Why is art important for early childhood development?

“Art is a place for children to learn to trust their ideas, themselves and to explore what is possible.”
Maryann F Kohl (award-winning art activity book author)

Art is an amazing opportunity for children to invent, experiment, take risks, grow, break ‘rules’, make mistakes and have fun. As well as being fun and explorative, art plays a more important role in child development than we might think.

Art helps develop:

~ fine motor skills (holding pens, crayons and paintbrushes)

~ cognitive development

~ visual-spatial processing

~ creativity

~ language skills

~ self esteem

~ maths skills (shapes and sizes).

How can we encourage children to engage in creative activities?

Most children don’t need much encouragement and love to get stuck in! There are a few things that are worth keeping in mind as a carer/parent to make the experience as empowering and fruitful for a child as we can:

~ provide children ample time and space 

~ provide safe and interesting materials that kids can use on their own. Try textured cardboard, paper, boxes, bottle lids, play dough, crayons, paint, chalk, potato stamps… the list is endless! 

~ use open-ended comments that will encourage child to explore.

~ remember that the most development occurs in a ‘free play’ state when it comes to art – try not to lead or direct.

~ No agenda is the right agenda – try to avoid having a specific plan or goal in mind and let the creative process make its own way.

Finally, it’s important to remember it’s all about the journey, not the end destination or product. Unstructured play helps kids work with intrinsic motivation and builds self confidence. 

Most importantly – have FUN! 

Did you enjoy this article? Please visit our blog for more.

Teaching courage

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
Mary Ann Radmacher

By teaching our children to be courageous, we arm them with the tools they need to thrive.

Sometimes, ‘safe and certain’ might be the perfect place for our kids to be, but so much growth and the things that will enrich them will happen when they explore courage, even if just for a few seconds.

Ways to encourage courage:

~ Show them what bravery looks like – if we want our children to be brave, then we have to be brave!

~ Invoke culture and heritage

~ Point out real life role models

~ Build confidence and try new things

~ Speak of their bravery as though they’re already there

~ Challenge and praise

~ Give them space for courage of thought.

When children feel good about themselves and see that they have the personal power to make courageous choices, they are more likely to lead personally satisfying and successful lives.

“Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. And our world could stand to be a little kinder and braver.”
Brené Brown

 

Visit our blog for more insights, articles, recipes and activity ideas.

Chocolate cookies

All you need is 5 ingredients to make these vegan, gluten free chocolate cookies!

Baking with children is a great way to incorporate sensory experience, counting and being creative in their development. This recipe is incredibly easy and just requires a bowl and fork for mashing everything together before spooning onto a tray to then bake.

Ingredients (makes 5 – 8 cookies depending on how thick you like them)

  • 4-5 mashed ripe bananas (1 1/2 cups)
  • 120g nut butter (almond or peanut works best (1/2 cup)
  • 50g cocoa powder (2 tablespoons)
  • 50g sugar (2 tablespoons)
  • 50g chocolate chunks

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. and line a tray with baking paper.
  2. Mix all the ingredients (leaving some of the chocolate chunk) until smooth.
  3. Using a spoon (the mixture will be very runny), drop chunks of the dough onto the tray.
  4. Top the mounds with the remaining chocolate chunks and bake for 12 minutes.
  5. Remove and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  6. And you’re done! 5 ingredient, vegan and gluten free chocolate cookies!

Looking for more inspiration? Visit our blog for more recipes.

This recipe is by one of our favourite vegan bakers, Yum Vegan Treats, who you can follow on instagram here.

Stages of play development

Although all children develop at different rates, there are six general key stages of play development.

Unoccupied play (birth-3 months)
Babies are learning about their body and discovering how it moves – there’s lots of wiggling and testing to see what works, and what doesn’t!

Solitary play (birth-2 years)
At this stage, a child puts all concentration into what they’re playing with and there’s little interest in playing with others just yet.

Spectator play (2 years)
Now a child becomes much more interested in watching other kids play, although prefers to be on the periphery rather than engage.

Parallel play (2+ years)
A child becomes increasingly interested in other children and what they’re doing – edging closer to play alongside them (still not fully engaging in joint play).

