Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Scream, You Scream...

                   Enjoying a vanilla gelato.                   

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!...well, that is at least what Lachlan has been saying ever since we visited Italy and he had his first taste of authentic gelato. Mamma mia! does he like gelato! Takes after me of course. I'm a fan of chocolate hazelnut but he doesn't seem to be too choosy. Just give him a lickin' and he'll keep on lickin'! The other day when we were at the shops I saw that they had these bambino gelato cones on sale. I ummmmed and eeerrrred about whether I should get them for him. I don't like him to have too many sweets and his dad is in the teeth business so I'd have to deal with that when we got home as well. I caved and bought them. I just thought maybe it will be reminiscent for him of his days back in Italy on the cobbled streets of Bellagio, enjoying a gelato while watching the Vespas drive by...(who am I kidding? okay I really wanted them for myself but thought I'd use Lachlan as an excuse, as all good parents do, right?) Well, after dinner I allowed him to indulge in a vanilla gelato (I indulged in a chocolate--of course I had to taste one first to make sure it was suitable for my little son..Again, just doing as all good parents do, right?) Needless to say it was a success. Obviously not as good as the real deals in Italy but as you can see by the picture he didn't care---he was delighted just the same! On a closing note I will say there are benefits to having frozen ice cream cones or popsicles in your freezer. They are great to use when your little one gets a fat lip from falling etc. I always used this trick while working in childcare to get children to keep something cold on their lip long enough so it wouldn't swell. They won't let you place an ice pack on it but they are generally more than happy to suck on a popsicle and it works like a charm! All the reason (or excuse) you need to go stock up on your favourites today!

Bottled Shake-Ups

Today we thought we'd share a fun sensory craft for your little one to explore. I made these Bottled Shake-Ups about six months ago for Lachlan but he wasn't really interested in them until recently. Just this week hepulled them out of a box and began playing with them. The bottles are a bit on the larger size also so I'm sure they aren't as heavy as they were six months ago for him. What ever size bottle you use is fine. Large ones you can shake for a little one and they will be fascinated watching the objects swirl or float around in the bottle. Smaller bottles are fun for little hands to shake and explore on their own. I made two Shake-Ups. One has plastic confetti stars with small sea shells and the second I filled with a handful of multi-coloured transparent beads. Be creative with the materials you use. They are simple to make. This is all you need to do:

Materials Needed:
  • a small plastic bottle with lid, label removed (individual sized water or juice bottles works best; especially those covered with shrink wrap. You can just cut it off and not worry about gooey adhesive reside)
  • Water
  • Food colouring (optional)
  • Fillers: plastic confetti, shells, beads, tiny plastic animals, etc. (anything that is waterproof that will fit through the opening).
  • Glue
Putting it together...

Place the fillers in that you have selected. A hand-full is all you need but put as much in until you achieve the desired effect. Next, fill the bottle up with water and add drops of food colouring to achieve desired colour. Tighten the lid to test it out and give it a shake. If you like what you see take off the lid, add some drops of glue to the sides of the inside of the lid and screw the lid back on the bottle. If you aren't impressed, try adding more filler to make it more interesting. When you are done and the glue is dry, give it to your bub as a fun new sensory toy.

Here are some ideas to do with this project:
  • Point to and talk about the colours and/or objects you see floating in the bottle. You could use the rhyme: "I spy with my little eye, something..."
  • If you have more then one bottle ask: "Which one has a shell?" etc. or "Which one has the colour...?"
  • Communicate what you are doing with the bottle; "Watch me SHAKE it" or "Watch me ROLL it" for example.
  • Make two bottles one for you and one for the child and play the game Follow the Leader. Have the child do what you do. "Shake it high" next, "Shake it low" etc. Then see if you can swap roles with your child.
  • Talk about what the fillers are doing such as "The beads are floating UP. The beads are floating DOWN."
  • Hold the bottle up to your little ones face and look at him through the bottle. If you've used food colouring it will be a surprise to see a pink or blue mommy or daddy! 
  • If you've made bottles of varying sizes talk about which one is BIG and which one is SMALL. Expand on this and talk about which one is HEAVY and which one is LIGHT.
  • If your child is old enough not to put small objects in his mouth, then please allow him to make his own Bottled Shake-Up. Just step in if he needs help.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Emerging Ideas: What Can We Do?

