Saturday, March 26, 2011

Getting Crafty

In February, Lachlan and I joined a Steiner playgroup. Although I don't plan on sending Lachlan to our local Steiner school, the playgroup has been invaluable for both Lachlan and me. The wonderful thing about Steiner playgroups, is that the focus is completely on the child and on the parent to be fully present with the child during the hours of playgroup. The environment is relaxing (though the lavender oil helps this!) and all of the toys and materials are made from natural fibers. The children are encouraged to do a lot of work with their hands; they knead their own bio-dynamic-organic brown bread rolls which are baked for morning tea time. There is also an organic vegetable garden where the children can pick fresh veggies and herbs to go with their bread. My favourite time has been craft where the parents begin the project of making a toy for their children. Older children can help in the process and if the children are too young, the adult makes the toy on their own. All of the chidlren whether they assist or not enjoy watching their parents at work and are very excited when they can hold the finished project and explore all of its endless capabilities.

The playgroup has been such a blessing for me. I have been able to interact with other like-minded parents; those who the use of natural materials, organics, sustainability and who also actively work at having a very connected relationship with their children. I have always loved to use my creative thinking abilities when I've had the time but I haven't done a lot of toy-making when it comes to craft; most of my craft involves household decoration or entertaining table pieces. The thought of making something for Lachlan that he might treasure always sounded appealing but I suppose I never really new where to start or found my inspiration. I am inspired! Ever since our new playgroup, I have been crafting away all of my free time! I've been taking all the techniques I've learned at our weekly playgroups and expanding upon them at home. So far I have felted, sewed and even done some woodwork. I am addicted!

Felt Balls
Thanks to my dear cousin, whose daughter attends a Steiner school in the U.S. I have been exposed to numerous blogs involving Steiner-inspired arts and crafts. It has been a lot of fun reading through them and gaining more motivation to make something special for Lachlan. I first started out making felt balls. I made a small one and then also a larger one with a bell inside that jingles. I have been amazed at how much Lachlan loves these simple felt balls. He has made up his own games with them and we have both had a blast chasing them around the house. Since the are felt, I don't have to worry about anyone getting hurt or anything breaking.

My next project was to make a felt shape from a cookie cutter. This was something very easy and that Lachlan could help me with as well. It was time consuming but we were both pleased with the end result--a steam train! Of course this made my inspiring train engineer very happy as trains are all the talk in our house! I added some detail to the train with a blanket-stitch around the edge.

Sporting his crown

Our little Prince
Earlier this week, I decided to make a crown for Lachlan using some left over felt I had from a Thanksgiving project where I made turkey finger puppets--okay, so I guess I do craft a few kids things now and again...I made this crown not thinking Lachlan would actually wear it as he doesn't typically like to put things on his head; however I was motivated to practice my blanket-stitching and a crown is easy to do. I pulled out some brown felt and stitched it into a crown and dug up some old buttons to act as jewels. To my surprise, Lachlan has just loved this crown! He loves to wear it while playing at home and for the last two nights he has insisted on sleeping with it. A true sleeping beauty, I tell you!

Wooden Sail Boat
At play group my current projects have been a felted fish, heart ornament and most recently completed, a wooden sail boat. Lachlan was particularly excited about the sail boat. He's enjoyed playing with it in the bathtub and also in our pretend ocean that he and I made out of a blue towel spread out on the living room floor. We through in some sea shells, sea animals and our felt fish (of course!). Lachlan also came up with the idea of building a ferry so that his matchbox cars could go across the sea.

Noelle's Doll
Lastly, I have just finished this evening my first doll! I'm very excited because I wanted to buy a similar doll for Lachlan when he was a bub but never did. Now I have hand-made one for baby Noelle who is due in just 3 weeks time. It is a very simple, teething blanket doll; inspired by some blogs I've read and by the Kathe Kruse collection of organic teething dolls which I have been interested in.I was a bit nervous to tackle it, even though it is a simple doll. Sewing is something that I've just been recently doing and I'm not that great but I'm slowly getting the hang of it and with each project I learn something new from my mistakes which makes the next goal I tackle a little bit more successful than the previous.

I hope you enjoy the pics of my latest crafting adventures but most importantly I post them because I hope they will inspire you to make something special for your child. There is no greater gift than watching your little one play with something you made from love. They don't care about the imperfections, they just treasure what was made especially for them from someone they love so dearly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

One with the Animals

I know, I know. It has been a really long time since I've been blogging. I have been tracking Lachie's development as usual- taking the normal 100 photos a week lol! I've been very slack about getting on the computer and putting those thoughts into cyberspace. As you can imagine things have been busy in the house with Lachlan well into his toddler days and his new sister to arrive in less than six weeks. We've been focusing a lot on that transition and making sure our house, Lachlan and mommy and dad are all ready. Exciting days ahead.

I have a lot of catching up to do with this blog but I thought I would start with sharing something simple as my creative juices are a bit stagnant these days due to of mommy brain, baby brain and sleep deprivation: a dangerous concoction. It's amazing how quickly one can go from coming across as a seemingly intelligent and evolved person to a clueless neanderthal. I have found myself scratching my head one too many times looking for something that is so obviously right in front of me!

