Recently my three-year-old and I got to experience the Pint-Sized Picassos program from Scottsdale’s own Academic Enrichment Academy. AEA is a locally-owned (and mom-run!) personal academic coaching program for kids ages 3-10. Pint-Sized Picassos is their preschool-aged program which combines literature and art in a solo or small-group setting – right in the comfort of your home.
I like to think of myself as a pretty education-oriented parent. I’m well-educated myself, I’m naturally curious and driven to learn, and I read a lot about child development and learning. But just before I finish patting myself on the back, let me say that having a certified teacher and learning expert come into my home to spend an hour with my daughter made me realize what an important role great teachers play in our kids’ lives. Even though I spend a ton of time reading, playing and talking with my kids, the things Miss Courtney from ADA brought to the table – literally, to my kitchen table – were above and beyond what I’m capable of doing on a daily basis.
- Integration of literature and art – The program centers around this concept, and I love it. Miss Courtney read a book to Allegra, and then together they worked on a craft project inspired by the book. Combining the story (words, vocabulary, narrative, images) with the tactile part of the art project (fine-motor skills, colors, textures, creativity) is such a cool way to create a learning experience for this age group.
- Learning while doing – I think by now most of us agree that young kids learn through experience – touching, talking, repeating, DOING. So rather than just counting or reciting the alphabet, Miss Courtney integrated vocabulary, sounds and math concepts into the whole experience. They counted legs for the ladybug, eyes for the tortoise, and sang the ABCs while waiting for glue to dry.
- Materials, materials, materials. I admit it: I don’t have a very well-stocked craft drawer for my kids. Crayons, play-dough, a few stickers and stamps is about it. But the “big black box on wheels” that Miss Courtney brought to our house was filled with goodies – high-quality paints and papers, cool textured accents like dried beans and lentils, a handy table-cover that kept my table spot-free, and all kinds of other great stuff. I’m inspired to better equip my little ones to be creative at home after seeing what’s possible with a few key materials!
- Empowering little hands – I’m sometimes impatient when crafty projects and little hands come together. Watching Miss Courtney let Allegra do the hard work of folding paper into a zig-zag fan for the ladybug’s legs, I wanted to jump in and do it myself to get it done quicker (Bad Mommy! 🙂 ), but I totally realize the value in letting even poky little fingers do the work. And guess what? My three-year-old is more capable than I even gave her credit for!
The Pint-Sized Picassos program can be done with just a teacher and your child, or with a small group of up to four kids. I think it would make a GREAT summer play-date series – a few moms pitching in together to give their preschoolers a fantastic creative experience and get some awesome ideas for ways to support their kids’ growth and learning…without actually having to get their own hands dirty or clean up the mess…what could be better? 🙂