Sunday, January 29, 2012

Calendar introduction

Q got a calendar for Christmas and we started working with it a bit this month. Only as much as interested her and just in small doses. From our past calendar exercises (which never included an ACTUAL calendar--just the names of the months and days) she already knows the months and days of the week. So first I showed her where those were on the calendar. We pointed to the numbers and counted. Then we talked about what days she goes to preschool. We chose a bus icon to print and glue on school days. We drew a cross on days we go to church. We drew birthday cakes on days that are someone's bday. Sometimes we remember to cross off days after they occur. Sometimes we have to do some crossing in spurts. :) I am repeatidly showing her how a calendar works--it is a form of a graphic organizer that also helps understand how to read a simple graph, so it's an important skill. Of course not something a 3 year old should have mastered, but definitely something she is ready to be exposed to. She loves to use the calendar to count how many days until a specific event or to see what day "tomorrow" is.

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Stick Snowflakes

This was an easy, fun project from last week.
First we painted popsicle sticks. If you don't have any on hand, use real sticks broken to the same length.
We mixed paint to get the colors of our choosing. I did a greenish blue and Q made purple.
After painting, we sprinkled glitter onto the wet paint. Once they were dried we glued 3 sticks crossing to make snowflakes. You can see Q's--some are a little uneven, but I love that about them! Then Daddy was called in with the drill press to make holes for hanging. You could also just tie the string around the stick.

They look so festive and pretty and wintery in our window above our snowflake garland!!
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Don't our wax hearts look pretty?

Details HERE.
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Collage Compartments

Here is some College Art I put out today in Q's playroom. She can bring the tray to the table when she wants to do a little art! I put the glue in a baby food jar and she can use a paint brush to apply.
The idea is from the Wonder Years blog. I love that it uses things I have in the house--you can put any objects in your muffin tin. I tried to go by color--two compartments of each color of the rainbow. I used (top to bottom, left to right): cut up red felt scraps, red tissue paper squares, orange Eifel Tower pastas, nutmeg, yellow pom poms, yellow popcorn kernels, green lentils, crushed and dried mint, blue pasta wheels, assorted feathers, white cotton balls, and brown mulling spices.

We made a college together today so I could teach her how to use the objects. I spread glue in a heart and she placed and chose the objects. We made this for her great grandparents, and she insisted in writing "Thank you for going to the doctor" on it. :) Cute.

Looking forward to seeing her creativity when she does some independent collaging this week!
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Prayer Journal

Our church is going through a series on prayer right now. We were challenged Sunday to pray more deeply and regularly (and to focus in on all the elements of prayer--not just asking for stuff!) and were given a prayer journal to use throughout the next couple of months. Also, the children were given their own prayer journals, on a more simple level. LOVE these--and we'll be doing it with Quinn for sure! Wanted to share the link in case anyone wanted to download it or just take a look and use your own notebook to make one for your kiddos!

Cracking Peanuts

We have a basket of peanuts in their shells on our kitchen table. Q is really enjoying cracking some to snack on every day. This is GREAT fine motor practice for her, as well as practical life--she knows she has to get a little bowl for the shells, clean up the crumbs, and she is also learning to seperate the shells from the skin and the nut!
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Wax shaving Hearts

This is a project we used to do as kids with my dad (except we didn't cut hearts...just plain ole rectangles....). He had an old iron used for waxing skis that he'd get out and I can still smell the warm wax smell in my nose right now as I think about it. Mmmmm. Makes me want to hit the slopes. :) Anyhow....

Quinn and I made some hearts this morning. She really enjoyed it and it was easy and fairly quick!

First we sharpened crayons (wonderful fine motor for older preschoolers!!!). I let her choose two crayons at a time so the colors melted together nicely. To many colors tends to turn black or brown. She tried the sharpener a bit, but it was hard for her to put enough pressure on the crayon while she turned, so I did most of the sharpening. You can also run a crayon over a cheese grater if you don't have a sharpener.

Then I cut hearts out out of wax paper--two of each heart for a top and bottom.

