Article by Leeanne Ekland, with some suggestions for back to school activities for the preschool set.
Back to school is a time when we put a lot of focus on preparing school age kids for their first day of school. We’re working on getting them back into the fall routine that was just a distant memory over the lazy days of summer. But what about the preschoolers? These little people thrive so much on routine in their early years. It’s best to have activities for them to look forward to as their older siblings go off to the big school.
I am all for fun and I am all for making the most out of the time I have with my little boy. I want his experiences to be rich and fulfilling, but I’m really not about cramming so much in that there is little time left to relax and enjoy the quiet. I’ve put together a couple great back to school activities for preschoolers here in Vancouver that from my own experience basically rock.
Free Back to School Fun at UBC
Speaking of big schools, UBC has a fantastic opportunity for science geeks like me to have a little fun. The Centre for Early Infant Cognition, managed by Janine Gellerman, is one of five centres under the UBC Early Development Research Group. It is a cool way to spend an hour or two with your little kids.
This research group studies how children respond and react to various stimuli. Tracking eye movement in babies as they watch a video clip, for example, helps researchers understand how soon children can show preferences and relationships between objects. Now that my son is nearly two years old there are different studies for him to take part in. These days we’ve been spending time watching puppet shows at the Centre for Early Infant Cognition. Designed to find out whether babies distinguish the nice guys from the naughty ones, these studies try to show how babies understand social relationships. Previous work has demonstrated that babies show a preference for the nice guys.
Along with participating in studies we spend a bit of time in their play room each time we go. Toys and crayons aside, my son loves the attention lavished upon him by the research assistants. I enjoy the drive up to UBC, the designated free parking for participants and a certificate of attendance and a cute ‘student’ t-shirt that are souvenirs I can hold on to for years to come. When you’re choosing back to school activities for preschoolers, this one’s a winner. For more information, please visit their website or call them at 604-822-9540.
Another favourite activity for my son at back to school time is music class with Wee Expressions. Started by Joney Poon five years ago, the curriculum is designed to approach music through play and structured learning. Music therapy techniques along with baby sign language are utilized to bring out the most in the student’s abilities to ‘feel’ the music. Classes are held at Creekside Community Centre and other locations in town. Wee Expressions is the only music program I know of that is inclusive of a broad range of ages. Wee ones from newborn all the way to four years old can take part in classes together. It’s wonderful to see the younger kids learn from the older ones and vice versa.
Seeing for myself how these music classes have shaped my son’s cognitive development and the many benefits has been amazing. His sense of musicality and eagerness to participate has created a strong attachment to music. I believe this has enhanced his mental, physical and behavioural skills. IWhen I see the patience he has developed in class as he learns to wait his turn, or how he easily shares instruments with the other kids I know that these classes have a ton to do with it.
I always learn something at music class, too. Singing in public for me has always been akin to torture. I was convinced that my singing voice best not be heard even by dogs lest they start howling in protest. After nearly a year and a half of classes, I find myself able to sing with a sense of relaxation and calm I have never felt before. I never thought that I would benefit this much. This was huge breakthrough for a girl who shunned and skirted choir practice in grade six when told I would sing a solo piece. I guess I’m going back to school, too.
The new semester starts in September just in time for back to school with a new theme, FOOD! To register at Creekside, go to their website directly. For classes in other parts of the city go to Musical Expressions.
Leeanne Ekland is a stay-at-home mom of one, who’s on a mission to rediscover love, wellness, and neighbourhood happenings, and to have a ton of fun. She’s blogging about her experiences at leeanneekland.com. Having started the parenting experience much later than most, she offers a unique perspective on the challenges and all that is amazing about being a new mom over 40. At least – she does when she’s not napping, which is something she does often.