Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Paint! Paint! Paint! Three new ways to create.

One afternoon after lunch, the bag of paints I keep on the closet shelf in Tyler's large motor room mysteriously fell down and onto the floor, which Ty discovered first. Luckily nothing opened and splattered, but Ty did instantly come to me with two bottles of paint and asked to paint, then patiently sat at his table with them. I hadn't exactly said yes, as I was about to prepare things for nap, but I was also feeling a lot of guilt about our lack of art time, so I threw together the first project listed here. Since then I've found more time for the painting that Ty loves, and we've used some new ways of painting to mix things up that I wanted to share!

For the first project, I simply taped a piece of foil to cardboard and provided him with a few q-tips. He used his hands for much of this project until I showed him how he could cut through the paint with the q-tips and see the foil, creating lines and letters and whatever else he wished. He thought that was pretty neat and decided to do it himself. He was so focused that he actually forgot how much he loves to paint his body and hair (yay)!

Ty also decided to prove me wrong and excitedly did art outside last week! I turned a box inside out so that it would be a clean slate for him rather than looking at labels etc and allowed him to paint it. I think having something so large and with dimensions really peaked his interest and was enough to rival all of his exciting outdoor toys for a bit.

The second day we colored the box with markers, which as you may be able to see from his expression, he really got into! Again I think having such a large space and a different canvas woke him up to new possibilities.

The third day we used stickers to decorate the box. I dare say this box will be the prettiest shipping box of all when we move! I plan to let him pack this one with whatever he'd like and make it Tyler's special box.  

Though Ty has been sick or suffering from allergies the past few days, he isn't acting ill at all, so today, as I had planned, we used old shapes from a shape sorter and paint to make shape prints. We haven't done a lot of printing yet but I plan to do more after this. He picked up on what to do right away and loved the fact that he was making shapes all over the paper!

I bought and hung this cork board to hang some of his work as an addition to his art display a few months ago but I don't believe that I ever shared it here. He truly enjoys looking at his work and pointing things out that he's done. I love how proud he is of his work and how am happy that his brain is reminded of what he did to create each work of art when he views and talks about them.

A big blog with lots of Montessori and toddler fun is coming soon!

Linking with Getting Messy With Ms Jessi.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ty Turns Two! Toy Reviews and a Trip to the Petting Zoo.

As you may know from my last post, Tyler celebrated his second birthday last week! I knew that I was going to want to go a bit overboard on presents, so I had a garage sale to sell his old stuff and took what didn't sell to consignment. I then used the money without guilt to buy him what I thought he could use to challenge him and keep him from being bored, as he continues to master and be done with things quickly. I have to admit that new toys, works and materials also keep me from being bored as well; it's a feeling that is truly uncomfortable for me. Plus, I'm a kid at heart and love to play too!

The following are the items that I purchased for Tyler from Amazon.com. I often buy (or don't buy) based on ratings, and also enjoy sharing great products that others may not be aware of (and items that I often wasn't hip to either until I spent way too many hours browsing the site). I am not asked or paid to talk about any of these.

I think it's safe to say that Tyler's absolute favorite gift from us were his  Fisher Price Grow-with-Me Roller Skates. He literally spent the first two days in them except for when we headed out for a doctor's check-up and when he slept! They have three different settings that help children learn to skate gradually. Right now he is in the walking phase, but we plan to try him with the second stage, which allows the skates to roll forwards but not backwards, very soon. My parents also bought him a NHL hockey goal, stick and ball set to go with this, and my ex-hockey player husband is in heaven!

Tyler's second favorite has been his Plan Toys Assorted Fruits and Vegetables. There are so many cutting fruit toys out there and I really wanted one that incorporated fruits and vegetables in the same set, as well as included a banana, apple and carrot (Ty's favorite produce). I also preferred something that was wooden. This set fit those requirements perfectly and he just adores it. The only issue we've encountered is that that neither the mushroom or banana cut, they are whole. This frustrates him at times, so I may cut and velcro them together myself.

I was really exited when I discovered this Melissa and Doug Farm Maze Wooden Puzzle. In one of my old Sesame Street Treasury books (which he loves!), there's a maze that I help him trace his finger through which he thinks is quite neat. It also seems like such a great toy for working small motor and wrist turning skills. He likes this, but I may put it away and take it out when he's a bit older. There are almost too many animals that get in the way of each other and he has a little trouble maneuvering them around the circle right now.

Another big hit has been Beach Stickers for the Tub. These are colorful, stick to the tub and tub wall easily and float so you can even stack them. The mesh bag with suction cups that they come in is really helpful. There are several different themed sets of these as well, one being farm animals.

