Monthly Archives: August 2014

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Reflection: 2014/13

Eating: Our CSA farm started allowing us to customize our produce boxes. We can remove items we don’t want and add all sorts of others. We’ve been able to get all our produce from them which reduces our grocery bill and means we waste a lot less. Plus it’s all good quality produce, much of it organic.

Visiting: We got to visit Cam’s classroom on Friday and meet the teachers. I think this was as much for the parents as the kids. I wish we had gotten a little more time with the teachers, but Cam wanted to play outside in the sandbox. Figures.

Saying goodbye: This week was the last week I watched my friend’s baby. With all the changes happening this fall it was going to become really difficult to watch her and manage everything. While I’m excited for all these new things happening (new job two afternoons a week, back volunteering in the library, and Cam going to school) it’s sad to see her go.

Grateful: I volunteer once a week in the school library where my husband works (and where I worked). Every once in awhile child care has become an issue and I have to leave early or come late or not show at all. Sue is always super understanding about that and I really appreciate it. I feel bad that she may not get the help she needs, but I don’t have to feel guilty that she is upset too. It seems like it isn’t very often that you get people who understand how difficult arranging child care is when you don’t have a regular daycare where your child goes (or when that daycare is closed).

 

For Your Classroom: Shapes

I had a small provocation set out all summer. It was a box of pattern blocks and the books Color Farm and Color Zoo. It took months for Cam to pick up the books, but she finally did and she has also begun to engage with the pattern blocks. I’m surprised it took so long as she’s played with the Mighty Mind for awhile now and is good at making most of the pictures. She is also very much a puzzle fan.

Shapes are something many kids learn to identify early. We point them out in our house, in books, on their clothes. Shapes are everywhere, so it makes sense that children would learn them. Shapes are an early math concept and with such an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in the media lately I thought I would share how we have approached shapes and a few other shape resources.

Shapes: Ages 1-4

Books

Of course we always read books. There are a lot of shape books out there. I chose these particular titles because they are more engaging for toddlers and young children. Some even base a plot around shapes.

Color Zoo & Color Farm by Lois Ehlert: I love these books by Lois Ehlert. I think it’s an engaging way to show children how you can use simple shapes to create pictures. I think they go along well with a material like pattern blocks or shape cutouts. There isn’t a story here exactly but your child could make one up using the various animals included. Beware, if you have very young children and end up with a paper copy of this (as opposed to the board book), tears of the pages may happen!

Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh: This one does have a plot. Three mice are running away from a cat when they stumble upon a pile of shapes. They use the shapes to create a little world for an imaginary mouse. This does a good job of demonstrating how to use shapes to make pictures.

Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban: I remember loving Tana Hoban’s books growing up. The large pictures with colors to highlight whatever concept she was illustrating were just so pleasing. Shapes, Shapes, Shapes shows children shapes in everyday life. You could use this as a jumping off point for the shape search activity below.

Away We Go! by Chieu Anh Urban: This one is a shape book for the transportation fans and for younger audiences. As with Color Zoo and Color Farm it features die cut shapes on the pages, a feature kids seem to like to use to turn the pages. :)

Websites

I know there has been a lot of upset over using television or video with kids. However, I think it’s fine to include a variety of media when teaching children. The most important part is to watch with your child and discuss what they have seen to help them to process and internalize it. The research backs this up as the most effective method for watching videos with an educational intent.

Sesame Street: Shapes I loved Sesame Street as a kid. Didn’t everyone? The Sesame Street website has several topics you can select where they have aggregated a number of video clips from episodes of the show (as opposed to having to watch through the entire episode) that pertain to the topic.

Songs & Poems

Poems About Shapes I couldn’t think of any traditional finger plays or nursery rhymes that were specifically about shapes, but I did find this huge list of poems, finger plays, and songs about shapes. Toddlers are especially fond of singing, or at least mine is, so bonus points there!

Barney’s “We Like the Shapes” A cute little song about squares, circles, and triangles and the number of sides they have. I know these kids songs can seem really hokey, but most kids really enjoy them.

Toys

On the simplest level you can cut out a variety of shapes and sizes of shapes from colored paper or craft foam. This was probably the place we talked about shapes the most, aside from pointing them out in our house and around the neighborhood. Just as a side note, I don’t get a commission from you buying any of these things. In fact I don’t necessarily endorse any one brand. We’ve had good luck with some and been happy with the quality but not with others. But there isn’t really a rhyme or reason to which and quality seems to vary between products within a brand.

