Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A writing table

One of the most-used learning areas of our house is Q's little writing table.  It's in a corner of our kitchen and also functions as a eating space at times.  Thus it's important that it can be moved aside when necessary.  The writing table has looked differently at different stages of her development, but here's what we have now:

The purple box has two drawers.  The top one has stuff to write on.  I put all sorts of stuff in there--old receipts, old greeting cards (birthday cards, etc), little notebooks, coupons....I try to put anything in there that I think will grab her interest.  The bottom drawer has crayons.  The top also lifts up and holds scissors, small colored pencils, a sharpener, a gluestick, and two large pencils.  On top of the plastic box is a wooden block with holes drilled in it that holds markers.  I always use these for my markers and train all my students and kids to return markers immediately after use.  I can't stand un-lidded markers rolling around, drying out.  :) 
Right now she also has a giant pencil on her writing desk that Daddy got her.  The little brown basket has magnetic letter tiles that she is enjoying right now, and then the glass jar has little shamrock sequins that she was gluing for March. 
Under her desk is a wicker basket with more writing stuff.  Notebooks, stickers, dry-erase board, stores all the stuff that isn't currently being used.  Q can definitely access this stuff if she wants to, but she usually sticks to the items in the purple drawers. 
Also, since the picture was taken, she's developed a bit of a tape obsession, so I am letting her keep my tape dispenser on her writing table. 
At least once a day she sits and writes/cuts/tapes/glues (depending on her current interests) something.  I love to see her self-motivation and to watch her initiate her own literacy development.  She writes signs (NO BITING, BEAUX (our cat)), she draws pictures for everyone she loves, she cuts stuff into teeny pieces and she covers everything with tape.  In the meantime her fine motor skills are becoming very well-developed and she is picking up a wealth of emergent literacy skills.  Often she will tell me she is writing something for Grammie (or whomever) and I will say, "what letter will you write so we know it's for Grammie?"  And when she answers I offer to help her, or find the G in her letters so she can see what it looks like.  I gently scaffold her learning when I feel like she is welcome to the idea. 

So....I would encourage you to keep an accessible writing area.  Try changing out the items occasionally to catch their interest.  Try leaving a note to them that you've written--Q loves when I do that!  Make writing seem important and necessary and fun!  Sometimes I ask Q to write a sign for me--like if I need to remember to pick up meat from my meat co-op I've had her write an "M" on a paper and we taped it on the door to remind us. 

For younger ones--toddlers--get a writing box that can be moved.  That's how we initially got started with the purple drawer box.  I kept it on top of the fridge and got it down for Q when she wanted to write (or when I set her to the task of writing because she needed something to do.)  She wasn't developmentally ready to have access to writing materials all the time and still needed some supervision, so a movable box worked perfectly--the supplies were easily at hand, but could also be put up for safety. 
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Just Blocks

As an educator, I am ALWAYS looking for new ideas of activities to do with my kids. I am definitely guilty of forgetting about the old tried-and-true activities that I know (in the back of my mind) are fabulous learning opportunities. One such item? Blocks.

Blocks are amazing and teach skills such as:
-spatial awareness
-motor skills
-problem solving
-hand-eye coordination
-pretend play
-social skills (working together)
-language skills (verbalizing what is being done)
-shape awareness

They are a great tool because they are so open-ended (unlike puzzles which only have one solution...also a good tool, but for different uses). Blocks are also useful for any age--my 7 month son enjoys holding them, knocking towers we build over, banging them, and of course chewing them. My 3 year old daughter builds palaces for her animals because the flood is coming and they need their homes to keep them dry (or other involved scenarios as such....) and there is some type of block play for every other age--even adults enjoy blocks! Just leave yours our next time you have friends over and see what happens. :)

You can also spice up block play by adding "components." Right now we have plastic animals in our block basket. We've had peg people (plain wooden peg people from Hobby Lobby that I painted to look like different people), cars, aircrafts, plastic bugs, etc. Changing out one part of the blocks helps rejuvinate interest and also changes the direction of the play. Just be careful not to add so much stuff that you are taking away from the play--too many items can get distratcting. Sometimes just the blocks themselves are enough.

