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.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    Montessori AMI Primary Guide: Discover Practical, Sensorial, Language and Mathematic Exercises

    (click here:) Montessori AMI Primary Guide: Discover Practical, Sensorial, Language and Mathematic Exercises

    This site is aMAZing for teaching your kids at home. I've been taking myself on my own field trips lately to learn things. I take Lukas, but the learning is for me. We got a tour of a Montessori School. I even asked to take pics to show my husband. I got some awesome ideas for things to make, things one could hope to expect from a little person that I hadn't thought of, and ideas for philosophies that I am a fan of, mainly these:

    I'll start with HOME ORGANIZATION:
    Things their size: Tables and chairs. We put these by the big dinner table. They were by the window on this afternoon for our "cafe" lunch together so we could watch the rainstorm. 

    Using breakable things: Like teacups with saucers. To ease nerves, don't use the ones inherited from grandma so-and-so. I picked up a huge set of mismatched teacups with coordinating saucers at a garage sale for $3. So far, just one casualty from a music-directing spoon at the lunch table. Yes, those shelves are boxes. From Costco. 

    Things at their level: My three year old can access the plates, cups and bowls now since they are in the bottom cabinets. Old Coca-Cola crates make it easy to get to things more in the back without knocking over everything in the front on the way. Ta da!  It's easier for him to set the table now that he can get to the dishes himself. 

    Creating Independence: Through a family job, like setting the table, or dumping out the silverware rack from the dishwasher and playing the "sorting game" to put them all away. If he's not tall enough to reach the drawer, a simple wide sturdy step stool (like the ones in the automotive section of large chain stores) can solve that problem.
    Do-it-yourself: In the school, I noticed that the kids all had little pitchers to pour their own water. It was  enlightening after seeing many spills in attempts to lift and maneuver the adult sized pitcher on the table. This is a vase from the dollar store... let's call it a carafe.

    And you see those flowers? That's a Montessori idea too that I felt was worth taking. The kids pull off a stem from a larger group somewhere (excuse to buy myself flowers from Costco once a month!) and hold the stem next to the vase,  and use scissors at a trimming station to adjust the stem to the appropriate height for their vase. After filling it with water, they bring their beautiful decoration to the table with pride. My son loves it. 

    Accessible and nicely presented: Crayons are long triangles, or flat rectangle blocks, or homemade crayons we made from the skinny crayons we never use (and are now shaped like our normal muffin tins.) Here in dollar store wooden baskets (easily found around Easter time).

    Easily accessible and nicely presented: Goop is a new addition to our household supply of fine motor skill toys.
    Thinking "games" out and ready for "exploration": This is a muffin tin with bread ties in it used to play "sorting" (classifying). Now my kid looks at the bread ties at the store and notices the ones left behind in the mud at the duck pond (oh, joy when he picks one up with duck poop on it, wanting to take it home to the sorter game! Haha!) The tray fits into a box on its side. From Costco. 
    Accessible Game: (fine motor skills) Stickers. It's a lot of work for little fingers to peel off stickers and stick them to something else--- like letter forms, or one in each of balloons in a picture, or counting, etc. The trays are often stacked in beautifully duct-taped Huggies boxes (to make them look classier?!), turned on their sides. Nighttime diaper boxes are amazing. Enough said.

    Game: Cut paper, glue scraps to another paper, Glue pompoms to paper, trace something with glue, then sprinkle with salt,flour, candy sprinkles, playground sand, etc.

    Homemade toys: Little felt people from a pipe cleaner, a wooden ball for a face and felt clothes. Spinning Tops from wheels and axles for sale at Michael's MJ Designs. A dab of hot glue keeps the parts together and bam,... homemade top. Put two on a slanted plate like this and it's like having homemade BAYBLADES. haha!

    At their level: Even Pictures on the fridge can be at their level to enjoy. These are family members and close friends our child knows and adores.

    Playdoh tools in a basket. 

    Their size: A little reading corner was easily created using two little chairs, an upside-down bucket, some board books, and a vase with flowers (these are fake).  I later covered the bucket with an old red pillowcase, and have plans to cover the chairs eventually. His own seating in the living room, complete with a picture hung at child level, and later a child size floor lamp will accompany the decor.
    • Making the child's world his size. Little furniture. Pictures hung at their level. If I could build my own house, I would find it awesome to have a child sized potty and sink.
    • Lots of beautifully presented tasks that have hidden purposes (like fine motor skills, order, hard work, etc) -- like polishing silver, or polishing wood. Or washing their own dishes.
    • Steps to get up to kitchen sink when one can't set up a lower independent wash station with two buckets.
    • Quiet pictures that promote peace, and a bit more spartan instead of a rainbow thrown up on the walls with tons of "things" presented on the walls. (Opposite of my elem. classroom)
    • Major presentation of a new 'concept' where I "show you something" by walking myself all the way through the activity, describing my every move in detail, then give you a turn. I can't believe how much he catches on this way. It lessens the trend (my trend) to want to correct as he goes, and doesn't let me cripple his wanting to try by giving too much praise or too much criticism.
    • Being around very many different ages benefits a child immensely. I felt grateful for visiting older ladies from church, and people with older kids. And for working with a church youth group where he gets to mix with older girls often, and learn from them (and vice versa).
    • Switching out Tupperware containers for open wooden baskets from the dollar store. Looks more uniform, and peaceful, and inviting. Who knew?
    • Making learning toys/cool things from wood myself. My Geo-Boards (previous post) cost a total of $4.04. For two. And maybe with more scrap wood there will be three!
    • Introducing cursive before print. Teaching pre-writing at such a young age by tracing sandpaper card letters. Stressing only sounds instead of letter names, and using only lowercase letters first. They're most common in books. Duh.  I'm so glad there are people to teach me things like this. Just little changes that can make big differences, right?
    • Speaking in a kind voice constantly. I know, I know... but it was a reminder. And when there is an argument to redirect, redirect, redirect.  I tried it in a heated moment with him and another friend and was happily surprised at how it worked... and at how hard it was to not just put my kid in time out. 
    • If he can do it himself, he should do it.  I bought a rod extender for his closet. He can hang up his own clothes. He can pull them off hangers when choosing his clothes in the morning, and replace hangers to the rod immediately. He CAN dress himself a lot of the way, but it's still a challenge for him, but I have to let the time be spent to let him, and really let him. No prompting in-between.  Almost easier if I lay out the clothes right side up (like underpants) and then encourage him happily and LEAVE so he has 'space' to do it himself, and the expectation to come find me when he's done.
    Anyways, the site has step by step directions for how to introduce even the most basic concepts. I LOVE it!!