Painting With Tea: Connections


Did you enjoy painting with tea? Take this activity one step further by reading a story and heading out into the community with your child. It will allow them to make connections and to understand tea in a broader context. Here are few suggestions to get you started, including those used during the original lesson.

Museum Visit:

If you’re in the D.C. area these exhibits would provide great ways to create an in-depth look at the process of making and drinking tea:

Detail of Julia's Kitchen

Julia’s Kitchen @ The National Museum of American History- This is a great place to explore someone else’s kitchen and make comparisons to your own. Ask your child how they think Julia would make her tea? Take turns pointing to the different tools (including the tea pot and kettle) she would use in her kitchen to make it. You can even sing “I’m a little teapot!”

Tea Set by John Satterfield @ Smithsonian American Art Museum- This tea set looks different and very modern. Talk about how it would feel to drink tea from the cup. Mime pouring tea for a tea party and taking pretend sips. Compare this set to cups and tea sets you might have at home.

Russian Tea by Irving Wiles @ Smithsonian America Art Museum- Start by asking your child what they see. Talk about the social aspect of drinking tea. Explain how it was used to gather people together. Discuss what these ladies might be talking about and create a pretend dialogue for the subjects of the painting.

Teal Bowl with Stand @ Freer Sackler Galleries- This is a great way to talk about geography and tea culture in other parts of the world. Bring along a map to show your child where the tea cup is from. Talk about how it is the same or different from a tea cup at home. Ask them how it would feel to hold this cup.

Community Visit:

No museum nearby or just don’t have the time? Here are a few visits you can do in any neighborhood!

Home goods store- Check out the different vessels for holding tea including cups and pots. Discuss how they are the same or different, and which you would choose to hold your tea.

Coffee Shop- Talk to the barista about how they brew tea and what types of tea they carry. Ask about differences between the teas available in the shop. You could also ask which are the most popular and then share a non-caffeinated variety with your child.

Grocery Store- The tea aisle at the grocery store is a wonderful place to discuss the varieties of tea. There are so many choices! Discuss with your child the different types of tea and how they are packaged (loose leaf, bags, triangle bags etc.). Talk about the different flavors and decide on a couple to take home and taste. To take it one step further, and take some time when you get home to research how that particular variety is made.   You might even cut open the bags to see what is inside.


Grab one of these great books from your local library!

Azuki Loves Green Tea by Rebekah Mullaney

Tea with Milk by Allen Say

Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Coming to Tea by Sarah Garland


Have other ideas on how to connect tea painting to other activities and literature? Please share!

Painting With Tea

We Tried It Every Way, So You Don’t Have To:

Painting with Tea


“Which of these will work best?” “Can I use this instead?” “How much of this would be ideal?”  These are just a few examples of the questions we ask ourselves as we prepare activities for our family programs. Project ideas are everywhere, but more often than not, they don’t show all the details. SEEC’s faculty knows that what you see isn’t always what you get. In this blog, we’ll provide a peek behind the curtain and show you an example of how a SEEC educator goes about creating a project and ensuring that it provides the best opportunity for the child to be creative and feel successful. In other words, we’ve tried it a million different ways, so you don’t have to.

The Original Activity

This week it’s all about tea! Our featured activity comes from our Toddler Trailblazers family program, Tea TimePainting with tea is an activity provided during the playful choices  portion of the program as families arrive. Children were provided with watercolor paper, shallow bowls with tea bags and tea, paint brushes, smocks, and wipes.  Both brushes and tea bags were provided in case a child felt more comfortable using a familiar tool rather than the tea.  A variety of tea types were set out including black, green and herbal teas (hibiscus, passion fruit, cherry, and blueberry). The teas were pre-brewed to allow the water time to cool before the bags were handled by the children.

We don’t give any additional instruction because we want to emphasize the importance of process-based art.  We want to encourage the children to create without a pre-determined outcome and enjoy the process of creation without the need to achieve a specific finished product. With this project, children may create something figural/representational or abstract. Whatever the child’s choice, the experience will result in joyful painting and a final product full of vibrant hues of watercolor.

Trial and Error

Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves when preparing this project:

  • Which types of tea work best?
  • How long should they be brewed?
  • What tools work well to paint with tea?
  • What should we paint on?
  • How do I contain the mess?
  • What’s the best way to dry the finish work?

