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A Little Weekend Reading: Emergency Planning

Weekend Reading.jpg

In addition to my New Year’s Resolutions, I have some projects I want to tackle around the house. They’re pretty mundane and boring, like replacing our can lights in the living room with LED can lights, but they need to be done. However, I thought I would share one of them here because I think it’s important for all families to at least consider.

Emergency BoxAwhile back I read an article in Parents magazine that was all about creating a disaster preparedness kit. I thought it sounded a little daunting, but also kind of practical. The idea wasn’t new to me. We have several birds and I am always meaning to purchase travel cages just in case we ever had to evacuate. We also keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

Now I am not the paranoid type. My kid occasionally touches chicken poop in our yard, eats food that has fallen on the floor, and goes out without a coat (it’s okay we live in California :)). Sometimes she bangs her head or scrapes her knee. But I did take a CPR class through the Red Cross and it really hit home for me the importance of being prepared for something major (an earthquake, a broken bone, a car accident, etc.). Add some of the scary things that have happened over the past year (school shootings, hurricanes, etc.) and I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to be prepared. I don’t expect anything to happen, but with minimal effort we can be prepared just in case.

I highly reccommend you read the article (I’ll post the link below) and consider doing a bit of emergency preparedness this year. It walks you through preparing your kids, preparing a box of supplies, and writing a letter in case you are not present when something happens to your child (say a flood or earthquake while they are in school). It shouldn’t take much time or money, but better safe than sorry.

Are You Prepared for an Emergency?

Photo credit: “Unnamed.” Parents. 2011. Web. 14 Jan 2013. <http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/emergency-preparedness/>

For Your Bookshelf: Natural History

For Your Bookshelf Banner

On a recent trip to Costco I came across the book pictured below, which I had seen in the library before. It is absolutely beautiful and features thousands of photographs of every type of living thing. Except, oddly enough, for whales and dolphins which are lovely drawings. Go figure.

Natural History

Cam is in love with this book. She flips through it despite its enormous size. She is particluarly fond of the owl pages (big surprise there), the colorful birds, the penguins (another shocker) and some of the small brown furry mammals. In my best attempt at following her interests, we bought her a smaller sized book (also published by DK) that is essentially an abbreviated version of this one. It is more portable and I think she’ll have a much easier time flipping through it. Plus if the pages get torn or worn or rumpled I don’t really care.

I know the book is pricey, although I found it for $20 less than its cover price at Costco and I imagine it will eventually pop up on sale tables, I think it’s worth the investment if your child is interested. I can also see it really tying in well with the Montessori Great Lessons as well as a science curriculum and an introduction to the diversity of life on Earth.

Music Appreciation

Music BasketI recently came across this post about integrating music into your day. I just thought I would chime in on music. Our house is normally full of music. I am no singer, but I do enjoy listening to most types of music. My favorites are world and classical, but we also do electronica, pop, jazz, and a lot more.

One thing I remember about growing up was how full of music my life was. My dad is a luthier (violin maker) and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we had music in the house. Many of my early memories are of listening and dancing to a variety of music. Now that I have my own daughter, I want that experience for her. I want her to love music and find a connection to it.

To that end, I have a basket of musical instruments for her to play with and I make a point to have music on at all times. Most of the time it is our local classical station (thank you Capital Public Radio!). Other times I turn up an old favorite (or new favorite) and let Cam dance around while shaking an egg shaker. She thoroughly enjoys this time and I am trying to be good about working it into our everyday routine.

Drawing and Scribbling

I have been trying for months now to interest Cam in putting marks on a page. I have given her blank paper in a variety of colors and lots of marker, crayon, and colored pencil options. She put down a few half-hearted lines and squiggles and a dot or two, but she just wasn’t into it. Until just last week. I’m not sure how she got ahold of it, but Cam found one of my ball point pens and has begun to scribble like mad.

Shortly thereafter, she located a No. 2 pencil and has colored on our kitchen tile. Whoops! I don’t know why all of a sudden she is so interested in and intent on “coloring”. Maybe it was just a developmental leap. Maybe it was that the pen and pencil were thin enough for her to grip easily. It certainly isn’t because they are colorful (although, maybe she takes after her father whose favorite color is gray).

