Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Writing Table

Something we've had in our living space since Quinn was around 18 months old was a writing/art table.  We started out keeping a simple art box on top of the fridge that I got down for her when she wanted to write or when I prompted her to do it--it held markers, pencils, crayons, stickers, tape, and different paper choices.  
Just after her 2nd birthday she was able to be independent with writing tools, so we set the box down on the table for her to use (only at the table!) whenever she desired.  Around her 3rd birthday we had to add a little basket under the table to hold additional notebooks, notecards, envelopes, etc.  We also added blunt-tipped scissors at this time. 
This past spring I found a great little mail center at the Salvation Army.  It was ugly brown, so I spraypainted it green, sanded it to "antique" it a bit and put a new knob on the drawer.  It works great for organizing her writing supplies and looks nicer than the plastic box.  
We've always spent time teaching her to use the different writing tools and she has done great with them.  She has a stapler, tape dispenser, glue bottle, and lots of writing tools now.  Beck also likes to use the writing table and is learning the tools, as well.  The scissors are "off limits until you're 2 years old," so of course he always heads right for those and they get promptly removed by Big Sister. :)
It's amazing how often Quinn will sit and write, draw, cut, and create on her own.  It's a soothing place for her to be, her own little corner that isn't too far away from the rest of us so she can still see what is going on with dinner prep, etc.  Right now she loves writing letters, especially when she gets to put a stamp on them.  She brings the letter to me, I draw a small "s" where the stamp goes and then she gets one from my drawer and does the rest herself. Now she knows where the stamp goes, but she still likes me to draw that "s." 

Do you have a writing area?  Simple is perfect!  

If you have a writing table, what can you change/improve/add/take away to cater to your child's current development?

So many skills are developed here--independence, literacy, fine motor, creativity, problem solving....I could go on and on!

Monday, May 27, 2013

May Work Shelf

 Here's our May work shelf.  We're using a loose theme of birds this month, so there are a few bird-related items out.  I also changed out the puzzles for something new for each kid and something that relates to their current ability level. 
 First off are two little baskets--one has two little nests in it and a handful of those little mushroom birds.  Ours are old--I bought them when Q was a baby for a bird unit.  Several are missing beaks and random feathers, but my kids still love them.  They enjoy using them in dramatic play and putting them in their nests, etc.  I also sometimes put out some tiny eggs (or egg-shaped items), but little man is mouthing too much right now and tiny eggs would be too tempting for him.  The other basket holds an assortment of small feathers for dramatic play or to fill the nests with.  The nests came from a craft store a while back. 
 We have a little jewelery box that sits out all the time.  I change out the jewels that are inside it, because the kids do best with only a couple choices of necklaces at a time.  So these two necklaces are the spring choices:
 This is a game we're enjoying--it was a great Goodwill find.  The cards have silhouettes that match the wooden objects.  Awesome visual discrimination activity, but my kids also just like playing with the pieces. 
 A basket of laminated bird cards/magazine cut outs.
 This one came about by Quinn--she came downstairs with her stuffed turtle and said she needed to build it a home so she wanted some hay (we'd just been playing with a chicken/chicks play area in the playroom with hay in the nests).  We decided turtles needed sand, so we found a gold shawl that worked perfectly.  I'd spray painted some big plastic easter eggs and we'd speckeled them to hold a couple felt chicks I'd made the kids.  We rounded up some little plastic turtles to hatch out of the eggs and it made a perfect little turtle dramatic play set!

 This magnetic board was a gift from Mike and Iya for Q a while back.  I got it out again and the kids are enjoying it.  They can put magnetic pieces--glasses, hats, mustaches, etc. on the picture, and there are also some spring-related magnets in the basket. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Good Friday with toddlers, preschoolers and elementary kids

This is the second year we've gotten the opportunity to celebrate Good Friday (yes, I know it was in MARCH....I'm a little behind with posting!) with friends.  We invited several families with little ones and for the past two years it has been my family and one other that has been able to make it--and it's been perfect.  Our friends always bring some neighborhood kids along, too, which is awesome!  This year they brought a little girl that doesn't go to church or know much about Jesus, so I spent some time thinking of how we could participate (in a child-appropriate way) in Good Friday--some of us not knowing much about Jesus.

