A week at Elements

We’ve had a busy and fun week at Elements, since we last saw you. The children have been outdoors, exploring the winter wonderland. They made and flew kites. They built shelters for their toy animals, to keep them from the cold. They “picked” apples that were strewn around the yard, and they began planting seeds that will soon germinate. As always, our activities were as instructive as they were fun. We have been encouraging the children to explore how the outside world evolves in each season, and how our own activities shift, as the seasons change. Bundled up against the cold, they have really been enjoying getting to know the winter. Plus, we made a snack of deviled eggs, which were a big hit.

Why movement matters for kids

If you have some time, we highly recommend you bookmark and read this piece from The Atlantic, which talks about why movement is important for kids. We believe in this philsophy wholeheartedly at Elements, and our kids learn everything from soccer to yoga to krav maga, apart from getting lots of time and space for unstructured play.

As Vanessa Durand, a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, says, freedom of movement is necessary for children to meet their developmental milestones: “Children learn by experiencing their world using all of their senses. The restriction of movement, especially at a young age, impedes the experiential learning process.”

Movement allows children to connect concepts to action and to learn through trial and error. “If you walk into a good kindergarten class, everyone is moving. The teacher is moving. There are structured activities, but generally it is about purposeful movement,”comments Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor emerita of early-childhood education at Lesley University and the author of Taking Back Childhood, describing the ideal classroom setup. In the classroom culture she advocates for, “[Kids] are getting materials for an activity, they are going back and deciding what else they need for what they want to create, seeing how the shape of a block in relation to another block works, whether they need more, does it balance, does it need to be higher, is it symmetrical. All of these math concepts are unfolding while kids are actively building and moving.”

Research has shown time and again that children need opportunities to move in class. Memory and movement are linked, and the body is a tool of learning, not a roadblock to or a detour away from it.


Cooking with Kids: Homemade Pasta

The kids enjoyed a delicious lunch of homemade pasta this week. As always, they helped make it and if you’d like to try this at home with your kids, here’s the recipe. The lines in italics are for grown-ups only.

2 stalks of celery
2 carrots
A packet of cherry tomatoes
A clove of garlic
A handful of basil
A can of beans – roman, cranberry, kidney or chickpeas
Store-bought sheets of fresh pasta

Chop up the celery, carrots, tomatoes and basil.
Place these in a pot and start to cook them. Add the beans and basil as the sauce begins to boil. We used red beans.
Slice the pasta sheets into shapes of your choice.
Add the pasta to the sauce and let it cook for three minutes.


Snow: Play and Learn!


We are very fortunate to have a large yard that the children can experience nature in, while still being in a controlled, very safe and supervised environment. And since it’s been snowing in New York now, it has given us and them an opportunity to play with snow. The snow-filled yard and our greenhouse have been our classrooms the past few days.

We encourage the children to approach and understand the winter wonderland in stages. The first snowfall is clean and pristine so the children can taste it. As it gets firmer, they make snowballs and snow cakes. Finally, they paint on the ice as it begins to freeze.

This first-hand, sensory-laden experience is priceless and the best teaching tool possible.

If you’d like to look, please do visit our snow post from last year, too.

Cooking with Kids: Pizza

Pizza is a favourite lunch of ours at school. We relied on a trusty recipe, which you can find here. Instead of tomato sauce, we diced tomatoes and mixed in some basil. On one pizza, we scattered diced zucchini and mozzarella cheese and the other was just sauce and mozzarella cheese. It was delicious and made for a cozy meal on a winter’s day!


It’s 2017!

Happy new year! We hope 2017 is full of happiness, good health and all things wonderful for you and your family.

We’re very excited to have you back here at Life At Elements, the official blog of Elements Preschool.

We are an urban nature preschool on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Inspired by the Forest School System, we aim to connect children to themselves, nature and the community around them. This sense of connection, in turn, leads to the development of crucial social, emotional and thinking skills. At Elements, we are creating a community of children who learn by doing, and who understand themselves and their world better.