I tried out some of these approaches myself and then I recruited some young friends (ages fives and two) to help me test it out! Here’s what I found.

Types of Tea (option 1)


Tea Brewing (option 1)


Painting Tools

Painting Base

Less Mess



After all that trial and error, here is what we decided would help most achieve the successful outcomes with this project!

Painting with Tea Final Conclusions (1)

We hope this was helpful and encourages you to try out this activity! Send us pictures of your creations and let us know how it went! Be sure to check back next week for ways to take this activity one step further by making connections to literature, museums, and community visits!



10 Reasons Your Child’s Rock Collection is Important


PondIf you have a child age two or older, chances are that you also have a collection of their “treasures” in your home. They may include rocks, sticks, sea shells, cars, or even stuffed animals. To children, these objects are irreplaceable artifacts to be cherished and preserved. They take their collecting seriously and we should too! Collecting provides a multitude of learning opportunities for your child. Below you’ll find just 10 examples of the many lessons your child is learning through their collections and collecting habits.

Categorizing and Sorting

As children collect, they will start to sort their objects into different categories: Big, medium, small rocks, Rough, smooth, and spiky rocks etc. Categorizing and sorting are important early math skills and build the foundation for understanding more complicated patterns in the future. Encourage your child to continue to re-sort their collection in different ways.

Looking on groundCounting

Counting is also an early math skill. As your children mature, they will become interested in counting the things around them, including their collection. Encourage them to count the number of items in their collection and then how many are in each category. With a slightly older child, take away or add an item and ask them to count again. This is addition and subtraction!

Storytelling and Imaginary Play

A child’s collection provides endless opportunities for storytelling and play. Encourage them to tell the story of how and where the object was found or make up something entirely different. Rocks and stuffed animals often take on names and personalities. They may also use their rocks as construction materials for roads, walls, and even castles. Pretend and role playing are important part of children’s social and emotional development. It allows them to work out scenarios before they encounter them in real life situations.

Care and Empathy

Have you noticed how much your children love their rocks? Sometimes you’ll find them being washed or wrapped in blankets. This is a great lesson in caring for others. If you take care of your collection it will last longer!

Memory and Timeline

A young child’s perception of time is not a straight line. Things that didn’t happen that day usually fall into a “yesterday” category, even if they happened two days or even a week before. A collection allows a child to practice recalling information and acts as a physically representation of a time in the past. For example, children may recall collecting a particular rock from the beach when it was warm out. Since it’s not warm out now, they will be able to deduce that it must have been a long time ago. If a child allows, you could even write down where the rock was found on its’ underside.  This will also help you remember where and when the rock was collected and facilitate conversations on that topic.

Stick and hand

Same, Same but Different

Very young children start by sorting items into familiar categories. For example, if you tell an infant or young toddler that something with four legs and a tail is a dog, then things that fit that description will automatically be labeled a dog until you tell them otherwise.  A collection is a great way to show how things can be in the same category, but look completely different. For example, their collection may consist completely of rocks but no two rocks are the same.


Speaking with your children about their collections facilitates vocabulary building. They are learning how to describe objects and will begin to incorporate new synonyms and adjectives into their glossary as you provide them.

Understanding Limits

Sometimes they can’t have every rock they see and it’s ok for them to hear, “no.” Collecting doesn’t automatically mean they can have every item they see and it’s a great way for them to get practice respecting limits. Make sure to take time to explain to them why they can’t have certain items. Does it belong to someone else? Is it too big to take home? This will help them understand that actions have consequences.


A child loves having something that is truly their own. A collection of rocks or sticks that have been found and brought home by children gives them a sense of ownership they might not feel for their other things. They may feel a tremendous amount of pride showing off their collection to others.

Self-Soothing and Comfort

Since children can become very attached to their collection, bringing along an item in a pocket or backpack can act as a great tool for self-soothing and comfort. Having a special item from home can remind them of family when they are at school or away from home visiting relatives or friends and begin to miss their parents.

What does your child collect? A great way to take their collection one step further is to create a mini-museum in your home. Select a low shelf and help your child arrange the items and create labels describing them. Host an opening for your friends and family and allow your child to give tours of their collection!