To begin with, we held our festivities at a park near our house.  We lined the entryway with some palm branches (from our previous "Hosanna" activities) and the wooden cross my kids had made with Daddy--covered in a purple fabric.  I spent a little time talking with the children about these emblems and what they represent and remind us of.  ay wt

I decided we needed to move around a lot.  So we started the day with a hunt.  We had kids from 0-8 years in the group.  Of course the babies just kinda hung out and participated how they could....the 3-4-7-8 year olds were very excited by the hunt.  I had already hidden (or put in plain view) glass canning jars filled with objects.  I assigned each child a jar of certain objects to find and hid the jar with a difficulty relating to their age.  For example, I told the 3 year old to find the jar filled with red feet beads and I put hers right in the middle of the path.

The 4 year old had to find the cross beads, and hers was on this bench.  The older kids each had something to find, too, and theirs were a little more hidden.  

Everyone brought their unopened jar back to the table.  We talked for a bit about kings--I asked things like "What do kings wear?  Who does everything kings want? (servants), Do kings go to war a lot?  Where do kings sit?  What do kings have a lot of? (treasure)  Who do kings care most about?  (themselves) "  Then we talked about how Jesus was the King of Kings, but he was so different from other kings, and he calls us to live like him.  I told them we'd be making a bracelet to see how Jesus was a different kind of king.

To start with the kids could each put some of these beads on their bracelet--we talked about why they are purple, black and red (royalty, blood and darkness (when Jesus died))

Then we added other symbolic beads (or items) and talked about each one.
 I had already twisted some closures on a piece of wire that would be used for stringing the beads.  The stiff wire meant we didn't need to use needles.  
Dove bead--Jesus came to bring peace.
Jesus didn't have a throne--instead he died upon a cross for our sins.

Jesus wore a crown of thorns--the soldiers and the people made fun of him and he endured that because of his love for us, and to show us how we ought to act.

I had picked out several different styles of each kids' initial and put it in the jar--so they got to find their letter and choose which one they wanted to use.  We talked about how Jesus died for each one of us--he knew we'd sin and we'd need him and he went to the cross because he loves each of us.

We put a heart next to the initial to remind us he loves us.

We put a little foot on the bracelet to remind us that Jesus came to serve others, not be served.  He washed his disciples feet then called us to be servants, too.

Gold coins--to remind us that our treasure is in Heaven, where we'll get to be with Jesus--and not on earth.

So here's the finished bracelet--and using the beads the children could tell the "story" of Good Friday--the VERY good news!
 I bought a few of the beads at Walmart (Hobby Lobby would totally have a better selection but I didn't have time to get by there that week) but I really tried to use what I already had in my bead stash.  So you could change the particular items to match what you have, if necessary.  The crown of thorns was made using a piece of wired twine and I just made a circle shape with it.
The kids did great with this project--they listened very intently and were answering questions as we talked.  My Q was very proud of hers and could tell her Daddy what each thing meant later that night.  I love projects (crafts) that leave the maker with a symbolic item that can drawn them into a time of remembrance and worship with God--not just something cute.  I know we'll get ours out next Lent and go through the beads again.  I hope this will be a valuable meditation tool for the kids.  

After the bracelets we had a footwashing time.  We read the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet from a children's Bible.  Then the moms washed their kids' feet.  I think this was almost more powerful for me as a mom than it was for the kids.  And I watched my good friend wash her baby daughter's feet--her daughter who had been adopted from Ethiopia this last year--and I thought about the trail they had been on to be together....what a beautiful thing to watch this Mama wash her little ones' feet.  

Then we had the Lord's Supper together, like Jesus did with his disciples.  We read that story, as well.

I had the table set with a cross draped in purple, a crown of thorns (made from some thorny vine found near our house),  some purple flowers, and some candles.

I had brought glass, metal and ceramic mugs of all different types so each child could choose the one they wanted.  Someday I hope to get some ceramic or wooden goblets made for my kids to use each lenten season.  Wouldn't that be so cool?  In the meantime, I wanted to use something beautiful and that would add a sense of "this is important" to the ceremony.