There are also different types of blocks, and changing out they type of block can also be a good idea. We have some magnetic blocks, some colored cube blocks in smaller sizes and also letter cube blocks. This below set my father in law made Q for her 1st birthday and we adore them!!

There are tons of articles out there if you do a google search for ideas and suggestions and tips on block play if you want more information. However it's also really simple to just get down on the floor with your child and start building together!

In my classroom I taught my students to shrug their shoulders and say, "oh well" anytime a block tower they were building fell down. We always talked that we could build it again. This helped reduce frustration if they (or someone else) accidently knocked over a masterpiece.

I also used "work mats" (lamintated pieces of construction paper--the large size) to designate areas when several students were each building their own object. This helped reduce accidents--as my students learned to spot the colored mats and walk around them. Of course there was the rule that "the builder is the knocker" to keep children from destroying another's work.

I took pictures of finished towers and we had a book we kept of the photos. The children loved revisiting their masterpieces in the book, and also they would sometimes take the book to the block area and rebuild a past tower (or castle or farmyard, etc.) or rebuild something cool another child had made. This leads to "fluency" in all of the skills listed above at the beginning of the post.

So.....get out your blocks and build something cool this week!!

PS) If you keep your blocks out where your kids can see them they'll be more likely to use them. Ours are in a big basket that slides under our entertainment center, and whenever they are left out for weeks at a time, they get used far more!

PPS) These are the letter blocks--Q keeps them in her room to build with during her quiet time.
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Stand-up diapering....the long version. But SO worth it hanging in there for.

When I finished grad school about 5 years ago I took at job at a college lab preschool. The school was used as a teaching model and practicum site for early childhood/child development college students. It was a preschool that ran 2 programs in the same building--a traditional preschool that served infants through preK--and also a Montessori program also serving infants but including kindergarten, as well. I was hired to work in the traditional model, primarily in the 2 year old classroom.

As part of my orientation (I LOVE their model for orientation), I had to spend several hours observing each of the other classes through the two-way glass (and I could listen by wearing some headphones that connected to a microphone in the was an awesome set up!). The Montessori program, especially at the infant and toddler levels, instantly amazed me! I was so shocked to see 1 year olds setting their own tables, using silverware, regular cups, and NAPKINS!!! This was just the beginning of my journey....

The toddler class I taught in followed a more traditional philosophy, but it was still highly influenced by Montessori methods. One that was immediately foreign to me was stand-up diapering. When I first observed teachers in the infant and toddler classrooms diapering standing up, I wondered what in the world they were doing....and then when I heard this was the ONLY way any child able to stand could be changed, I was a little nervous whether I'd be able to do it...and why in the world anyone would WANT to do that.

I remained a critic for only a couple of days.  It was easier to master than I had thought. My co-teachers gave me great tips (and I learned a few lessons the hard way.) I quickly saw the reasoning and value behind stand-up diapering....first in the toddler classroom where our children were mastering potty-training, and then later, when I took on some extra hours in the older infant classroom and saw the pre-potty-training stages.

First off, in the Montessori method, there is no such thing as potty training a child over a couple of days, over a weekend, or even over a week. Like most aspects of child development, procedures and skills are taught gradually and methodically--giving the child as much responsibility as they are developmentally ready to handle at each point of their physical, emotional and cognitive (mental) growth.

So....the first step begins even with tiny infants when caregivers explain what they are doing as they change diapers. They explain to the child what's in their diaper (pee or poop) so the infant begins to make a connection that there is a difference...important later on when a child needs to be able to discern if they need to pee or poop in the potty. They may also begin to let the infant hold the diaper or a wipe and hand it to them when they are ready for it.

