Friday, November 30, 2012

Trot My Pony

This is a little game that I remember my parents doing with my siblings and I when we were little. Erik has loved it for a long time, and I just introduced it to Paisley recently. She really seems to like it, and it's fun to pass it on to someone new. 
video

In case you want the words, they are:
Trot my pony,
trot to town.
Watch out pony,
don't fall down!

While this isn't exactly a song, it has qualities that it shares with music such as rhyme and rhythm.
Music has been shown to have a huge impact on infants and children and their ability to learn and develop. In the November issue of Parenting magazine, it said "Playfully dancing or singing to your baby could boost his pre-language communication skills and make him easier to soothe, according to research from McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario. In the study, 6-month-olds were assigned to take either an active music class, in which parents played musical games with their infant, or a passive music class, in which parents used blocks or read books with their baby while recorded music played in the background. After six months, the babies in the active class smiled more, were easier to soothe, and showed less distress in new situations than the infants in the passive class. 'There's something about the rhythm and synchrony of music, and engaging in it together, that increases the social bond between a parent and child,' says researcher Laurel J. Trainor, PhD., a professor in the department of psychology, neuroscience, and behavior".
Since reading this little snippet, I've been trying to come up with ways to get Erik and Paisley more involved in music, and I hope to be able to share them with you here.
So, you heard the professor, get out there and dance with your baby!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

All the World is a Sensory Bin

During Thanksgiving break, Erik loved having Mom and Dad to himself all day long for a whole week. We spent lots of time just enjoying being together, but one of our favorite things to do was play outside. Thanksgiving morning we went for a walk to enjoy the BEAUTIFUL fall weather. It was just too pretty to pass up. 
One of our main goals for this walk was to find some fun fall textures for Erik to enjoy, in particular we wanted to find a good pile of leaves for him to play in. We went over to a subdivision a short distance from our apartment that has lots of big trees and there we hit the jack-pot! 
We sat on the side of the road and just turned Erik loose. There was no traffic, and nobody else in sight, so we felt pretty safe letting Erik wander around as long as he didn't get too far. I think the taste of independence was good for him. He got to explore whatever he wanted without any interference and just have a blast!
He loved the leaves. The sound of them crunching underfoot, the nice autumny smell, the feeling of scooping up armfuls, and the sight of them flying through the air when he threw them were all such awesome sensory stimulation.

Like I said, we let Erik be pretty independent. If he wanted to check out a fire hydrant or a mail box we let him, as long as he wasn't hurting anything.
Whenever Erik was ready to move on to a new location, we followed suit.
He loved being just like his Daddy and pushing the stroller around. What a great way to build self confidence and gross motor skills at the same time!
Exploring the texture of a picket fence...
He stumbled upon this tree stump that had a pile of little chunks of wood of various shapes and sizes. He climbed right up there and started exploring the blocks of wood, seeing if they would stack, what they tasted like, etc...
And then, being a boy, he started throwing them...
This was a really fun little family outing and was packed chock full of great learning and growing experiences. Getting outside with your kids is so good for everyone involved, give it a try!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Official Resource on Playtime

As the wife of a scientist (in training, about to graduate with his Masters in Wildlife and Fisheries Management) I am learning that if I can't cite a source from a peer-reviewed journal than my argument doesn't count. If I just say something like "Oh, I read online somewhere the other day that (fill in the blank with some interesting tidbit of info)" his response is often "Oh yeah? Says who? Did that come from a peer reviewed journal?" So, I was really excited to discover recently that there is a real, peer reviewed journal dedicated to PLAY! It is called The American Journal of Play and it is "a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. The Journal aims to increase awareness and understanding of the role of play in learning and human development and the ways in which play illuminates cultural history." Source
All of the issues of this journal are available for free on their website, which is in linked in the first paragraph of this post. If you want to see what kinds of things the journal has, here is a list of some interesting looking articles.
One thing that makes this journal especially interesting is the wide range of topics they cover. It seems to me that just about anyone could find an article that interests them. Just in the most recent issue, there are articles on the influence of play in the professional work place, the influence of play on cartoon drawing, introducing autistic children to playing in group settings, and a study of play in monkeys, just to name a few.
Now, when you tell someone something interesting you learned about the importance of play, you can have the knowledge that your info came from a peer reviewed source.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Paisley's First Sensory Bin

Today Paisley got to play with her first sensory bin. The inspiration for this came from here. I scrounged around the house looking for lots of soft, interesting looking things to fill up a basket with, and then I turned Paisley loose with them all. She really wasn't sure what to do.
Look who's sitting up like a big kid!
 When I couldn't get her interested in playing with the objects in the basket, we dumped them out around her feet to see if maybe she'd go for it then. Still no luck.
 Erik jumped in and starting playing with things, and with a lot of encouragement Paisley finally got involved.

This wasn't as big of a hit as I hoped it would be, but that may have been my fault. I realized that most of the items were boring colors, and some were way to big to pick up comfortably. All of them were unfamiliar and that may have scared her off too. So, next time I need to make sure the objects are easily manipulated, interesting, and at least one or two of them are familiar.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Technical Difficulties...

