The Hand

In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was out a play this week with my family and my mother looked at my hands. The palms of my hands showed evidence of transformation into muppet status. They were turning blue, green and pink from colouring eggs with the children for snack. The top of my hand was adorn with mehndi from celebrating the year with the parents in the parent group program. The juxtaposition of the two was a startling contrast. Such is the life of a preschool teacher. My hands are an integral part of who I am and what I do.

My hands start the day making lunches for my children so they can have a energy filled afternoon and are able to complete their day with the best possible advantage. I then use my hands to make my breakfast, collect my things and drive to work. My hands are used to carry objects, open doors, and to tidy places. They are used in conversation, to express emotion, ruffle hair, tie little shoes, zip and button coats, help with mitts and hats, hold onto backpacks and guide little people into safe direction.

Circle time my hands are used for song actions and finger plays. My hands are used for sign language to bridge the gap between visual perception and verbal language not understood. My hands give signals for actions well done, Thumbs up! And actions that should cease, Stop! The language of hands is more powerful than the language of words. The silence in between is meaningful and pronounced.

Hands are used for creating and expressing self, building out of need, or for supplying food.

This week we used them for colouring eggs, cutting pictures, glueing sequences together and feeding ourselves.

Helping hand can be metaphorical or literal. The Scarecrow Festival supports ABC Head Start with a helping hand  in both a metaphorical role and a literal role. The money raised helps support the various programs from the classroom to parent group and support. The volunteer support from Scarecrow Festival and the community lends a helping hand that can not be measured in terms of objects. In fact it cannot be measured on a scale or by a ruler either. It is measured in terms of value. The kind of value that makes a person sigh with relief, or laugh with glee. It supports the way a hand feels as a pat on the back or a gentle rub on the arm. Scarecrow volunteers hold hands of the families in the program, the pebble is dropped and a the ripple effect goes on forever.

How do you use your hands?

By supporting fundraising events like Scarecrow Festival and Magic and Masquerade Gala, you are assisting the Staff at ABC Head Start to ensure the children can receive all the helping hands possible to have success in learning and in life. Consider Volunteering for the festival by contacting Brenda at or make an effort to attend the 20th anniversary of Scarecrow Festival October 12-14, 2012 at Northland’s Edmonton Expo Centre. It’s a family friendly event for children of all ages!