When a child is able to stand up with help (ie: holding onto something), they are ready to begin stand-up diapering. For us, that was around 10 months with Quinn (our daughter) and Beck (our son). You can tell it's time when they start the "alligator roll." If you've had a baby you know what I mean! The second you start diapering he tries to roll away from me and fight getting changed. I cringe anytime I see a parent in a battle with an "alligator baby" during a diaper change, and I cringe even more when I hear parents tell me they have to spank their child (or use some other form of punishment) to make them lay still to get their diaper changed. Alligator rolling combined with leg strength to stand (with support) equals time for the world of stand-up diapering!!

In a classroom setting, the teacher would sit in a small chair and put the child between her legs, with the child holding onto one leg of teacher to assist with standing (this was in the 2 year old classroom). In the infant classroom the child supported himself on a low changing table that was about 2 feet off the ground (of course....Montessori is all about child-sized furniture!!).
At home we bought two very cheap stools from Ikea (they kinda look like nightstands) for around $12. We kept one upstairs and one downstairs in the bathrooms.

It's important to have all your supplies ready at hand. We kept a basket under the stool with diapers, wipes, bags for dirty diapers, and diaper cream.

Before changing the dirty diaper, we would get the new diaper and unfold it and actually turn it inside out, so that once it's placed on the child the leg flaps (that contain the pee) are not tucked under.

At this first stage the child is encouraged to help with removing clothing--ie: show them how to loop their fingers in the waistband of their pants and use a downward motion. We often sang the song "Quinny's pants are falling down, falling down, falling down." to the tune of London Bridges.

The child is also asked if they have pee or poop (even if they don't have the words to answer yet.) The caregiver checks, and notifies the child. If it's a pee diaper the child can be taught to remove it themselves. We started teaching Quinn how to open the tapes on her diaper. If it's a poopy diaper, the child needs to learn that the caregiver removes it, so it doesn't get everywhere! It's important to teach the child to differentiate between poop and pee because when they are starting to use the toilet they need to know if they are peeing or pooping. Seems simple to us, but initially kids don't know the difference. They will be taught that if you need to poop sometimes you might need to sit a little longer, and you wipe differently, etc. Also distinguishing between pee and poop is helpful later on, as you can encourage the child to come to you immediately for a change if they have poop.

The child can be in charge of getting a bag for the dirty diaper. They can also be taught how to open the wipes and take them out one at a time, handing them to the caregiver. Of course all of these skills are introduced one at a time, with lots of practice for each skill. For a pee diaper the child is asked to "clean your body" first (use a wipe on themself). The caregiver can follow up with a second wipe, if needed. If it's a poopy diaper, the caregiver cleans first, and the child can have a turn when the caregiver's finished.

People always freak out the most when they hear about stand-up diapering when it's a poopy diaper. I actually learned it's much easier standing than doing it laying. First off, often it doesn't get smashed all over the place onto the child's body because the child layed on their bottom. The poop stays more solid, making for easier clean up. The child can either lean forward, over the leg of the caregiver, or one of the child's legs can be lifted to access all the areas that need wiped. The child can switch over to holding onto the caregiver's other leg if the caregiver needs to wipe the front of the child.

For my two, we used the stool, so we were actually behind them when we changed her. Initially we had to work with on remaining standing--they'd want to sit back down and crawl away. We would let them take the wipes out or put a small toy or book on the stool top to keep interest (for about a month, until they figured out what was going on and had no problem remaining standing).

The caregiver explains what they are doing as they help remove clothing, clean the child's body, and help the child redress.

