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Posts Tagged ‘baby activities’

Monthly Theme: Nature

Weekly Content: Art in Central Park

Daily Subject: Architecture

For Baby…

Developing an understanding of opposites is an essential pre-school skill. You can use this beautiful bridge to introduce or reinforce the concept of near and far. If you have a chance to take a walk to Bow Bridge in Central Park (it’s located in the middle of the park at 74th St) with your baby, try to take a look at it from a distance at first, pointing out how far the bridge is, and then take a walk up close. I included a “near” pic below for those of you who won’t make it to the bridge anytime soon.

For Mommy…

Last week, we began and ended the week looking at Monet’s painting of the bridge on his property in Giverny, France. Whether you actually have a chance to see Bow Bridge in person or you appreciate the bridge through these photos, this is your chance to see the world through the eyes of an artist. Which is more interesting to you, looking at the bridge from afar or observing the details of the bridge up close? Walking across the bridge, you may  find yourself even more interested in the Fifth Avenue skyline than with the bridge itself. Whichever your perspective, the artistic beauty of Bow Bridge is one sight you do not want to miss!


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Monthly Theme: Mother and Child

Weekly Content: African American Art

Daily Subject: Poetry

If Catlett’s work teaches us the power of the image (see yesterday’s post), our next poet teaches us the power of the word. Maya Angelou continues to be one of the most inspirational female figures of our time. There is no end to her accomplishments. Click on the following link to read Angelou’s poem “Woman Work.”

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/woman-work/

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For Baby…

As stated in earlier posts, babies thrive in the beauty and magnificence of nature. When reading this poem to baby, you may want to start at the second stanza. This second part seems as though it should be sung. Have fun using your voice to express the power of the words!

For Mommy…
The historical background of this poem adds to its significance and importance as part of our country’s collective memory. I believe the poem was first published in the 70s but it seems to point to an earlier period. On some small level, however, I feel that even the modern-day mama can relate. Rocking my little one to sleep last night, I was going over my list of to-dos. They seemed endless. Then, out of nowhere, I hear this beautiful choir singing. No, I wasn’t hallucinating (although I was a little nervous at first). There is actually a church behind our apartment building where, I guess, this very talented choir was practicing. It made me take a pause in my endless mantra of to-dos and appreciate the beauty of what I was doing, rocking my beautiful baby boy to sleep. The experience reminded me of Angelou’s poem. The first stanza is basically a list of to-dos. To me, it doesn’t even seem that there is a tone of complaining but more of a simple recitation of all there is to do. In the second part of the poem, there seems to be a shift in consciousness. The imagery focuses on nature, which always tends to have a calming effect. How can we be inspired by Angelou’s poem to seek the calm amidst the chaos of our hectic lives?

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Monthly Theme:  Mother and Child

Weekly Content:  African American Art

Daily Subject: Art History


 “Art is communication.”  This statement made by American born artist Elizabeth Catlett during a 2003 interview with Sculpture Magazine is a perfect introduction to this next work of art. Catlett’s artwork is infused with a passion to evoke social awareness and change. A practicing artist at the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, Catlett’s artwork points to the strength and resilience of the African American people, specifically African American women.   

 

Mother and Child, 1944
Elizabeth Catlett (Mexican, born United States, 1915), Lithograph, Sheet: 12 3/8 x 9 3/8 in.; image: 7 3/4 x 5 3/4 in., Gift of Reba and Dave Williams, 1999, http://www.metmuseum.org

For Baby…

Describe to your baby what you feel this piece of art is communicating. Your little one is of course too young to understand the true emotion of this work, however, he or she does understand what it’s like to feel safe in mama’s arms. 

For Mommy…

This work of art truly speaks volumes.  The mother in this image embodies the complex duality of motherhood: she is simultaneously powerful and gentle. She cradles her baby as though she’ll protect him forever. The look on her face, however, seems to tell us that she fears the day she’ll have to let him go. How does historical context add to the meaning and depth of this piece?  