Tyler often wants us to make his stuffed animals "talk" and sing, so buying him a puppet was an easy choice. This Lion Puppet from The World of Eric Carle is lovely and well-made. There's nothing "cheap" about it though it was quite inexpensive I thought. We're using this puppet as a fun way to teach social skills as well as to do the singing he loves. He thinks the whole idea is quite funny!

"Happy Halloween, Mittens" is a book in a easy reader series by Lola Schaefer that we found he really likes after borrowing one of the books from the library. My mother also got him a book in the series called "What's That, Mittens?" They are simple stories about a cute little kitten that he just adores, likely due to his huge love for felines!
"Llama Llama Misses Mama" is another series book by Anna Dewdney. We first discovered these adorable llama when borrowing "LLama, Llama Red Pajama" from the library (which we also bought him as it became a bed time favorite). We all love the fun rhymes, teaching moments and illustrations of these books. "Llama Llama Misses Mama" in particular is about llama's first day of  preschool. At first he is terribly sad, confused and feeling alone, but by the end he is happily playing. When his Mama arrives he discovers that he loves Mama AND school too. I can't read it without getting tears in my eyes. I'm getting teary-eyed just writing this in fact. Moving on...

Of all of the books Tyler received for his birthday, The Goodnight Train by June Sobel seems to be his favorite. The rhymes are cute, the illustrations lovely and full of hidden jokes if you look closely, and Tyler enjoys trains so it's been a great fit. The story consists of a few children who bathe, play and eventually fall sleep in their little train car beds as it rolls through interesting scenery. It instantly become Tyler's new bed time favorite.

As Tyler likes to nest objects and occasionally still likes to stack, especially if it's something new, I figured the Wedgits Starter Set would be ideal for him. They can be used to build and create in so many different ways and I have to say I really enjoy playing with them too! Tyler liked them immediately, then later got frustrated a couple times because the same color/size squares of course don't stack or nest with each other and it made him mad. Now he doesn't want to play with them at all. Ahhh toddlers! I'm likely putting them away for a while so he can hopefully forget about his grudge and have fun with them again as he did initially.

Tyler is really over the whole drawing with crayons thing, or colored pencils for the matter. All he wants to use are markers, which is fine, but I thought mixing it up with some Finger Crayons may be fun for him. They are also fun because they stack! He isn't too into them other than using them for stacking. Fun, new version of the crayon not, he just wants his markers at the moment. I really love them because they seem quite indestructible. I don't think I could break them if I tried which is great as I have a whole pencil bag full of broken crayons right now!

Gifts that I don't have links for but have really been enjoyed are:

This Huffy tricycle that I spotted at a consignment store. Though he is over the 90th percentile for height, he needs to be a couple inches taller to use the pedals comfortably. Though he slouches low and gets it at times, he mostly likes to let me help him pedal and enjoys walking it around the driveway.

One of the many things my parents purchased for him was a triangle from First Note. It makes a tone like nothing else in his instrument collection and we all enjoy it!

His Uncle and Aunt sent him various instruments and books from Kindermusik (which can be purchased in their online store), including a finger drum and rhythm sticks. He just adores these and plays them several times a day. Yay for a growing music center!

The classic Memory game was also gifted to Tyler. We haven't used in the usual way just yet due to a lack of time, but it is giving me lots of other activity ideas as well.

A Golden Book called "Big Fred's Fire Truck", which goes through a day of a firefighter, is a favorite of Ty's right now as well.

A "Dino Adventure Rig" by Sprig was given to Tyler from our fabulous neighbors. I love that it's safe and eco-friendly and Ty especially adores the dinos and human figure it came with.

A gift certificate to Hobby Lobby was given by a friend. This is really a gift for both of us! I can't wait to choose some fun things for him next week! I'll likely roam the store for a good hour before I can even decide!

It seems a bit awkward to move on to the little trip we took him on for his birthday now, but I just had to share the rest of his birthday events with a few cute photos! Tyler enjoyed feeding, and occasionally touching, the animals at a nearby petting zoo. Though there were animals like zebras, camels and reindeer on our trip last year, this part of the zoo was closed off, likely because it was getting near the end of their day when we finally made it there.