Shape ToysPattern Blocks This is a material that should have longevity. Kids like to rearrange them to form pictures, patterns, and geometric designs for years. You might even discover that you like them. They make a good quiet time activity for those non-nappers. You can also use them to study symmetry later on, just throw in a mirror to build against.

Shape sorter There are a lot of shape sorters out there. You can pick one based on what you can afford, your aesthetic preferences, even sustainability. Cam has not be interested in the larger one we had, however when she was about 16-18 months I bought a sorter that had only three shapes. This seemed to be about her speed at that age. If you are so inclined, here is a DIY version. 

Peg puzzle These can double as something to trace when they are a bit older, rather like the Montessori geometric cabinet. Again we started with a small four-shape peg puzzle and moved up to one with 7 or 8 pieces.

Poch Poch These are essentially pattern blocks, but they have a little hole for a tiny nail to go through and a hammer to bang the nail into a cork board. You actually hit (no pun intended) a lot of skills with this one, especially fine motor control and spacial sense. My daughter at three is just getting the hang of it, but really it’s designed for the fours and fives or even older. Keep your eye out in thrift shops for this one, it does turn up occasionally.

Colorforms Admittedly, these last two are brand name items, but they are pretty good so I don’t feel too bad suggesting something specific. Colorforms are rather like pattern blocks but with curves and lots of colors. They have made various sets over the years, but the basic idea is they are made from a clingy plastic and come with a board that you place them on. They are kind of tiny so they aren’t great for little ones, but you could, in theory, use them in the car depending on your child. I found our set in the thrift shop for a couple dollars.

DIY & Activities

If you don’t want to buy more toys (I totally understand!) the following are a few ideas for making some games that you can then play with your child to reinforce the concept of shapes.

Popsicle stick shape puzzle The basic idea here is that you paint popsicle sticks in matching colors for the sides of shapes, so four green popsicle sticks for the square. Your child then matches the color and creates the shape. The blog simply shows a picture of what they have done, no instructions, but it’s basic enough I think it’s easy to recreate. (Source: ABeeC Preschool Blog)

Memory game with shapes I think we’ve all played memory before. Here is a DIY version that uses shapes instead of pictures. (Source: Dandee Designs)

Shape sort Shape sorting/matching. If you make the memory game above, you could reuse the cards/chips and an egg carton to create this game. (Source: Mess for Less)

Stamps & stencils Both of these also give children the opportunity to practice their fine motor skills. Most kids can handle stamps, but they can get messy and they aren’t always super accurate. As for stencils, this is a hard skill but you could also have your child run their finger around the stencil to feel the shape.

Shape Search Walk around your house or neighborhood with your child. As you go, look for shapes in the everyday objects around the house. You can pick them up and place them in piles, you could keep a list of the objects grouped by shape, you could take photographs or draw little pictures. The purpose is to begin seeing and identifying shapes all around. You could even turn this into a car game where you call out the object and shape. You can use the Tana Hoban book Shapes, Shapes, Shapes as a starting point for this activity. This blog has a creative idea, using painter’s tape to create large outlines of various shapes on the carpet. As you collect items from around your house you place them within the corresponding outline.

Reflection: 2014/12

IMG_3851

Looking Both Ways: This past Monday was Cam’s third birthday. As it has, it got me thinking about the time that has passed. How much she has changed and stayed the same. How I wish, sometimes, that she would stay this small forever. It feels like only three years in some ways, that the time has passed quickly, but in looking back I realize how it feels the time has crept by too. I also spent some time thinking ahead. What will she be like in another year? How will this year go? Will she like school? Will we like having her in school? If I had to sum up her birthday in one word it would be: bittersweet.

Cool Stuff Vol. 1, Issue 2

I know we aren’t taking a really traditional Waldorf approach, although we are incorporating a number of their ideas and priciples, but I still read a lot of Waldorf blogs. Oh, and I love love love their toys. Through a toy company based in Maine, Bella Luna Toys, I came across the Moon Child Blog and Sarah Baldwin’s series Sundays with Sarah.

She does these lovely little videos where she tackles parent questions and Waldorf activities. She seems like such a lovely person and the kind of person I would love to have as Cam’s teacher. Her two latest Sunday’s have been fairy houses and beeswax modeling. We aren’t yet into fairy houses, but I suspect with Cam’s penchant for imaginative play and whimsical small things that she could really get into them. We’ve done some beeswax modeling (it smells amazing!), but it’s a little hard for Cam to manipulate the material and to make anything she deems worthwhile.