It doesn’t really matter, though. She is into it, so I am following her lead. To encourage her I have gotten out blank sketch pads, various stacks of paper, and even note cards. She is particularly taken with scribbling over words and even some pictures. I find it very odd, but she loves it. I also rolled out some art paper on the floor of our kitchen to give her a giant space to color on.

For those of you wondering, ball point ink is very easy to remove. Simply place a rag under the stain and then blot with a cotton ball or Q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol. The rag underneath is there to absorb the alcohol and the ink as they come through. You may need to move the rag around to find a spot that is not soaked or covered in ink. Blot until the stain is mostly gone, then soak in an enzyme detergent before washing normally. I suggest checking the spot (or spots!) prior to placing the item in the dryer as the dry heat of the dryer will set the stain if it is not completely removed.

Busy Board

Cam is really into keys, locks, latches, lids, boxes, buttons and the like. Anything she can flip, switch, push, and spin she wants to play with. Sometimes this is a problem, like when she keeps opening and closing the wine fridge. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t letting all the cold air out and causing it to switch on more frequently. It does make a very satisfying thud when it closes, though, so I understand.

She is also fond of taking people’s keys from them when they come in the door. You see, she’s figured out that they are usually carrying them or just getting ready to put them away as we answer the door. Guests think it’s very cute, until she gleefully presses the panic button, chortles to herself, and fusses when they are taken away.

So we finally decided to channel this interest into a busy board. This is, essentially, a board with a variety of doodads to fiddle and fidget with. You can certainly buy them- Etsy has them as does Amazon- but Tom is handy so I asked him to make one. He’s been planning it out in his head for awhile now, but we finally made it over to the hardware store to collect pieces.

And boy did we collect pieces! This was not an especially cheap project, although the boards available for purchase are also expensive and I am sure there are ways to cut down on the cost of a homemade one, but it is totally awesome. The board is also intended to grow with her for several years, as some of the “activities” are more difficult and require either more or better hand strength and coordination.

 

Front of Busy BoardThe board has (refer to picture for a visual):

  • an outlet with two plugs for her to put in
  • a switch next to the outlet that lights up four reflectors next to it
  • a cabinet or cam lock
  • a mirror
  • a wheel
  • a chain lock
  • a loop to hang a padlock on
  • a latch to close or lock shut with the padlock
  • a hook to hang the key ring with the padlock keys
  • a bar with metal rings
  • her name spelled with Scrabble tiles and backed with Velcro
  • a door bell (that also lights up when the light switch is turned on), when pushed it lights a reflector below it
  • a faucet

Back of Busy BoardThe boards that the things are mounted on are chalkboard material so she (or we) can draw on it. And the back has a toggle switch that turns on a circle of lights set up like a clock. When she is older we can use this to write in the numbers on the clock and practice telling time.

Cam is thrilled with the board and spends a lot of time playing with it. It’s been interesting to see which items she takes an interest in. At first she was fascinated with spinning the wheel, but she has moved on to the letters and the door bell. A great big thanks to my husband for such an awesome toy. It was a lot of work. Not unreasonable, but a lot of work nonetheless. But Cam appreciates it.

Traditions: Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar 2012.jpg

Last year I was reading through my Martha Stewart magazine and came across a little article about Advent calendars. I was familiar with the little picture calendars and chocolate Advent calendars, but this article was talking about calendars that didn’t look like those at all. Each day had a box or envelope that contained a tiny “gift” for each day instead of a chocolate or picture. The article was not only a how-to, but was also a fond remembrance of the author’s mother who carefully crafted these Advent calendars for years.

So when I decided to use the holidays to create some meaningful family traditions for Cam, I decided I would like to create her a homemade Advent calendar each year. I didn’t begin the tradition last year, mostly because I was still overwhelmed with a three month old baby, but also because she was a little small to understand the tradition.

Over Thanksgiving my grandmother got Cam a nice wooden bird house that came with three stuffed birds. She thought, based on the picture in the catalog, that the birds would fit into the hole in the bird house, but they turned out to be much too large. Cam still liked to put things into the bird house, though, and that gave me the idea for her Advent calendar. I made up a little pattern, based on a felt bird I had seen on Etsy, and stitched up 24 little felt birds (with the help of my mom since I started the project last week!). They aren’t as lovely as the one on Etsy, but they didn’t turn out too badly.