I had baked some homemade unleavened bread.  This is the second year in a row I planned to do this activity with Q and it just didn't work out, so I made it myself.  Might have to be my own tradition from now on!
We ate the bread and drank the juice--the kids all used chalk to draw a heart around the items--we talked about the fact that communion is God's way of reminding us every week of His great love for us.  
We had some simple "favors" in brown paper bags for taking home--the Mommas got:

And the kids got:

Extra piece of communion bread (they all love that stuff!), a palm branch that says "Hosanna  Save Now" on it and a piece of black fabric--we talked about this, saying they could go home and put it over a cross in their house.  When Jesus died many people thought it was over....but on Sunday he rose from the dead and triumphed over sin and death--and this is when we remove the cloth just as Jesus removed the graveclothes.  A good visual and tactile way for children to connect with the Bible story.  

Then the kids had a great time playing together for a little while.
I love the tradition this has become for our little family and our friends.  I love seeing the serious, reverent looks on the faces of the kids as they listen and absorb.  I love having a table full of all different-aged kids who are learning a little more about Jesus all at the same time.  Such a neat experience!
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Little Kitchen

I try to rearrange our little kitchen area on a somewhat frequent basis to reignite my kids' interest in it.  Oftentimes it becomes something else--bakery, birthday party setting, ice cream shop, but other times it is just a plain ole kitchen!  For the spring that was the case. 

Ms. Mouse and her highchair sat in the corner. 

There was a laundry area, as well.  Q enjoys clothespinning her little doll clothes to the line.  Someday we'll use my washboard to really wash the clothes and hang them to dry for real!

These wooden jars are a recent Goodwill find.  LOVE them!  They have so many uses.  To start with, I just put them out on a little try in the kitchen. 

Nearby is a cradle for sleepy babes and the little table with a springy tablecovering.  I use scarves, placemats, cloth napkins or small pieces of fabric to change out the table covering according to the season.  There was a white pitcher with flowers in it that went on the table, too, but for some reason it's missing in this picture, so imagine it there, okay?

A tray with cloth napkins and pretty napkin rings.  Q loves setting the little table with these!  Her brother just loves carrying them around. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Our outside play space

Here are my little people, hard at work developing those PROPRIOCEPTIVE SYSTEMS. 
Here's a great article that gives some good information on how little brains develop.  This article (and the corresponding research it prompted me to do) has really shaped the way I structure our learning times during the day.

Yea for Daddy making us cool stuff!
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Tips for preparing for a seperation....part 2

Another thing I did--I got her a special stuffed animal that was new for her to sleep with while we were apart.  She LOVES cheetahs, so I found this cheetah at the Goodwill for $2.  I threw him into the washing machine and he was perfect!  We gave him to her the morning we left and spent some time picking out his name--Rispin.  She took these pictures while she played with him during the time we were apart.

And that reminds me...I also gave her one of our old point and shoot cameras and a quick lesson on how to use it (we practiced for a few days before we left on the trip).  She took lots of pictures while we were apart, and her grandparents took some, too.  I LOVED coming home, popping her sd card in my computer and seeing what she did while we were gone.  Even if the majority were blurry.  :)  She felt SO GROWN UP to get to have possession of her own camera.   
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Preparing for a seperation from our child....some of my tips.

Last month we went to Germany for almost two weeks and Quinn (4) stayed stateside with (the worlds' awesomest) grandparents.  Thanks again to them!  Anyhow, I tried to think of some simple but meaningful ways to make the seperation easier on her, and I'll share a few on this blog.

The first thing I did was we wrote her a note for every day we were apart.  I put them in this big felt envelope. 

Matt and I each wrote half the cards (and Beck "wrote" one of them, too).  We wrote all her different nicknames on the front of them and added illustrations, too.  Her Grandmas helped her open one card each day.   

She still has all her cards in her room and looks through them often.  I also put a family picture of all of us in the envelope for her to have while we were away. 

Her grandparents said she loved opening her cards and revisited them often during the day.  They felt like it was a good tool to help her connect to us while we were apart.  Of course you could do this even for a night away or a weekend away.
Once when we were in college I made a box of cards for Matt for an entire Christmas break....Whewww!   
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