Monthly Archives: January 2014

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Puzzle-mania!

Puzzles 2I’m not sure when it happened or why it happened, but Cam suddenly has gotten really into puzzles. It’s just about the only thing she wants to play with. Those and her stuffed animal buddies.

It’s been very illuminating watching her play with these toys. It is so easy to see how to giver her something that is comfortable for her, something that is a challenge, and to give her different types of challenges.

She started off with a set of four-piece puzzles of farm animals that was given to us by a very generous friend (thanks, Trish!). Those were at first a bit of challenge as they were her first encounter with the interlocking, jigsaw style puzzle. But she pretty quickly mastered those.

Puzzles 3I ordered her a set of 12-piece puzzles that were also jigsaw puzzles. They were really hard at first and she needed a lot of guidance in how to think about assembling them. Now she has a good handle on them with some help, or if given some quiet time, she can do them on her own.

As far as different types of challenges, we have those wooden tray puzzles Puzzles 1and a few peg puzzles that offer her some fine motor and shape matching that is really good for her (and not as easy as it seems sometimes). I also just picked up a large cardboard puzzle in a frame for 50 cents at the thrift shop. It will require her to think about the picture and to learn some puzzle strategies (like matching the edges). It has way more pieces than she is used to, but she LOVED the picture when she saw it on the shelf so I think the motivation may carry her.

Our Toy Philosophy: Part 1

One aspect of the Waldorf and Montessori approaches that I love is their minimalistic approaches to stuff. Fewer toys, less clutter, better organized storage. It’s also probably one of the hardest aspects for us. Cam has a lot of toys.

For a long time I worried over how much stuff she had. It spoiled her; it looked messy; a lot of if was cheap. But then I also realized, especially when I went to get rid of things, she plays with almost all of it. Especially the little things that seemed like clutter, the stack of Starbucks cards or the three sets of blocks she has or all those stuffed animals (so many stuffed animals!). I also noticed a good portion of the things that she has were Tom’s and mine when we were little (particularly the stuffed animals) and I didn’t want to get rid of that stuff.

So I stopped worrying about it. We try to buy her high quality toys when we buy her things, but we also aren’t going to sweat the dollar-bin car that she wants to keep in the car or the tiny set of hinges she wants from the hardware store. She’s attracted to those things and, in playing with them, gets something out of it. Be it fine motor practice threading the teeny tiny screws through their holes on the hinges or pushing the car along a make believe road and talking about fire engines while she does it.

Cam is incredibly lucky and there isn’t anything wrong with that. I also feel like I have finally gotten a good handle on our organization. She has a well stocked classroom that has tons of art supplies, open ended materials like blocks and small pieces like rocks, pinecones wooden balls and number tiles. I tend to switch out the books that are out and the puzzles and some of the “educational” toys that she loves (peg board, stacking toys, etc.). I recently did a deep clean in her room and closet and did donate a few things (I was a bit concerned that the shelves we have in her closet were getting too weighted down). I also straightened up and put a box of toys that she’s too young for (toys from Tom’s and my childhoods) out in the shed so I don’t have to sort through them all the time.

What’s the point of talking about all this? Mostly I think I just wanted to share our philosophy on our space and our toys. I think it can be difficult seeing so many beautiful spaces on blogs or on Pinterest or where ever. It gives you clutter-free envy and house envy. But I think it’s nice to know and to believe that what we have is also good and that other people out there don’t mind the mess and the abundance of things.

Below is a gallery of pictures from our classroom and Cam’s bedroom. It shows the various areas and methods of storage. As I said, it’s messy in some places, but it’s all (mostly) accessible to Cam and all important.

Eight Great Books for the Deep Dark of Winter

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Winter Magic by Eveline Hassler: This is a story about the beauty of the world when it is deep in winter as seen by a young boy and his cat, Sebastian. It is such a magical story that celebrates a season and time of year that doesn’t usually get a lot of praise.

The Tomten & The Tomten and the Fox by Astrid Lindgren: The Tomten, a small gnome-like creature that lives on the farm in the woods, cares for all the animals in the deep midwinter. When the fox arrives looking for a meal the Tomten offers to share his own food with the fox. I love the respectful tone of this book and the Tomten is always so magical.

Winter by Greda Muller: Another in the wordless board book series. More lovely and lively pictures appropriate to the season. Even though we don’t get snow, it’s easy to appreciate the cold weather and the delights of the idea of snow.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner: What do snowmen do when we aren’t watching? All kinds of silly things according to this book. I love how hilarious and silly the snowmen are, something we need after the holidays and the winter begins to drag on.

The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt: The classic tale of a lot of animals cramming themselves into a warm cozy mitten to escape the cold forest. Ultimately they don’t all fit and the mitten bursts apart. This particular version is the one I had as a child, and even though Jan Brett has done a beautiful edition, I love the simplicity of these illustrations. I also love how the book is set up as a story a grandfather tells his grandchildren and it isn’t clear to the child narrator if the grandfather was being completely truthful.

The Day it Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond: This is the story of Cornelia Augusta and her inspiration for the valentine cards she makes. Valentine’s Day can be so commercialized with roses and romantic love, but this is a book that celebrates doing something nice for your friends. Plus it would be awesome if it rained hearts!

The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss: This book celebrates the first flower and the joy it brings when you realize spring is near.