Drawing inspiration from nature, we offer an environment rich in artful materials and experiences. Staying aware that children’s brains are like sponges and incredibly receptive, our goal is to stretch their minds. We do this via outdoor play, natural materials, art, music, movement, dance and yoga, cooking and drama. We also grow our own vegetables in our custom-landscaped garden, and cook with them, introducing children to the farm-to-table philosophy, as also to newer tastes and cuisines. To know more about us, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

We started Life At Elements last January, with the aim of giving all of you a window in our world. It’s been really fun and instructive to record our activities here for a whole year and we’re so looking forward to starting this new year.

To make it easier for you to navigate the blog and find the posts you like, all our food posts are now categorised under Cooking with Kids. Do try our recipes at home with your children – it’s a great way to educate their palate and teach them about healthy eating. Our other posts are categorised under Try This At Home, Around The School and Learning At Elements.

We will be posting every Wednesday and Friday this year, and you can follow us on Facebook, as well. If you’re a WordPress user, please do follow us. We’d appreciate it so much.

Thank you, again, for being here. We’ll be back on Friday, with a great recipe post, so be sure to check in.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays, everyone! We’ve had such fun celebrating at Elements, these past days. The children enjoyed making arts and crafts to mark Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, as you can see in the pictures below. We also baked holiday cookies, had a visit from Santa and celebrated with friends and family.

Thank you so much for your support through this year. We appreciate every visit and every comment. Have a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones and we will see you in January.


Learning at Elements: Navigating Risk

At the end of last month, we had a family bonfire on a lovely Friday evening. The children roasted marshmallows to make s’mores. Everyone gathered around to chat, and it was just a really wonderful time.

Now, I know that encouraging young kids to toast s’mores may seem risky but the truth is that by allowing them to do so, we exposed them to fire and we taught them how to access and manage risk in a safe environment. Vigilant adults were all around them, watching them closely but they will still given an opportunity to have their experience at the bonfire, helping them manage their own reactions and trust their instincts.

It is the same principle we follow when we have the students chop vegetables or grate cheese as we make lunch. Of course the kitchen utensils are child-safe, and, again, there are watchful adults on hand. But the students are encouraged to take small risks – such as holding a knife, and slicing a carrot carefully.

Studies have proven that children recognise a new task will present something unknown to them. If they are supported in the exploration of that task, it gives them a chance to set their own limits and boundaries. As they grow older, this allows them to view challenges and problems with less anxiety, and be more confident in their abilities to deal with both success and failure.


Cooking with Kids: Cauliflower Soup

A bowl of warm soup is comforting and healthy. We made a batch for lunch this past week, and you might like to try this at home over the weekend. Remember that the steps in italics are for adults only.

You will need:
1 head of cauliflower
2-3 cups vegetable broth
1 yellow onion
3-4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
Olive oil

To make the soup:

Clean and chop all the vegetables and herbs.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and a pinch of salt.

Cook garlic and onion, stirring occasionally until soft and beginning to brown.

Add cauliflower and rosemary

Turn the heat up just a little bit and cook the veggies for another 3-5 minutes. Add just enough vegetable broth to cover the cauliflower. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat so the broth is simmering.

After about 5 minutes, remove the soup from the heat. You can also choose to blend the soup until it’s creamy and smooth in consistency.

Taste for seasoning

Try This At Home: A Space Garden

In class this week we began making our own Hydroponic Water Garden, in keeping with our Space theme this month. We worked on an adaptation of the idea here, and hope you’ll be inspired to try it at home!

You need:
1 empty 2-liter bottle
Cotton balls
Heavy cotton string
Green bean seeds

How to make it:
In advance, cut the top of the bottle off where the bottle begins to curve.
Have the children write their name on their bottle.
Have the children invert the bottle top and place it into the bottle. Tape in place.
Pour water into the bottom of the bottle, until it is quarter full.
Cut a length of the string and place it in the bottle top so that it goes through the hole and into the bottom of the bottle.
Pull apart some cotton balls so they’re a bit fluffy and place them in the bottle top.
Plant a few bean seeds in the cotton.

What will happen:
The string will absorb the water and drip it slowly on the cotton balls. This will moisten the seeds so they can grow.

After the seeds sprout, keep the garden in a sunny window.  Add more water to the bottom of the bottle as needed. We’re waiting to see our gardens bloom!