When I do work as a consultant, one of the most common questions I get asked by child care professionals is, "what activities can we do with our under three's? It seems like all we do is the same stuff over and over!" It can be tricky to come up with new ideas to stimulate your child or infant, especially if you are interacting with your child based on an emergent or Reggio approach, where you offer resources and activities based on interest that you have observed from your child. Most children under the age of two are not speaking in complete sentences or are pre-verbal so it makes it even more challenging to try to figure out what they are interested in. I generally say to people, "watch, watch, watch!...and pay attention very closely to what they are trying to accomplish developmentally." Lachlan for example began on a "things that turn" kick when he was about nine months old. He wanted to get his hands and fingers on anything that could rotate; great for cognitive and fine motor development. At almost 17 months he is still fascinated by wheels, gears, name it. I began to feed this interest by offering these items: cars, a telephone with a dial (remember those!...always remove the chord, please!), a toy stroller for his doll and "Ted," and his favourite; trains! From there 'things that turn' evolved into 'transportation vehicles.' At the moment his mind is delighted by Thomas the Tank Engine, small wooden cars, our council rubbish collection truck and airplanes. We draw pictures, use paint rollers (that turn!) sing songs and play with magnets that portray these items...and of course offer books on the topic! We never forget the books in our house! I found some Thomas books at a garage sale which Lachlan has fallen in love with. I'm not generally in to buying children a bunch of licensed character stuff but when we were out shopping Lachlan pointed to something and said "Thom, Thom." When I looked there was a tracksuit with Thomas. I couldn't resist and it was on sale (okay, that is my excuse like all good moms!) He was so excited when I bought it. He hugged the sweatshirt all the way home. When he wears it and we ask, "Where is Thomas?" he looks for him on his shirt. Thomas has definitely become a favourite in our house and it wasn't from watching him on TV. It was from books! He does now have a die-cast Thomas and a few friends which he happily chugs around the house.

We also made a box car with an medium size box. Lachlan did all the work. I handed him some plates for wheels and he coloured them and the box. I let him stick the wheels on the box where ever he wanted--this is an important element when doing any creative activity; let your child create and invent, avoid trying to manipulate them or their work to make a 'picture perfect' piece of art. There is nothing expressive or creative about that; that is just reproduction and replication, not expressive art!

Noticing what your child is doing developmentally, will be a big help in determining what activity they are ready for. When Lachlan began taking an interesting in placing pegs into his peg board, I figured that he might like trying to stick other objects into things (don't worry I didn't give him a straightened hanger and light socket, so put down the phone). Instead I took out some play-dough and popsicle sticks. He concentrated very intently on the materials. He had to learn that he need to use a certain amount of force to push the sticks down enough so that they would stay. Lachlan has always been so gentle when he plays and moves things, you could tell he really wanted to just gingerly place the sticks on the dough, but the result wasn't what he wanted so he learned to be a bit more forceful. I then offered him feathers to place in the dough. He enjoyed the textures and experimenting with the different level of resistance the dough and the feather bring when joined together. All of this intrigued him for a good 10-15 minutes which is not bad for a toddler; he is about 15 months old at the time. That of course is something else to consider; avoid getting your hopes up thinking that your little one will sit for a half hour or more engrossed in something. They are usually into it or they aren't! Never force something and respect when they have had enough. They like to stick around long enough to get out of it whatever they feel they need. When they have had enough they are ready to move on to something else...and they will!

Sometimes when children are bored with materials you have provided, they may often what to leave the table or area and take the materials with them to do something else. If what they want to do is not destructive, then I encourage you to let their idea play out and see where it takes them. For example, Lachlan found was using stickers and decided that he wanted to leave the art table and walk around with the stickers. I let him do so waiting to see what he had in mind. He began to stick the stickers on one of the drawings that he had made the week before which was hanging on the wall. This certainly was not hurting anything and I was delighted that he wanted to stick them on paper and not the walls! However, Lachlan has tried on occasion to leave his art table or easel with crayons and paint. This I do not allow because I like the colour of my walls just the way they are and I'm not looking for any 'Lachlan Originals' to go on the furniture or floors! He learned quickly that if he wants to keep hold of those tools he will have to use them on the designated materials provided. Lay down the rules early and be consistent. This will avoid confusion for your child and make the process go much easier. Plus, you've given your child some power over the situation which is all children want anyway. The lesson is simple for them; they choose; if they want to paint they paint on the paper. If not, the paint gets put up. If you are consistent in all aspects of discipline in this way, you won't end up with a bunch of power struggles. You make they rules, they have the power to decide what they want to do.