Friday, June 10, 2011

The wonderful "thingy basket"

One of my favorite "seasons" of Q's babyhood was her "thingy basket" days. Around the time she started sitting up (6ish months) we would make her a thingy basket. Very simply, I got a nice sturdy basket and we filled it with small treasures for her to explore. Some ideas:
-baby food jars filled with rice, pennies, beans, sequins, buttons (you can run a thin rim of hot glue around the lid then screw it on to keep it from opening)
-small kitchen utensils (wooden spoons, dip spreaders, different sizes of spoons, spatulas, etc.)
-small board books
-pieces of different fabrics, scarves, socks, burlap, denim squares
-napkin rings
-small cardboard boxes
-keychains (especially if they have keys on them!)
-non-used remote controls, cell phones, etc.
-a couple wooden blocks
-baby cereal box with pennies inside
-little sunglasses
-small flashlight
-empty food containers (washed)
-random objects from the garage that aren't sharp
-dish brush
-small wood and metal food dishes

Basically we'd take a walk around each room of the house and look for safe, fun items!
I really tried to focus on non-plastic items. The majority of baby toys are plastic--and plastic always feels the same, smells the same, is the same temperature, and doesn't provide much variety in sensory imput for little ones exploring their world. I wanted to provide objects of varying weights, textures, materials, temperatures, sizes, and uses for exploration.
During this stage we really didn't use too many of the "traditional" baby toys, as they were somewhat limited in what they could "teach" our little explorer.
It was so fun to watch her explore the new items and see how long it would take her to notice when we added a new one!
She'd sit FOREVER exploring her basket and had so much fun trying each object, feeling it, tasting it.....

Here is another link that shows an example of a great "thingy basket."

The picture above is Q playing with her thingy basket while Opa works on the computer.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Magnet Board Number Match

Aunt Lynda made Q this awesome magnet board. Since Q's been very interested in naming her numbers lately, I decided to put out some number work. I got out a set of magnetic numbers, layed them down on our scanner/copier and ran off a black and white copy of them (black and white because I want the feature she is focusing on to be the shape of the number, not the color). I cut them apart, taped them onto the metal board, and presto! She can now practice matching the numbers.

This same thing could be done with letters, shapes, words, animals, or even letters to SPELL words or names.
For example, I could put out the letters for:

For smaller kiddos, they just enjoy putting magnetic letters/numbers/or pieces on and off a metal surface. This is great fine-motor for them as they have to use their small finger muscles and coordinate their arm/wrist strength.

No magnet board? Use your fridge!!
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

A little re-arranging

Recently Q and I spent a little time re-arranging her playroom. All we did is move the art easel (which is temporarily serving as our flower shop) out of the corner and into a new location in front of the window. We moved her little table and chairs out of it's previous spot in front of the window and into the corner. Basically we just switched the locations of these two areas, moved her little cradle to a new spot next to the kitchen, and voila!

Children (and adults too!) enjoy an occasional change of scenery. Often times this leads to them playing with items that they seemed to have forgotten before--stirs up a renewed interest once they see their toys in a new place. I always try to keep my rule that I only switch two major areas at a time with toddlers. More than that can sometimes cause them to get a little anxious.

Some other small changes you can make to freshen up your play spaces and create renewed interest--
*change out the containers work/toys are stored in
*change out rugs
*re-arrange artwork
*hang something new from the ceiling or window
*change the tablecloth on a play table
*put away a couple of large toys and switch out for something new
(this past month I put away Q's shopping cart and got out the blue/wood cart you can see in the far left of the photo--she was so excited to see it make a reappearance as it had been put up for many months).
*switch out the dishes in play kitchen (I occasionally wash out food containers and switch them out to add something new--peanut butter jars, salsa jars, food cans, cake mix boxes, etc.)

If your child doesn't have a dedicated playroom, try doing this in their bedroom and see if they get excited over a change of scenery!

I tried to change some furniture around about once a month in my toddler/preschool classrooms and was always met with great excitement by my little ones!!
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Flower shop for dramatic play

To go along with our loose theme of "flowers and plants" this past month, I built Q a simple "flower shop." This is one of the first "themed" play areas I have introduced to her, so I wanted to keep it simple.

I used our art easel. I raided my craft supplies and came up with some fake flowers and greenery. I put red mums, green ferns, orange flowers and white geraniums each in a tall metal bucket that sits on the edge of the easel. (the flower can be used for sorting by type and color!!). I decorated by draping a flowery piece of fabric across the top, making a sign that says FLOWER SHOP, hanging a couple of shopping bags from a piece of bent metal hanger I taped up and stuck a flower clip onto, and used some flower art we'd made earlier in the month to decorate the board. I didn't buy a thing and all of them items are accessible by Q.
She loves to push the buckets of flowers in her shopping cart, take them out of the buckets and put them back in, ask her daddy and I what color flowers we want in the bags (and fill our orders!), and put the flowers on her little table for decorations.

When I initially set up the play space I had to spend some time playing with her and helping guide/direct her play by making some suggestions of what she might want to do with the items. For example, I said, "I want to buy some flowers! Can you put 3 red ones in a bag for me?" I also worked with her the first several times she cleaned this area up to teach her how to restore all the work back into its proper spots. These are necessary components to make play spaces successful, to keep them looking nice and appealing, and to teach the child how to play in them. Obviously older children need less guidance once they have more practice constructing their own dramatic play.

For an older child I might consider adding:
-cash register (could just be a calculator!)
-money (pennies or play money or even slips of paper)
-pad/pen to write orders on
-apron for worker to wear
-paper for receipts

They might also enjoy making the "flower shop" sign themselves! Or at least decorating it!!

The key is to be creative and find items around your home to repurpose. Don't get too complicated--leave some room to encourage imagination and remember that simple is better!

What fun can you have creating a flower shop or other themed play space for your kiddos as summer starts off???

HERE is a link to another great flower shop idea that would be great for preschoolers!
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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Half Price Books Summer Reading Program--get a $5 giftcard!

Details HERE.
Definitely worth a look if your kids are summer readers. For little ones (like mine!), they can participate by being read to. If they read 15 minutes every day (for a total of 600 minutes in June and July) they can earn a $5 at Half Price Books. I'm thinking my little one will LOVE picking out a new book with this!
Program starts download the form and get started!!