Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Playgroup: Popcorn Popping!

Utah has taken a turn for BEAUTIFUL lately! The sun has been shining, the air has gotten a touch warmer (on good days), and the sky is crystal clear. Pops of yellow, pink, and white buds and blossoms have started showing up everywhere, adding some needed bursts of color. I think spring is here to stay!

I really wanted to incorporate these wonderful changes in nature into our activities at playgroup, so that's exactly what we did! Our latest activity was centered around the budding excitement of spring! We started off by singing some songs, and of course, Popcorn Popping on the Apricot tree was one of them. We read two books that helped us get in the mood for a spring time activity: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the beloved classic by Eric Carle, and I Am a Leaf, an early reading book documenting the journey of a leaf through the seasons.

I asked the children what they thought of the song "Popcorn Popping," and what it meant to think that there was popcorn on the trees. I showed them a small branch of pink blossoms I had clipped from a nearby tree earlier that morning and held some popped popcorn in my other hand and let them observe both. We talked about both of the items looking fluffy because of either round petals or popcorn-y goodness, and to help them get a better vision of the idea (and to take advantage of the gorgeous weather!) we took a little fieldtrip out of our playgroup room to find a 'popcorn tree'!

We stood and looked up at the beautiful blossoms and sang the song again.

What a beautiful day!!

After our little fieldtrip, we ventured back inside to make our own little version of popcorn trees, using popcorn, of course! The kids used brown markers and crayons to draw the trunk and branches of the tree, glued small pieces of fluffy popcorn to create blossoms, and ripped small pieces of green paper to show the budding leaves. These tasks helped the kids sharpen their fine motor skills by picking up small objects with their fingers and putting them in place. It has been exciting to watch the children get better and better at crafts since I started running the playgroups in January! Moms are good helpers, and can ease the frustration as kids develop these skills.

The finished products!

We finished our craft early, so we did a parachute toss using a couple yards of light cotton fabric, a small ball of yarn, and a tiny rubber duck. Each child took hold of the outside of the fabric, we counted to three, and pulled up on the fabric. The kids LOVED this. The younger ones got such a kick out of the moving fabric, and the older kids raced to retrieve the flying objects. We got everyone laughing, and I would suggest this to anyone who has access to a bunch of kids, a soft toy, and a blanket. It was a hoot! In addition to being quite hilarious, this activity can also help with gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination. All in the form of play!

Other tips from our playgroup activity:
  • Winter is over, and kids can finally get outside and play again! With many distractions offering easy indoor entertainment such as TV and video games, it is important to stress the importance of playing outdoors in the fresh air. Invite your kids to play a game of tag, toss a ball around, go for a walk, or jump rope while the sun is shining and the air is warm. Kids learn from example, so as they see you enjoying the time outdoors, they will value it more and learn to choose it themselves as they grow up.
  • Popcorn is a low-calorie, low-fat whole grain! It is a good one for kids, as long as you supervise small children to prevent choking, and is one that kids tend to LOVE. Butter is the one vice of most microwavable popcorn options, and the easiest way to avoid the added fat and calories is to air-pop your own popcorn! This way you have the option of how much (or how little) butter you have, as well as dressing it up or down with cinnamon sugar, favorite candies (my mom loves popcorn with skittles!), or taco seasoning! Be creative!

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Interested in joining a playgroup? We currently have SIX in operation, and we'd love for you to join us!
Email us at baby1@unitedwayuc.org and we will get you connected with a playgroup nearest you, or help you organize one of your own!

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