Another facet of this method is that once the child starts standing, diapering is relocated to ONLY occurring in the bathroom. This is for obvious reasons--the place where we take care of toileting needs is in the bathroom. We kept our "changing stool" in the bathroom. We also purchased a small toilet seat (that fits on the bigger one) and stool, so she could begin to learn about using the toilet. In our school's program parents were encouraged not to place little toilets in any other locations (living room, etc.), because children need to learn to go to the bathroom to handle all toileting needs. It's important to diaper in the bathroom (ding--one of those early "pre-potty" steps that leads along the path to potty training....) to help the child make the connection that potty stuff happens in the bathroom! I think one of the first reasons many parents resist stand up diapering is because it's a little more work--you can't just change the child right where you happen to have to get up and go into the bathroom every time. But it'll pay will! If you are saying, "But our bathroom is too small to fit a stool in there," you can use the toilet to support the standing child. Close the lid and wipe down surfaces that will be touched with a clorox wipe, or throw a towel over the closed lid so the child touches that, instead. You can also use a child-sized chair or even a door frame to support your standing kiddo.

We started out by letting Q explore the toilet--flushing many times, opening and shutting the lid, and unrolling the toilet paper. We didn't allow her to put her hands in the water, though. We taught her that it was "yuck." We showed her how to climb up and sit on the seat. So, for a couple months after every diaper change we encouraged her to sit on the potty for a second. She didn't do anything....just sat for a couple seconds. This was fine! She was learning some important skills--how to get on the toilet, primarily. So, to recap, every time we changed her diaper, it was ALWAYS in a restroom. And if we were at home, we always encouraged her to climb up and sit on the potty after a diaper change.

18 months seems really young to most people, but this is actually a great age (for some children it occurs even sooner....) because they are first starting to notice the toilet and what goes on with it--and that parents are using it. Once the child first shows interest/curiosity is the perfect time to add toilet skills to the "potty training" schema. Sometimes waiting until the child is older (2 or over) actually skips past the window of interest (and also coincides with the "NO" phase, which does not help acquire toilet skills!)

Sometimes we knew times of the day Q would always seem to pee. We tried to take her to sit on the potty before she peed/pooped in her diaper, and occasionally we'd get her there in time and she'd pee in the potty. We'd make a big deal and clap and say, "yeaaaa!"

After a while of just sitting and practicing, Q peed in the potty a few times and started making the connection. A little bit after she turned 2 years old, we started encouraging her to sit on the potty and "push out your pee" every little bit during the day. From that point on she did great and was fully potty trained shortly after her 2nd birthday.  Same thing for our son.

From a teaching standpoint I was shocked how easily ALL of our children potty trained using this method--even the boys, which many people argue are so much tougher. I love that potty training was never an "issue" or an "obstacle" or even a frustration. It was just part of our every day routine.

As a mom I loved that I could change diapers anywhere easily--no changing table needed. In the truck--easy! Standing up on the seat worked great. In public restrooms--no problem, she often just held onto my legs and I bent over and helped her (or him). I also loved that it wasn't ME CHANGING HER.....the older and more capable she got, the more she was expected (and excitedly willing) to do because that was just the way we had always done things.

I could go on and on about how great I think stand-up diapering is. And also how important it is to teach toileting just like any other skill--in small pieces as the child is able to do more.  We would never say to a child "This is the weekend you are going to learn to eat.  We are not leaving this house until you learn to eat."  Yet often this is done with potty training....

Both of my kiddos moved along the process so smoothly and with no resistance.  I saw the same thing in the infant and toddler classrooms where I taught.  The only "things" with stand up diapering is that you have to be committed to following the same procedure every time and give as much of the process over to the child as they are ready for....if you can do've got it made!

** more about our diapering journey at THIS POST.It has a step-by-step breakdown with pictures of our Little Man and stand-up diapering.  :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012


A couple weeks back I introduced Q to the idea of playing "Store" with her little kitchen. We use a stepstool for the sign, and made two different signs--one that says Mommy's Store and one that says Quinn's Store. Oh yeah, and a little triangular-folded paper that says "open" and "closed!"

