Tag Archives: Activities

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

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.

Wonder Boxes

When Cam was about nine months old, maybe even eight, I began putting together what I call Wonder Boxes. They are just little bins of things she can paw through and explore and examine. They’ve been so popular I have kept them around and continue to add to them. Any container will work. I happened to have closet/dresser organizers from IKEA that I was using to organize things in her room. They come in several sizes so I was able to have some smaller and larger Wonder Boxes. I filled them with anything and everything. The box in the kitchen has all kinds of kitchen items that I either had duplicates of (wooden spoons and spatulas, for example) or items that I rarely use (a sushi press I don’t think I’ve ever used).

 

It’s been really interesting to watch which objects become more interesting to her over time. For awhile she was really into cards so the box from her room has a lot of Starbucks gift cards. Currently the orange spatula from the kitchen box gets carried around A LOT. My husband just found it by his side of the bed the other day. The little pie crust punch, seen in the picture below, has also been a particular favorite.

I feel compelled to note that Cam has always been pretty good about not putting things in her mouth, so I went with some smaller items. However, if you try this, be aware that items can pose a choking hazard.

Sensory Box: Water Play

On Monday I put together a sensory “box” with water for Cam. We have done this several times before and it has always been a big hit. The first time I gave her a bowl of water with some measuring spoons she banged them on the rim and “sang” along. This activity always ends in a huge puddle on the floor and soaked clothes. But it doesn’t matter, Cam loves it. This time around I got smart and put down a huge beach towel before putting the bowl down. It didn’t keep her clothes or the floor from getting wet, but it did keep the puddle to a minimum.

Items for water play:

-plastic balls

-measuring spoons

-plastic spoons

-bath toys

-rubber ducks (a favorite in our household)

-nesting cups

-bath time books

-bottles

-straws

-anything that is water proof!

Nursery Rhymes Update

Nesting Tray

A quick update on what we’ve been doing: Going along with our theme we did several finger rhymes “Where is Thumbkin?” (which I found to be little long), “Eensey Weensey Spider”, “Two Little Blackbirds” (which I was able to do with our awesome raven puppet), “Whoops! Johnny”, and “The Squirrel”. “Whoops! Johnny” was the favorite just because it’s loud and rather silly. To break the finger plays into more interesting bits I did one a day and plan on repeating them to her next week.

I also put together a fun activity tray (is that what you’d call it?). I had good intentions to pick out some nursery rhymes to go with it, but I did not end up having time. I did, however, leave it on a shelf in her room so she (or I) can choose to easily do it again.

Once a week we go to a German-language play group where we sing songs, count, and talk about animals, numbers and the like. This was a good tie-in with the colors we began learning so I was able to say the color in both English and German (and Arabic). I’m not sure she’ll really pick up the other languages, but it’s good exposure for her ear.

Nesting Cup Mania

Nesting cups have long been a favorite in our house. We have two sets that are designed for babies and while making dinner Monday night I realized I had a great set of measuring bowls that nest inside each other. I collected the three sets, covered my only other cookie sheet with a placemat, and placed the three nesting cup sets on the tray. It was a huge hit. Cam must have spent most of the day playing with the cups and carrying the different sets around. She also got a kick out of knocking over the towers I would make with them. While she has enjoyed mouthing, touching, and banging the cups for months now, but I noticed she has started studying them intently and (correctly) nesting them together.

Year One: The Beginning

My daughter just recently turned a year old and I also finally got around to reading a bit about and discussing the Montessori Method. While I still feel very much in the dark I am hoping to begin working with my daughter in a thoughtful and deliberate way. Which isn’t to say we’ve had an anything-goes attitude before, just that I was inspired by what I have learned so far about Montessori and would like to begin applying some principles and ideas to the activities we do.

My goal for starting this blog is simply to document what we’re doing. I’m a librarian and I am partial to the idea of sharing knowledge and ideas, so to do this in a public forum seems like a good thing. I would hope that there may be inspiration for someone out there, but I am also hoping just to have a record of how my daughter has progressed through her interactions with and explorations of the world.

I thought to ease into this new year of life and new approach to learning I would give a theme a try. Cam is still a bit young to be really overly interested in any one particular thing except walking, the new love her life, so I chose something broad and familiar. I decided on Nursery Rhymes. Nursery rhymes are great because they give the child an ear for all the workings of language. They are also easy for me to remember! Many of them can be sung or chanted and they have good rhythm and rhyme for clapping or banging pots and pans to. I put together a bin of nursery rhyme books that we have quick, easy access to.

Here are some ideas that I will be working in to our weekly activities:

  • teach her finger rhymes. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • nursery rhyme object tray
  • counting rhymes
  • body part rhymes
  • use finger puppets to act out rhymes
  • field trip to Fairytale Town
  • daily read alouds of nursery rhymes

I suppose that’s enough for my very first post. I hope you stay tuned for the rest of the journey!