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The following print is another work of art by the famous Edo artist, Kitagawa Utamaro. Utamaro’s success as an artist took off during the ukiyo-e movement of the late 1700s.  During this time, art was made accessible to the common people through mass printing. Most of Utamaro’s work seems to directly connect with the common experience of the masses, especially women.  But, let’s be honest, who would want to hang a picture of a sad, drippy scene in their living room.  Utamaro’s work does not typically focus on the ugly aspects of life, but on the ideal. Here’s a peek at what people of the Edo period may have regarded as the quintessential mommy:

For Baby…

What a wonderful feeling it must be to fly through the air!  Babies love to be picked up by their loved ones. They have such incredible trust in us as we soar them up so high! Use this print to teach baby the word “up.” You can say, “See how the baby goes, up, up, up!!” Your baby will delight in the feeling of you swinging him or her in the air. Try it out after looking at the picture! Use the experience to start teaching baby about opposites.  Lift baby in the air and say “Up…up…up…aaaaand…down,” quickly returning baby to the floor. Don’t be surprised if your baby looks at you to repeat this game again and again!! Try to encourage him or her to either say the word “more” or use the sign.

Parenting Early Years, September 2009

For Mommy…

This print has me thinking about  the “ideal” mother of our modern-day culture.   So, after pondering for a few minutes, I decided to consult my magazine rack. Somehow, without subscribing, I’ve managed to collect quite a few issues of Parenting magazine.  Here’s the picture I came across.  Well, things haven’t changed that much, I guess. We’re still swinging our babies through the air. But what else can we observe. First, she’s drop dead gorgeous. Of course, she’s not trying to be, she just woke up that way. She’s healthy. The background of the picture has me gasping for fresh air. She’s happy. I’m assuming there wasn’t much stress getting the little darling ready for school? She’s successful. Her clothes, although not too overdone, suggest she may be heading to a career job after dropping off the little munchkin. Oh, and did I mention that she’s probably been to the gym already this morning?

Now, please don’t take my sarcasm too seriously. Parenting wouldn’t be selling many magazines with a stressed-out, exhausted-looking mommy on the cover. And, plus, I actually enjoyed skimming through a few of the articles in this issue. What I am wondering, though, is if we put too much pressure on ourselves to strive toward this ideal. Nobody can live the airbrushed life. Wouldn’t it be freeing to just let go of it?

“Utamaro,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2009

http://au.encarta.msn.com © 1997-2009 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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Monthly Theme:  Mother & Child

Weekly Content: American Women of the 19th Century

Daily Subject: Art History

In the last post, we wondered if Louisa May Alcott and Mary Cassatt crossed paths. Cassatt spent most of her adult life in Paris, studying with the likes of Edgar Degas and the Impressionists.  However, according to the Concord, MA Community Website, Alcott’s sister had just begun to establish a life as an artist in Paris before she died in 1879. If not Louisa, her sister must have been profoundly influenced by the work of Mary Cassatt. Here is a sketch May Alcott drew for big sis’ famous work Little Women.

Illustration from Little Women drawn by May Alcott

For Baby…

Take a minute to show your baby all three works of art we have covered so far.  Using the same strategies as described in earlier posts, encourage your baby to describe the paintings in the best way he or she knows how. Whether your baby is just beginning to say the /b/ sound for “baby”, using a sign to describe what he or she sees, or listening to you say the word, the two of you are starting to explore art together. Don’t expect your baby to look at the picture for longer than a few minutes (or seconds). This is just the beginning!

For Mommy…

Do you see any similarities between Alcott’s sketch and Cassatt’s paintings? What about the mothers’ eyes? Is it me, or do they all have a distant, pensive look indicating other worries and  hardships? The sketch was drawn specifically for Little Women. I don’t remember a lot about the book but I do remember the family struggling with poverty. What about the other paintings, what could these other women be thinking about? Moms today have a lot of different roles that they play each day. How do you think it affects our mindset as mothers? How can we strive to be truly present for our kids?


