Friday, August 31, 2012

Puppets and Paisley

As a nod to all the "soft" things we've been playing with lately, I pulled out Erik's little puppet and decided to see what Paisley thought of it. As long as it was just sitting still where she could look at it and touch it, she thought it was great.  
 Then, I made the mistake of putting it on my hand and making it "talk" to her. I touched her toes with the puppet and talked to her about her toes. I had planned on moving on to her fingers and maybe her tummy, but she was not real thrilled with this new game. In fact, I think the puppet had her feeling a little creeped out.
Apparently, Paisley is not a huge fan of talking and moving teddy bears. Now, I'm not giving up on her yet, we may still convert her to the idea of playing with puppets, but we'll have to take it a little slower. 
Playing with puppets, even at this young age, can have some benefits for a child. It encourages Paisley to practice tracking a moving object with her eyes, and even turning her head to follow it when it moves far enough to one side or the other. It gives her a "new" individual to interact with so she gets more social practice. It is sensory stimulation as she feels the puppet touch her hands or feet or face.
So, this won't be the last time we play with puppets, but we may have to wait a little while until she's over her fear of it. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Poking Pom Poms

This post contains affiliate links.

We've been working on learning to color, and have not been having a whole lot of success. I decided that maybe we needed to work on Erik's fine motor skills and hand strength before moving on to Crayons. After looking around online and thinking about it, I decided this little activity would be quick and easy to put together and hopefully do the trick.
So, let's gather our supplies:
-An empty container (in this case a sour cream container I'd washed out)
-Some pom poms (I bought a pack like these and just used the largest size, saving the rest for later activities)

Start by cutting a hole in the lid of your container. The smaller the hole, the more challenging the game so maybe start with one just smaller than the pom poms. The hole needs to be big enough that the pom pom's fit easily, but not so big that they fall right through. I started with a smaller hole, but when that proved to be too frustrating, I made it bigger a little at a time until it seemed to be just right. 
Erik loves to push the pom poms through the hole until his container is full, then I dump them out for him and he starts all over again. It takes hand-eye coordination to line the pom pom up with the hole, and some hand/finger strength to push it through. 
After more than a week of playing with this as often as he wants (which is pretty much as often as I'm willing to sit and dump them back out) I can see visible improvement in his ability to do this task. He started out having to really work to line up the pom pom, and he really had to push hard to get it through the hole, but now he just pops them right in. As soon as I have another similar container empty, I'm going to cut a new lid with a smaller hole so that this toy will continue to challenge him. I love that is was so simple and cheap to make, but has provided hours of learning fun for him.

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Block City

My sister showed me this poem while I was working on the idea for this blog, and I love it. It is by one of my favorite authors, Robert Louis Stevenson.

Block City

What are you able to build with your blocks?

Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home.

Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,
There I'll establish a city for me:
Kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.

Great is the palace with pillar and wall,
A sort of a tower on top of it all,
And steps coming down in an orderly way
To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay.

This one is sailing and that one is moored:
Hark to the song of the sailors on board!
And see on the steps of my palace, the kings
Coming and going with presents and things!

Now I have done with it, down let it go!
All in a moment the town is laid low.
Block upon block lying scattered and free,
What is there left of my town by the sea?

Yet as I saw it, I see it again,
The Kirk and the palace, the ships and the men,
And as long as I live and where'er I may be,
I'll always remember my town by the sea.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Raining, it's Pouring...

It was such a beautiful day the other day, we decided to take our play learning outside. Come on, could you resist this? We love the way our "front yard" looks this time of year. The best part of it is that we don't have to worry about the maintenance. 
While it looks gorgeous, it was still quite warm outside so I thought playing in water might be just the thing. I stripped Erik down to his diaper (because I'm lazy and didn't want any extra laundry), then we took a large pitcher of water outside, along with lots of bowls and cups and other fun things that would work to play with water. The idea was to just let Erik play around with the water, see if he would pour it out of the containers, etc. He mostly just wanted to splash. He hasn't really grasped the concept that the water reacts to his actions yet. Thus this activity! In hind sight, I should have started more simply with one big bowl of water and one cup or bowl for him to play with. I showed him how to scoop up the water and pour it back out, but he was too excited by all the fun stuff to really care about what I was doing. This is definitely one we will be revisiting, probably often, at least until the weather gets too cool. 

