Thursday, November 19, 2009

We're reading....

These are two of the books recommended in GREAT BOOKS.
I KISSED THE BABY is adorable and introduces some different animals that take care of the baby in different ways. The endpapers were Quinn's favorite part--the first endpaper is pink with bold black stripes and the end endpaper is orange and black.
The illustrations are done in sihlouette's, which is a fresh change to see animals in a different style. At the end the momma duck kisses the baby and of course I always give Q a big smooch!

This story talks about babies born in different places around the world and how they all have ten fingers and toes. A beautiful introduction to the idea that even though people come from different backgrounds, we also share common similarities. Every time it talked about fingers and toes we found Q's and I kissed them. At the end the Mommy kisses her baby 3 times on the nose, and you can just guess what I have to do!

These are sweet books at a good developmental level and length for most 14-month olds. I like that they are pretty different in regards to the type of illustrations. I KISSED is bright, bold and simple. TEN LITTLE is more muted, realistic and busier. Children benefit from experiencing "their world" through different visual styles in stories, so I try to use as many different genres of illustration as possible.

I got these both from the library.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good Explanation of Managing Children's Materials

This article is from THE WONDER YEARS blog. I love some of the things she has to say about "Less is More."
As a christian I think this goes so far beyond an educational philosophy. I also believe I am teaching my daughter a spiritual concept, as well, when I help her see that she does not always have to be surrounded by "stuff." I hope our choices in limiting her toys as a toddler will affect the degree to which materialism and commercialism prey upon her....

Anyhow, here is the article:

Montessori Question: Activities for Toddlers

I'm planning to use Montessori ideas/methods with my son when he is born in a couple of months (I know I'm an early planner). But the biggest question is how many activities do you leave out for the child to use (I'm thinking for a 18-24 month old)? How often do you rotate activities? For Montessori at home do you set certain times of the day for learning or just leave the activities accessible for whenever the child is interested?

Before being introduced to Montessori, I worked as a preschool teacher in a typical childcare setting. The co-teacher that was hired to work with me came from a Montessori school. (My introduction to Montessori) After she had spent the first day in our room we had a chance to talk. One of the first things she wanted to discuss was the shelves. Like most preschools, we had large quantities of toys and manipulatives. The shelves were full and many items were contained in large laundry sized baskets or in nothing at all and stacked on the shelves. My co-worker asked how I felt about removing half of the objects from the shelves(!) At first I couldn't see why, but then she explained. "Just because the blocks come in a package containing 150 pieces, doesn't mean you need to put them all out." She pointed out that large quantities of anything can be overwhelming in many ways. Visually, it can be overwhelming and overstimulating to see cluttered, stuffed shelves. Children get confused as to where objects go and can get overwhelmed looking at the amount that needs to be cleaned up afterwards. I questioned what about children who want the same thing at the same time? She answered, they learn patience and learn to take turns. As it turned out, removing the abundance from the shelves proved positive and the children never lacked toys and manipulatives. We often rotated the toys every 4-6 weeks because we had more this way.

The reason I share this experience is because having too much is a common mistake. When setting up an environment for a child, we want it to be as inviting as possible. In creating this environment, less can be more. Starting out 2 objects per shelf allows a very young child to return objects to their spot easily. Low shelving is important and a rule of thumb is the smallest child should be able to easily reach the top shelf. In our home, for a long time we used the inexpensive shoe shelves for my daughter because they are low, inexpensive and can be used later for holding closet items. I had out about 4 activities for her to choose from on the shelves and after I saw her interest in it diminish, I exchanged it for something else. We had these activities on the shoe shelf near the kitchen because at least one of the activities usually involved water. In other rooms we also had blocks, puzzles, books, dolls, and other play based activities.

Some parts of Montessori work should be accessible at all times. This includes practical life clean-up materials, care of self items like clothing, hairbrush, facecloths, and food preparation activities (pouring water or spreading peanut butter on crackers type activities). How you set up the environment is dependent on what works for you and will most likely change as your child matures. I had found that at about 20 months, I wanted to set up more activities and have a more structured time and space, so I created a spot in our Montessori room for my youngest daughter too. She doesn't use the area everyday, usually at least three days a week, and she loves it. For me, I prefer to have Montessori time and play time separate but incorporate things like practical life into our daily routine.

