Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sneaky Fine Motors: Table Time

What it is:
Stuff on the table to do when kids show up in the morning to get them engaged and not-sad about parents leaving. For my kiddo it's an engaging activity to transition him from being woken up usually from a baby crying. For me, it's awesome while I get breakfast ready and helps the kids strengthen fine motor skills through play. Here is an example of an easy morning table time.

Puzzles out on the table invite play and swapping.

After having done this before, the kids know how to use droppers to put colored vinegar into the tray of baking soda to make fun fizzling hills of bubbles. Fun for them, fine motor skills for them, and they think they're just playing. Yes!

We make 'em, trace 'em, count 'em, hang 'em, and say 'em. Every day. Sometimes by twos. Sometimes hundreds.
 We try to say a lot of numbers daily! Say the house address. Add up the marbles when counting up 'points'. It's awesome! Purpose here is to identify the print number in isolation, and practice the form of writing it (tracing in air, in salt, with playdough, etc.)
All in fun here, we say the letter and its primary sound. In English and German words. I try to find most words that are the same beginning letter in German and English (ex: Hill and Hügel), but not always.

Some shape of the week: Hexagon here (it was H week too. Bonus!). We try to see it in different ways later too, or around the house, etc.
It's quick, dirty, and just part of the daily morning routine during table time and breakfast.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Visual Daily Routine - Move the clothespin along the day's activities

With another child in our home, it has become necessary to reinstate the daily routine picture chart. It's helping all of the kids feel grounded by knowing what to predict each day. They also feel a sense of ownership as they take turns being the one to move the clippy along the chart for the day.  The pictures dictate routine, not schedule. Major difference. Pictures also stand for general concepts, not specifics. Means every day can be completely different, despite the same pictures each day.

Our routine is: Wake up, Go potty, Get dressed, Table play, Breakfast, Reading Time, Singing Time, Play, Signing Time (so I can finish packing the adventure bag/get baby ready), Go potty last time before we leave, Adventure...usually bring lunch with, Potty before naps, Stories, Naptime

When they wake up, it's to the potty, Snack time, Play time (ideas of water table and bikes--- usually get us outside eventually), Camera time (daily wrap up review of our day through mom's camera phone pics from that day, then job review (see how many smiley faces we've earned today, then set table for dinner and eat dinner.  Then the other child usually gets picked up and we play til bathtime. 

When I worked at the State Preschool, the occupational therapists used to use activities with clothespins to help the children build hand strength. It's especially helpful for "city-kids" who might have limited hand use due to full-service parents or limited outdoor play. (Believe it or not, the actions of manipulating sticks, climbing up hills, digging in the dirt with fingers all strengthen the fingers which helps kids improve fine motor skills later. Crazy, huh?)

This little picture routine is super helpful in the evening. My 4 yr old loves to move the clip from Klo over to Badewanne. After that, I do the moving as he goes. Even save time sometimes by brushing his teeth while he's still in the bathroom. Just one less transition can be the difference between miracle and meltdown.  Obviously, I don't move the clip to the others since they're in his room, but he sees that they're coming. I've considered cutting off that part and moving it in there, but it's a long-standing routine for him now, so it's unnecessary. Helpful for babysitters and evening guests though!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sneaky Nutrition

I am a mom of an adopted 4 year old whose DNA spells health-disaster. So I make a lot of food from scratch so that I know what is it in, and that it is as healthy for my family as possible. Especially my son. So it is with yogurt. We go through it quickly. I don't give him a ton of dairy (although on homemade pizza, I'm not ditching the cheese!) but we do have granola with yogurt often. Both homemade. But buying tub after tub of the European style organic plain yogurt can get old, and if we run out, we're hosed. But no more!!! As long as I have at least a 1/2 cup of not-too old yogurt left, I'm good! Just google homemade crock pot yogurt and check out the recipe.

Isn't that awesome? This is actually my crockpot with actual yogurt in it! I was SO excited that it worked. (So was my kiddo!) Especially since it failed the first time (which he also experienced and was disappointed), but now I know why (and so does he!- And failure was witnessed, and applied. Yessss!)