This activity is a great one for several reasons. It helps with hand-eye coordination, as well as understanding spacial relations. It's a great sensory activity to feel the wet and cold water and builds vocabulary when you talk about what it feels like and what the water's doing when he's splashing and pouring. And it gets you out of the house!
The idea for this activity came from here, where you'll find many more fun things like this.

Maybe the biggest problem with this activity was that Erik was way too excited about being outside to want to sit still. He was way more interested in dragging his little naked knees across the rough sidewalk to go exploring. I guess we need to make a point of getting outside more often.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Discovering Textures; Soft

Well, now you've seen a blog post featuring Erik, it's time for you to meet Paisley. I love her big pretty blue eyes!
 Paisley is still pretty little (as you can see), so the type and complexity of activities we do with her is completely different. Babies this age lack the strength and ability to explore the world around them on their own, so you have to bring it to them. They also can only take in a limited amount of information at a time, so for her, just seeing or touching an object is enough to engage her, she doesn't necessarily have to try to do anything with it. Today I decided to focus on exploring textures, specifically Soft. For her tummy time today, I dug through my stash of blankets and found the softest fuzziest one I could and then let her lay in the middle of it for a while. She seemed to really like it, and even managed to get a big mouthful of blanket that she very happily munched on for a while.
 Throughout the day, whenever she wanted to be held, I'd pick up a soft toy and we'd play with it. We'd start out by letting her look at it, and then move it closer to see if she'd try to reach for it. When she was no longer interested in seeing it, I'd rub it on her arm or leg or check and talk about how soft it was. She's too little to understand for now, but it is still good for her to hear language being used every day. It was fun to see how she reacted to the different toys. She did not like to have the fuzzy pom poms in her hand, I think they must have tickled, but she did like to have them softly rubbed on her arms and legs.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Piles of Pillows!

Who doesn't love making forts out of cushions and mountains out of pillows?! 
Let's gather some supplies. Today all you need are all the pillows and cushions you can find. Toss them in a big pile and you're ready to roll.

We made cushion forts to hide in and destroy. We made stair-stepped piles to practice climbing.
 And then we just lined them all up like dominoes and let Erik go to town. This was maybe his favorite part! Something about knocking down those big cushions was just extremely satisfying.
 And don't forget the hide and seek!
Dad got involved a little bit, but mostly he just relaxed in the arm chair and took the pictures. 
Okay, so I think we can all agree that this looks like fun, but where does the learning come in? At this age, one of the big things a kid needs to work on is gross motor development. Crawling and walking are some of the big goals/obstacles at this age and anything you can do to encourage the development of strength, agility, and coordination helps to move the child towards these milestones. This activity also helps a child to become more familiar with the space around them as they analyze questions like "Will I fit into that gap between the cushions?", "Am I strong enough to move that pile of pillows?", or "What happens when I push over this pile?".

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Playing to Learn

Welcome to my new blog. I'm so excited to start recording and sharing my efforts to enrich the lives of the children entrusted to my care. Maybe something we do here will inspire you to join in the fun with your own kids.
Photo taken by  Marquette Mower
I recently took on a child care job (based out of my own home), that has made me really think about how much time I spend doing quality activities with my little guy. Having less one-on-one time with him, I need to make sure that what he does get is good quality. It also puts the pressure on me to make sure that even though my friend doesn't get to be home all day with her darling little girl, she still can know that her Paisley is getting the kind of love, attention, and growing opportunities she would be providing for her if she was home with her all day. I don't pretend to be able to take her place as a mother, but I can make sure I'm doing my best to help her out.
I've been spending lots of time reading my old textbooks on curriculum planning, books by and about Montessori, library books, blogs, etc trying to get ideas for exactly how I want to make this all work. It's still a work in progress, but we are making progress. My first priority is being a wife and mother, not running a ship-shape child care center (or blog) with strict schedules and lesson plans, so I don't promise to have new and amazing activities to post about every day, maybe not even every week. My goal is to post weekly updates on things I've done with the babies, noting what works and what didn't, so that anyone else out there looking for ideas can see what we're doing. They'll be labeled by age and type of activity so that anyone looking for something specific will have a better shot at finding what they want.
While learning is important, and technically one of my main goals here, having fun is just as important, and maybe more so. These are babies I'm working with here, if it's not absorbingly interesting they won't have anything to do with it. So, we are just going to have fun, and maybe pick up a few little nuggets of knowledge along the way. Play time can be powerful, and the best part is the little ones won't even know they're doing anything but having a wonderful time. That is why, around here, we play to learn.