We play very simply. The clerk wears an apron (we have a basket of little aprons to choose from). The clerk makes the sign say "open" by turning it. She also gives the customer what they want, and she writes their receipt. Right now Q always wants me to be the clerk and she wants to be the customer.
When it's receipt time, I have her tell me everything that she bought and I help her figure out the first letter of each item, which is what I write on the receipt. So if she bought 4 cupcakes I write:
It's WONDERFUL emergent reading and writing practice!
The clerk also has to tell how much the prices are and take the coins from the customer. Right now the coins (green plastic ones I have had around for ever....from my first grade teaching days...and all kids of every age LOVE those things!!) are worth a dollar and all prices are even dollar amounts. I am going to get out some play money I have soon and start introducing the different coins, though! She is doing great counting out the dollar amounts I request for each item right now.

The customer makes requests for items, pays, and then goes home for the "night" when the clerk turns the sign to "closed." Often, if the store has run out of something, the clerk loudly announces that she hopes the delivery truck brings whatever items are needed (names them specifically) and leaves some money under the sign. While the clerk is sleeping the items are delivered and the money disappears. This way the store has enough items to keep selling and the customer has enough money to keep spending!

We have been putting lots of empty food containers (granola bar box, washed yogurt tub, empty cashew can, empty chalula sauce jar, etc.) into the store for selling.

Playing store is such a rich learning experience that includes math, social studies, practical life, language, literacy skills, dramatic play and most of all, it's REALLY FUN!

I had to get the ball rolling by introducing the concept of store and modeling how to "play" and even the "rules" of playing store. But Q definitely caught on quickly and loves every minute of our store playing! I love how simple this activity is to set up but how much she is learning in such a child-cenetered, developmentally-appropriate, simple way!

This activity could be adapted for toddlers by setting out just a few items on a shelf....strips of paper could be dollars....older kids could write shopping lists and receipts and sale signs....So many possibilities!
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Wet Chalk Eggs

We wanted to decorate some eggs for the window of our playroom.  Quinn chose the medium of chalk, and we are loving the "wet chalk" mode right now.  There are several ways to do it, but this time we just dipped our chalk pieces in water before drawing on brown paper eggs.  The wet chalk turns out thicker and more vibrant than regular chalk.  The top eggs are Q's (the very top egg has a spider on it, if you can't tell what she drew!) and beneath are mine.  We tried to decorate our eggs with colors or objects we've been seeing outside lately.....
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Learning Supply storage

Here's a quick overview on the storage "system" that works for me. I am definitely not the most organized person in the world and overly organized stuff doesn't really appeal to me anyway. I just like it organized enough that I can find what I need! I've refined this system over about 10 years of teaching, and of course adapted it a little bit to work for home.

So here goes:

To start with I have holiday/seasonal items organized in some cardboard magazine holders I got for a steal at Ikea ages ago. I have Christmas, Fall, Winter, Spring, and Texas (when I taught 1st grade we did a huge Texas unit at Rodeo time....). There are usually 2 holders per subject. In these holders I put the books and small manipulatives--such as song cards/poems, cookie utters, small decorations, or magazine pages with ideas for that particular subject. Larger items--such as stuffed pumpkins or dried corn for fall I keep in big plastic tubs in the garage, cataloged with my seasonal decorations for my home. I have tubs for Christmas, Fall, Easter, Christmas and Valentine's. You can see that some books don't fit in the holders so they are on the shelf next to that particular holder.

When I taught 1st grade I had tons more holders for my smaller themes--penguins, farm, family, etc. But at home I just absorbed all of that stuff into my closet and reserve the holders for the major themes.

We have a large Ikea standing cabinet in the playroom. It has two large doors on the left side, and beneath each door are two shelves. I have my shelves divided into: manipulative (basically any large toys such as the pounding bench, the wooden screws and nail set, and some other random larger objects--mostly for babies). Then comes language arts. Anything LA is stuffed in here. Beneath that (pictured below) are math and Science. You can see that the shelves don't look particularly neat. The objects are just too differently-shaped from one another to get them to fit in super nicely. Plus I dig through there all the time, so stuff gets rustled around.

