Wow, our LEAP Winter Series just flew by and somehow it's already time for the Spring Series to start up this week! Thank you so much to all of you that engaged with your toddlers for the past 9 weeks by exploring animal homes and habitats through materials like smelly play dough, fizzing baking soda and even snow! I hope Stacey's post last week helped you to reflect on you and your child(ren)'s experience with us this winter and how they have grown with us, physically, socially and emotionally. Thank you for spending your time with us at Lincoln Park Zoo every week and for helping us to build this community of playful, creative and inquisitive families.
What to know before you go
For those of you who are new to LEAP starting this week- welcome! We look forward to bringing you into our community of LEAP-ers this Spring! Before you get here, read on to find out what to expect at LEAP, and what we're expecting of you and/or the caregiver attending with your child.
1. Let your child lead the way. Most of the class will consist of free play among 6-8 different stations. Some kids might hang out at the same station for half the class filling and emptying buckets of beans, while others may run around and continuously sample each station. Watch what your child is drawn to, and then join in!
2. Check out the theme of the day. During this series each week will be themed around opposites, which are important concepts for early learners and also easily connect with nature. For example, our first week's theme is Big and Small, so the stations will have some big natural materials and some small ones so that children can make comparisons between them. On alternating weeks, we will read a story related to the theme or meet an animal.
3. Dress for a mess. . . and for the weather. Playing with natural materials sometimes means getting dirty, be it spice painting, holding worms, or playing in water, but that's all part of the fun! If you and your child are dressed for a bit of paint and dirt, then you can dig right into the activities and not worry about the clothes. During the April and May sessions at the Pritzker Family Children's Zoo, some stations will be held outside, so prepare for the weather and you won't have to miss out on any of the outdoor fun either.
4. Enjoy this special time with your child. LEAP is centered around nature play- playing in and around nature as well as with natural materials- so it's a great opportunity to take a break from technology, explore the fun materials and the animals surrounding you, and share in your child's sense of wonder.
5. Join the LEAP dialogue! Feel free to chat with staff and fellow participants at LEAP, and subscribe to this blog to learn more about nature play, share your ideas and feedback, and get inspired to extend your outdoor and nature play experiences beyond the class.
Looking forward to meeting you all this week!