For last year’s spring break, our cousins lovingly welcomed us to their farm with open arms and incorporated us into their busy lives. We could not be more grateful for our experience with them! The kids instantly created a bond with the farm animals, and we quickly fell into a groove, feeding the animals every morning and evening. The middle of the day, we spent hiking, having picnics and flying kites.
When school resumed after spring break in the form of distance learning, we decided to stay on, and I was so grateful for the regular schedule we developed. The animals provided an incentive to complete school work and get us up and out in the fresh air each morning.
When we returned home, the challenges of distance learning were completely magnified. I knew I could be doing better in that moment as a parent, and I wanted help, but I didn’t know exactly what I needed help with. In short, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Looking back, I see now I didn’t understand how often little ones need to get up and do something “non-academic”, considering all of our learning at home had mainly been through play. My hope was to power through the work assignments and then play the rest of the day. But that didn’t work. I finally figured it out by accident, thanks to an assignment from the art teacher.
The class was told to make shadow puppets. As soon as she mentioned puppets, my six-year-old son wanted to transform our WunderNook play kitchen into the puppet theater. Soon, he was breaking down the kitchen, twisting the knobs, lifting panels, and starting to get the wiggles out after watching Zoom for just a little too long (let’s be honest, 5 minutes is too long!). A few minutes later, the wiggles were left behind and he had the puppet theater configuration built and ready to go. He started to think how he could use the Fabric Kit to make the assignment work since we had used handmade sock puppets and lovies for the theater in the past (it comes with the Classic+ Collection or can be bought separately for the Core Collection). He used the play clips to drape the yellow fabric panel from the inside of the theater, set up a bright light behind him and tested the shadows with his hands. It worked perfectly!
What started off feeling like a “check the box” exercise turned into a fun, engaging and satisfying learning experience, which happened to also erase frustrations from sitting in front of a screen for so long that day. With a dedicated theater at his disposal, the assignment came to life. He created an excavator using split pins (also known as paper fasteners) so the arm and bucket could move independently from the main part of the truck. He was engaged and excited to put on a show! What I learned was how to integrate play, gross motor and fine motor activity into the curriculum.
Even if I hadn't found a way to make it a part of the school’s curriculum, I also realized what a great toy WunderNook is as a break for kids throughout the day. Maybe a kid wants to build or maybe he or she wants to engage in pretend play and imagine being a restaurant owner. Either way, those “non-academic” breaks are critical, and provide so many different kinds of learning opportunities.
Incorporating WunderNook into the curriculum brought us relief and fun, and it also proved to be a great homeschooling tool. I hope you feel the same way!