10 Ways to Make Dinner Time Less Challenging

Picky eater? Feel like you’ve tried it all? We get it! Here a few things that have helped us at SEEC make meal times go a little smoother.

dress up young children SEEC

  1. Dress up

Try a themed meal. Everyone comes dressed in a costume, a fancy (washable) outfit, or even pajamas. This will make dinner feel like a fun family event instead of the ultimate stand-off. Your child will look forward to showing off their special duds at the table and shift their focus away from the normal ultimate stand-off they are prepared for and maybe even try the meal.

  1. Sing a song to set the mood

Getting your child to the table can often be half the battle. At SEEC, we all eat together as a group. Once everyone is seated we sing a song to signify it is time to eat. It has become a favorite event for the children at SEEC and there are often tears if a child doesn’t get to participate in this part of the day.

Try it bite young children SEEC.png

  1. Try-it-bite

At this point, almost everyone has used the “try-it-bite” with their child. However, it shouldn’t only be required of the kids, adults at the table should model the same behavior by putting a “try-it-bite” of something on their own plate. Then organize a unified “try-it” moment during the dinner. We all have our preferences so if a child has tried something before and claimed they don’t like it, it is possible that it’s true. Taste buds change over time but forcing them to try an item again shortly after they have declared their preference can feel like you are not listening and respecting their words.

  1. Serve Themselves

An important milestone is when a child can pour without spilling and feed themselves with utensils. Why not give them a chance to practice at dinner? Instead of plating their food, allow your child to dish up their own meal. This way they can decide how much to put on their plate. When a child declares they are done, but there is food still left on their plate, remind them that they chose to put that amount on their plate and should try to finish what they have taken.

  1. Clear Transitions

No one, not even adults, like to be ripped away from their current activity or to go straight to a seated meal before having a little time to transition. Be sure there is time for your child to decompress between preschool, daycare, or whatever previous activity they were a part of. Provide them with warnings so that they can begin to prepare for the transition to dinner. At SEEC we give children a five-minute warning and ask them to repeat it back to us. They might not tell time or understand exactly how long five minutes is, but they understand that soon they will stop with one activity and move to the next. If your child needs a more concrete way to understand the passing of time try a sand timer. You can get them in a variety of time lengths and it’s a great visual representation of the passing of time.

  1. Reflection and Sticker Chart

Having especially difficult meal times or having trouble getting your child to eat anything at all? Try a sticker chart. Sit down with your child and ask them to reflect on how they thought the meal went. Provide a smiley or similar sticker and if you both agree the meal went well (you can decide what this means since it will be different for every family) they get to add the sticker to the chart. You can even provide a small reward for a week full of successful meals (this could be something as easy as an extra book bed at bedtime!).

  1. Food Presentation

The way a child responds to food could not only be based on taste but on texture and shape. If you are getting the “it looks weird” face try mashing or pureeing the item so that it takes on a form similar to something they do like. Even as adults we respond to how something looks or feels as we eat.

make it fun young children SEEC

  1. Keep it Fun

When someone says you have to do something, most of our initial reactions are to dig in or push back. Children are the same. If you take the pressure off the meal and keep things light, the meal will be much more enjoyable for everyone. Children have a wonderful ability to read a mood and then reflect it back. Just remember, if you are frustrated they will be too.

  1. Take Bites like an Animal

Make eating into a game. Does your child have a favorite animal? Are they really into trucks? Why not ask them to take small mouse bites to try a new food or pretend they are a backhoe shoveling up a big bite!

  1. New Eating Tools

Try mixing up the eating implement as it will make eating more fun. Try chopsticks or even a spork. The novel aspect of the eating tool will make it exciting for your child to use it to eat. It also has the added benefit of providing your child with additional fine motor practice!


Have other tricks that work for your family? Please share!


10 Things You Can Do Right Now in the Car


Stuck in traffic? On a road trip? Or just having a rough morning commute? Here are 10 things you can do right now with your child in the car to help pass the time!


  1. Sing

This is always a fun way to pass the time but don’t let them sing alone! Join in on the fun! This will help your child engage with the song longer. You can also make singing a game by trying to match the volume of the song. For example, turn it down really low and suggest that you whisper sing.

  1. Listen to a Book on Tape or Podcast

When singing doesn’t work, try a book on tape or a podcast. We have seen firsthand at SEEC how engaged children are when listening to an audio book. There are a lot of great free options out there, inclduing audio books from your local library that you can check out directly onto your device.

