Saturday, December 31, 2011

Questions and Answers

I have had a few questions asked multiple times and I thought I would share them on a post. Jumping into a Structured Play program can be very daunting. If you have not checkout my Getting Started Page, you should do so. It will give some further guidance. Here are a few Q&As about Sensory Boxes...
1. Do you wash and dry all the beans/stones items in the box first?
No, I do not wash the beans, rocks or other 'filler'. We wash hands after and they do not make too much of a mess with a little dust.

2. Won't your child spill those beans "outside" the box and how do you manage it?
I have a very strict rule with our Structured Play time and space. I have just always started this way and continue to enforce the rules. They spill out of the box and that is uncontrollable for the most part. If they spill, he and I just pick them up. If he spills them on purpose to break the rules I put the box away. He knows this rule and for the most part he follows the rule unless he is really tired. When I first introduced the box I was very strict with the rules about it staying in the box and repeated it over and over and warned him not to spill. I took it away first thing when he tested me and did it on purpose. Now I do not have to remind him, he knows! 

3. What if he scope and place it in a cup and take it out to another location? Do you allow him to do that? Because those beans are very small, Do you have to be careful with it and not allow any of it left around?
Our Structured Play area is in another room from his everyday play/toy area. It is a small area that we do Structured Play in and I do let him move them around. Some months he is using the box as a kitchen set-up and is really pretending to cooking. This is something I did not really intend but love how he is using his imagination. So I am letting him move to the little table we have set up so he can "cook". With the rocks in August, I did not let him move them out of the box. So I guess it just depends on what the activities are and how he is playing with them. If our room was in the main living space, I would be more strict and more careful with keeping them in the box. And when we are finished he is expected to clean everything up!

Thanks again for the questions! Please feel free to ask questions you come across as you work through your activities! 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Car Mat and Unstructured Pretend Play

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This is the car mat I made for Jacob for Christmas. I actually made it last year but he has enjoyed it so much lately I thought I would post about it. I used examples from more than a few blogs to put this together. I included all of our favorite places and some places I thought would be fun. There is a gas station, train station, farm, bakery, fire station, car wash, library, police station, grocery store, zoo and neighborhood. 
Jake uses all sorts of vehicles on the mat, even some of his big trucks. He loves construction and brings his construction equipment over to "work" on the area next to the mat to build a road or building that is not yet there. 
He is using blocks to build a building. Notice he has his "workers" and his trucks. This play mat is a great example of pretend play. When he started playing with it he used the provided buildings and we would drive around visiting each one. The pretending was very surface level. Now he has moved up developmentally and is adding a deeper level to the play. He is building and playing with items not provided on the mat. This takes him using his experiences and his imagination to delve deeper into his play. He will build a road step by step with the knowledge he has gained from reading books about construction.
He will also pull his farm out and incorporate it with the play mat. Having the farmer go to the store to deliver food for the store to sell or going to the gas station to get gas for the tractor. Above he is having the firemen put out a fire in the barn. 
Playing with all of these pieces together makes his play that much deeper. By having a deeper level of play it is showing that he can see connections in the world- how all things work together. Play is practice for life and understanding the world. It is very important for a child to be able to elaborate play. 
Jake did not get here on his own. I get down on the floor and model play! We read books and we explore the world around us which all aids in his development. This is an example of play that we do that is unstructured. I do not have a secret agenda but learning is still going on!


Classified: Mom

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Daddy's Christmas Present

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Jake and I made a Christmas gift for his Dad this year. I saw this idea on Pinterest and thought it would be a perfect gift! See you take an undershirt and fabric markers and draw roads on the back. We drew roads in addition to our favorite places around town.
I left some spaces for Jake to color as well. He told me what he was coloring and I wrote words describing them. 

What a perfect gift! Daddy gets a message and a much needed nap while Jake gets hours of fun with his cars. This really is ideal because Jake is still in his parallel play mode. He wants us to sit with him but once we do he enjoys doing his own thing. This way he feels someone is there playing with him!
He even added to the shirt by driving up his Dad's legs with the school bus to pick kids up on the "mountain!"
I got in on a little action too! It felt great and no bribery for a massage! ;)


Puppets! Jake is really into puppets right now because they are used at our Story Time at the library. We have an amazing library that provides story time twice a day, 3 days a week. There are two actors at a time and one goes behind the stage to "be" a puppet while the other reads a story. Jacob gets so excited for the random puppets to come out and he will sit memorized the entire time. 
Although I have tried to act out stories with the puppets, Jake only wants to use the puppets to read stories as they are done in the library. Whenever I read a story he pulls out the puppets and uses them to talk about the story. Then after I am finished he hands me a puppet and he reads a story.
He has even started changing his voice for the sound of the puppet. He mostly copies things the puppets at the library say but it is all part of the learning process. I love that he relates the puppets to reading and that he wants to take turns with the puppets and the reading! Fun times!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 5 Posts for the 2011

Can you believe another year is coming to an end? It is hard for me to think about my little guy growing up so fast. As I view the top posts for 2011 I look back at what we have done and see my little angel's sweet baby face thin out. It is a time of reflection and makes me even more happy that I have this time with my boys!
Top 5 Posts for 2011
Name Recognition 

Dramatic Play- Hanging up Clothes
I can't wait to continue another year of Structured Play with Jacob! I love seeing him grow and learn. He has taught me so much and watching him learning new things is the best reward! I love being able to work with him and play at the same time! We have a good time!