Associate play (3-4 years)
At this age a child starts interacting much more with others, however still not fully! They might be doing something related to children around them, such as playing in a playground, but might not actually be interacting with the others.

Cooperative play (4+ years)
Now children become much more immersed in collaborative play, making up games together and acting out stories. Friendships take on a new lease of life!

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, kids interact at their own pace and these are indicative stages of play development.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit our blog for more insights, recipes and activity ideas.

 

Empower kids

As parents or care givers, how can we empower our children to be the best version of themselves? Naturally, we want them to grow up confident with self-worth, resilience and respect for others.

Here are some tips to empower them so they can develop into fulfilled, confident, respectful, well-adjusted and resilient adults.

End the day on a positive note – as your child drifts off to sleep, whisper something positive about the day that relates directly to them. Going to sleep feeling loved, save and positive is empowering!

Give your child choice – from a young age, encourage your child to make decisions that directly relate to them such as choosing between toast or cereal for breakfast, or which coloured t-shirt to wear.

Listen – stop what you’re doing and really engage.

Allow your child to take risks – trust your child to explore their environment and this means taking small (monitored!) risks.

Encourage your child to follow their interests – even if they’re not your interests, allow them to pursue what makes their heart sing.

Encourage perseverance, resilience and integrity – life is not always easy, so encourage your child to try and keep on trying until they succeed or come close to it!

Teach your child the ‘super hero pose’ -this fun and actually very empowering! Encourage your child to place their hands on their hips, their legs slightly apart and their shoulders back for 30 seconds. Surprising empowering – try it yourself!

Fundamentally, we can empower our kids in a number of ways. Trust them, model respect towards them and encourage them in all they choose to do!

If you enjoyed this, please have a look through our blog for more research based articles.

If you’re interested in enrolling your child at Wild.Kind. please contact us.

How do we teach children to share

It’s perfectly normal for a child to find it difficult to share. They generally understand the concept of sharing at about the age of three, but it might take a while longer before they are actually prepared to do it.

True sharing implies empathy, the ability to get into another’s mind and see things from their viewpoint. However, the power to possess is a natural part of the child’s growing awareness. During the second and third years, as the child goes from oneness to separateness, this little person works to establish an identity separate from mother. In fact, “mine” is one of the earliest words to come out of a toddler’s mouth.

A growing child develops attachments to things as well as people. This ability to form strong attachments is important to being emotionally healthy.

Although children develop empathy, and learn the concept of taking turns, at a young age they’re not necessarily mature enough to resist all of their impulses.

You can sow the seeds of generosity by gently encouraging your child to share.

Here are some things to try:

Give your child opportunities to share – create attitudes and an environment that encourages your child to want to share – “Look how happy you made Tommy by sharing that toy with him”.

Start young – Learning how to take turns is the first step in sharing.. From the time your child can grasp an object, you can teach sharing by passing the object back and forth while saying “your turn, my turn.”

Make it fun – share games like puzzles, and projects like watering the plants or unpack the shopping together.

Respect your child’s possessions – don’t punish your child for not sharing – not everything is shareable and that’s ok: we all have prized possessions that we prefer not to share.

Talk it out – If they’re reluctant to share a particular toy, ask them why. Healthy conversations encourage healthy development.

Give children time and space to work it out among themselves  Self-directed learning — with or without a little help from caregivers — has the most lasting value. If the situation is deteriorating, intervene.

Set a good example – the best way for your three or four-year-old to learn generosity is to witness it. Children who have been on the receiving end of generosity follow the model they’ve been given and become generous persons themselves.

Finally, remember to use descriptive praise when your child does share. Instead of vague phrases like “You’re such a good boy,” say something like “Did you see the smile on Sammy’s face when you gave him the truck? He really liked that.” That draws his attention to concrete details of what he did.

Selective sharing can happen up to the ages of 4 or 5, so be patient and reward great behaviour.

Importance of quiet time

Kids need quiet time as much as they need play time.

Children have intense energy and curiosity, and benefit physically from having breaks to recharge. Quiet time also helps them emotionally reset, which in turn helps them manage their emotions.