On the right side is a big cabinet. I use this to hold larger objects. I rotate EVERYTHING through the playroom and try to change things out every month. You can see some dress up items, a doll stroller folded up, a little doll seat, and some large containers.

On the left side under the two big doors are four smaller pull out drawers. I have them organized by:
-kitchen items (fake food items, food containers, and play dishes)
-small stuffed animals (that I keep because they go with some of our themes)
-social studies
-fine motor and music (instruments, lacing work, lids, tweezers, etc.)
(pictured below)
On top of the cabinet I store puzzles. They are incredibly awkward to store when you throw in some knobbed baby puzzles, so they work best just piled on the top of the cabinet.
Under the big compartment on the right side is another pull out drawer, and I keep containers inside. You've seen that I always put out each "work item" in a basket, box, or tray to contain the pieces and designate the item's "home." I keep a plethora of different storage containers in here. Some are for putting out work, some are repurposed for other uses.....I like to have lots of options!There is also a matching drawer on the left side. It holds anything "pretend play" oriented. Dress up clothes (though we don't have to much of this--I prefer playsilks and a few hats), pretend phone, jewelery, purses, etc.

When I taught first grade I kept stuff more in larger containers--all my "letter awareness" items might be in one plastic tote, and all my "counting manipulatives" might be in another. However I've changed my philosophy a bit over the years--I often rob items from several different "sets" to put together to create some work that fits my little ones exactly. For example the "bakery" set I highlighted earlier in the month where I pulled all the breads out of some different playsets. Also we have a baby animals (spring related ones--ducks, chicks, lambs, bunnies) basket out for Beck right now, so I pulled from several different "sets" to make this.
So.....I really like to have ALL my stuff visible and not kept in additional storage containers.
Each month when I change out work (and note that "month" is a loose term for me--we are more rhythmic than calendar-y around happens when it happens....but usually once a month). I start by evaluating what is still being played with and should remain, and what items need to go because the kids are done with them or never became interested in them. Sometimes I will put the "done" items away, or other times I might make a little change to them and place them on a different shelf to see if I can catch the kids' interest.

Then I go shelf by shelf in the 4 main compartments of my cabinet (LA, Math, Science, Manip.) and I take everything out (one shelf at a time) and decide what I want to use. I love seeing ALL my items every month. It really doesn't take as long as it sounds, and it helps me be more creative and resourceful in how I use our items. Of course I do this when the kids are napping or in bed cause it temporarily makes a huge mess.
When I put everything back into each shelf they look really nice and organized for a bit....until I go digging around again. Too bad I didn't take my picture right after a change-out!

When I taught preschool (at two different schools) both schools organized in large closets and had shelves grouped by subject--Language arts, science, manipulative, pretend play, math, social studies, music, art......Pretty much the same thing I have now but with a much larger closet!

For books--besides the "seasony" books I already showed you stored in the magazine holders, I don't have any huge organizational system for our books. We have a gazillion books, and they're shelved on a huge bookshelf in the studio divided as such:
-board books
-non fiction
-fiction picture books
-chapter books
-nursery rhymes, anthologies, poetry collections, or anything else "different"

Once again, each month when I change out themes or when I change out the books Quinn is allowed to keep on her bedroom shelf (around 10 books) I love to go through my shelves entirely. This helps me remember books that I've forgotten that would be great for Quinn because of a developmental stage or a current interest....or often I will zone in on a book I know I need to loan to a friend because their kids are doing something related.....So I feel like it's beneficial for me not to be too organized with our books, as well, because it allows me opportunities to see books in new venues I wouldn't use them in if I had everything cataloged too much.

We keep our art supplies in the studio, with a small amount in the kitchen based on what we are using on a daily basis. For now it's one basket of watercolor paints, 2 brushes, and some paper.