I suppose since I have been stuck in a bit of 'primitive' thinking mode, it might have lead to the desire to spend a lot of time around those closer to my recent simplistic way of thinking. What could be better than becoming a Zoo Friend! Yes, we did. We bought an annual pass for our city zoo, which is actually run by the conservation society so it is non-profit and all research based; that is something to feel good about- otherwise, nothing makes me feel good about going to the zoo; being the ex-wildlife biologist major I have issues with the majority of zoos but that is not what this blog is about so let's move on to the happy giraffes!

Giraffes. They are the most fascinating animals to Lachlan at the zoo (at the moment). They were actually one of the first animals that he recognised visually as a baby because there was a picture of a giraffe in numerous of his infant cloth books and I always emphasised the giraffe as having a "loooong neck." They really are beautiful and amazing creatures with lovely patches and a unique gait. At the zoo they come up very close to the fence where they feed. It is a nice surprise for Lachlan to catch them during feeding time. We've been to the zoo twice this year and a visit to the giraffe enclosure is a must for Lachie. He insists on it. The idea is for us to go and relax and take ourtime walking around and just see a few parts of the zoo each visit. We do this but we must always rush over to see the giraffes before we leave for the day. Of course the giraffes have to be at the top of the very hilly zoo--but I'm pregnant and need the exercise I suppose so I shouldn't complain.

Wading pool

The zoo is a fun place for children and if it is a good quality zoo which has a focus on educating the public, there will be a lot of opportunities to learn a few things; whether it be hands-on encounters, interactive screens or basic literature posted. Be sure to read this information and interpret it back to your child in a way that they can understand. Use the excursion as a way for them to also make connections; such as: "look at the giraffes. they are the same as in your story book" or " the platypus has a bill and webbed fit like a duck but it has fur instead of feathers!" All of this exciting information allows them to piece their surrounding together and to think about what they are hearing and seeing. Before you know it your child will be asking "why?" You might not know the answer which is okay. Be honest. If you don't know why a platypus has fur say so. Encourage more problem-solving skills for your child by using provocation. "I don't know why. How do you think we could find out?" Your child might respond with numerous answers: maybe there is a sign, we could ask the zoo keeper, look on the internet, go to the library, ask daddy, etc. Asking your child how to go about getting answers is an excellent way to assist them in problem-solving an invaluable component to not only cognitive development but also emotional intelligence.

I'm wet! Now what?
One thing that we never do in our house is to 'leave learning' at the place of origin. Your child of course has learned something and will carry that with him; the best gift of all. As parents, it is important that we help them expand on what they have learned for the day; especially if they show an interest. Lachlan loves animals so it is obvious for us that when we get home we will discuss more about the animals that we saw, particularly the ones that we couldn't pull him away from. Our last trip to the zoo, it was the giraffes, zebras and the leopard seal. When we got home I asked him if he'd like to look at some pictures of what we saw today. He was very eager. Now this is where all those zoo handouts you would normally chuck in the recycle bin come in handy. Save them and cut out the animals to make a collage. Let your child practice cutting if he is able or  he can try tearing around the animal. If he needs help then assist him. Talk about the animals; what sounds they make, their features and where they live. Glue them onto a piece of paper. If your child likes to work with letters like Lachlan, find the words of the animals or letters that begin with the animals' names and glue them on the paper as well. When completed let your child hang up the collage in the house where he can refer back to it for reference. We had our collage up for about two weeks, where Lachlan continually pointed to the animals and shared a thought.

Jungle Scene
I Spy the letter C!
Another animal idea...Last week my brother-in-law got married and we were sent home with a huge floral table arrangement which had various tropical leaves. Before I throw anything out I always look at it and think about what I could use to integrate into Lachlan's day. I came up with the idea of making a jungle scene for Lachie using the leaves. I grabbed a tray for easy portability, stuck the stems of the leaves and branches into some play dough and created a little jungle. I grabbed some of Lachlan's animals, called him over and he was delighted at what he saw. Right away he began walking his animals through the trees. He even made the giraffe, frog and zebra much on the leaves. Eventually he told me that they needed water. I asked him what we could make water with? We opened our art cabinet and found some scraps of blue paper, placed them in a lid and created a water hole; just like the one in so many of his favourite African story books. We had more of a jungle going on with 'savannah' animals but who cares? It is a time for imagination not specifics; speaking of which, our jungle eventually ended up with a choo-choo train, a boom gate and the letter 'C' which Lachlan created out of a red pipe cleaner. He had fun on and off for about a day and a half with the scene; adding new components.

So always think twice before you toss something--I always say the best things for your children are in your recycling bin! I'll try to post more soon and definitely something about my little man's birthday as he is two years old today! Where does the time go? We had an exciting time yesterday on the ferry and train and woke up this morning a few gifts and a special breakfast. We'll look forward to doing more fun things after naptime and sharing a birthday brunch party with family this coming weekend.