We stacked up about 8 sheets of paper from our scrap box, laid down one wax heart, sprinkled it with the shavings, topped it with the second heart and 2-3 more pieces of paper and ironed it!
We were left with these beauties!! Now to decide where they'll hang!

By the way, after all of this lovliness Q threw a big tantrum about some random thing, so she spent a cool down time in her room and heart-making came to an abrupt halt. :)
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A little clean-up

Doing some practical life this morning....with a repurposed spray bottle filled with water and a washcloth! She can shine the table like a pro!

This is an activity that ages with children. It can first be introduced to very young toddlers (you can forgo the spray bottle and just offer a damp sponge or washcloth initially) and is enjoyed even by older children.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cutting Work

My three year old is working on mastering scissoring. She knows how to be safe with scissors and how to hold them (through MANY past lessons and experiences guided by me) so now she's ready for some independent work. I put out one magazine (a parenting one so it has lots of pictures of children and babies and things kids are familiar with) and a pair of scissors. She is having such fun cutting out different items for Matt and I. I've also suggested she glue some of the pieces onto paper to make a collage, so we have her little collages all over the house!

Through practice children learn the skills needed to cut efficiently--how to hold the scissors, how tight to hold the paper, how to turn the paper, etc.

Often children are given "scissoring sheets" with lines to cut, and I do think that is okay in doses, but I've seen those overused many times in early childhood. Children really seem to enjoy unstructured exploration with scissors--and they learn the skills just as well this way at their own pace.

Note--magazine paper is a lot trickier to cut than construction paper--for newbies I use the cardstock inserts in magazines--those annoying little cards that try to get you to buy stuff or subscribe to the magazine. I put those out in a basket with some scissors. The stiffness of the paper makes them easier to cut.

Also, if you want to use this activity with older infants and young toddlers, instead of having them cut the magazine, they can practice tearing it. This is a precursor to cutting!
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Quinn, my 3 year old, is LOVING scarves right now. Both her playsilks and also some smaller scarves. I have out a basket with different types--a woven winter scarf, some silky neck scarves, and even a long silky belt. She loves making them into clothes, tying them around her waist or wearing them like the wrap I wear baby Beck in. She also ties them on her stroller, wraps them around her babies, etc. Obviously this is a toy we don't let her have unsupervised because it could be a safety hazard. Scarves encourage her imagination in dramatic play, foster abstract representation (when she pretends the scarf is something else--dress, blanket, wrap, etc.), assist fine motor skills through knot tying, and I love the numerous opportunities they provide for open-ended play. Plus they are something I already have around the house! I change them out every now and then to give her a surprise when she goes to the scarf basket.
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Pinecone Centerpiece

For our seasonal centerpiece on our little playroom table, we took a walk in our yard and gathered pinecones. We've been talking about their properties, what they are for, etc.
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Baby Teether

Made of plain wooden beads (not finished) strung VERY securely on some black and white ribbon. I use a lighter to gently seal the ends to prevent fraying. It's the favorite teething toy of our little man right now and the circle shape keeps him from gagging himself with it while making it easy to hold onto because it slips over his hand.
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Soap Grating

A great practical life skill (that also encourages motor development and wrist/arm strength as well as concentration) is soap grating. Get a bar of soap and a grater. Demonstrate how to use the equipment (either working from left to right OR top to bottom). Be sure to explain that the holes can be sharp so child needs to be cautious to keep fingers away.

I make my own detergent for cloth diapers, so the grated soap goes into this mix at our house.

You can also add it to running water at bath time, put it into a bowl of water and use egg beaters to make bubbles, or just use it for handwashing.

Remember that most children need several experiences with an activity such as this to build up the concentration to stay with it for a length of time. The first time you introduce it, they may only want to work with it for a couple minutes, and that's okay. I had this out last night and my daughter would grate for about two minutes, go do something else a bit, come back, leave....she kept getting drawn back into it. Next time I know she'll have a longer attention span for this activity.

She also had fun exploring the different sized holes and how they changed the grated pieces. When Daddy got home she incorporated some dramatic play, pretending she was making him cheese.