Well, both babies are napping and so I sat down here to type up a whole pile of blog posts. I was looking through my pictures picking the best ones, and thinking about how to put together each post. Then I tried to upload some pictures and my vision of a week's worth of posts done in one sitting flew out the window. Apparently blogger only gives you 1 GB of free upload space?! Surely there's a way around this, or does everyone pay to put photos on their blogs? Either way, until I can figure this one out, you're just going to have to wait to see what we've been up to. Dang technology!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pom Pom Tunnel

I'm always on the look out for cheap easy activities to do with Erik and Paisley. When I saw this 
one I just knew we had to give it a try. 

Let's gather our supplies:
-cardboard tube (think paper towel or toilet paper tubes here)
-tape
-pom poms
-small container

Now, this is pretty complicated, so you need to pay careful attention to the instructions here :)
First, you take your cardboard tube and tape it to a table or cabinet so it's vertical. Place the container underneath the tube. Next, you take a pom pom (or other small object), drop it into the top of the tube, and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. 
Don't you just love the discarded sock? Goofy boy!
Erik was mesmerized. He spent a long time dropping the pom pom's through and then decided to see what else fit. He stuffed everything he could down that tube just for the sheer joy of watching it fall out the bottom so he could put it back in again. 
 This is SO simple, but such a great learning experience game. Erik worked on his fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as he picked up the small objects and maneuvered them into the opening. He developed his sense of spatial relationships by testing different toys and learning which ones fit in the tube and which ones didn't. Funny that with all the money we spend on toys and education, a piece of trash is more fun than them all.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sit-Ups

Erik was sick last week, so Paisley had to stay home on Friday in an attempt to not catch our germs. Thus, you're not getting this post until today.

Paisley has been working SO hard at crawling and sitting up. She wants to do these things so very badly! We try to spend a few minutes here and there throughout the day helping her build the muscles she'll need to do these skills.
Sitting up is hard work! Paisley is making great progress, but she just needs a little more time and practice before she'll have the strength to do it alone. For now, this is what we've been doing.

Whenever she seems up for a bit of a work out, I surround Paisley with pillows to cushion falls that I know are coming, and help her to sit up. She tends to arch her back, so at first I have to help push her forward until she gets the hang of how hard to tense those little muscles. Once you help her get her feet arranged and her back straight, she can actually support herself for a few seconds in a completely upright position.
  After a short period of time sitting up, Paisley typically goes into what is called the tripod position.
This way she is supporting herself with one or both arms. Being leaned forward like this is NOT a failure. This is actually a skill she will need to develop as she's learning how to reach for and manipulate objects without falling down. It also gives her a break to rest those muscles. Come on, even big strong grown-ups need a break sometimes! Being able to feel that you're falling and process that information quickly enough to catch yourself is actually a critical life skill, and it's awesome that Paisley's got such a good handle on it.
A few things to remember: Keep it fun. Make sure there are interesting toys handy for baby to look at and reach for (reaching is another big milestone a baby should be grasping at this age, why not kill two birds with one stone?) Keep it short. This is a pretty high-intensity work out (for a baby), so don't over do it. If she's tired, stop! The more tired she gets the more she's going to fall down and get frustrated. So don't push it.
If you're interested in learning more about sitting up or other movement milestones baby should be working on at this age, check out this article and this one.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Egg Carton Craziness

It's funny to me that despite my attempts to plan fun new things for Erik, so many of the things I post here are the result of desperation. Things like letting Erik help with housework or cook with me are really just desperate attempts to get him out from under foot and occupied while I do whatever I need to do (luckily these activities also really good for him).
Today's activity is no different. I was trying to cook dinner and Erik was hanging on me crying and begging for some attention. I had just used the last egg in my egg carton and hoping to get him off my back for a moment I handed it to him. Then, I realized that we could make this into something much more fun with almost no extra effort on my part. I took him and the egg carton over to the toy box and we dug through until we'd found a whole pile of toys that were little enough to fit inside. I showed him how to put them in and open/close the lid and he was hooked. It was awesome! The next morning, I pulled out some pom poms I had lying around and gave him those to put in the carton. He loved it!
This activity has great learning potential. In addition to working on the vocabulary words "open" and "closed", he also practiced hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as he dumped the toys out and put them back in. He played with that egg carton for several days until he'd completely destroyed it, and then we had to throw it away. By the time I have another one empty for him it'll be like a whole new adventure again.


Where did they go?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Stickers

I've been too chicken to try doing stickers with Erik, it just seemed like it would be to hard (and therefore frustrating) for him. That is, until a friend gave us some fun Disney Halloween stickers, and I figured we might as well give it a try. And, like always, I was wrong and Erik loved it! Don't get me wrong, it is REALLY hard for him and he isn't very good at it, but we'll keep practicing. 
We started out sticking the stickers on the outside of the book they came in. 

It didn't take too long before putting these on the paper got old and Erik decided it was way more fun to put them on himself. 

How is one supposed to chose which one to use next?

This is a great way to build fine motor skill and to give the child some creative freedom. It takes a lot of practice, but it's so much fun.