I placed each bird in a little muslin bag and placed all the bags in a basket. Instead of numbering each bag, a concept I didn’t think would make a lot of sense to Cam yet, I just put them all in the basket. Each day she can reach in and take one out. And so far, she has absolutely loved the little birds. After kissing them, she immediately begins putting them into the bird house. Excellent fine motor practice and fun for Cam! Traditions Banner

Sensory Walk

Last week we got a lot of rain, so I came up with a couple of activities to do inside to combat the cabin fever. One of these activities was sensory walk, which sounds a lot fancier than it really was. I collected up several different textures and laid them out on the floor. Then I had Cam walk across them and feel them with her toes.

It wasn’t anything complicated and it only lasted about 15 minutes, but Cam really enjoyed it. After walking over each texture she sat down and began feeling them with her hands.

Textures I Used:

  • package of sponges from the dollar store
  • rag towel
  • velvet gift bag
  • waffle weave blanket
  • Duplo base board

Under the Sea

Photo by Tom Wroten

Photo by Tom Wroten

This month we have a conference in Monterey, so we’ll be paying a visit to the fabulous aquarium there. In preparation I’m trying to expose Cam to names of sea creatures, but also to colors, number and stories. I’m also hoping this month she really transitions to one afternoon nap so we can get into a better routine than we had last month, but I know kids don’t always follow your plan!

Cam is currently really into putting things into containers. She is also totally into putting lids on bottles and jars. In the Montessori fashion, I’m trying to create activities that encourage and reinforce those skills (and maybe sneak in a bit of an ocean theme). I have to admit, though, the lids thing makes me nervous. She’s most interested in small lids, like those on water bottles, but she isn’t totally out of the phase where she puts things in her mouth. It had created a dilemma for me, since I worry she’ll choke, but I don’t want to discourage her. She has really good fine motor/dexterity, so the large lids don’t really do it for her. If any one has any suggestions I would be more than grateful. In the meantime I haven’t made it an activity that can sit out on her shelves and she has to be very closely supervised while she plays with them.

I just recently went back and looked at a little chart I created that shows the phases or “sensitive periods” that Maria Montessori based her method on. I was very surprised to find Cam going through several of them just as predicted. Not really surprised that it was true, but just amazed by my daughter. I have to admit being a parent is really cool and it’s so gratifying and rewarding to watch my daughter explore and discover the world.

Sensory Box: Colored Rice

Wednesday of last week we gave another sensory box a try. I found instructions online on how to dye rice in fall colors. It’s surprisingly simple: Measure out as much rice as you would like into a large Ziploc bag. Put in a couple generous splashes of rubbing alcohol and some squirts of food coloring. Close up the bag and massage and shake the rice around. Once the rice is all evenly coated and as brightly colored as you want it to be ,dump it out onto waxed paper to dry.

My red rice turned a little pink as it dried, but Cam didn’t care. She was super excited to get in there and throw the rice around. She also sampled a handful, after which she made a face and didn’t do it again. I did notice that the rice will leave a dust of food coloring on your hands, so be forewarned. I had Cam play in this in just a diaper and I wiped her hands afterwards. All in all, a winner. Now I want to find some small fall items (apples, pumpkins, spiders, etc.) and hide them in the rice.

Sensory Box: Oatmeal

I recently read about sensory boxes and realized I had already done one with water. Per the blog post I read from Pink and Green Mama, I decided to try out some more. I went over to Walmart very early in the morning to avoid the crowds and bought a huge tub of oatmeal as well as a plastic bin and some plastic measuring cups with colorful handles. The day before I had found some large plastic spoons in the dollar bin at our local hardware store. I dumped the oatmeal into the bin and placed the spoons on top.

Cam was thrilled to run her fingers through the oatmeal and scoop it up. She also had a grand time dumping it on the floor. I had my handy little dust pan and whisk on standby, so clean up wasn’t difficult. Cam also tried eating some of the dried oatmeal and fed me a few grains, but that didn’t last long. All in all, it was success and we’ll be doing this again soon. On to colored rice next.