Change of plans...

Of course you remember my post on the different "fall" related fingerplays I spent time pulling together for Q. Is she interested? Not one bit!
Instead, she is ALL ABOUT the Eensy Weensy Spider song/fingerplay! I guess it is spurred by this library book:
(I know, we change the our house it's eeensy weensy...)
We've sang this to her for months, but she has just taken a sudden obsession to it! She loves to point to the spider picture on each page (great early-literacy skills!! This means she is aware that illustrations have meaning, that each page continues with the same general idea, she is using visual discrimination to find the same spider on each page, and having very basic awareness of symbolic representation...obviously it's not a REAL spider, but it's a picture of one that REPRESENTS a spider.) On her way to reading, folks!
Anyhow, we are taking a break from the fall fingerplays...they are still out and I will say them for her if she grabs one, but we are sticking with her lead on this one. I've seriously sang the Spider song at least 20 times a day. Yikes!
The fingerplays will save for next year....or who knows...maybe next week! :)
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Dress-up rack

...Stumbled on an old display piece at a gift store that they were selling for a steal! (my opinion, not necessarily Matt's...)
Q has become most interested in necklaces and purses, so it was perfect timing! I have out a purse and a few choices of necklaces as well as a little pair of sunglasses and a scarf.

I have a whole drawer of dress-up items saved for her (thank you, Mimi, for lots of fun old jewelery!), but I try to give her just a few choices at a time. This allows her to focus on just a few skills (putting on sunglasses, putting on/taking off necklaces, opening/closing purse, etc.) at a time and keeps her from becoming overwhelmed. Best of all, she can actually complete most of the clean-up involved with only my verbal direction. I believe (based in much research...) that children don't benefit one bit from having an adult clean up after them because it is "too much" for them to do on their own. Instead, I prefer to put out few enough items that they can be successful on their own. Also, instead of ransacking the items to take a stock of everything available, only offering a few items leads to longer, more involved play!

All of the items are placed at her level, of course!!
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Leaf Sort

Fall leaves have been beautiful here this week! Yesterday we (more me than her, to be truthful) picked up some pretty ones on a walk. I got out a big pan and put one leaf in each compartment. A few times yesterday I showed her how to dump the pan, say "uhhh-ohhh" and then put one leaf back into each compartment. However, a much more fun game happened sporadically. The dog shoved her snout under my hand as I was demonstrating the leaf sort, and I placed a leaf on Alie-Dog's head. HILARIOUS to the 14-month-old. So the game changed to seeing how many leaves we could stack on the doggy's head.
I am definitely about letting children guide learning experiences. Who knows better than them what processes their little minds and bodies are in the middle of working through.....and when they direct a learning experience, I always try to go with it! I may try to stretch what they are doing a Liiiiitle farther (the technical term for this is scaffolding...good ole Vygotsky...) but I honor their input.

For older children you could get a big pile of leaves and practice "dealing" them among the compartments. This is a foundational skill for counting, multiplication and division. Anytime you can give your preschooler/early elementary-age child practice "dealing" various items, go for it!

You could also turn to a science realm and sort the leaves by different characteristics.
-jagged/smooth edges

Do an online search for the different vocabulary words associated with leaves--what is the stem called when it goes into the leaf?
Can you identify what species?
Monocot or dicot?

Preschoolers eat this stuff up!!

We also took a walk to Grandbob's house yesterday and practiced "crunching" leaves with our feet. Momma was soooo funny when she kicked up a big cloud of leaves, too! Raking and jumping might just be in today's plans!!
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November Work Shelf

Some items on the November shelf are new and some will already be familiar! I often try to keep some work Q has not yet explored fully or things she really enjoyed, and will typically change out about half of the items. That leaves some familiar things and also some exciting new work. I forgot to take an individual picture of the wipes container (far left) filled with wooden blocks. She is enjoying opening and closing and removing and adding the blocks. This is practical life skill work, as well, since we ask her to open the wipes container and hand us wipes when we change her diapers. If possible, if I do leave objects for a 2nd month, I often try to move them to a new spot on the shelf. For the corn this wasn't possible as they hang out and get stepped on and crunched all over the floor if they go to a different spot.