  1. Mystery Bag Object

Pass your child a bag full of miscellaneous items. Tell them to stick their hand into the bag without peaking and describe what they are feeling. Work together to try and guess what the item is.

  1. Zip and Button a Coat

Make car time a productive learning opportunity by having your child practice their fine motor skills on their jacket buttons and zippers. Other people in the car? Let them work on those coats too! (18).png

  1. Take Photos

Pass your child your phone so they can take photos of their journey. It is a great way to pass time and also provides you with their view of the world (this activity is best done with a second non-driving adult in the car to ensure phone or camera safety).

  1. Start a Band

Do you have a water bottle? Pens? Or anything that can shake or rattle? Then you have a band! Let your child use a pen to tap on different surfaces and create their own “drum.” Fill an empty water bottle with paper clips or other small items and convert it into a shaker!


  1. Draw

No paper? No problem. This is a great chance to let your child explore drawing on new and different materials. An old map, napkin, or even a paper grocery bag can make a great drawing surface! Be sure to keep an eye on your child to make sure their pen doesn’t wander too far!

  1. 5 Question Game

A condensed version of 20 questions is a great way to engage your child. Have them think of something and then use 5 descriptive questions to try to guess what it is. Then switch!

  1. Balance Game

Pass your child an unbreakable object and ask them to balance it on their leg, knee, hand, head, etc. Time them to see how long they can balance each item. This is a great way to invite your child to sit still even if it is just for a few seconds. (17)

  1. Stop

When all else fails. Stop. It may take you a little longer to get to your destination but letting your child out of the seat to do some moving may help the ride go much smoother. If possible, find a safe place to park and do some running around the car or jumping jacks! To encourage them back into their seat make it a game to see who can get in the car first.

Have other ideas? Please share!

20 Teacher Approved Baby Shower Gifts

Yay, a baby! It’s time to celebrate the parents-to-be! Feel like going rogue and gifting something not on the registry? Here are our favorite ideas, parent/kid tested and teacher approved. Many items on this list will age with the child and be a play room staple for years!

  1. Set of Sensory Frames

If you have seen our earlier post on sensory bins you already know how much we love these sensory frames. They are a great DIY gift option and can be personalized for the colors and theme of any baby room. They can also be updated to suit the needs of the child as they grow. Just pop the glass or plastic out of a frame and fill with any tactile material.

  1. Walker

Their new baby will be up and moving before they know it. Anything a baby can push or lean on as they start to move is a perfect gift to help encourage movement. This can be a cart, wagon with a tall handle, or even a pretend lawnmower. As long as it has wheels and a steady base it will help a young child feel confident enough to take those first steps.

SEEC Baby Shower Gifts Sensory Bottles

  1. Sensory Bottles

Sensory bottles are a fun way to allow young babies to safely explore small objects. They will be a fast favorite if they are filled with high contrast noisy items. Best of all, you can also DIY and make them completely personalized. One option is to upcycle a clean wide-mouthed bottle, fill it with water and glitter, and then add laminated pictures of the family.

SEEC Baby Shower Gifts Hats

  1. A lot of Hats

Children always need hats and at SEEC we know firsthand how many hats can end up lost or forgotten at school. Provide the family with a range of hats for all seasons that coordinate with the age the child will be at that time of year.

  1. Museum Adult and Child Program

Many museums are now on board the baby train and offer programming intended specifically for this very young audience. Many new parents are often looking for excursions that are both infant friendly and provide adult interaction and stimulation. At SEEC, our programming allows adults and babies zero to twelve months a safe, welcoming, and educational environment to experience the museums. Learn more about our BYOB and Infant Investigator classes on our website.

SEEC Baby Shower Gifts Family Album

  1. Baby Safe Family Album

Create an easy baby-safe photo album by laminating pictures and securing them together with a luggage tag loop or carabiner. Select a loop or carabiner that can twist to lock and is extra-large to ensure it won’t become a choking hazard.

SEEC Baby Shower Gifts Mirror

  1. Baby Safe Mirror

Have you noticed how much babies and young children love to look at themselves? Learning to understand expressions and read emotions is a big developmental milestone for young children and a lot of practice for the child happens in front of the mirror. A baby safe mirror has rounded edges and is made from plastic. It is a perfect tool to help liven up tummy time for an infant and is sure to continue to hold their attention as they grow.

