?

Via iHeartOrganizing

I love how Joy from Mondocherry created a sense of peace and serenity by grouping monochromatic paintings in her child’s playroom. So lovely and calming.

Via Mondocherry

2. Seating

Play tables have never been so stylish + functional, and now many come in various hues + finishes. Here are a few of my favourites:

Via AllModern

Via: AllModern

Via Sprout

3. Rugs

Rugs are a great way to bring in colour AND texture, and help to soften up the space {AND dampen the play noise}. If you child loves to spend time on the floor, a rug makes the space much more inviting. However, if your space is a haven for wet art – a rug may not be the best option.  I love FLOR because of the modular floor tiles that can be switched out and washed if they get dirty. Their colour and pattern options are endless, they have a no-skid back, and their pile is low enough that children can build block towers that won’t tip over because of a wiggly base (like with some higher-pile rugs).

IKEA also has great ever-changing options, and if you’re working within a more modest budget, this is definitely the way to go!

Source: IKEAHalved $149

Boucherouite rugs (traditionally woven with leftover bits of colourful textiles) are having a big moment right now, and I love how they add a delicious pop of colour into your child’s space.

boucherouite rug

Via Baba Souk

Via Project Nursery Source: Land of Nod, from $347.13

4. Toys 

Children’s toys are full of colour. Why not display some of the more beautiful wooden kind {I especially love the vintage variety!} Display some of your nicer colourful toys on open shelves – just a selection, not a whole mish-mosh!

I just love how Lucy Interior Design used the built-in millwork to show off some fun toys!

Via Decorpad

Another example of a thoughtful selection of toys on display on this Oeuf Mini Library shelf, via Pinterest. While I definitely believe that “Less is More,” I also recognize that kids have A LOT of toys. Instead of having them all out on shelves, try putting the more open-ended kinds out {these also happen to often be the most pretty}. Throw the Barbies, superheroes and action figures into baskets.

Via Pinterest

5. Baskets

Woven baskets in all the colours of the rainbow? Yes please! While I love a neutral woven basket in jute, sisal or seagrass, colourful baskets can be so much fun!

I simply love the creative use of these totes to hang sheet music & other piano paraphernalia.

Via Architectural Digest

And look at these gorgeous woven baskets to store toys in this learning space? The texture and colour are so inviting, and make me want to linger and explore!

Via Pinterest

How fun are these multi-coloured sisal containers? Perfect for throwing kids’ stuffies or Lego into!

Via Pinterest

6. Art media

In Reggio-inspired environments, art media are stored in glass jars. The reason for this is two-fold: first, glass lets the light and colour shine through {light is a very important design consideration in Reggio}. Second, kids can “read” the media that are housed within, and are therefore capable of making independent choices about which materials to select. Colourful art supplies are so enticing when children can actually see them! Here are a few examples of how I like to display art materials that are within reach for kids:

7. Pendant Lights / Floor Lamps

Lighting has come a LONG way, and options are virtually endless when it comes to pendant shades and cord colours. Target, Homesense, Homegoods and even Walmart now carry a wide variety of colourful lamps. While wiring a pendant light requires the expertise of an electrician, table lamps and floor lamps provide warm ambience to kids’ spaces and an additional pop of colour.

I just love the play on shape and colour with these fun pendants!

Via Hem

And how about these beautiful woven pendants styled by Live Loud Girl?

Via Live Loud Girl

Or these two-toned drum pendants with colour-infused cords?

Via Quirk

Here is a concept board I created for a client with colourful pops of orange, repeated with the floor lamp.

8. Poufs, pillows, floor cushions, bean bag chairs

I am a big fan of flexible seating in play spaces and classrooms. Think of a space you enjoy hanging out. It’s probably inviting and comfortable. Poufs, pillows and floor cushions offer versatility and choice, and in my opinion, can provide the BEST source for colour and texture. I love these colourful  cushions from IKEA’s new JASSA collection, and Etsy offers a plethora of patterns and sizes to choose from {you do the stuffing at home!}

Via IKEA

Fatboy has become my all-time favourite beanbag chair because of the selection of colour, as well as the durability and washability factor.

Or how about these vibrant knitted poufs from Surya? So fun, right?