To learn more about henna and mehndi art go here

To learn how we decorated our eggs go here

To learn new finger plays and songs that sign go here


Bubbles, Masks and Magic

With spring break behind us and the promise of summer on the horizon, many thoughts turn to being out side. As a kid I would spend hours outside poking around the treed area behind my house, building forts, rescuing imaginary people from imaginary foes all while donning my cape and rubber boots. My alter ego was Danger Girl. She was brave, smart and clever in a very resourceful way. Bubbles and lightning bolts were her weapons of choice. I was fearless in theory, but a coward in practical terms. Being 4 meant I never ventured too far from the line of sight of my home and I was always armed with chalk or bubble for protection.
I would draw treasure maps on sidewalks and leave a trail of drips from my bubble wand. Dad always knew where I was or was easily discovered by following my clues. I played with shadows and loved to splash in the water. On hot days, my dad would give me a bucket of water and a paint brush. I would paint the house, the fence and paint pictures on the sidewalk. I would chalk for colour and dream of being an artist.
As I grew older and had summer time charges in my care, I would offer up the same tools to be used by the 4 years olds in front of me. We would play the same games I had as a kid with their ideas added. I took this knowledge and had my own children and supplied the very same materials with very different outcomes. My son would add Lego creatures to stalk in the grass and my daughter needed quilts for forts and tea parties. The end result was the same, imaginary play that brought endless joy.
In today’s world play time as a different ring to it, I notice the children are being entertained rather than entertaining. However, 4 year olds all over the world still have that magic knowledge of imaginary play. It may need props and adult support to nurture it along the way, but if you think back to your time as a 4 year old I bet you remember an adult nurturing you into this magical world of make believe.
At ABC Head Start, the teachers play alongside the children, providing props when needed. Driving the sofa to Tim Horton’s so the children can buy donuts for a picnic. Perhaps they are stopping at a bear cave along the way to pick up chickens for the dance party. The scenarios are endless. Just encouragement and a twinkle in the eye are needed.
This type of play is crucial for the development of a child’s mind. Sure it appears to be all fun and games but do you recognize the importance? Problem solving and vocabulary skills develop faster this way than by sitting at a table doing classic “school work”. Social skills are developed and the all-important transferable skills that people need to survive in other parts of their life, like at the work place. Learning to compromise, include brain storm, problem solve are all skills that help a child become resilient. Who doesn’t need to be resilient in today’s world? I know I sure do, life changes on a dime and I need to be able to absorb or deflect the changes at will. So do our children.
I understand that imaginary play is not for everyone. Think about it for a moment. If it is a part of your life or you want it to continue in a life of a child, I invite to volunteer for the Magic and Masquerade Gala. It is an evening of dress up, masks and magic. It is a magical event on an adult level and remind you of times when you were a child and will support children of today.
By supporting fundraising events like Scarecrow Festival and Magic and Masquerade Gala, you are assisting the Staff at ABC Head Start to ensure the children can receive all the helping hands possible to have success in learning and in life. Consider Volunteering for the festival by contacting Brenda at or make an effort to attend the 20th anniversary of Scarecrow Festival October 12-14, 2012 at Northland’s Edmonton Expo Centre. It’s a family friendly event for children of all ages!


For a fantastic Bubble Refill Recipe click here

For a great liquid chalk recipe click here

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How Do You Grow Vegetable Soup?

Most people my age grew up on the prairies knowing someone who had a farm. I remember sitting in school talking to friends about summer vacations and always someone said “I’m going to the Farm for vacation!” Everyone had a farm, even I did. My great-aunt worked on a dairy farm and my family went to visit her over Christmas break one year. I had never been on a dairy farm before this. Sure I had been to Saskatchewan and hung out on my uncle’s grain farm. Animals add a different dimension.

My sister was 4 and I was 12. I took her into the dairy barn to have a peek at the cows. The first thing that hits you is the smell. Shocking for a couple of city girls. The farmer was inside and invited us to watch him milk the cows. COOL! We walked up close enough to see what was going on. We watched as the farmer hook the milking machine (I know I am great with technical lingo) up to the cow and the noise started. My sister was fascinated with the process until the cow decided to … well… lets say relieve herself while she was being milked. My sister was horrified! After watching the entire process and seeing the milk go into the vats and watched the clean up process, it was time to head in for breakfast.

Oh farm breakfast, how I miss you! A hardy breakfast of pancake,eggs and farm fresh milk. The first question my sister asked was “is that cow milk or fridge milk?” My aunt laughed and knew what my sister was eluding to. “Fridge milk of course! See?” My aunt open the fridge door wide and showed the bottle of milk. My sister was satisfied and vowed NEVER to drink cow milk again. Luckily for her, we were city kids. Fridge milk was all that was ever available to us.

I have a hunch that most of you never think about where your food comes from. If you sat and thought about it you could tell me about all the steps it takes to get from the farm to the table. Think about this for a minute, I’ll wait.


Now think about this: Most preschool children at ABC Head Start have never left the city to see what is outside of it. City Transit tend not to travel to local farms. Here is another surprising story: Lots of children from ABC Head Start do not go to the grocery store with their parents. Often parents do not have their own vehicle. Buying groceries, traveling on transit, juggling a handful of small children becomes an all day excursion. Children get to stay at home or with neighbors while a parent goes to buy food. Not only do children never get to see a cow in the flesh, but buying food at the store can be a foreign experience as well!

This week one of the ABC Head Start Classrooms, a field trip was planned to walk to the local Safeway. The excitement amongst the children was electric. The teacher read Growing vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert. The class learned that you could MAKE your own soup and it didn’t have to come from a can. Then a grocery list was made of the vegetables they would like to buy. There was concern amongst the children as to who was going to bring the money. The teacher assured them they would never have to worry about money. The adults would bring enough money to buy what they needed. With the plan in hand the trip began.