  1. Gift Card for a Baby Photo Book

A gift card is a great motivator for someone to finally get that photo book made. This will end up also being a gift for the child, who will love looking back at themselves as a baby.

SEEC Baby Shower Gifts Foam Pool

  1. Foam Play Pool

This is probably the most popular toy in our infant room. When the child is sitting up but not mobile it’s a great soft and confined place to play. As they get older it will be a perfect spot for all sorts of climbing and tumbling.

  1. Outlet Protectors

This item is often overlooked on a parent’s baby proofing list but it is an important tool to make sure a space is baby safe.

  1. Stacking Toys

Stacking toys are a great toy that will age with the child. At first, they will be great teethers and sound makers (when the cups, blocks, etc. are clapped together). Later, they can help a child develop their depth perception and hand eye coordination.

  1. Babysitting Voucher

Provide an IOU for your babysitting services. Free care giving services for a first night out with a baby will be greatly appreciated!

  1. Gift Card for Groceries or Food Delivery

Feeding yourself becomes second priority when you have a baby. Give the gift of food delivery to make sure all family members are all well fed!

  1. Travel High Chair

Encourage the parents to head out on the town with their child with a travel high chair. Many easily snap into place making the child ready to be a part of any table related activity.

  1. Onesies with Zippers

No more fumbling with buttons or snaps. A quick zip ensures a speedy change in the dark getting all parties back to bed in no time.

SEEC Baby Shower Gifts Socks

  1. Baby Socks

Like hats, one can never have too many.

  1. High Contrast Wall Art

Help decorate the nursery with baby friendly art. While a baby’s eyesight takes a while to develop they are first able to distinguish high contrast shapes.

  1. Books on Child Development

They may have read all the books on parenting but why not provide them with some great books about their child’s brain development? Check out are favorites from the SEEC book club here.

  1. Sound Machine

This will help keep adults from feeling like they have to sneak around the house.

  1. Freezer Ready Teethers

Teething will be upon them before they known it and some freezer ready teethers will be a perfect treat for baby. They can also double as boo-boo soothers.

Have some favorite gift ideas we didn’t mention? Please share them below!

10 Things You Can Do Right Now with Your Child at the Doctor’s Office


You made it to the doctor on time, but now you are stuck in the waiting room! Here are a few things to help you and your child pass the time!

  1. Prep for the Appointment: Use this extra down time to help calm any pre-appointment jitters. Help your child transition by describing what will happen between now and when they enter the exam room. This is a good time to break the news about shots so they don’t come as a total surprise.3
  2. Doctor Pretend Play: Allow your child a chance to pretend to be the doctor! It is a fun and easy way to have your child feel more comfortable.
  3. Magazine Collage: There are always an abundance of old magazines in the waiting room. Ask the receptionist if you can use one for an art project. Tear or borrow scissors to make a temporary collage of magazine images.
  4. Magazine Drawing: Ask the receptionist if you can use one of the older magazines as a sketch pad. Your child can add their own illustrations to the images in the magazine.
  5. Chair Exercises: Get in a little gross motor movement while sitting in the waiting room. In a seated position have your child place their palms on either side of their upper thighs and try to lift themselves up using only their arms. You can also have your child sit on the edge of their seat and have them lift their legs up and down slowly. This engages the abs and helps them build core strength. It will also test their self-control since your child’s urge will be to swing their legs back and forth quickly. You can also search for more ideas on the web using “seated exercises.”4
  6. Play Charades: Take turns miming different activities (eating ice cream, reading a book, etc.).
  7. Play Categories: Take turns selecting a topic and then work together to make a list of all the things in that category. For example, if you select the topic “Animals,” take turns listing all the animals you can think of. For an extra challenge use a letter of the alphabet as the category subject.
  8. Stack Something: No blocks in sight? Not a problem! Grab cups, pens, magazines, or even appointment cards and start building a tall tower!
  9. Practice with Zippers, Shoelaces, and Buttons: Take advantage of this quiet time by having your child practice their fine motor skills. To make it a little more exciting allow them to practice on your clothing.
  10. Write a Thank You Note: This is a simple but impactful activity! It helps the child recognize the role of the doctor as someone who helps take care of them and not someone who is scary. It also helps your child build a habit of gratitude. Who knows, it may also make your doctor’s day!

Have other great waiting room activities? Please share!