This last photo is a favorite. Tyler thinks biting into this carrot is gross, but the cute little llama sneaking up from behind seems to think differently!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Teddy Bear's Picnic Party

Walking into your typical party supply store and buying everything you could possibly need for a Disney Princess themed birthday party is amazingly simple (and expensive!). That or supplies for a Dora party, Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse, Cars, Yo Gabba Gabba, Diego...pretty much any popular kids television show or movie that you can think of. Other than a few generic birthday supplies thrown in at the end of the party favor isle, you're out of luck if you're looking for something other than the commercialized crap (sorry). This is what I discovered when I went in search for a few last minute teddy bear themed items for Tyler's second birthday party.This frustrated me, but made me much more sad than anything. Other than the three mins it takes to clip his nails each week when we distract him with Sesame Street (I don't even like that...), Tyler doesn't even know who these characters are. Not every kid watches television and I don't judge those who let their kids do it, but it seems that it's almost expected.

Though I feel a vent/rant coming on, I'm not going to get into the topic of commercialization and children. Instead I will share with you our party ideas as Tyler and our guests had a really fun time!

Tyler loves his teddy bears and teddy bear songs, so a party planned around the book (and song) "Teddy Beat's Picnic" seemed like something he would really enjoy. If you're not familiar with it, the song generally talks about all of he teddies in the world getting together in the woods one day to have a picnic and play together. In the book, the illustrator shows humans dressing up like teddy bears to join the picnic and spy on the bear's festivities. There are several versions of the book, but I highly recommend the one by Jimmy Kennedy and Alexandra Day, linked above.

We held the picnic at our favorite park and luckily had a hot but beautiful day for it. In the invitations, we asked our little friends to bring along their favorite teddy bears. We set teddies in a circle on a blanket with party hats to make it look like they were having their own picnic. Several teddy bear related songs played on a loop. Upon arriving each child was given a party hat for themselves as well as their teddy.

When everyone arrived we sat on the blanket with our teddies and had teddy grahams and fruit and veggie juice while I read "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" book aloud to the group.

Next came the teddy bear cupcakes! I was nervous about making these but I thought they turned out pretty cute. Tyler got a huge smile on his face when he saw them and the kids loved them. I used mini Nila Wafers and M&M's to make the faces. A slightly older child could certainly help make these!

After cupcakes we simply played with balls, enjoyed the toddler and older children's playgrounds, and cooled off in the splash fountain. At his age, playing organized games didn't seem appropriate or worth the effort. I felt that it was difficult enough to get all of the children on the blanket at once to read the story! The park is so lovely that nothing fancy was really required anyway. Running, playing...that's all anyone needed to have a great time!

Afterwards we opened presents, played more and handed out goodie bags. It was difficult to find teddy bear related items to put inside the bags, though I did find three different kinds of Teddy Bear Dover sticker books on Amazon (puzzle, paper doll and easy stickers depending on the age of each child).

This week Ty and I will work on thank you cards for his gifts. This seems like an old-fashioned thing to do these days as I've never received one after giving anything other than maybe a wedding gift, but I believe it's important to show gratitude for what you're given as well as to express how the gift is being used and enjoyed. This is certainly a little Montessori "grace and courtesy" lesson as well!

In a future post I plan to talk about how we celebrated Tyler's birthday as a family, as well as to do some product reviews around some of the gifts we, and others, purchased for him. I always find it helpful to find out about great (or not so great) products and perhaps you do as well!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Three Weeks of Fun and Learning

Whew! Birthday madness is over (a post coming soon about that fun, including product reviews), electricity is back on, and after this coming week, things will somewhat slow down....other than packing and finding a new home in a new city (after we figure out where we're going exactly) that is! I currently have five books to read, several videos to watch, countless activities to put together, emails and messages to return, too many errands to think about... I feel like some days when I actually do have free time, I'm so overwhelmed that I get nothing done. Today I vowed to put a blog together wrapping-up our last few weeks before my husband has to leave for a few days again. It feels good to meet this goal!

Montessori-inspired Activities

Searching for favors at our local party store, I found these fabulous bugs for $.35 each! I love how realistic they are and knew I could use them in many different ways. I purchased two of each, and purposely bought different spiders and butterflies, as there are so many variations of these creatures. All of the others were identical anyhow.

The first work I've done with Ty with the bugs has been a Three Period Lesson with three bugs that are most familiar to him. This means that I present one bug at a time to Tyler and name it, being sure to make eye contact so that I know he's listening. I then lay all three in front of him and asked him to find a particular bug. If he made an error, I would go back to the first step, naming then all again. He knew these pretty easily, so I then asked him to name each one for me verbally.

This next work is a coin/slot activity with one more step added to make it more of a challenge. Tyler's task is to put the "grass" (a carpet sample, free at Loew's) under the horse bank (dollar store) and place ten dimes from the bowl into the bank. The plug on the bank was incredibly difficult to remove and he would need to retrieve the dimes himself, so I took the plug out, allowing the dimes fall onto the grass. His next step is to then remove the horse, put the dimes back into the bowl and the horse onto the grass to complete the work or start again.