 

 

 


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Monthly Theme:  Mother and Child

Weekly Content: American Women of the 19th Century

Daily Subject:  Poetry

Louisa May Alcott is another prominent American female figure of the nineteenth century. Most remembered for her work Little Women, Alcott had been secretly writing under pen names for years before its publishing.  Enjoy the following poem with your baby just before he or she drifts off to la la land!

 

“Lullaby” by Louisa May Alcott 

Now the day is done,
Now the shepherd sun
Drives his white flocks from the sky;
Now the flowers rest
On their mother’s breast,
Hushed by her low lullaby.

Now the glowworms glance,
Now the fireflies dance,
Under fern-boughs green and high;
And the western breeze
To the forest trees
Chants a tuneful lullaby.

Now ‘mid shadows deep
Falls blessed sleep,
Like dew from the summer sky;
And the whole earth dreams,
In the moon’s soft beams,
While night breathes a lullaby.

Now, birdlings, rest,
In your wind-rocked nest,
Unscared by the owl’s shrill cry;
For with folded wings
Little Brier swings,
And singeth your lullaby.
 

For Baby…
Your baby will love to listen to the rhythm of your voice as you read this poem. Again, this is a sleepy time activity that would best fit in right before a nap or bedtime. Although your baby will not understand the full meaning of the poem, some key vocabulary words may stand out to him or her. Babies love nature – emphasizing words such as “sun,” “sky,” “flowers,” and “trees” will help them connect with the poem. Adding sign language for these words may also enrich the experience.

For Mommy…
 It would seem that Lousia May Alcott and Mary Cassatt would have know each other, right? Two creative, successful women of the nineteenth century, when women did not have nearly the opportunities that we have available today, they were both born in Pennsylvania less than 20 years apart.  I’m not saying they were next door neighbors! Alcott was born in a town that is now part of Philly and Cassatt was born in what is now Pittsburgh – that’s pretty far when you’re traveling by horse and buggy! However, looking at their work, side by side, gives us a better peek into the mindset of the nineteenth century woman (although both of these woman had advantages that were most likely not available to the average woman of the 1800s). How does the theme and imagery of this poem compare to the following painting by Mary Cassatt? 

Mary Cassatt, Sleepy Baby, c. 1910

Mary Cassatt. Sleepy Baby. c. 1910

 



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Language Development and Art History

Mary Cassatt, 1897, Breakfast in Bed

Mary Cassatt, 1897, Breakfast in Bed

In celebration of what this blog is all about, our first month centers around mother and child. Even more relevant to our purposes, this painting demonstrates the work of a hard-working, talented woman. Mary Cassatt painted hundreds of works, most of which honor the simple, yet beautiful, everyday acts of motherhood. Not too shabby for a woman born in Pennsylvania in 1844!

For Baby…

Show your infant or toddler a print out of this beautiful work of art (check out the archives for a bigger picture). The painting sets a cozy mood so try to introduce the activity during a calm time of the day, perhaps right before a nap or bedtime. Introduce or reinforce vocabulary slowly, enunciating the beginning consonant sounds. For example, point to the baby in the painting and say “/b/ /b/ baby, the baby is in the bed with the mama.” Breaking down the individual sounds in words will help your baby approximate new vocabulary. Encourage your baby to use these approximations as he or she is learning new words. If he or she points to the baby and says “/b/,” clap and say, “Yes! That’s the baby!” With that type of encouragement, he or she will be saying the whole word in no time!

For younger babies, you may want to incorporate a sign while introducing new vocabulary. The ASL sign for “baby” is made by cradling your arms together as though you are rocking a baby. It’s alright if the sign isn’t perfect, as long as your baby has a way to communicate the word to you!

For older babies, you can extend the activity to include more of a question/answer format. For example, “What is the baby doing?” You could also introduce more descriptive vocabulary (ex. “the pillow looks soft”).

For Mommy…

Take a few moments to do a quick internet biography search about Mary Cassatt. An American woman artist in the nineteenth century, she was quite an anomaly for her time. Most biographies describe her as a privileged youth with connections in the art world. How do we compare her with other woman of her era? Did she have an unfair advantage or should she be hailed as breaking the mold of her time? Why do you think she chose to devote most of her work to the subtleties of female life?

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