The children set out for the store and conversation rolled around whose house they were walking by, the helicopter they saw in the air and where was this field trip anyways? The answer was “We are on the field trip”.

Oh…you could feel the excitement deflate just a little bit.

Once the children reached the store, the exploration on fruit and vegetables began. The shopping list changed as colourful vegetables were discovered and some were not to be found. Then the big worry. The food needed to be bought. Are you sure we have enough money? The teacher held up the card and said “See? I have enough, you do not need to worry about the money.” Yet the worry on their face was still there, until the food reached the bag and the receipt was in hand, then they breathed easier.

The next day at school the book was read again. It is important to remember how to make vegetable soup! Learning new vocabulary means listening to the story many times. Then the children peeled and cut the vegetables and placed them in a pot so they could be cooked into soup! Lots of vegetable samples ended up in mouths so they could taste new food. “Vegetables just taste better when we cook them, right teacher?” “That is correct because you are all very good cooks!”

On the third day the soup was eaten for snack. Was it delicious? You bet it was! Nothing tastes as good as homemade soup from your own hands. Often snack at ABC Head Start is a substantial meal. It was 3-4 different food groups and lots of choices and opportunity to try new food.

Fundraising events like the Scarecrow festival help support programs at ABC Head Start and make a difference in the life of a child.

By supporting fundraising events like Scarecrow Festival and Magic and Masquerade Gala, you are assisting the Staff at ABC Head Start to ensure the children can receive all the helping hands possible to have success in learning and in life. Consider Volunteering for the festival by contacting Brenda at or make an effort to attend the 20th anniversary of Scarecrow Festival October 12-14, 2012 at Northland’s Edmonton Expo Centre. It’s a family friendly event for children of all ages!

Now if you want to read Growing Vegetable Soup visit here!

If you need more activities to go with the book, because learning through literacy is great fun, visit here!

If you want to find out more about Scarecrow Festival visit here!

For more information about ABC Head Start please visit here.

The Cat’s Cradle

At the end of the day, I stood in the hallway supervising those ABC Head Start Cuties as they collected their winter gear to take back into the classroom. Some guy Downtown thought is was a great idea to standardize all coat hooks for Public Schools. Those coat hooks are MILES too high for the short people I work with, so there is me assisting the children in retrieving their winter things.

If you have ever spent any significant time with preschoolers, you can appreciate the length of time it takes them to walk from their cubbies, across the classroom and directly into the hallway 3 feet. It takes FOREVER! As they straggle out one at a time, I have the opportunity to visit with ABC Head Start Alumni from years perviously. The Grade 4 classroom has quite a significant amount of alumni who come to visit me on a regular basis! I love seeing how the children progress from year to year. This is one of the special advantages of being included within the public school!

As the Grade 4 children were walking down the hall with their own winter things in hand, they would run up to me to share what they worked on that day. This particular day everyone was carrying a string. An instant flash back happened for me in that moment! I was suddenly transported to my backyard playing Cats Cradle with my best friend. I watched these children struggle with the finger placement, each telling me they weren’t quite sure of all the steps. I volunteered to show them. I quickly maneuvered the string around my fingers and held it open for the children to play. I remember which child had difficulties with fine motor movement when they were in my class, and marvelled at how deftly they were able to play. I was so proud of them in that moment, seeing how far they had come in the few years I had known them. Playing Cats Cradle is about complicated finger moves. moving your hands correctly to achieve the next level.

I commented to the child how impressed I was with their skill! I was rewarded with a huge glowing smile, I am sure they remember the hours we worked together to building hand strength and learning to manipulate Lego in such a way that drawing, cutting and now Cats Cradle came easily to them. ABC Head Starts provides services for children they might not other wise get until they are much older. Having access to Occupational therapy and Speech & Language services AND the equipment that enhances these services can make all the difference to a child before entering Kindergarten. It makes a lasting impact on their abilities. There is nothing more exciting for the staff at ABC Head Start to see the progress a child makes during the year and in years to come.

