Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trying to Catch Up!

Popping in to apologize for my long absence! We were battling colds for a bit and the world stopped! We're back on now and busy with the start or Lent, Lenten cleaning, and our regular activities. I have a few activities to share, and I promise I will do so soon. I'm hoping for some time this weekend-- after we go to the zoo for Snow Leopard Days!

In the meantime, enjoy this video. I love Christian comedian Tim Hawkins and thanks to Emma's recent post, have been enjoying some new material!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Second Waldorf Doll

Here is my second attempt at doll making. I finished this a few weeks ago for a sweet baby girl. Her mother obligingly took this picture for me, and I think it came out much better than my first try. The head has a better shape and it's attached more as it should be. Not quite invisible, but definitely getting there! The face is a little more to my liking as well. Overall, the construction is crisper.

It's giving me the confidence to make a doll with a full body soon!

I hope she receives many cuddles and lots of teething "love!"

Friday, February 13, 2009

Another Art Studio Visit

Today we returned to the art studio we visited last month.

The children finished the project they began last time. The owner of the studio fired the clay animals after our last trip and today each child painted them as well the "scene" and then we assembled the pictures.

Isn't this a beautiful rainbow fish-- and so well camouflaged?

After the children finished their first project, the teacher read them Snowmen at Christmas and then they made snowmen! Everything was ready for the children and they painted then added arms, nose, etc. to bring the snowmen to life! I think our snowman will have a permanent place in our winter nature scene each year!

Little brother had a good time too! He managed to dip his fingers in my watercolors and watched the entire process with wide eyes! It won't be long before he joins in!

M. is absolutely delighted with both of these projects, and as another mom said today, "They are definitely "forever" projects!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Castle Set're getting a sneak peak at a gift for our boys. Not sure when yet, but possibly Michaelmas (our older son's namesday). I'm posting it now because I'm so eager to show off the figures and rave about Anne Moze All Wood Toys. Let me back up a bit first.

I bought the castle through one of my Yahoo! Groups several months ago. It was an incredible bargain. Finding figures for it, however, was not an easy task. Because it's a "mini" castle, the regular Kinderkram, Holztiger, and Ostheimer figures are far too big and would tower over the castle walls. Simply not acceptable! We purchased several wood figures from Anne Moze in the past (which we adore!), but her castle figures are similar in size to the ones mentioned above. I decided to go ahead, though, and contact her to ask about a custom order for smaller figures on a Wednesday afternoon. She responded within hours that she was familiar with the castle we own, and told me she couldn't "get to it" before Saturday and hoped that was okay. Can you believe it? I assured her, of course, I was in no rush; anytime was fine. WELL. I heard from her Monday-- only five days later. The figures were done! I received them three days later. From inquiry to order received was eight days. And no shoddy, hurried work here. They are beautiful and just want I wanted! I know the boys will be absolutely delighted! We'll be playing with these for many years to come!

I cannot recommend this shop enough. The German-made figures are wonderful, yes, but so are these made in the U.S.A. by a work-at-home mom. Her work is impeccable and her prices are more than fair. Thank you, Anne!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Making Valentines

Today we made our Valentines!

We started with watercolors....

Turned them into hearts...

Added some glue...

Some red cards and a stamp...


It was a fun process and M. was absolutely delighted to present my mother with hers this afternoon!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Beginning Jigsaw Puzzles

Puzzles have been a favorite activity of our son's for a long time and at Christmas he was gifted with these "My First Puzzles" by Dorling Kindersely (one of my favorite publishers!). They are his first experience with jigsaw puzzles and he works on them almost everyday. The puzzles get progressively harder: the ducklings are three pieces, the puppy is six, and the tiger is nine. He master the ducklings immediately but today was the first time I saw him assemble the puppy and tiger cub with no assistance other than encouragement!

I'm going to keep my eyes open for more of these!

Rough and Smooth Boards

Tuesday I introduced M. to the rough and smooth boards. We only worked with board #1 (front board in picture), though I did give him a few moments to explore boards 2 and 3. We touched "rough" and "smooth" several times then took turns wearing a blindfold and identifying rough and smooth by touch only. He really enjoyed the blindfold! We then spent a few minutes looking for over examples of rough and smooth in the playroom. Quick and fun lesson!

I made these boards the same time I did the color boxes. Having a handy husband means there's always lots of sandpaper and scraps of wood around!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Child-sized Fridge and Snack Tray

A few weeks ago, I had an inspiration! One of my long-standing goals is fostering independence and allowing our children as much control over their environment as possible (and still be safe, of course). I've been pondering the "freedom of food" issue for a while. It's very important to us that our children regulate their OWN food intake right from birth (nursing on demand, self-feeding solids, no purees, no pressure to "clean their plates, etc.)

I've also long wanted to hand some measure of control over to our older son over choosing, preparing, and serving snacks. As we know, toddlers are grazers and more likely to require many small meals during the day rather than "three squares." How often I've heard other mothers in our group complain that their young children would prefer to eat a few bites, get down run around, then come back for a few more bites. Repeat, repeat. Not the most polished of habits, perhaps, but completely normal. I've wanted to embrace that tendency in our son, but the method has puzzled me for some time.