Via Surya

And this multicoloured, multitextured pouf from Plumo?

colourful pouf

Via Handmade Charlotte

9. Books

Children’s books are a GREAT way to bring in colour and interest into a space. There are SO many beautiful books out there that also happen to be great stories {sure, there are some that look great on the shelf, but the story is nothing of substance}. Choosing good kid lit is a bit of an art in itself, but there are plenty of great resources out there to help you {like here, and here, and here}. I love to display children’s books on picture ledges or  acrylic bookshelves. When books are forward-facing, children are naturally more drawn in to choose a book to read.

acrylic book shelf

Via Sissy + Marley

10. Collections

Collections are a great way to bring souvenirs and mementos to life, and to bring colour in. When grouped together, they look so interesting and always tell a story. In design, this is the principle of repetition, and repetition always adds visual interest to a space.

Locally made handmade dolls showcase colourful patterns and textures that are irresistible to little ones. Display them in baskets or on  shelves.

Here is our collection of handmade Mexican felt giraffes: a wonderful memento of family vacations past.

There are so many inexpensive and non-permanent ways to bring colour into our environment. Colour has enormous impact in the space that surrounds us, and has the power to alter our mood from dull to dramatic, from boring to cheerful.  The one rule? In balance. All colours are beautiful: in moderation. I can guarantee your kids love colour. But tell me, do YOU? And are you ready to start embracing colour in your child’s space?  Tell me: Are you a colour-fiend or colour-phoebe?

References

Gaines, K. and Curry, Z. (2011). The Inclusive Classroom: The Effects of Color on Learning and Behavior. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences Education, 29(1).

Morton, J. (1995). Color Matters. Retrieved from http://www.colormatters.com.

Torrice, A F., Logrippo, R. (1989). In my Room: Designing for and with Children. New York: Ballantine Books.

father’s day art {he’ll want to show off!}

10 Jun 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Father’s Day is just over a week away, but I’ve got you covered with a unique process-based Father’s Day art activity that Dad will actually WANT to hang on his office wall.

It will take a bit of time, but trust me, it will be a Father’s Day keepsake he {and you!} will treasure forever. Here’s the process.

Pick up these 3D letters (made with primed canvas, available for $7.99 at Michael’s) to create the word “DAD.” {In our family, things worked out pretty well because we have THREE girls – each one gets to paint and hold a letter.} If you don’t have three kids, you can be creative – have one child hold two letters, and the other one; or place the letters on the ground and have the kids pose behind…lots of possibilities!}

father's day art picture

What you will need:

  • Primed Canvas Letters to spell “DAD” or “PAPA” or “Daddy”…
  • Acrylic paint (if older), or Liquid Tempera
  • Paint brushes
  • Water for rinsing
  • Embellishments (glitter, sequins, buttons…)
  • Picture frame

father's day neon colour palette .    father's day D

Decide on a colour story {we really love neon!} and paint each letter. Have kids choose EITHER warm (reds, oranges, yellows) OR cool colours (blues, purples, greens), as mixing them up will turn a muddy, mucky and fairly unattractive greyish-brown.

Once they’ve covered the letter with paint, let it dry overnight. You are now ready to add embellishments.  Choose embellishments like glitter, sequins or buttons. The only rule is that kids get full-reign over their letter. This way, it will be a true representation of them!

 

father's day art DAD

father's day art DAD

Once the letters have been completed, experiment with different poses and photograph your child(ren) holding the letters to spell “Dad” / “Daddy” / “Papa” … whatever the case may be in your family!

father's day art

Frame the photos, and present the finished framed piece to Dad on Father’s Day. I guarantee he will love and cherish it.

father's day frame 2

father's day frame

If glitter just isn’t your thing, here is a simple and fun questionnaire you can do with your kiddos! These are so fun to look back to over the years. Just click here to download as a pdf.

 Father's Day all about dad pdf

This year has us pulled in many different directions for Father’s Day, including a marathon {not me!}, and a ballet recital. How will you be celebrating Father’s Day?

the fairy project

18 May 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Our girls have long had a fascination with fairies. So after reading Home, by Carson Ellis, a charming book that explores the idea of non-traditional dwellings, and the inhabitants that live within them; we decided to investigate homes for fairies, and explore ways to attract them.

The girls built an open-style teepee, wrapped with colourful fabric scraps. I had purchased bamboo garden poles from the Dollar Store for $1.25 each, and the girls carefully covered the poles to make them attractive to the fairies.

Next, I bound the poles together at the top to secure it.  The girls decided we needed “Fairy Traps” and “Fairy Bait” to attract the fairies to their new home.

We used wooden beads and wire to create inviting sculptures, and hung them all over the Fairy House.


