Sunday, July 31, 2011

Visiting a Unique Preschool Program

Every Friday in July, one of the preschools for the visually impaired in our area hosted a two hour program for children aged 2-6. Ty isn't quite two years old, but he was close enough and really enjoyed all of the different things this amazing school had to offer. I don't typically post about our activities outside of the home, usually due to a lack of time to do so, but I really wanted to be sure to get this one in. I'm so happy that we found out about it and were able to visit twice. I didn't take a ton of photos as we were too busy having fun!

We started off in Kid's Town, which is a huge area with a shopping center, bank, shipping store, library, dry cleaner, as well as a quiet area.

Tyler enjoyed the grocery store play area the most! He was able to choose whatever items he wanted from the shelves (which were labeled with pictures and words so you could easily return them) to put in his cart or hand basket. In true toddler style, Ty wanted pretty much everything, so we had to sneak things back when he wasn't looking! When he was done, Ty then put the items up on the belt where another child was playing the role of cashier. The groceries bagged by other kiddos as well. It was so cute! We've actually done something similar to this a couple times at home, and after this he's doing it on his own.

His second favorite area was the bank, where they had things like calculators, play money, magnetic numbers on a cookie sheet, and this old fashioned phone.

Are you sure this is a "phone" Mom? Really?

Hey Mom, it's the 1980's calling. I think it's for you.

Ty seemed to be the only one to discover this quiet room tucked away in a corner, which was nice for a bit. We played with puppets, made faces in the mirror and he really enjoyed this low, colorful window.

Then there was a whole group activity to enjoy. On our first visit we went there was a magician and the second time we went, a violinist. The two days that we missed they had yoga and dance classes.

After this the children chose a wooden block from a box and we were spit-up into groups according to our block shape to visit four different areas: A braille room, a sensory room, a computer room and a music room.

We ended up in the computer room first both times. The computers were touch screen and had fun games to play. I'm not too into Tyler playing computer games, but they did work on eye-hand coordination and finger isolation. He really enjoyed this!

The sensory room was his absolute favorite, which made sense seeing he has quite a few sensory quirks. He could have stayed here all morning and was quite upset when we had to switch rooms. Below is a bubble machine with buttons used for changing the color. The room was kept very dark to get the full visual effect of the equipment.

 This is a swinging leaf chair, hung from the ceiling with strands of color changing tubes to lay on your lap. A truly amazing sensory experience and one that Tyler did not give up easily.

 My flash accidentally went off here (I was trying to not distract anyone), but I'm glad because you can really see how amazing this sensory wall is! Unbelievable! Ty enjoyed putting balls in the hole and watching them go through the tubes then back out a hole in the bottom.

 This was a huge pit full of clear balls with color changing lights underneath. Just brilliant.

We were so busy in the braille room that I didn't think to take photos. The children could watch as someone typed their names onto a braille name tag for them to take home, there were popular children's books with a clear page overlays in braille, braille blocks, and my favorite, alphabet bags! Each letter of the alphabet had a bag containing objects beginning with that letter. Ty really got into these, and he also got some curious looks as he made letter sounds just upon seeing the letter printed on the bags. A proud moment! One of the teachers I spoke with in this room said that her three year old daughter is a Montessori program and that she incorporates as much Montessori into her classroom as possible. It was wonderful to talk Montessori for a bit!

The music room was what you would expect. They had a large carpeted area for music time and many, many instruments to play. Ty and another toddler even played cooperatively for a moment, sharing this drum.

At the end the kids were brought outside to play with bubbles, have a drink, and enjoy the sensory garden. I learned here with the fountain rocks that Tyler is one of those kids that other parents may not always like unfortunately. Everyone was playing nicely until Tyler realized that the water was coming from a hose in the rocks, and that sticking your finger in the middle of the stream of water (as he learned from playing with the hose at home) makes the water squirt everywhere! He quickly soaked himself, a couple nearby others, and even after I felt I had to distract him with something else, the older kids had picked-up on what he was doing and started to do it too...and hence got drenched themselves. I wasn't embarrassed and was proud that he was experimenting, as kids should in my opinion, but sorry for the kids who ended up getting "in trouble". At least they got cooled of on a brutally hot and humid day. :)

While the whole thing was quite anti-Montessori due to shuffling kids around room to room on a set schedule, it couldn't have run well any other way. The exposure to so many different materials that we would never encounter anywhere else, as well as the huge socialization piece, made it such a wonderful experience for all of us!

