Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Baby Busy Bag

Soft-Cloth Samples
Before O was born...I found an idea for a Bored Bag and put together a simple one using an IKEA fabric bag & laminated idea cards.
With a new baby in the family (Baby Wyatt!), I put together a Baby Busy Bag. A lined, elastic-neck bag for little hands to easily access the contents.

Divided into three tools for each sampler:
SOFT CLOTH (above)
~Bean Bag (easy first catch & throw tool, shooting hoops games, balance on head games)
~"Taggy" (grab, crinkle & chew toy)
~Silk Scarf (hiding games, wind & motion science, neckties & old lady scarf play...)
*bean bag & Taggy safe to use from birth onwards. Silk scarf used with supervision.

Wooden Samplers

~train whistle
~threading block (early weaving & sewing skills, great fine motor play)
~bamboo tweezers ('chopsticks", great fine motor play)
*used with supervision
Musical Samplers

~sleigh bells
~mini symbols
*used with supervision


This simple, ingenious invention (Taggy) has been available on the market for a while. I believe they first came out as blankets, but have since been duplicated in various sizes.
It serves as a great playing thing for babies who love tags. We were so surprised when O was starting to use her hands, that she preferred tags on her toys to the toys themselves (IKEA is great for their extra long tags! We used to cut them off, but stopped when we realized what a value they are!)

This Taggy is made with...
~ a square of jean
~inside I added a square of pasta packaging (crinkle sound effects)
~colour co-ordinated 1/2 inch hooped ribbons (blue's & greens, purple's & pinks, orange's & yellow's)
The edges are double-sewn to prevent baby from pulling out ribbon pieces. These ribbons are perfect for little fingers & mouths that like to grab & chew.
A fabulous take-out tool that can be attached by a pacifier clip (via car trip, for example).

Burp Clothes turned Bags

From Burps to Bag

Before O was born I thought it would be nice to make up a few, custom burp clothes.
I went out and bought a towel material that turned out to be more of a dust cloth!
They were never successful as burp clothes. Though I think we did lay them under her as a drool-catcher while she slept so we didn't always have to change the sheets.

Yesterday, I turned them into toy bags. A few folds, some straight lines on the sewing machine and a strip of velcro resulted in quick organization to the teeming dolly clothes we have somehow collected:)

Thursday, April 25, 2013


TP Roll & Stickers

Along the lines of our Alphabet Games that started the week, I saved a TP roll for a quick game this morning. My Pinterest Boards are teeming with fabulous idea's, but more often than not I am lacking the time or resources to get too crafty during the week. So this idea was simple and easy.

~Write letters of the alphabet (or shapes, numbers, pretty much anything you like) on different spots of the TP roll.
~Use blank stickers to make the corresponding letters (if your child is advanced, you could do upper and lower case letters)
~Have your child match them up!

You could get really creative and do this with math equations. 
This is a great activity for any 'bored' minutes (grocery store, bank, car ride...)

O was quick to match them up all on her own. 
Shocked her mother!

Clothespegs Match. Letter clothespegs A-Z. Use word cards or a letter wheel for your child to pin the matching clothespeg. http://rubsomedirtblog.com/2012/01/fine-motor-skills-clothespin-style/

Ziploc, Paint & Q-Tip. http://scribbledoodleanddraw.blogspot.ca/2012/12/squeezing-in-some-fun.html

Sand Play:Mud Pie Kitchen 2013

 Making Cupcakes

The Spring sun is finally shining. 
Birds are singing. 
The whole deal here in big, old Shanghai.
It is worn from the winter weather, but still in good condition for mud pie creations.

Chef's Flour

She is not the kinda kid who likes to get dressed until after lunch, so our balcony retreat is perfect for pajama-wearing. O happily set about creating and the sun was definitely hot enough for baking! She sprinkled extra 'coconut' and 'salt' on my cupcakes. Child knows my taste buds!

Daddy's Balcony Crops

Daddy made beautiful planter boxes for our balcony crops & in three short weeks, they are already sprouting up.

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Balance Bike

 Balance Bike with "Mittens"

Daddy added a hole & lowered the seat of O's Balance Bike http://www.sooperarticles.com/automotive-articles/motorcycles-articles/benefits-balance-bicycle-kids-1181835.html. so she has been proudly showing off her big girl skills as of late.

O is very good at always reminding us that she is paying close attention to her environment. As you can see above, she has removed her velvety seat and is using it as a "mitten"...just like the motorcyclists in Shanghai wear their built-in gloves on the road.


 Colander & Pipe Cleaners

Easy peasy activity found on Pinterest.
No mess, no set-up, and basically no need to buy any supplies if you have a couple pipe cleaners & a colander around.