Next, we brainstormed a list, and Emily used her “invented spelling” to generate a list of items that needed to be offered to the fairies. The list was very simple:

  • Food (carrots)
  • Bucket (for water)

Here is a printable writing prompt to use with your kids.  {Kids LOVE writing lists, and it’s a great way to promote writing}. I don’t force conventional spelling; instead I have them draw pictures {which I label}, or we use the beginning and ending sounds for emergent writers.

Emily also wrote a letter to the fairies, welcoming them to their new home.

That night, I sprinkled glitter all around the fairy house. Their reaction the next morning, when they confirmed that the fairies had indeed come, was PRICELESS.

The Fairy Project is an example of a mini-inquiry where Language Arts (reading and writing) and Science (structures) were woven into a magical exploration. When the girls are naturally intrigued and curious about something, I try to weave in learning concepts in an meaningful, connected and authentic way. In this way, learning is natural,  fun and exciting.  After all, don’t we ALL want to learn more about what we’re naturally curious about?

I invite you to share your thoughts on this mini-inquiry, and how you build writing into your child’s day. What are YOUR kids interested in that could lead to fun multi-dimensional projects?

the hair chair: girls’ hair done easy!

30 Mar 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Moms of girls! Do you struggle with doing your girl’s hair every day? Do you have to chase your toddler/preschooler/school-age daughter around the house so that you can simply tie her hair in a presentable fashion before she leaves the house? This was a daily episode over here, x3. My middle child explains she has “golden locks” and that is why she is so sensitive to the brush (loathes having her hair done.) My oldest “just likes it this way” (aka in her eyes); and my youngest is like a whirling dervish, never to sit still for anything. Enter: THE HAIR CHAIR. For those of you lucky enough to have a home built in the 80’s with a built-in telephone desk (you know, the kind with room for a chair under it, and drawers for phone books?) I have the BEST solution.

I bought a rolling height-adjustable stool (moves up and down like in a salon).  This allows even my youngest to sit high enough so I don’t have to crouch down.

Next, you will need a laptop, iPad or other entertainment device. This is critical. If you want 5 minutes of uninterrupted, non-complaining hair-do time, you must give your child permission to PLUG IN. We love the odd video, PBS Kids video game, or YouTube blind-bag unveiling (the commercialism honestly make me sick to my stomach, but I allow it for the really rough knot-combing sessions).

Finally, desk-organizer storage. Available at the Dollar Store or Walmart, buy an organizer or some baskets that are slim enough to be placed in the drawers.

I have three baskets in my drawer.  1. BOWS, BARETTES, and BOBBY PINS. 2. BRUSHES + COMBS. 3. ELASTICS.

Stock + label these. I go to Dollarama every couple of months to restock these. The key is having a large supply.

You’re all set! Do you struggle with doing your kids’ hair? What are some of your tried + true strategies? I’d love to hear!

Art cards

In this post, I will share how our girls mass-produce these beautiful “Art Cards” which I keep handy for all the parties.

Every birthday party that rolls around, I feel like I’m scrambling. The gifts. The wrapping. The taxi-ing around to all the party locations. With three kids, we get invited to MANY parties.  I am trying to build my birthday “stock” (a dedicated shelf in our basement where I store all the great finds I got on sale… but the struggle to stay on top of it is real!) Usually, last minute, the girls are ALSO scrambling to make a card for their friend. And usually, this involves a sheet of construction paper (if we’re lucky), and a simple message and picture (if we have time!) in marker or crayon.  I absolutely HATE spending money on commercial cards. Not only are they incredibly expensive; they are so un-environmental and impersonal. I cannot justify paying $7.95 for a card with a message written by a STRANGER, that the recipient will probably just TOSS or RECYCLE the next week!

I started making handmade cards with the girls when they were very young (1.5 years old). While it was very much about “process,” I would take their work and cut+ arrange it charmingly on cardstock, including their name + date. Recipients were always so appreciative of the time + thought that went into these handmade cards, and would often keep them as mini art pieces. (My mom still has hers displayed on the fridge!)

art cards

We’ve gotten a bit more creative with our art cards, but the process is basically the same. We mass-produce dozens at a time (in stages), and then we have a stock to choose from when birthday parties roll around.  I store them in the cupboard with my party-supplies (gift wrap, bows, etc.) so they’re ready to go when we are.

art cards

Watch the video to see what our process looks like. {this is my FIRST video tutorial…bare with me! they can only get better, right?}