So I feel like my theme in organization is to do it enough that I can find stuff easily, but not too much so that it limits my creativity in how items are used.

Also, I have really whittled down the amount of teaching supplies and toys we keep around the house. If it doesn't fit our educational philosophies or it isn't a material I love, out the door it goes to find a new home. I feel like by having less items, I can use the ones I have even better and not get too consumed by keeping the stuff organized and put away.

Also the longer I teach the more I am led to believe that less "stuff" actually requires kids to use higher level thinking skills and higher levels of abstract representation (through pretend play)......but that's a different soapbox all together I can rant about some other post.

Hope that was helpful......
I will keep thinking more and add anything else I have forgotten.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Baby Basket

Our playroom is festive for spring.....and of course Beck gets to join in the fun, too!

One of the best learning toys for babies is great all year-round, but especially in the spring! This egg and egg cup practices the motor skills a very basic "puzzle" situation. It encourages hand-eye coordination. I got the cup in the unfinished wood section at Hobby Lobby and the egg is a wooden egg that has been dyed purple (it was a gift to us, but you can buy the wooden eggs at HL). Beck is still too young to fit the egg into the cup, but I present it to him already in the cup and let him take it out.
Older infants and young toddlers enjoy putting the egg in. Challenge your walking toddler to walk carrying the cup without dropping the egg to really encourage their motor skills. Also you might consider providing 3-4 of the egg cups and eggs for older infants/toddlers. You could paint around the rim of the egg cup and create a color matching activity, as well! Preschoolers can just enjoy the egg and cup for dramatic play. This is a long-lasting toy, you can see!!

These large wooden eggs have been dyed with watercolor paint and coated in canning wax, then rubbed to a smooth finish. I made these intially for Q a few years back and now Beck is enjoying rolling, holding, tipping, and exploring with them! We have lots of "egg hunts" with our wooden and mache eggs. That way we just get to enjoy the "hiding" and "finding" processes and don't even focus at all on the prize. It's not even an issue! Lots of fun is had doing egg hunts in the living room. A great bonus is that it encourages problem solving skills and direction-following, because often I have to give a few hints as to where tricky eggs might be hiding! Or when Q is the hider she has to think up clues....even HIGHER thinking skills involved with that! Egg hunts can be adapted for any age--even Beck can participate when we use a scarf to cover the eggs and let him lift it to find them!

These flannel knot rabbits have been around a couple years at our house. Visit last years' spring posts for the how-to!

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Crinkle Rabbit Tutorial

I love these crinkly circle rabbits. So easy! Cut 2 felt circles, cut a slightly smaller circle from crinkly wrapper (candy wrapper, chip bag, etc.). Cut two felt ears, sew on, sew two little eyes by reversing and forwarding with the thread, sew on (very securely!) a pom pom tail and then sandwich the wrapper between the circles and do a tiny zig zag stitch.

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just watercoloring.....

I've worked for a while now to teach her the process involved in watercoloring (wetting the paints, rinsing brush between colors, tapping off excess water if you don't want the colors to run, etc.) and it's so much fun to just sit and paint together now!  We were in because of the rain last night and enjoyed a few minutes to do some art together.  We ran out of watercolor paper and I tried some pieces of brown paper bag I'd cut up.  No go.  Watercolor paper is definitely worth the money. 

I encourage you to start the teaching process of watercoloring, if you haven't.....and if you have, then don't forget to paint this week!
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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Crayon-shaving shamrocks

We finally took down the crayon shaving hearts decorating our breakfast nook window....and decided we needed some shamrocks to take their place! So we shaved and sharpened some shades of green and got to town with the iron making these two beauties up! Q had fun using the grater to shred crayons for a little while....then I finished up with the sharpener.
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jesus in the Wilderness

My prayer group is doing a Lenten studying using THIS great book. Last week our focus was on Jesus in the Wilderness. I had been reading about the concept of Godly Play (basically using Bible stories and creating manipulatives for children to act out the stories on their own) and knew this story would be perfect for our first go at trying Godly Play and using it to teach some concepts about Jesus' love for us.