Living without electricity for several days meant buying a lot of ice in hopes of saving a few items from our fridge as well as our cat's insulin. This was a great opportunity for Ty to play and experiment with ice. He enjoyed dumping the ice, placing it into containers and noticed it melting in his hands. He also discovered that thin slivers of ice would stick to a cookie sheet and that he could move and tip the sheet and allow the ice to move but not fall off. Just one of those neat lessons that you don't think about that the child finds out on their own!

No electricity also meant a lot of flashlight use, which Tyler found fun. Here we worked on placing the flashlight close to and then far away from the wall to notice how the light shrinks and grows. We also played with hand shadows and looked down vents. Ty learned to navigate the dark house with his own light on his own by the second night. I'm considering keeping the lights out just for fun and learning once in a while!

This activity utilizes the Melissa and Doug Pound a Peg toy, which Tyler had never been interested in on its own . Here he removes each peg and places it into a juice container, then shakes them out. Pulling the pegs requires him to use two hands, which he can be lazy about at times, and he works on counting as well.

This activity was shown in a post about introducing works to toddlers, but here it is again. This is pattern work from Discovery Toys that I purchased from my neighbor's garage sale. It is so much more interesting to him that using jumbo lacing beads. I am moving him to more challenging pattern cards this week.

We haven't had an air quality warning in a couple of weeks (yay!) so we have been spending a ton of time outdoors, often in the water table and sand box. Though all of the scooping and dumping is important, I have been trying to think of new ways to play in the sand as well. Here Ty uses a funnel to pour sand into a jar, and we've also been using a sand/water wheel. Currently half of his sand is wet, so we've experimented with how the funnel/wheel work (or don't) with both kinds of sand, and discovered which sand be used to makes sand castles. I should also add that I've been having him use containers of different sizes and weights and different kinds and sizes of scoops and spoons.

Large Motor

Tyler is quite into challenging his body physically and always has been. He finds something to work on in any environment he's in and doesn't want to stop until he's mastered it. Sometimes we think he's training for some sort of Toddler Olympics, though I'm not sure that things like standing on the arm of the couch and jumping off qualify! We've been working extra-hard to help Tyler continue his skills in safe ways.

Ty decided he really wanted to get the hang of moving himself around sitting on his scooter, both backwards and forwards a couple weeks ago. He picked it up really fast. Next is to teach him to lay on his belly and use his arms and feet to move!

 Putting balls into a basket and pushing it around isn't all that challenging, but it sure is fun for him! Sometimes we add books to make the basket heavier which he really loves.

The basket it also great for climbing in and out of, of course! 

Taking Tyler to different playgrounds and parks has been another way to challenge his skills as each has something different to offer. It's of course also good for building social skills with other kiddos.

We continue to take him to Open Gym at our local gymnastics center about once a week where he seems to pick-up another new skill each time. It's a wonderful confidence booster for him!

Last week my husband started to teach him to play catch. By the afternoon he was catching a basketball from about a foot away. This is not only a great physical skill, but the passing the ball back and forth (i.e. sharing) is a great, not always easy, social skill for toddlers to learn. 


I wish that I could say we've been working on something different in this area. Our outside time has taken over much of our art time and when outdoors, Ty doesn't seem all that into art other than chalking. Once the weather cools down we'll be making-up for our lack of time in this area for sure!

 Ty has grown tired of crayons and colored pencils, so we've been using markers and paint dabbers instead. He has started drawing circles and drew a sun all on his own recently. I often draw a sun when we are chalking in the driveway and he even surprised me by drawing eyes and a mouth on my sun a couple weeks ago! I love that this is starting already! I am not great about coloring and drawing next to him when we are inside and really need to work on doing this more.

When we do paint, Tyler has still been into mixing the colors on his hands and painting his body. I've finally learned to have him paint time just before bath! 

Other Fun

Ty's sensory quirks have made him leery of using play-doh other than sticking things into it (i.e. not really touching it), but making balls for him to squish his finger into has worked well to get him over his quirk. He's now rolling play-doh in-between his hands in an attempt to make balls!

I found a rainbow boa as well as a rainbow mullet wig in the clearance section of our local party store and excitedly added them to Tyler's dress-up area. He refuses to wear the wig, but thinks Mommy is pretty funny walking around the house in it! A few of the feathers have fallen off of the boa and he's found dropping the feathers quite interesting...he's intrigued with how slow and lightly they fall.

Pushing puffballs in-between his toes. I don't remember how we started doing this or why, but it was pretty humorous!  

Linking-up with Carissa's Tot School.