By supporting fundraising events like Scarecrow Festival and Magic and Masquerade Gala, you are assisting the Staff at ABC Head Start to ensure the children can receive all the helping hands possible to have success in learning and in life. Consider Volunteering for the festival by contacting Brenda at or make an effort to attend the Festival October 12-14, 2012 at Northland’s Edmonton Expo Centre. It’s a family friendly event for children of all ages!

Now if you are interested in learning how to play Cat’s Cradle, I suggest checking out this page! If you are looking for stories to tell to your preschooler using the string I suggest giving this page a look! Playing with string is a great way to strengthen your hand muscles for fine motor activities, like colouring and cutting…so check it out and have fun!

Scarecrow Festival is a fun family-friendly Halloween event with proceeds benefiting ABC Head Start.

The Best Thing about being a Kid was Dress Up!

Do you remember the best thing about being a kid? Playing outside until dark, wearing rubber boots with ever outfit, and thinking Kool Aid tasted delicious! One of the best memories for me was when I was 4 and digging through my Grandma’s jewelry box and wearing strings and strings of her “junk jewelry”, beads and lots of them. I would rummage around her closet and find a pair of heels to slip into. She would let me wear one of her short dresses that would be a long gown on me. Sometimes I would even get to wear one of her wigs! Can you imagine? It was the early 70’s and my Gran had wigs. It wasn’t like she was bald or had hideous bed head. On the contrary, my grandma was always very well put together. Wigs were just in fashion. I would dress up and join her and my Great Grandma for tea in the kitchen. I would have milk with a spot of tea and sugar. Pirate Peanut Butter cookies were served on a plate, not from the package. I felt very grown up.

At home I wore towels tied around my neck for capes, doilies draped over my head for long hair, and sometimes my friend’s dad would tape spoons to our shoes so we could be cowboys with spurs. Dress up for me was always a big part of my life. I was often lost in thought about some superhero I was being or a famous movie star complete with Dad’s sunglasses. I suppose my big influence came from Mr. Dressup and his famous Tickle Trunk. I watched it every morning on the CBC and was always excited to see what amazing outfit was in the trunk that day! There were even clothes for Casey and Finnegan that always inspired me to dress up my bears and baby brother.

Working with preschool children on a daily basis, it is easy to see how much fun children have pretending to be the Mom or the drive thru lady at Tim Horton’s complete with apron and hat asking customers if they want a double double. We do our best at ABC Head Start to provide enough props and clothes to enhance the imaginations of the children. It becomes twice as fun when the adults in the room engage and participate by wearing the crazy clown wig or clip giant links to their ears to have huge earrings. The best is when the adult dresses up like a baby and the squeals and giggles from the children in contagious.
I love the Scarecrow Festival for that very reason. Children and Adults alike can dress up and pretend to be whoever they want to be while they participate in the fun carnival atmosphere of the festival. To a young child, there is nothing more fun than having the adult in their life dress up and be silly with them while they are roaming around the carnival. We are fortunate at ABC Head Start to have an organization like the Scarecrow Festival raise funds to support ABC Head Start. ABC Head Start works with low-income families and their preschool children to achieve success in learning and life.
This year is the Scarecrow Festivals 20th Anniversary! The event will be held on October 12-14, 2012. Last year we had over 14000 children and their families attend the event over 3 days! This year we aim to exceed those totals. We invite you to come and help us celebrate our 20th Anniversary in October. To achieve this goal, we need your help. A festival of that size needs lots of community support and volunteers. Consider spending your volunteer time with us.
For more information contact
In the meantime, go dig around your closet to find something fun to wear while you are pretending to save the world with that new cape you have. Who knows, you just might.

For 20 years, the Edmonton Scarecrow Festival has been S’caring’ for kids! Proceeds support ABC Head Start: opening doors for children and families.

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