Catching-up on the last couple weeks!

The past couple weeks have been quite hectic! I put together a big garage/moving sale, my husband was out of town a lot (and will be much more this month), I'm starting to pack a little bit, and we've been focusing on many more socialization activities and playgroups for Ty. It's been difficult to work on many new activities or to expand on our old ones, but here are a few, along with some of the other fun and important things that Tyler has been up to!

The biggest Montessori thing we've done is starting work with the sandpaper letters. I had been so unsure about beginning this with him, but just before the letters arrived he was doing things that reassured me it was time. He's doing so well! I'll post more about this soon.

Tyler just loves buttons and really enjoys pouring lately, so I gave him buttons to pour a couple weeks ago.

 There are several button matches, and I wondered if he would take it upon himself to match any of them up. I've only noticed him doing it a few times, but it's pretty neat! When he makes a match he tends to set them aside or in the bowl.

The activity is also a pouring/transferring activity. He kept wanting to use his pennies, buttons, rocks and puffballs together so I finally just put them all together for him along with some new glass containers I found when going through boxes in our basement. There's also a butter container with a slot cut into it used here. I help him sort each items into individual containers when he's done.

I popped into a thrift store the other day and one of my finds was this old marble tic-tac-toe game. Perfect for balancing marbles and he loves it! 

We continue to use just about everything we used during our water wonderland day. He immediately runs to it every time we go outside (which isn't a lot these days with so many air quality warnings). It's providing him great water transferring practice.

Ty has been doing a lot of line work with his animals. I love to catch him doing this!

One afternoon when we were yet again stuck inside, I gave him this wrapping paper tube to see what he would do with it. Looking through it was his first reaction, then he decided it would be his new super-arm! After a while he began to see what it was capable of and started to practice spinning his fan cover with it. I just love watching his imagination grow with random objects!

Tyler practiced independence (and I practiced letting go...) at a carnival by riding rides by himself. My husband and I were quite sure he would bawl, but he really enjoyed himself! The only time he screamed was when the carnival workers attempted to take him out of the ride themselves, which made me happy!

Ty is working hard on a lot of practical life activities. He is asking to go potty lately and has gone three days in a row now! He's doing well with dressing and being a real help to us whenever he can. Here he is determined to squeeze the toothpaste onto his brush. His small squeeze skills need a touch more work.

I showed him how to zip his jammies last week and he's now doing it from feet to neck. He's so proud!

Ty likes to help put pots and pans away for me from the dishwasher lately, but more likes to slam the drawers open and shut on me. This keeps him busy for a moment. Makes me wish all of our dishes were low. Maybe in the new house...

Ty hadn't been to the gymnastics center's Open Gym in months and it's hard to take him due to the timing of his nap, but after a week of being stuck inside, we were determined to get him there. He amazed us by hanging from the bar for long periods of time and swinging his body back and forth. He decided to fly down the balance beams too. I hope wherever we move next we can find something like this for him! Large motor activities are crucial for brain development and I like to keep him challenged.

We've done a lot of painting recently. Here he uses the easel that my parents recently bought him. It also has a magnetic board and chalkboard which he really adores. I love how he is color mixing on his hand!

Ty has taken to not only painting his paper, but himself lately. Other than eating the paint (even though it's non-toxic) I honestly let him go ahead and let him explore with this. Nothing a bath can't fix, and it tends to make the bath water quite pretty! 

Here he is making a canvas masterpiece for Grandma back in New York. He insists on using a brush first then eases into getting his hands dirty.

 One of the reasons we've begun increase Tyler's social activities so much (more on those later) is the attention that he's begun to give our cats. He tried to dress them up with hats, enjoys studying them, tries to share his toys, and here (and this isn't the first time) brings one of our cats some of his food to share. The child is ready some friends!