You will need:

  • watercolour paper
  • liquid watercolour
  • salt
  • paint brushes
  • water (to wet watercolour paper, and for rinsing brushes)
  • glue gun
  • colourful cardstock
  • embellishments (beads, buttons, sequins, gems…)

art cards

  1. Tape your watercolour paper to workspace (frame around the outside, and then tape 6-8 “compartments.”
  2. Wet the paper (either a spray bottle, or a big brush).
  3. Add your watercolour and watch the colours dance!
  4. Sprinkle with a bit of salt (this is optional, but creates a really cool effect kids love)
  5. Allow to dry.
  6. Remove tape. This will give you a beautiful, crisp edge to your mini art cards.
  7. Add embellishments: buttons, sequins, gems…anything that sparkles or shines or adds interest. I allow the girls to use a low-temp hot glue gun, because I believe them to be strong, able and full of potential, and with proper instruction, capable of using a variety of “adult” tools.
  8. Cut your cards to size, and layer them over colourful cardstock. This adds another layer, and is your border. Mount the art pieces to a pre-folded white card (white cardstock works well).
  9. Have your child sign their creation.

art cards

Watch the Video Tutorial:

 

 

dollhouse round-up

20 Feb 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Dollhouses are a bit of an obsession around here. With three girls, we’ve had the opportunity to test-drive many different kinds. I’ve also worked with childcare organizations and teachers who have used these dollhouses in their practice.  The consensus: WOOD is GOOD!  The more open-ended the dollhouse, the better for the imagination.  Look for dollhouses that are “open-concept” and can be played with from a variety of sides (this encourages cooperative play).  Here are some of my favourites (and fall within a variety of budgets):

 

dollhouses for every budget

doll house round up

1. Plan Toys Chalet Dollhouse, $179.95   /  2. House Shadow Boxes, $12.99 – $29.99  /

3. Plan Toys Creative Play House, $169.99  /  4. Melissa and Doug Hi-Rise Dollhouse, $199.99  /

5. IKEA FLISAT Doll House, $29.99  /  6. Hape All Season Dollhouse, $199.95

 

Chalet dollhouse - at kids' level

Keep the dollhouse at children’s level to encourage long-lasting play

Kids love to play with dollhouses that are at their level, so try setting it up on a shelf (20″ high or so).

 

Creative dollhouse

I like to place a basket underneath to store wooden dolls, furniture and accessories.  This keeps things organized and inviting for children.

 

shadowbox dollhouses

Shadowboxes for open ended play

The great news is that you don’t need to spend a ton of money on dollhouses (although, I believe if you are going to invest in quality wooden pieces for your playroom, a dollhouse is at the top of the list!)  Shadowboxes make great open-ended “houses” for wooden dolls. These were purchased at Michael’s for under $20.00.

I’ve seen many creative hacks for dollhouses, but these IKEA KALLAX hacks have got to be my favourite:

IKEA KALLAX dollhouse hack

Via Mommodesign

IKEA KALLAX dollhouse hack

Via Zowieso

Whatever your budget, whatever your child’s interests (boy or girl), a dollhouse is a MUST for any playroom. Dollhouses encourage dramatic play, where children mimic all the activities that go on inside a home. From cooking, to cleaning, to caring for loved ones, to solving problems; children who pretend and engage in dramatic play actively experiment with the social roles in life.  Through dramatic play, children explore their own thoughts and feelings, and practice conflict resolution.  All children benefit from pretend play!

creative kids: art storage 7 ways

07 Feb 2017, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Staying organized in today’s busy world is getting harder and harder to do. Especially with kids. Staying organized with ART SUPPLIES is a whole different ballgame, and because of its inherently “messy” nature, many families shy away from art with their kids. In the Reggio-inspired world, art is a language with which kids first learn to communicate.

tools for creative kids

Art holds tremendous power for kids – to express feelings, fears, dreams and ideas. Giving children tools, and presenting them in a thoughtful, organized and beautiful way, invites kids in to explore, and use this language in creative ways.

tools for creative kids

I believe that art supplies (and other toys/materials) should be VISIBLE, and within kids’ reach. This way, they can make independent choices and not feel thwarted by always having to ask permission. (always asking for help and permission can DEFINITELY hamper the creative process!) In a Reggio-Inspired vein, art supplies should be housed in transparent jars, so that children can “read” the media. They also provide wonderful punches of colour in a space.  Glass also has beautiful reflective qualities, so important in any Reggio environment.