I wanted to find a cornocopia (how the heck do you spell that!!???) as I had some plastic vegetables to put in, but never came across one. I am fine waiting for next year for this. Might even stumble on one after the holidays for a bargain clearance price. Right now Q's biggest interests are climbing, walking around and dragging/carrying items, so I am not going overboard on the particular materials out as work. She is really enjoying trying to figure out how to get up in a chair (even her little chairs) with a piece of work or a book. I can see her little mind at work problem-solving as she tries to achieve this task!
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On the display shelf we kept the scarecrow and added a stuffed squirrel.

This terrific turkey came from the dollar store. Q loves carrying him around. We practice the turkey sound and talk about his body parts. I doubt he will survive more than just this season, but he is getting well-loved in his short life.

Thanksgiving books....

This wooden pilgrim couple and their turkey pet (on a leash) was made by Matt's late grandfather--Grandad. It is so precious to us because it reminds us of him every time we see it and great Thanksgivings we've spent with him! I love that Q gets to enjoy this little gift of Grandad! We like to pull the pilgrim boy's hat down over his eyes and play peek-a-boo. Q likes to drop them on the floor and listen to them hitting the wood floor.
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Nesting bowls....practices seriation, size, and motor skills as we stack them and take them apart.

This apple plate is from the $ store-I love it! On the plate is a fighter. Since we went to the airshow this month, I put out a plane to practice vocabulary.

There are brown milk jug tops in the ice cube tray this month. One-to-one correspondance, fine motor, counting.....

Orange tissue paper....great for crinkling, shaking, crunching up into a ball. Provides sensory experiences and motor skill practice.
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The pumpkin pie can with the wooden discs is remaining. I will continue to work with Q on taking the discs out and putting them back in.

These are different types of paint brushes from a toddler paintbrush set I got at the teacher supply store. Before we paint with them, I will put them out for Q to expore their different textures, weights, sounds, etc. I use them to tickle her toes so she can feel the differences between them.

This is a coffee can with a hole in the lid that we use for all sorts of things. Right now it is home to some fabric crows that Q can put in and take out. Great motor skills as well as problem-solving.
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3-Piece Knobbed puzzle....borrowed from a friend.

The Indian Corn is staying around.
A fabric silly turkey hangs on the doorknob.
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Two books....

These are two books recommended in "Great Books." All of Baby is cute, but Q was not very interested at this point. Too many things on each page. We have been practicing pointing to the different body parts on the pages, though. One Little Spoonful is also very busy and the action does not change much (in the illustration) from page to page. I think both of these are a little above Q's head. Might retry them at a later point. We will reread All of Baby a few more times this week, though, as I like to stretch her listening comprehension and am also exposing her to non-board books. She has already enjoyed turning "real" pages! These books also seem very large to her. I may let her do some supervised carrying of them (they are library books so gotta be careful!) to see if she notices they are much larger than her board books.
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I am using THIS BOOK as a reference for choosing read-aloud books for Q. I got a copy initally from the library and then one of my own from Paperback Swap.
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November Poem

We have lots of squirrels in our backyard right now, so this poem is very fitting! Thanksgiving really means nothing to Q at this point since it is rather abstract and something she doesn't even remember from last year. So instead we are going with a poem based on something she sees every day! This is from the AWESOME book Eric Carle's Animals, Animals which I strongly recommend. I will glue the squirrel picture to the front of cardstock and put the poem on the back. Once I memorize the poem, I will start reciting it to Q whenever we see a squirrel. She also has a little stuffed squirrel in the learning room to hold.
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November Magnets

We kept some of her favorites from October so she could enjoy them a bit longer! Also added some new ones...
-Indian characters
-Pilgrim girl (both of these were ones I already had in some bulletin board decos from when I taught 1st grade)
-photos of Oma and Opa, who live far away
-photo of our doggy with a pumpkin
-a P-51 (Quinn's great-grandfather flew this in WW2), the Blue Angles, and an Apache--since we just learned about airplanes at the airshow a few weeks back.
-Still to come--a photo of a turkey!
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November Finger Plays

Here are the fingerplays I am including for November. I mount each one on a colored piece of cardstock with the fingerplay words on the back and a matching illustration on the front. I then laminate and post on Q's little bulletin board in the learning room. Most of the fingerplays have to do with fall animals.