It isn't an activity that buys mom or dad any time to get something else done, but for the ten minutes of play it provided, she was completely engrossed. She told me she was "making flowers."


 Homemade Heart "Frackers"

O loves a vast variety of vegan food, for which I am grateful. Child will devour seaweed snacks, durian, spicy lentils, broccoli, steamed bean buns...
But like any other kid her age, crackers can be the most beloved of all foods!
I noticed she goes for 'salt' and 'crunch' so crackers certainly fit the bill.

 "Same Same"

We found a recipe for Homemade Goldfish Crackers http://www.superhealthykids.com/healthy-kids-recipes/homemade-crackers-for-toddlers-alternative-to-goldfish-crackers.php, but since we don't eat cheese, we omitted and reduced the oil by a tablespoon. She wasn't in the mood to help me make them, but it was an easy recipe to get kids involved.


However, she was very much in the mood to help me eat them! 
So much so, that we have to make another batch today (and they yielded about 40 small crackers!)

Guarding her food!

When she guards her food, you know they have the seal of approval!

Matching Game. O immediately took two of the heart-shaped crackers and noticed they are "same same". If you want to get really fancy, or would like to fit a math lesson into your day, you can use various cookie cutters to increase the matching possibilities.

Imaginary Play. While O was eating she started talking about shoes. I was clueless, until I looked at what she had made! A little bite out of the heart and she had a "shoe". She then continued to make pairs!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lida's Chopsticks

 Learning to eat with "chopsticks"

We went to the Flower Market a few weeks ago to pick up bags of soil for our balcony crops!
Lining the outside of the market are vendors who specialize in Cricket paraphernalia. Loads of locals own crickets and there has been the odd time we have a taxi driver/guard at the bank with a cricket chirping on his dashboard/in his pocket.

Along with miniature bamboo cages (for crickets), teeny ceramic water bowls and a slew of other 'instruments' which are used for purposes unknown to us, they sell bamboo tweezers. They have a blunt, rather than sharp end. Great for practicing fine motor skills and useful in several Montessori-inspired activities. They cost the equivalent of  $0.50 a pair.

Chopsticks for Beginners

O immediately referred to them as "chopsticks" and started using them to pick up and eat her food. She experiments with types of food (liquids & solids), shapes and sizes to see how accurately she can aim, pinch and eat. They do sell plastic versions of Beginner Chopsticks all over Shanghai, but they sell for a tourist price and aren't half as eco-friendly!

Alphabet Blocks; Early Letter Recognition

Good old Alphabet Blocks

Remember those old alphabet blocks?
The popular Melissa & Doug company sell the old-fashioned set, complete with images stamped on the sides.
Loads of language-play opportunities (phonics, letter recognition, spelling practice, matching games). 
O is familiar with the alphabet, via several ABC songs (Chicka Chicka Boom, ABCD, A You're Adorable) but not at the point where she can recognize the symbol representing each letter (except for "O"!)

When I bring out the Alphabet Blocks, it mostly becomes a game of building a "zoo" for her animals or a tower which she waits anxiously to crash! This week we tried a simple game of setting up the blocks in alphabetical order and removing one, so she can see what is missing.

Starting with "A"

"Start from the very beginning, the very best place to start..."

"M" in the middle

Then the "M" in the middle went missing. O found it and hid it somewhere!
We aren't in a rush for her to recognize the letters. Loads of story time and exposure to letters in everyday life sneak in lots of learning opportunities. But it doesn't hurt to play with the alphabet now and again...even if that just means hiding letters around the house!

ABC Tic Tac Toe. Love this version of the popular Tic Tac Toe. If you already have ABC blocks, make a simple TTT board. Place a vowel in the center. Each player can take a turn trying to make a three-letter word.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Finger Puppet Play

This is me.
This is what O thinks of me!
Out of all the finger puppets we have collected, she prefers that I use this Hallowe'en Monster Puppet to be Mommy!

O loves talking about the doctors. She is obsessed about giving 'shots' and we have to replay this scenario over and over with her dolls and puppets. 
Nurse wants to give O (ballerina!?) a shot.
O says "no."
Mommy says, "I'll hold your hand and afterwards we'll get apple juice."
O braces herself and off we go for juice.
Again and again!
O & Nurse

Sometimes I slip in a new scenario. 
It is useful to use situations that arise each day that bring her anxiety or joy. She really pays close attention and I can alter the original situation and create a new ending...offering alternatives to what has happened and how we can deal next time.