IKEA shelves

IKEA EKBY OSTEN shelf with Dollar Store glass jars, and baskets from Bed Bath & Beyond

Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to art with kids. Where are YOU on the “art comfort continuum?”

art comfort continuum

I’ve rounded up some ideas for art storage for those faint-of-heart, as well as for those of you ready to take it to a new level.  I’ve also shared a go-to list for items to include in your inventory. Some of these ideas come from my very favourite bloggers in the Reggio-inspired world, and I hope you’ll find them useful!

 

7 ways to store kids' art supplies

boon stash

Boon Stash Art Caddy

I love this caddy because it is simple and keeps everything organized and neat, and looks uber-modern. It is also dishwasher-friendly. Once it gets a little dingy-looking, just throw it in the dishwasher and it will come out looking brand new!

 

Grundtal storage

Grundtal storage

Grundtal IKEA

IKEA GRUNDTAL series

I like to use this set in designs, because it is an option for those with limited shelf space.  The canisters are removable, and you can customize it for the number of materials you have.

art caddies

Land of Nod Budding Artist Caddy

These are great because kids can independently carry the entire caddy to a nearby table.  The fun colours and design make it a sure-fire hit.

 

all in one art station

Chalk Wall with integrated art storage

Image Source:  BuzzFeed

I love this design (not my own!) but I have used variations of it. It is a one-stop-shop on a wall-surface, minimizing the need for added shelving.  I love chalk walls, and this is the perfect integration of both chalk-wall and art storage.

 

art cart

IKEA RASKOG Art Cart

Image Source: Tinkerlab  Check out Rachelle’s process for setting up an Art Cart! These are amazingly convenient for smaller spaces, and can house a good number of art goodies. The casters make moving it a breeze.  I’ve used these in child care settings, and they are always very popular.

 

Urbio modular storage

Urbio Magnetic Modular System

Image Source: The Art Pantry.  Check out how Megan uses this system so cleverly in her art studio!

I ADORE Megan’s use of the Urbio Modular system. It is so clean, simple and modern, and I love that you can change up the scheme depending on your kids’ needs, heights, and interests.  It’s so visually appealing (probably because of the white with pops of art-media colour!), and the options are truly endless.

 

Your collection of art media will range depending on your comfort level. Below is a list of some items to get you started. {You can pick + choose!}

Art Centre Supplies

IKEA KALLAX unit, with Dollar Store glass jars {my favourite!}

Do your kids have an Art Centre? What are YOUR strategies for keeping sane when messy art supplies are around? I would love to hear your ideas!

wall decor

06 Dec 2016, Posted by alanacherneck_0 in Uncategorized

Animal Heads by Fiona Walker

A nursery or bedroom can be so much fun to design + style.  Elements of whimsy + unexpected surprises can be integrated in ways not always possible in other rooms of the home. Etsy is an amazing source for wall decor, and has become my go-to resource for all things decor. A recent trend hitting nurseries and bedrooms are adorable wall busts: “faux taxidermy.”  And decor-enthusiasts have a love/hate relationship with the latest phenomenon:  we either LOVE it, or it just creeps us out. When done right, faux taxidermy can bring a fun and whimsical sensibility to your little one’s space. Mounted individually as a focal point, or within a gallery wall, there are so many options (and price points) to choose from.

Below, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite “friendlier” versions that won’t scare you (or your little one) out of the bedroom.

Screen Shot 2016-12-06 at 2.29.55 PM

1. Princess Swan. Happy Head Toys. Etsy $80.48 2. Rhino Trophy. Woodland ImportsWayfair. $98.99.  3. White Rabbit Felt Animal Head. Fiona Walker England. West Coast Kids. $139.99.  4.  Ram Felt Head. Fiona Walker England. Rosenberry Rooms$165 USD.  5. Unicorn Head Wall Decor. Pillowfort for Target. Target$19.44.  6. Unicorn Head. White Faux Taxidermy. Etsy$128.22.  7. Wicker Look White Elephant. Zeckos. Houzz. $79.99.  8. Deer Head Wall Decor. Near and Deer. Wayfair$158.99.

Screen Shot 2016-12-06 at 8.32.03 PM

And let us not forget the sultry + sweet deer head from the talented Tamar Mogendorff (a little out of my budget, but really and truly a work of art).

Where do you sit on the faux taxidermy continuum?  Do you love them or do they frighten you?  I’d love to hear!