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.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fine Motor Cups: still in the works

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!!

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    Marble Run

    Items needed:

    • Costco flat box
    • thin dowling, or chop sticks
    • glue gun
    • marble
    • 10 minutes
    Glue the pieces into the box in staggering rows. To decide how much space to leave between them, just set down a marble before lining up the next row to be sure the marble can move freely through the space, and have room to "turn the corners".  Enjoy!

    Saturday, February 9, 2013

    Build It, and They Will Come

     You'd think someone would invent steel-plated gloves to wear while holding ten-penny nails in place for little carpenters. But they don't, so we had a few serious words before starting. 
    "I need my fingers. Please pay attention while using the hammer. Look only at the nail, and take small hits"

    It worked out. There was so crying, swearing, or bleeding. The lack of those things equals quality family time! For real though, Home Depot offers Saturday workshops all over the country. I just never knew. It's all free, and offers more than what meets the eye:
    1. Free project on Saturday, yes.
    2. Undivided attention for both of you. Nobody's looking at a phone, or ANYwhere else when hammers and nails are involved.
    3. Vocabulary explosion. Words like "ten-penny nail"... holding a board "flush" with another... "aligned"..."regatta"...different types of tools and wood... you name it, millions to learn. Literally. I mean, you have been in a Home Depot, right? Whoa.
    4. Assertiveness!! My thing is, you want it? You go ask for it. You want a new paint color? Go ask the lady politely for it. We even practice sometimes briefly before he gets up to ask: May I please have some blue paint? Want something from another human across the table? Ask em. Think what they're doing is cool? Tell them if you want! It will make them smile, watch! 
    And there's like this metamorphosis of shyness turning into assertiveness. 
    So much, that my child later told the cashiers at Costco out of nowhere that it had been his birthday that week. And he had a pirate party. And he was four. (Aaaaand, although I was feeling like we needed to get going since this was Costco and a jillion other people were in line, do you think I was going to put a cap on that assertiveness? No way!)

    4. Hands off mommying. Literally. His hands did it. (Except holding the nails in place and reading the directions.) Who CARES if he knows the heart goes here but actually wants it THERE? Who cares if he's mixing paint? Who cares if he's "doing it right" (i.e. like a mom would)? 

    Thursday, February 7, 2013

    Build Your Own GeoBoard

     Remember elementary school? The peg boards (geo-boards) that you wrap rubber bands around/through, and basically have a ball for long minutes at a time?

    My son is almost four. He is THRILLED to get to play with this. As was the barely 3 year old we babysat today. And when he said, "Look Mom! A triangle!" I was thrilled. Self discovery baby! We talked about rhombus, and quadrillaterals. Pretty rocking learning stuff here. I swear, I should homeschool. Or open my own Santa's workshop for homemade toys. Look for more to come in the "Montessori" toy department. I'm going to save over $500 by making my own Montessori toys(tools). Can't wait!

     My board is 11 nails by 12 nails. All spaced one inch apart. Just use a piece of paper for a ruler, or a rubber quilting square you're willing to ruin in order to mass produce these, or just print off paper with square inches to pencil in dots all across the board. I hoped you could see the dots better in this picture. -sigh-

    The nails part was tricky. Didn't want them to go through the board, but couldn't stick up too much. Carpet tacks seemed too shallow for my wood, so I found these babies. Perfect. Also, they have a nice head on top to keep rubberbands from flying off.

    Oh, and wait around by the Saw Machine at Home Depot, and ask the guy if you can grab some of his scraps. If he's like Patrick in MY Home Depot, you can have em for FREE!! BOOYEAH!! So I'm making both boards for $4.04. Yesssss!