 O & Ghost 

Ghost 'having milk' from Nurse

O also adds her own scenario's. Such as above!
She also thinks grandpa gets milk from grandma, so we have some clarifying to do!

Solid Geometry

Wooden Ice Cream Cone

This week I scored with a set of wooden geometric solids (12 shapes for 30rmb!)
O jumped right in making "ice cream cone's" & "bird houses", which is a great intro to understanding shapes and how they relate to our every day lives.

I, on the other hand, had to look up a lesson in geometry. It's been a while! 
I learned a few new things!

First, most of the names are not too intimidating, not as intimidating as I remember (my memory links geometric shapes and dinosaur names as the same level of difficulty!)
 Cylinder 1
 Cylinder 2

The second group (level two intensity!) could be catagorized in the 'prisms'. As long as you know your shapes, the prisms are a cinch.

 Rectangular Prism

 Triangular Prism
 Square Prism
 Hexagonal Prism
Octagonal Prism

A half-sphere, is called a Hemisphere!
Geometry and geography lesson in one!


An easy early intro to geometry (along with making houses & ice cream cones) is finding the similarities amoung the solids. This involves looking at various sides of the objects, in order to make matches.


There are loads of activities to connect geometric shapes into a lesson, or expanding uses for geometry.

Origami. Mini Eco consistently has lovely origami tutorials. Many of which illustrate instructions on geometric shapes. This is a great way to see how flat shapes turn can be transform into 3D. http://www.minieco.co.uk/paper-gems/
Expand and use these as ornaments or gift toppers. 

Necklaces. Mini Eco again. They have taken coloured pencils, cut them into pieces, drilled a hole through the center and threaded! CUTE lesson on circular prisms!  
Still Life. The first thing I thought of while photographing the shapes, was our Art Class study on drawing still life. We always warmed up with sketches of geometric shapes, as they have lines, curves and shadows that are easily recognizable. You can start by making your own origami prisms (above.) Remember to add different mediums to this art activity, including charcoal (old school or charcoal pencils.) Great lesson in shape, perspective, form & shadow.

Bird Houses. One quick search on Pinterest brings you a load of bird house geometry lessons.

Gingerbread Geometry. That quick bird house search, led to Bird House Gingerbread. Gingerbread homes also an easy (yummy) lesson in geometry.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring Tadpoles

 Little Swimmers....
...in the thousands!

Our apartment complex in Shanghai has a teeny, tiny amount of green space that a number of people take very good care of. Within this space is a little pond full of koi, the occasional turtle, frogs and most recently...tadpoles. 
Not just a few...thousands of little black, tadpoles swimming their way into frogs!

 Pond Posing

Now I know nothing... absolutely nada..about tadpoles remarkable process of metamorphosis, so we have some learning to do. Slightly tempted to pick up a few tadpoles for home-viewing, but we agreed to keep them in the pond with their "mother"!

We did have a quick conversation about tadpole fare, that went something like this,
Mama: "What do you think tadpoles eat?
O: "Hmm. Not sure. Potatoes?"
To which I could only say, maybe. I have never tried to feed a potatoe to a tadpole!

Raising Tadpoles. This homeschooling mom collected tadpoles and documented their life. In the end the family returned  the frogs back to the pond. She includes a list of books about the Life Cycle of Frogs. Lovely! http://www.thepearlsofhomeschooling.blogspot.com/2013/04/tadpole-to-frog.html

Raising Tadpoles (different version). This family adds some important bits of info (do not use tapwater, as it is chlorinated). http://rainydaymum.co.uk/learning-with-nature-tadpoles...and some other hearty details to help your frog kids.

Felt Frogs. If you cannot find tadpoles or are a bit leary (read: that's me!) about being able to keep them alive at home, try out a puzzle version, cutting shapes to resemble the tadpole and shapes to add like arms and legs.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Painting as a Process

Potato for the Process

It's good practice for unschooling to 'unteach' and sit back while O explores new territory, or expands on old. Simply observing her process, I am also learning about her and what tweaks her interests. The basis of unschooling encourages interest-driven curriculum, on the notion that we learn best when we enjoy what we are doing.

Yesterday, I set out some supplies for painting (potato stamps, Q-tips, paper & paint) and allowed her to develop her own process without any comments on my part. I don't realize how much I talk, until I shut-up purposefully! Not only did she enjoy her time exploring, I was strongly reminded that there are many ways to develop processes of painting.

Drip Drawing

"Drip drawing" inspired a whole new twist on painting, which involved a lot of moving & dumping paint.

Once she was finished, she asked to wash up and we hung her work to dry.
I even held back making remarks on what I thought about her painting, so to avoid judging.
The key was she enjoyed the process and that is what matters most.