The rewards:

  • Improves learning… short breaks to restore clarity and calm can help children focus more on learning
  • Encourages reflection… slowing down, unpacking thoughts and reflecting on the day helps set aside any overactive thoughts
  • Enhances creativity… there’s nothing quite like dreaming up a great new idea
  • Increases independence… unstructured quiet time, much like free play, allows a child to work on their sense of independence and find what works for them
  • Promotes mindfulness… learning to be being present helps kids feel better equipped to handle anything life throws their way.

Great activities for quiet time:

  • Reading
  • Colouring
  • Building toys (LEGO for example)
  • Quiet music
  • Puzzles

Putting children in front of a screen is not recommended (even though they have their uses in certain situations!). Children will benefit far more from relaxing, engaging activities that let them recharge their bodies while completing a calming task.

Starting slow is key — if you set the clock for 10 minutes and your toddler successfully plays quietly for that whole time, then they will feel like they accomplished something. If you set it too long at first and they come out over and over — they will feel like they can’t play for that long on their own.

Visit our blog for more articles.

Vegan banana cake

An easy, no-fuss banana cake recipe with a delicious result. Dairy free, egg free – vegan! It’s fluffy and light, yet also sticky and moist from the brown sugar and ripe banana. We’ve tried lots of recipes, and this one beats them all!

All that’s required is measuring out and mixing of only eight ingredients, so it’s perfect to make with children.

We recommend using really ripe bananas for the best result.

Egg replacers can be found in most good specialty food shops, or you can make flax ‘egg’. To make a flax egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken. It’s that easy. You could leave it up to 30 minutes if you want.

If you prefer to use eggs, add another 15 or so minutes to the cooking time.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-4 bananas, mashed
  • 2 replacement eggs
  • 415g self raising flour (if using plain flour, add one teaspoon of baking soda)
  • 355g sugar (half white sugar, half soft brown sugar)
  • 120ml vegetable oil
  • 60ml plant milk (we recommend cashew milk but any plant based milk will work)
  • Teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 60-120g walnuts (optional – great for added texture)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the oil, eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas.
  2. Fold in the flour.
  3. Pour into a greased round cake tin and bake in a preheated 140C oven for 40 mins (if cooking with eggs you may need to leave the cake in for longer).
  4. Leave to cool before taking out of the tin.

Slice into chunks and enjoy!

Did you like this banana cake recipe? If you haven’t already, try making our vegan chocolate chip cookies – they’re so good! We’ve also created a seven day recipe challenge if you’re looking for more sweet and savoury ideas.

Chocolate chip cookies WK

These chocolate chip cookies are yummy – and vegan! Just 9 ingredients, and 10 steps (and that includes eating them!). It’s the perfect recipe to make with kids.

If you prefer to use dairy milk or chocolate the recipe still works well, and for a gluten free version, choose a GF flour that contains xanthan gum.

Ingredients (makes 10 chocolate chip cookies)

  • 100g sugar
  • 165g dark brown sugar, packed
  • 185g flour
  • 120g cup refined coconut oil, melted
  • 60ml cup non-dairy milk
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 115g vegan semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • 115g vegan dark chocolate chunks (swap for milk chocolate if you prefer)

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and melted coconut oil until combined (ensure the oil is warm to help dissolve the sugar).
  2. Whisk in the milk and vanilla, until all sugar has dissolved and the batter is smooth.
  3. Sift in the flour and baking soda, then fold the mixture with a spatula, being careful not to overmix.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
  5. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
  7. Scoop the dough with an ice cream scoop onto a baking paper-lined baking sheet. Leave at least 2 inches of space between cookies and the edges of the pan so cookies can spread evenly (or you might end up with one giant cookie!)
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies just begin to brown. They will still be soft – as they cool, they harden so don’t be tempted to leave them in loger as they’ll become crunchy.
  9. Cool completely.
  10. Time to eat – enjoy!

 

Chocolate chip cookies step one  Chocolate chip cookies step two

Chocolate chip cookies step three  Chocolate chip cookies in the oven


We attach importance to seasonal, regional and organic ingredients to provide a biologically valuable vegetarian diet for all the children.Find out more about our philosophy.