Do you allow your children to be entertained by monsters?
I am posing the question because I witnessed a playground altercation between two moms recently and the aggravating topic was monsters (of the children’s cartoon variety). More on that later.
Maybe you could tell by the title, but we are using monsters to help teach our 2 year old about diversity, emotional intelligence and of course, courage and bravery.
We had a great “Monster Theme Learn and Play Day” here today and I am sharing some games, craft ideas, easy DIY puppets and monster food. This would make for a great play date or the start to a neat birthday.
Click on “Read More” to see our take on monsters and how we’re using them to teach our daughter about accepting differences in others, understanding and communicating emotions and even how to have a bit of good-old-fashion fun!
A few weeks back, Elise and I went to a play date at the park. As the kids ran around, my friend and I were witness to a care giver scolding a little boy for talking about monsters (of a cartoon variety) with another child. Sorry, Mom, but it’s kind of hard to not eavesdrop when I hear the words, “evil,” “devil,” and “filth” being discussed with a 4-5 year old.
To be very honest, it made me (and every care giver standing withing 10 feet) hold my breath for the 5 or so seconds until she was done. Walking away hanging his head, the little boy walked over to… His mother.
There was a collective gasp among the mothers as they realized this woman was parenting a stranger’s child using such strong words.
As you can imagine, the two moms had opinionated, but respectful words, over how this was handled. They were mindful of the other children and care givers at the park, although they were both really struggling to keep it controlled.
I recall the mother who had done the chastising said, “in my culture, monsters are evil.”
That stuck with me because the mother was so resolute; so final. It is hard for me to wrap my head around.
To me, the monsters of the world are not cartoon-ish with big eyes, misaligned teeth and a fuzzy tail. They are us; we are the monsters.
I agree, Mr. McGill. I will accept, for as long as my daughter will allow it, that monsters, according to my 2 year old, have big eyes, misaligned teeth and fuzzy tails.
Craft Foam Monster Feet (template)
I put together these little monster feet using this template from Make and Takes (I did have to alter it for her little feet, just as an FYI). She put one of the monster feet on and I asked her to compare it to her ‘people’ feet, as she said.
This was really just a fun little activity to get her into the monster mood, so to speak. It worked wonderfully!
I used craft foam and they held up. They are still going strong and have even survived a trip to the grocery store. She wore them nearly all day and had a lot of fun stomping around singing, “stomping in my monster feet” over and over.
We have a neat book that we’ve read at least 100 times: Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin (partner link). Each of the simply drawn, toddler and preschool age-appropriate monsters describes their favorite primary color and they all work together to make sure other monsters get their favorite color through color mixing. Other than the color mixing, it is a book with a few other themes: helping others, working as a team, taking turns and diversity.
To accompany this book, I drew out two identical monsters on a large piece of activity paper. I folded it in half and asked Elise what features the monster had and asked her to color it. Then, I flipped over the paper and asked her to describe what features she saw on this monster. She then colored this second one. When finished, I opened up the paper and she talked about how they looked the same, but how the colors she used made them different.
Another great book to incorporate is Some Monsters Are Differentby David Milgrim (partner link). We’ve enjoyed it already and it inspired the two plush monsters I created for Elise. If you’d like to read about them, click on their pictures below.
Elise is very emotive nowadays. Very. Emotive.
She’s 2 years old, so I guess that’s a given, right? The research I’ve done shows that although they are having feelings like surprised, sorry, and frustrated, toddlers do not understand how to communicate their emotions. Jeff and I thought this kind of exercise could help her learn to identify and verbalize her emotions.
Emotion Cards (Free Printable)
During one of my Pinterest time-wasting sessions, I stumbled across this free printable of emotion cards from Professor Poppins. They are simple enough that Elise can decipher between them and fun enough that she didn’t bore of them quickly.
We talked through each one and the emotion she best identified with was frustrated. Without being prompted, she said, “Is frustrated when I want Sidney’s toy but can’t take it ‘cuz I get in trouble?” Nailed it!
Out of all of them, she didn’t understand embarrassed. Truth-be-told, I love that! There is no self-doubt or inhibition that has entered her mind and I hope to foster an environment in which that madness is delayed as long as possible. Below she is acting out her favorite card: surprised!
Felt Finger and Felt Hand Puppets (template)
I also whipped up some felt puppets to reinforce our learning with some role play. I didn’t use a template for the hand puppet, but found this one for you in case you’d like to check out how easily they take shape. After the big fella was done, I used the scraps to create two finger puppets. I used my sewing machine for everything except the faces, but because it’s felt, you could hand stitch these no problem.
It was a lot of fun to hear her role play with the finger puppets as the children and the hand puppet as the mom. She really enjoyed these quick and easy puppets.
Our take: own your fears. Obviously, this is a bit of an advanced concept to work into a 2 year old’s life, but she learned the word “scared” somewhere and has been using it. We want to make sure she knows there are alternatives to being scared and feeling powerless.
We chose to start this concept with a familiar book for her: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Discussions were brief, but centered around Max’s desire for adventure and his courage with the wild things. We used her puppets to act out some scenes to solidify the concept. You can read more about some fun we had with this classic story, and find your own free printable for the puppets there.
Monster Sandwich – This was such a big hit!
Keeping with the monster theme, we had monster sandwiches using black olives for the eyes and pickles for some horns. I suggested some carrot sticks for the hair, but little miss decided she wasn’t going to have carrots today.
I cannot tell you how much Elise enjoyed helping to make her monster sandwich. When Jeff asked about her day, it was the first thing she mentioned.
Happy Monster Card Match Game (free printable)
We also used the monster theme to have loads more fun! We played match using the Happy Monster cards, a free printable from 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 1. Elise really enjoyed this and even suggested we make a rainbow monster garland! We haven’t yet made it, but I envision just hole punching these cards and letting her string them up. Bonus points for a fine motor skill and the vivid colors will look great.
We are not done with monsters but it’s time to tuck the kiddo in for a good night’s sleep. After all this fun, she is going to drift off to dreamland with no problem. Perhaps I can even enjoy a bottle glass of Merlot?
I’ll end this bit of fun with a song we sang today – a take on “Five Little Monkeys.” You can find this, and so many other great songs, at Preschool Education.com.
Five Little Monsters:
5 little monsters, sleeping in my bed.
1 crawled out from under my spread.
I called to Mama and Mama said.
“No more monsters sleeping in your bed!”
Continue until there are no little monsters and sing
No little monsters sleeping in my bed.
None crawling out from under my spread.
I called to Mama and Mama said,
“There are no more monsters, please go to bed!”
Follow Sarah Nenni of Ruffles And Rain Boots’s board Monster – Everything Monsters! on Pinterest.