Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Toddler Summer To-do's!

Water painting.  Just a cup of water, a paintbrush and a chalkboard.  Perfect for quick before-breakfast masterpieces! (cloth napkin underneath to catch the water drippees.)  Big sis likes to paint with water then follow up with chalk for a wet-chalk technique.  Dog just likes to watch.
 Outside water tea party.  Teapot and teacup courtesy of the thrift store.  Check out that intense concentration.....There can never be too much summer outside waterplay.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mama's toolbox.....the power of re-arranging.

We have a great easel the kids were gifted with a few years back.  I like to change out the arrangement of play/learning/art items in our house.  I believe this is one of a teacher mama's best tools for engaging little ones.  Novelty and the way things are displayed.  

So back to this easel.  We had it in the dining room for a while in the past and the kids played with it a lot.  Then they gradually stopped working with it.  So I put it away for about 6 months--it folds down so I popped it into a closet.  A couple weeks ago I brought it back out.  I set it up in the dining room with some great colored pencils, a marker block, and some chalk.  The kids have gone bonkers over it!  Someone is always drawing something!  It is like they got something new, and in their world they really have.  It's been so long since they've played with it that it's now a new toy!  

 As summer engulfs our world and most of us are a little more fulltime teacher mama's, I encourage you to evaluate your play/learning space.  What things are your kids not really using?  Put them up somewhere for a few months.  Give em a chance to be new toys again!  Or even just move things to a new spot to catch your kids' eyes from a different perspective.   Trade out some art supplies.  Freshen up your play kitchen or your block area or even your bookshelf.  Spend 30 minutes doing a little purposeful rearranging and you will be amazed at the power this small action has!

This tactic works wonders for any age--even adults like a freshened-up space!  Try moving your table a different direction or your living room around to a different arrangement.  It will add a nice element of change to your "nest" and a little variety to your summer.   And babies--they love this tactic, too.  Adds so much interest to their world!  Move their mobile or change out what is over their changing area.  Put something different on the wall above their crib.  Change the direction their highchair many options!!  Get creative, teacher mamas!

Monday, June 2, 2014

An invitation to play....with marbles!

 Have you heard of the strategy of offering an "INVITATION TO PLAY" for your children?  Simply put, you set up an appealing area with whatever play materials you want them to use.  You do this while they aren't watching (napping, in bed, in another room, etc.) and then "surprise" them with the invitation.  Sometimes you tell them to expect an invitation, other times you just leave it out somewhere for them to stumble upon and notice.

Invitations are highly motivation for kids.  First off, the appealing nature of how the activity looks instantly grabs their attention.  Second, it's new!!  And fun!!

Invitations are great tools for fussy/grumpy times of the day.  Dinnertime, anyone??!!  We use invitations on the two mornings a week that Quinn doesn't go to school--before I go to bed for the night I set out a small breakfasty snack and some type of art or play invitation on our kitchen table.  She wakes up earlier than everyone else.  We like our sleep.  So she can come down, eat her little snack, and start working or playing with whatever I've left out.  This (usually) works great in the mornings!

Invitations are also great tools for encouraging kids to play with toys/materials they haven't seemed to get "into" before.  Maybe setting it up a little bit, making it look appealing, and then placing it somewhere for your child to notice would encourage them to try new materials.  I also like using it to reignite their interest in toys and materials they haven't played with before.

For this particular invitation I had bought some marbles at the thrift store.  I set them on a tray (it's always a great idea to "corral" your invitations somehow--helps for both set up and clean up--I often use a rug, a quilt, or a tray, depending on the activity).  I poured the marbles out of the tin so he would spot them right away.  I also put out three tiny wooden bowls, a couple glass jars (on the carpet), some measuring spoons, a sifter, and a strainer.  Of course you know I tried to use natural materials--no plastic--and as many different types of natural materials as possible.  I envisioned him using them for pretend cooking play and also for music-making--two of his current interests.

He loves his marbles and plays with them for long periods of time quite often.  I do put the tray of marbles up between uses--to keep everything together, to keep marbles from getting lost, and to keep the novelty of the activity.  Every couple of days he asks for his marbles or I suggest them to him.  They continue to be a hit!!

I'd also recommend starting small with invitations.  Just put out a few things.  You can always add more items/steps the next time you use that same invitation.
Invitations also work with:
*cooking activities
*block play (build a little something to get them ingrigued--leave it set up along with a pile of unused blocks!)
*books (set a book open on end to catch child's attention)
*bath toys

Really the possibilities are endless....and this is one of those teaching tools that can be adapted to any age!!