Linking-up with Tot School

Friday, July 22, 2011

Music In Our Home

Both my husband and I grew up with musicians in the family (and play instruments ourselves) and it was obvious quite early that Tyler had a passion for music as well. One of Tyler's centers in our home is just for music, he has a listening area where he can play CD's independently, and we've also try to incorporate "family music time" into our mornings. In this post I'll talk about each of these!

This is Tyler's music center. In the basket currently are small instruments like shakers, a harmonica, a tambourine, jingle bells, crower with mallet, and a recorder. You'll notice that his talking and singing dog Scout is included here. Though I'm not a fan of this electronic, passive toy, taking this beloved pup from Ty would be quite cruel, so it stays! He is working on how to turn the wind-up key on his lullaby giraffe as well. The song it plays is very relaxing to him.

Since he was an older infant, Tyler has happily sat and listened to entire CD's, seeming to soak-in every note and verse. I can't tell you what a dream this is when I have something that I need to do without little "helping" hands around! We often borrow CD's from our library to provide him with a variety of music types as well as creating mix CD's from our own iTunes collection.

Tyler used to play his CD's on our PlayStation until it died from so much use. He quickly learned how to independently work the television and do everything from inserting a CD to using the controller to get the music going and he was quite upset when it stopped working. We recently managed to find a small boom box (not easy these days!) for him to use instead. He quickly learned to use the controls, including figuring out the radio. At times we have found him listening to ESPN radio, which makes his Daddy quite proud! 

After finding Dr. Suess' "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" book on CD, we also have started to use the CD player to listen to children's audio books. I fondly remember listening to books on my record player as a child (dating myself here...) so it's fun to see Tyler enjoying it as well. Sometimes he will flip through the pages along with the book and at times I sit with him to turn the pages together, but often he will just sit and listen.  

A couple months ago we started what we call "Family Music Time", taking about 15-20 minutes as a family to share music. During this time we:

Sing classic children's songs such as "Old MacDonald", "Six Little Ducks" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep".

Do fingerplays like "Itsy Bitsy Spider", "Twinkle, Twinkle". "Four Little Monkeys" and "Wheels on the Bus".

   We keep the beat to songs like "Miss. Mary Mack" and "The Ants Go Marching".

     Do active songs like "I'm a Little Tea Pot", "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear" and "Ring Around The Rosie"

Ty and I jam with instruments while my husband plays guitar.

I will often play a song on keyboard, recorder, xylophone, bells, or my husband will play on guitar, and we sing along. Ty isn't a big talker, but when it comes to words in music he's always wants to join in. He sang words to songs before he did much talking when he was younger!

   We play his bells together, Tyler included, to play simple three note songs like "Mary Had a Little Lamb".

My husband lets him strum his guitar as well .He's been good at using a pick since he was 12 mos old and is truly strumming back and forth now!

I would like to do a little homework and incorporate songs from other countries and cultures into our music time, as well as use more modern music in our jam sessions. I am slowly weeding out the more plastic, cheaper sounding instruments for instruments that feel and sound more real, such as a triangle, small cymbals, a drum or bongo, and rhythm sticks. I played flute for nine years and am also itching to get another to play for Tyler as I donated mine after I graduated high school.

We recently purchased this keyboard at a used music store for a steal. It's an older model but works wonderfully and has so many different songs, beats, tones and features that we couldn't get over how little we paid. We decided to buy this after we were gifted money for Tyler to buy something he would like. After showing Tyler how to play "Hot Cross Buns" on a small five note keyboard months ago and Tyler picking it up almost immediately, as well as him copying me playing "Twinkle Twinkle" on his xylophone quite well at times, we knew we had to follow his lead on this.

Along with playing it, Ty also enjoys testing us by turning the volume all the way up, but we've taken it as a moment to talk about "loud" and "soft" (this has also been true for his CD player!). I fought with myself a bit on the purchase of this keyboard as it is of course electronic, but it truly is an instrument in the music world, and none of the children's pianos I found had decent ratings (within our price range anyhow).

How do you incorporate music into your home?