My favorite activities had to be in August when we did the Construction Theme. This was my favorite because it was Jake's favorite! He loves Animals, Christmas and everything else but construction is his thing!
Thank you all for following! I truly appreciate all of you that take the time to comment! 
Here is to another great year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fun in the Kitchen

I feel it is very important to include Jacob in food preparation. I think it makes a differences in a child's life to know where their food comes from and how it is prepared. Jacob loves being in the kitchen with me and helping whenever he can.

I try to include a kitchen activity at least once each month and what better better thing to make this month than Christmas cookies. We made sugar cookies, rolled them out and cut out shapes.
Baby Joey helped with moral support! He was so busy "talking" that he kicked off his sock! Making the cookies was a good time but the real fun came when we iced them!

 That is Jake "sampling" the icing. He didn't bother licking the spatula he just stuck his hand right in! I, of course, told him not to do that but it did not stop it from sneaking a bite or two! :)

Jake had a great time decorating. He was so focused on decorating that he barely said a word. I suggested that he use sprinkles and cinnamon circles. He got a little carried away as you can see below!
I asked him who would eat that cookie? He looked at me and very matter of fact and said, "Jake will!" I guess he was making the perfect cookie for himself! ;) I love how he talks in the third person too!
Look at that mess! But boy did we have fun! Get in the kitchen and have some fun with a toddler!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Homemade Christmas Gifts

Since I was a kid my family has always participated in a gift exchange for Christmas. We all give everyone a gift. It doesn't have to be anything expensive but at least something for everyone. I wanted to include Jake in this gift giving tradition. Last year we started by making coasters for everyone. This year we are making ornaments. We mixed together some salt dough and rolled it out.
He did a great job using the cookie cutters. I moved them to a cookie sheet and poked holes in them. I used a straw to stamp a hole and let me tell you that is the way to do it! Super easy and perfect size holes.
We also made some hand prints. I saw the hand print Santas on Pinterest and knew I had to make some! I baked the ornaments until they dried out. We painted them the next day.


After the paint dried we used paint sticks to paint on faces. We then strung them with red yarn. I had Jake decide which ornament to give to which family member by showing him pictures of each person. We live away from all of our family and although Jake gets to see everyone often he is still only two years old so can forget who each person is. So I have an album with each family member's photo. We flipped through the album and Jake told me which ornament was for which family member. I then put them in a bag with a name tag. I will have him pass them out on Christmas!
As for the Santas, I decided to paint them because of the intricate design. I think they are really cute and a gift for the grandmas that they will cherish!
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Carfts

More Christmas Tree crafts and more gluing! 
This week's craft activity is gluing decorations on a Christmas tree. This decorations are confetti and very hard to pick up. I thought they would be good to help with motor skills in addition to crafting. 
Jake did a great job decorating the tree. He got frustrated trying to pick up the confetti but figured out a clever way to pick them up. He used the sticky glue stick! He still had some trouble taking the confetti off of the glue but it was good practice in patience and perseverance. 
Here is his finished product. Just another example of a crafty Christmas activity that helps a toddler with motor skills, understanding a holiday and patience! In other words, the small things we can to that can teach so much more. Get crafty today!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Introducing the Game Concentration to a Toddler

Jacob is 28 months old and not quite ready for Concentration. Other toddlers may very well be ready for a game of Concentration (also known as Memory) but he is not, at least not the traditional way of playing. 
Concentration is a great game for kids to play to build memory and observation skills. Not to mention the basic skills games teach; patience, taking turns and being a good winner/loser. I saw cute erasers at the Dollar Store that came in a package of 12 with 6 different designs. I turned them upside down and put them into rows and columns. 
Jake saw these on the table and wanted to come check them out right away. He wanted to flip them over. I let him flip one over and we talked about it. I made sure to point out details in the shape of the eraser in hopes that he would learn to keep an eye on details. Yes, this is giving it away but this is a modification to the game and a way to teach the game. I then told him to look at the shapes of the erasers to see if he could find another gingerbread man. He quickly chose the eraser next to the gingerbread man without looking. It was a snowman and not a match. I told him we needed to turn them both over and that I got a turn next. He was not happy about this and didn't really understand so I quickly took my turn making a match to show him what was expected but then giving him his chance to go again.
He flipped over an eraser and I stopped him from picking his second. I told him to pick up the one he chose and to look at it carefully. I asked him to tell me what he saw. I got the basic descriptions then asked for more detail. I told him to choose an eraser that had the same shape. 
Look at that face! He was quite excited to find the match! Then wanted more! I explained that he needed to give me a turn too. This is where it went terribly wrong! He was not happy about having to take turns. He gave me a look and walked away from the game completely. He checked out! I did not want him to walk away or to stop playing but he wouldn't come back. I had to "order" him to come back. This is the first time in our Structured Play time that I put my foot down and told him to play something. I usually allow him to lead the way. I provide activities but let his interest and mood for the day chose what he wants to do. I do this because it is Structured Play, Play being the operative word! But as he gets older I feel I need to make sure he is finishing what he starts, learning rules and building on skills. 
He came back and I took my turn. He then took his turn and the game went on as it should. I was very happy that he was able to come back and finish the game. He was too! He really enjoyed it! After we were finished he went and picked up a book to read leaving the game. Since the game was over I let him move on to the next activity. I did set up the erasers on the table for another game but just left them there.
He eventually went back over to the table and wanted to play again. This time he knew just what to do and looked at the shapes carefully before choosing his pair. He waited for me to take my turn and was happy for me when I made a match. I was very pleased with the success he showed after just playing one time! This was a great way to introduce Concentration and with continued practice we will quickly be able to move to the next step, following the traditional Concentration rules. 

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