We found a recipe for sand dough online and made it together outside. It turned out super neat! We'll definitely do it again.....We used an old board for our base and built the wilderness/desert. Of course we knew we had to have hills and some rocks, and Q wanted to add some rosemary sprigs, so we did! I googled a picture of the desert where Jesus went just to have an idea in my mind before we started creating.....
It took 24 hours to dry.

Meanwhile I rounded up some wood scraps and woodburned the other objects we needed.
A temple:

An angel
And the black piece is satan.

And one of the gospel accounts says Jesus was alone with the wild beasts, and I did a little research to see what this most likely meant, and it said there were wild lions roaming the desert at this time, so I chose to make a lion.

We have been reading the story in 3 different collections--two children's story Bibles and one actual version of the Bible--the International Children's Version.

Then we have used the little pieces to act out the story. It's interesting how many times this week the concepts have come up in other areas for me.

For example I had explained early in the week for Q what "Man shall not live on bread alone" means, and in my Tuesday Bible Study we watched a Kay Arthur video and she talked about how it can't be an option to find time to spend with God. We HAVE to do it. She said we can't let daily life "things" get in the way, and she referenced this scripture and reminded us not to try and live on the "daily bread." this little story is serving to be very impactful at our house this week.
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Playgym update

Beck can sit up now, but is still loving his playgym, just from an upright angle!

We are doing some work with rainbows in our kitchen school curriculum, so I decided he needed some "rainboweyness" to his playgym. I used round metal ring clips and covered them with different items.

This one is cut up tshirt strips double knotted.

This one is just wrapped in silky orange ribbon.

And for this one I just sewed a piece of yellow fabric to make a long tube and threaded it on.

I tied each with a corresponding color of ribbon.....
Still to come are the rest of the rainbow colors. I haven't yet gotten to finish this project. :)

But the little man loves the rings and will chew them, bat at them, pull them, kick them......Great motor exploration!
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Jesus Book Basket

Another of our Lent activities is a "Jesus" book basket. All of our books about Jesus have been rounded up and housed in this basket for us to read during the next month. We've also been finding the various stories in Q's many children's Bibles.
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Pin Poking Work

A new item out for Quinn is some pin poking work. I used a piece of cardboard to make a little wedge. The wedge shape is important (see photo below) so that they don't poke the pin through the cardboard and onto their lap or table. If you don't use the wedge shape, have them lay the cardboard on a folded towel or carpet. Or if you happen to have some corkboard, that'd be perfect, too!

Pin poking uses the pincer grasp, encourages very fine motor control in the fingers, wrist and arm, fosters hand-eye coordination, and encourages writing skills.

I usually offer letters for the child to "trace" by poking holes all around the line.
I first introduced this to Quinn by a shamrock outline, since we were talking about St. Patrick's Day.

It isn't necessary to have more than one pin, I just offer three to give some choice. I also teach that only one pin can be out at a time and they always have to return to their designated "home" that I have clearly marked at the top.

Younger children may just enjoy random poking on a sheet of construction paper (under supervision of course) or even consider providing them with a piece of paper with dots all over it and see if they can poke all the dots.

For older kids, don't outline anything, just give them a blank sheet and let them write words or create a picture.

Once the poking is done you of course have to tape the creation in a bright window so you can see the sunlight filtering in the holes!

I have also had great fun with older elementary students by using the cards to "poke" the star constellations onto black cardstock.
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Baby Picture Cards

Beck has a basket of laminated photos of babies (cut from magazines) and I added a couple bird cards this month to go with our spring "theme." We'll talk to him briefly about birds when he looks at the cards...tweet for him, too, of course!
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