Building Fairy Houses with Liza Gardner Walsh

How to Use Modeling Beeswax

Handwork: Schultuete*

SchultueteIn my post about Cam going to school soon I mentioned the schultuete that I would be making. If you Google pictures of them you might notice they can be quite large. In fact the one in the picture I included in that post is nearly as tall as the little girl holding it! According to my grandmother (and Wikipedia), they are filled with candy and sometimes, especially as kids get older, school supplies like pencils, erasers, and markers.

I spent part of an afternoon last week making a cone that could be reused. I chose, however, to make it relatively small. Cam certainly doesn’t need tons more stuff and she doesn’t really need a lot of candy either. The size limits what can fit and I got a few fun, little things that are also practical. I even stuffed a few fruit snack packs in there, a big treat in our house.

IMG_2454The cone was simple enough to make: I cut two outer triangles out of a laminated canvas and two inner triangles out of muslin. I stitched both pairs together at the sides. and turned the outer cone right side out. Then I stuffed the liner cone inside. I folded the tops down and topstitched them together. While sewing the tops I added a ribbon that loops over the top. It isn’t perfectly sewn, but I think it looks fine and doubt Cam will notice or care. There isn’t exactly a pattern, just a size for the triangle and a few tips and tricks to making it come together. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to post a more detailed list of instructions and a pattern.

Traditions Banner*It appears that you can spell the word two different ways. I can’t say definitively that this is true as I don’t speak German, but one way has an umlaut and the other has substituted a “uf” for the umlauted “u”. Since I don’t have an easy way to include the umlaut I’m going for the “ue” spelling of the word. If anyone who speaks German and knows this is incorrect, please let me know and I will change it.

Reflection: 2014/11

Reading: I’ve been reading a lot of things lately, mostly books. But this blog post from an Everyday Story about being productive and engaged, authentic, and focused with your kids really struck a chord. I too struggle to balance the desire to clean and get all the little things done that seem to pile up with sitting down and really connecting with Cam. I’ve talked about how I practice the breathing in, breathing out to structure the day, but this post offers some really practical advice that you could take or at least reflect on.

I also read this post, The Mostly Connected Parent, on Racheous and found it really rang true. We all have times of doubt about how we parent and we tend toward a gentle approach which is often criticized. But I could not agree more with some of the points Rachel makes about why we choose to parent in this way. Well worth a read.

IMG_2455Repairing: A lot of Cam’s toys are actually toys our parents hung on to. A recent trip to Boppa’s shop turned up a huge box of my old My Little Ponies. Cam was so taken with them. We brought them home and she’s been playing with them ever since. A few are a bit dirty and their hair needs some serious attention. Others just need a bath and a good condition for their hair. So I’ve turned into a pony repair facility. It’s slow going, but they look a thousand times better once I’m done with them.

Building: We broke down and added sand to a portion of our swing set area. We have a portion of our yard that isn’t especially usable because of its orientation to the sliding door and because it is completely shaded with a small exception. A year and half ago my husband built a large frame that we filled with bark and installed a swing set. The metal frame for the swing set was actually found in our garage, it belonged to my mother in law from her days growing up in our house (Have I ever mentioned that Cam is the fourth generation to live in this house? A rarity in a middle class neighborhood in California.). One side of the bark pit was sectioned off into two smaller rectangles. We filled one with gravel for a gravel pit (it’s full of dump trucks that belonged to my husband) and the other one we left empty. I had plans to fill it with dirt and make it Cam’s garden, but there isn’t any sun or water on that side of the yard so it never really came together. Just yesterday we bought a yard of sand and filled it. Cam played by herself for an hour straight, pulling toys from the gravel pit and the water table and just plain rolling around in the sand. She’s our summer baby who loves sand and being outside. :) Really glad we did this.

Cam in the Kitchen: New Fridge

This is another new series I want to start up this fall. Cam has really gotten in to helping me make dinner.

Cam FridgeI wasn’t super prepared to share a recipe or anything that fancy yet, but I thought I would talk about the newest edition to the kitchen that allows Cam a little more independence. I love our fridge. We got a good deal, it’s easy to organize inside, yadda, yadda. The biggest downside is that it’s bottom freezer fridge, which means Cam isn’t tall enough to get into it. She’s at the age where I think it would be appropriate for her to go in the fridge and get a snack, like cheese or apple sauce or fresh fruit, but she just can’t.