It's basically like this:
1. Pour ONLY milk into crockpot. Low for 2 hours 45 mins.
2. Turn OFF and let sit for 3 hours.
3. Take starter yogurt out of fridge to get to room temp if you choose, but don't have to.
4. When timer goes off, put 1 cup of starter yogurt in a bowl with some milk FROM THE CROCKPOT.
     Mix it thoroughly with a whisk. Then add all of it into the crockpot and mix thoroughly. *(this is why mine
     was all weird the first time I made it! Didn't mix in small amount first, or well enough in the big pot)
5. Lid on. Wrap whole thing in blankets for next 10 hours. Wha-la! Yogurt!

Lukas whooped for joy when he saw that it worked. And it DOES look cool in those canning jars in my fridge- I won't lie.

p.s. I never gave my kid flavored yogurt. Ever. Only bought plain. We add granola, or sometimes homemade strawberry jam, or a little honey, but mostly he eats it plain.  Recently he discovered Go-gurt at a birthday party and of course LOVED it. It also helped that "Scrunge-Bob" (as he calls him) was on the side! LOL

p.p.s. Have you ever told another mom your kid is allergic to food coloring just so that you can avoid the awkward debate about why you don't want your kid eating all that junk with food coloring? Met a mom at said birthday party who does just that. Funny to find a friend over food coloring woes.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Letter of the Week: F

Frieden und Freude mit'em neuen Freund

Farben!! Kreide malen

Fahren!!! Fahrrad (& Roller)

Funny Faces lunch

Music: Farmer in the Dell/ Frederich Chopin


F-worter auf Deutsch aber die Feder. Tja.


Fort building





Thursday, February 21, 2013


Kids (boys) sometimes don't fall in love with writing, per say, and it can feel pain-staking and monotonous... or like unto having to crack-the-whip to get anything 'produced'. One fun way to gain excitement for letters (and later reading) is with GLUE.

Draw letters or words with glue using lowercase letters (since most words in books are in lowercase letters), and when writing their name use a capital letter ONLY for the first letter. Otherwise, they will have to learn to write their name properly later with a capital letter followed only by lower case. Do your kid a favor, eh?

We used candy sprinkles.
Capital letter only for the first letter. 

We took paper and Elmer's glue to the park and made kids' names. More and more kids wanted to make their name too!!
We made a name with yarn. A bit tricky for fat little fingers, especially on the curves. That's noticeable in the next picture where just a curvy line was drawn with glue. Only straight portions were attempted. 

Freestyle 'art'

ripped up paper with little fingers (fine motor strength) and then glued to paper
Need Halloween art? Glue + Salt. Add some dollar store glitter glue while you're at it. Note: Red glitter glue and dried black beans on black paper looks a tad gory while dripping and drying. :) Happy gluing (yes, I spell-checked that!)

Name with glue and rice. Note: Do this on a big cookie sheet or casserole dish to catch the extras that fall off.
This was most likely a "letter m" week when we were going through (which I LOVE!) I had my son make mountains (going for form, not actual letters) and I drew little mountain climbers on them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fostering Independence

After teaching him how to move the stool to the sink, turn it on, rinse, soap and wash the dish, then place it in the drying rack, I was THRILLED when he got up from his place at the dinner table, and DID those things. What What!! Yes, he made mistakes on the way. Yes, I held my breath. Yes, I wanted to coach but didn't. He was BEAMING at the end and exclaimed, "Look at how it shines!"

 I never knew three year olds could wash their own dishes. Time to get a washboard for that big metal tub on the patio!!
Apparently Pants are optional for dishes washing, but don't worry- underoos are a must around here! No bare bums on couches (I do have my limitations for freestyle parenting here!)

Learning the steps to do things independently: When learning to put on his pants, speaking of pants, the front vs. back was sometimes tricky to figure out, so for awhile I'd lay them down the correct way so he could do the rest himself. The inside out thing still blows his mind, so if anyone has tricks for that, do tell.