Where are the baby mice? Squeak, squeak, squeak.

I cannot see them. Peek, peek, peek.

Here they come from the hole in the wall,

One, two, three, four, five--that's all!

Two little blackbirds

Sitting on a hill--

One named Jack,

The other named Jill.

Fly away, Jack!

Fly away, Jill!

Come back, Jack!

Come back, Jill!

Clap your hands, clap your hands,

Clap them just like me.

Touch your shoulders, touch your shoulders,

Touch them just like me.

Tap your knees, tap your knees,

Tap them just like me.

Shake your head, shake your head,

Shake it just like me.

Clap your hands, clap your hands,

Now let them quiet be!

Whisky, frisky, hippity-hop,

Up he goes to the treetop.

Whirly, twirly, round and round,

Down he scampers to the ground.

Furly, curly, what a tail--

Tall as a feather, broad as a sail!

Where's his supper? In the shell.

Snappity, crackily, out if fell!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sensory Tub

Sensory tubs are a must for toddlers and preschoolers! There are so many fabulous choices of materials and the tubs can range from a small dishpan to a wading pool in size! At the farmer's market last weekend Q played in a tub of cracked corn, which was a huge hit! I decided to duplicate at home. For about $8 we got a 50# bag of cracked corn (corn chops!) to fill her wading pool. A management tip is to always put some fabric (a rug, beach towel, etc) under the tub to minimize the mess of spill overs bouncing EVERYWHERE! In this case sine the pool will stay outside, I put a big tablecloth under the cracked corn to reduce static electricity from corn rubbing the plastic and to help catch corn from spilling over the side. Q wants to sit INSIDE the pool and play, which is just fine! We have wooden utensils (from the dollar store) and some metal pans (gifts from Grandmas), a terra cotta pot, and a couple of funnels. Also, eating the cracked corn (sure to happen with a 13 month-old) isn't an issue because it won't hurt her. I am always a bit hesitant about her eating sand because who knows what cat may have visited it. Yuck.
When she finishes playing we cover the pool with a tarp and tuck under the edges.
The corn goes nicely with our fall vocabulary words and theme. Another sensory plus--it smells lovely and sounds so beautiful when the kernels fall out of an upturned hand or a dumping pot. Try it, you'll love it!
When you are finished, the birds and squirrels will love you!

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October Magnets

Another area of learning fun in our house is the fridge. Q loves exploring magnets....taking them off, putting them back on, dropping them, carrying them around the house. All the while she is getting good fine-motor practice, learning vocabulary (scarecrow, apple tree, leaves, etc.) and also learning some basic science principles about magnatism.
For October we went with a fall magnet theme. I mounted some leaves on cardboard and laminated them. I mounted some scarecrow stickers on felt and laminated those with clear packaging tape (too thick for regular laminator), also laminated an apple tree, four little leaf stickers, and a picture of her cousin in his Halloween costume. Oh yeah, and my favorite--a picture of Q's "pumpkin head" from last Halloween, which she calls her "baby." Sweet!
Some tips for magnets--if they aren't mounted on something thick, they can be hard for little ones to get their fingers under to remove from the fridge. They take a beating more than you'd think getting put on and off, so they have to be on cardobard or fabric to keep them from tearing, even when laminated.
We also have a random magnetic timer on the fridge. Q is obsessed with buttons, so we keep this here for her enjoyment!
We play the "get Mommy a ______ (leaf, scarecrow, baby, etc.) game with the magnets. If she doesn't hand it to me after a bit, I reach for it, point and say, "There it is!"

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Bath toys matter, too!

I also try to change out her bath toys regularly and be intentional about what "work" she uses in the bath. We provide different countainers in varying sizes for pouring and comparing. She has some different "water animals," ducks, fish, etc. Also I change out different kitchen tools (basters, spatulas, slotted spoon, ladle, etc.) We also have a set of seriated stacking cups and a small watering can and a few foamy letters that stick onto the wall out right now.
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We keep a basket of GrandBob-made natural-wood blocks availale at all times. As she gets older and uses them for building and not just carrying/dropping, we will organize them onto a shelf by type and size so she can practice sorting as well as find what she wants easily.
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September back-track

September was animals for our can see some of the work we had out in September!
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