In a little twist of fate our wine fridge pooped out on us about a year ago. Not wanting to toss a nearly new fridge (it was out of warranty) we looked into getting it repaired. That was an expensive prospect as was buying a replacement that didn’t get one-star reviews. So we just let it sit. When I started thinking of ways to get Cam a place to store refrigerated snacks my husband suggested we buy a little mini fridge to replace the wine fridge. We could still  store a few sodas, beers and chilled wines and Cam would get a little space. I suggested we wait until back to school season when dorm fridges would be on sale.

A recent trip to Costco turned up a great deal on little fridge that fits perfectly in the old space. It fits everything we need it to and Cam has two shelves for cool drinks, cheese, fruit, and anything else that might need to be refrigerated. Added bonus, it doesn’t have a freezer, a feature we really didn’t need as our actual fridge is just across the galley. I’m super happy with it and she seems to be pretty pleased too.

Cool Stuff Vol. 1, Issue 1

“Cool Stuff” is a new series I’m starting. I should be doing it most weeks. The intent is to share anything and everything that we’ve found useful and interesting. When Cam asks me questions about the world around us or I note that she’s seen something she doesn’t quite understand, I try to find real life examples, books, pictures, videos, you name it, to help her understand. In the process of doing this I come across a lot of neat things that I thought it might be fun to share with parents and educators.

For the inaugural post of Cool Stuff I would like to share:

3 Rules to Spark Learning: Nothing here that the Reggio Emilia approach doesn’t do, but it bears repeating. However I think it hits home that you don’t have to commit fully to the Reggio approach to value and adhere to these principles. (6 minute video from TED Talks Education)

I’m Not Patient Enough to Homeschool: Just yes on this one. It really ties into my belief that toy and baby companies are trying to convince us that we don’t know what we’re doing so we need to buy their products. (Blog post from Kate at An Everyday Story, a fabulous homeschool & Reggio blog)

 

Activity in the Hive: Extroverts, School and Traditions

Well, the big news around here is that Cam is going to school in September. We decided to put her in a three-mornings a week nursery school. This may come as a surprise considering all my talk about homeschooling, but circumstances have changed a little bit and this makes more sense at this point. I’m going back to work two afternoons a week which won’t coincide with her program, but will reduce the amount of time I have to work on other projects. I’ll gain some of that time back while she’s in school.

More importantly, I’ve thought a lot about what to do for Cam and I realized what an extrovert she is. While I think more traditional school programs have a false sense of socialization, this program actually addresses that. Regardless, I think at this point she needs a few hours a week to be involved with other kids. I’m introverted and struggle to get her the socializing she needs because I’m inclined to stay home.

Schuletute

I’m really excited about this school. It’s the Peregrine School, the Reggio school here in the area. Their program looks wonderful and we spent a long time talking with the program director who is a doctor of education and has taught in teacher training/credential programs at one of our local universities for years. If we are going to go to the trouble and expense to send Cam to school I want it to be for a program that I love and the Reggio program is.

The first day of school also means the start of a new German tradition for us. German school children receive a cone of goodies, called a schultuete, on their first day of school. Traditionally this is done only in Kindergarten or first grade, but it has apparently expanded to older kids. I’m going to make a cone that we can use for the next few years. I’ll post pictures of the cone and Cam with it.

This is, of course, bittersweet for us. It feels like a really momentous step in her growing up. I’m sure Cam will handle this transition with her usual aplomb while Tom and I stand at the gate and cry. :)

Image source: AKPool, Little Girl with Schultute

Traditions Banner

Reflection: 2014/10

IMG_2419Eating: Lots of fresh salsa from the tomatoes and peppers our neighbors have kindly given us. Cam eats it with a spoon, no chip necessary.

Doing: We recently found a set of water wings that have a chest piece. They had been sitting in our shed for a year and we pulled them out to take to the pool. Cam was nervous at first, but she quickly realized she didn’t need to cling to us anymore and was “swimming” the length of the pool and jumping off the steps. 

Making: I’ve been plugging away at Cam’s birthday present, a hand made quiet book. It’s nearly finished!

Reading: Cam pulled out her bin of easy readers a week or so ago and sat quietly “reading” while I made dinner one evening. I hope this is a glimpse into our future.