Dr. Sears and others recommend leaving a muffin tin or similar sectioned serving device available to a toddler at all times whether in the fridge or on a low table. Our refrigerator is a freezer-on-the-bottom mode, however, and the fridge portion is far too tall for a toddler to reach. While some food can be left for long periods of time to allow free access, others cannot (especially in the summer!). So after months of tossing the ideas around, I finally reached a rather obvious conclusion:


Happily, I had a mini-fridge in college and my parents still have it. A quick phone call to my mother later, and the plan was in action! I had the perfect corner for it and voila! Further independence and lessons in responsible use of a refrigerator created instantly! We did install a lock on the top to keep little brother out once he starts crawling and until he can receive the same tutorial as M., but fortunately our little locksmith can still access his snacks.

I'm still "stocking" it, but here's what we have so far: water bottles, applesauce, cheese sticks and cubes, ham cubes, pre-cut veggies, and yogurt. I would also like to add hard boiled eggs and hummus and leave portioned amounts of crackers and granola on top of the fridge. After a week or so, things are working very well!

Here is this morning's snack tray:

I put this out about 9:15 and replenished it with bread and butter about two hours later. M. still wanted a small portion of what I had for lunch (potato soup) then in the late afternoon he wanted some ham cubes. He then ate a good-sized dinner. Mealtimes are much smoother, there is less waste, and our little guy is really growing up!

One of Our Newest Favorites

"Clothes game, clothes game!" is frequently heard in our house these days as M. clamors to play Selecta Picobello. All the clothes must be hung to dry in just the right conditions (sunny and windy). A great game for color matching and practicing pincer grasp, we've been playing every day!

As far as I know, Selecta's decision to pull out of the U.S. market because of new CPSIA regluations still stands. We've been stretching our budget to snatch up these wonderful toys and games before they're no longer available.

On a related note, although a one-year stay has been greated for this act action is still needed! Help save handmade!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bead Sequencing

This has been a popular activity in our house lately! We've been experimenting with this set from Melissa and Doug for a few weeks. M. loves to stand the pattern up in the "gutter" and place the rod just so then...put an entirely random sequence of beads in place! Friday we worked on following the pattern.

First we laid the pattern flat on the floor and I preselected each of the beads he would need to complete the pattern. It's a little tough even for me since obviously on the board the shapes are represented in two dimensions and it's a little tricky to match the picture to the actual bead.

I then asked M. to place the beads over the correct image in the correct order. With my little helps in place, and some redirection because of the difference is appearances (board vs. bead) M. was easily able to do this.

Then we placed the correct beads in front of the pattern but still on the floor. This was also simple for him, except that he wanted to keep putting the beads directly on the board. More fun, I guess!

He had an easier time than other times we tried this, but "reading" the pattern from the bottom up was still a little tough. He managed, though, and I discovered that I had given him the wrong bead in two cases. I told you the shapes were hard to match! We tried another pattern, skipping straight to the vertical placement but he had a tough time. We're going to have to practice quite a bit, I think. Reading from the bottom up is definitely non-intuitive and it's made even more difficult because the pattern is placed behind the rod rather than side-by-side.

We'll keep working on it! Completing the work on the floor left to right is a good pre-reading skill, so maybe we'll continue that for the time being. Regardless of how this activity is used, it is also good practice in fine motor skills and a lot of fun for child and parent!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Color Boxes

About a month ago, I recreated Montessori Color Boxes. This was an easy project requiring only 80 2x3 pieces of plywood, paint chips in 11 or so colors and shades, and glue. Hah. While the finished project is simple, this did actually take quite a bit of time to put together. We had to search for just the right shades of each color, my husband cut all the wood for me, I sanded it, trimmed the chips to the right size then glued them all on. I actually worked here and there over a couple of weeks but the end result was worth it! Despite the sweat equity, it was quite a cheap "work" to assemble.

(Color Box #1 involves matching the primary colors.)

I'm not sure exactly when/how it happened but sometime during the fall and early winter, M. suddenly exploded and knew all his colors. He could identify them all before he could talk, and seemed to have picked them up just through everyday experiences (just what we want, right?) Therefore, I knew going in that he was beyond Color Box #1 and nearly Color Box #2, but forged ahead since this will likely be used by several more children (Lord willing!).

(Color Box #2 is matching pairs of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, black, gray, pink, and brown tablets.)

We started working on Color Box #3 late last week, and I was floored that M. needed almost no instruction on what to do! He seemed to know instinctively that the goal was to arrange the tablets from dark to light and he was easily able to self-correct and rearrange when necessary. We did pink/red, purple, and half of green before he got tired.

(Color Box #3 involves gradation of shades: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, grey, and brown. There are six shades in each family.)

What we do need to work on is naming the various shades of each color. He referred to the lightest tablet in each family as white and saying "light purple," "lighter purple," "medium," "dark," "darkest" seemed to confuse him slightly. He did better without my input, actually! It was clear that while he can see the differences in the shades, he still needs help putting a name to each slight variation in color.

I think we're going to have a lot of fun with these this winter!