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Friday, January 6, 2012


This is a Montessori infant material--we used them at the lab school when I worked there. Yesterday I made a couple pairs for Beck. I just used old baby socks, sewed on some small objects very securely. I chose an empty scotch tape roll, a jingle bell, a large button and a wooden bead. Now we can put a sock on and he can explore the object with his eyes, fingers and mouth!

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Beck's spot

I rearranged the playroom to make an area for Beck. He had a little spot before, but it wasn't working out because I couldn't see him from the kitchen. Often playtimes coincide with me making meals or cleaning up, and I needed a spot that was better for keeping an eye on him. I also wanted to give him some shelf space. I went through all my teaching books and weeded out a bunch, emptying a higher shelf for Quinn. Beck inherited two shelves on the right side of this lower unit. His shelves include a book, two baskets with a few age-appropriate toys, and a large jingly spider toy. I also put a mirror on the wall and a soft quilt for him to roll around on. Since this is kinda the doorway into the room I wanted his playmat to be movable when he wasn't using it. I am also going to move his mobile stand in and change out mobiles frequently.

This is a great place for propping up a book and providing a choice of two toys for him to wiggle forward and get!

He LOVES cooing to the handsome baby in the mirror!!
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A little change up

Yesterday I spent a huge chunk of time in the playroom changing things around a bit. One thing I did was move Q's little kitchen into the back corner of our breakfast nook. She hasn't been playing with it much lately, so I thought a change of scenery might bring her interest back. Also in the evenings when I am cooking dinner she wants to be in the same room as me--so I am not successful in getting her to go play in the playroom. This way she can play near me. I also want to use it for some practical life activities such as dish washing, doll washing, and soap grating, and the tile floor makes this easier for clean up!
I love our breakfast room when it's filled with morning sunlight!!
I also changed out all the dishes and accessories in her little kitchen. I keep empty food containers for her kitchen, so right now it's stocked with hummus, cashews, and molassas!

She was excited to see her kitchen "in the kitchen" when she got up from nap and has already spent time playing with it.
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Elf toy tutorial

Another of Beck's current favorite toys--This one is made from scraps of flannel and felt. I used THIS tutorial and improvised with the materials I already had at home. We call ours an elf instead of a gnome. Beck LOVES gnawing away at the hands and feet, and it's perfect for him to hold since it is made of fabric and he can get a good grip on it.
This toy encourages bringing objects to his mouth, hand, arm, and wrist control, hand-to-hand transfer, and sensory exploration.

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Besides lap reading, we also use books with Beck for playtime. We stand up several bright colored board books around him, and as he rolls and scoots around, he loves looking at the pictures. I try to include both photos and illustrations. And usually I put him on a quilt in case he spits up or has a diaper leak...Last night I was livin' on the edge with no quilt for his playtime! :)

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Playgym toys

I buy packs of wooden rings (in the knitting/crochet section at Hobby Lobby) for all sorts of baby toys. One of the most simple is just the grasping ring. It can be hung or just used on its own. It encourages grasping, bringing objects to the mouth, hand-to-hand transfer of objects, and reaching (when hung.) We have one tied on a piece of ribbon and hung from the playgym. Beck can reach for it, bring it to his mouth, and explore it with his mouth. The ring shape makes it easier to hold on to (fingers can curl around the ring) and also very mouth-friendly--no sharp pieces or pieces to gag as it really can't be put in the mouth too far by the infant.
Obviously we closely supervise him with this because it could be a strangulation hazard because of the ribbon.
At times I also attach some bells to the ring, so he also gets some auditory stimulation and can begin to make some cause and effect connections.

This is another of his current favorite toys--I've mentioned it before but wanted to give a close-up. It's just two squares of felt scraps. I cut them with pinking shears. I then cut strips of felt with the shears, lined them up to make a snowflake-ish shape, and then sewed them down. The two squares are sewed together, with a piece of elastic in between so it can bounce and stretch when tied to the playgym. Presto! Fun, bouncy, baby-friendly toy! You could also use hot glue if you don't sew. Beck loves "catching" this in his reachy hands and bringing it to his mouth to chew on!

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