Sunday, July 31, 2011

Exploring Light

So today was an excitng one for me because I got to drag out all my science materials as I am prepping to teach a workshop. One component of the training is to introduce to teachers numerous ways that they can allow children to explore light. I dug through my office to find my light box and other materials. I also took a nice trip to our local dollar shop to see what else I could add. Then, I called Lachlan to the room and that is where the fun began...

For this exploration, you need a light box or you can make on yourself if you have an old table, a light and some opaque perspex. The media for this is endless, but your goal is to find things that are translucent/transparent. A must is the primary colors: yellow, red, blue. Then add in whatever fun objects you find of varying colours. Here is a peek into our material box:

You can see in the pictures that we have a nice collection of beads, buttons, glass decorative rocks, marbles, glow insects, neon shot glasses, rainbow blocks and various 'cellopane plates' which I made out of using round needlepoint wooden frames and covering them with cellophane. These are in the primary colours so children can stack them to make different colours. Other items we have on hand that are not pictured are plastic coloured storage lids which do the same as the cello plates.

Once everything is gathered, let your child go to it! Just remember to supervise if you have small objects such as beads or marbles as they can be choking hazards. If you don't trust your child, they aren't ready for this media so best to eliminate it. There are pleny of other things you can use, be creative!

There is just something magical when ordinary things are placed on light or "the sunny shining spot" as Lachlan likes to call it. The objects just seem to come to life with their glow.

Transparent coloured scales make a nice effect and of course, Lachlan saw that they were fit to be steam engine tenders (where the coal is loaded) and the glass rocks: coal. Everything is seen as a 'train' possibility to this kid!

Putting a mirror in the background adds another dimension: makes the space look larger, the objects and light reflect from it and children get to watch how the movements of their hands are mirrored.

So this was all just a nice preliminary intro to our light box. I was busy with my wee one while Lachlan was exploring so I didn't have time to do much provocation or expanding on his ideas. We'll bring more resources out either tomorrow or when we get back from our vacation and we'll be sure to post it; but you get the idea so start planing some light fun today and share with us! Until next time, Happy exploring!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Wear an 'S' on My Chest

Supermom. Of course, I'm a supermom; but so are you! If you wake up every day even when you would like another hour of sleep, you are a supermom. If you know how to turn a blanket into a fort, a cape, a nice place for a teddy bears' picnic then you are a supermom. You are a super mom because no matter how tired, frustrated and impatient you may be you still manage to get a smile out of your children and dinner on the table.

The best thing about being a supermom is your modesty. People will ask you how on earth you do it and you simply say, "I don't know. I just do. Don't we all?" Right now you might be asking yourself the question: "Am I a supermom?" Of course you are! If you can relate to any of the following you are definitley a supermom:

You are a supermom because you now claim the shower and toilet as your Fortress of Solitude and even they get invaded by the wee ones. And when the same little wee ones fall and get hurt, your super kiss on a grazed knee makes everything better. You are a super mom if you've ever found yourself cooking, breastfeeding and talking on the phone at the same time; and all of these feel quite normal to you. You know just how your child's dinner should be served: the shape, size and colour of sippy cup he'll want. Your super reflexes have saved said cup numerous times from plummeting to a watery grave on the kitchen floor.

You are a super mom because baby drool has become your new hair gel and diaper ointment your new face cream. You can change your toddler's nappy when he is standing, sitting, upside down or in a full run. Your super speed gets him every time. A super mom knows the difference between a number 1, a number 2 and the horrifying number 3!

Supermoms are 'in the know.' We know the difference between a ninkee nonk and a pinkee ponk. We manage to keep our sanity after listening to the same song 100 times over and over and over again and when our precious tot asks so sweetly, "one more time" we press play, again and shout along with the music.

Supermoms always help other super moms in need. It might be as big as watching their wee ones while they take a secret mission to the shops or as small as an exchange of a reassuring "been there" glance when they see their child's tantrum. Super moms also work great in numbers. Get them all together at a playground or birthday party and they will get everything ship shape, when it is time to wrap up the event.

You are a supermom because you aren't afraid of a challenge. You tackle Mount Washmore in your laundry room and mystery stains on your carpet. You can whip up a meal in a jiffy, using limited ingredients if need be and you can't remember the last time you ate a hot meal or in one sitting.

Supermoms are just that--super! And although they don't need anyone to tell them how great they are, it is always nice for them to have a reminder. These moms put their family first, don't think twice about it and ask for little in return; except a goodnight kiss and snuggle and perhaps the occasional footrub.

You are super because underneath that shirt of yours you wear an 'S' on your chest and you don't even know it. Heck, sometimes you don't even think you deserve it, but I'll tell you, you do. Sometimes your partner might not even acknowledge it or you may have a hard time seeing it, but trust me. It is there. It always is. Of course somedays are better than the other. Sometimes it seems like their is kryptonite hidden somewhere and you might feel like throwing in the towel because you've had enough--your powers are weakening. It is nothing a little cat nap or smile from your child can't fix. Your super strengths allow you to heal quickly- before your child can even say, "more milk, please?" you'll be on your 'A' game again.

So don't despair and have no fear. Your super strengths are with you. You are great at what you do. You are a supermom, yes; but you are also so much more. You are you and that's the best super strength of them all. So wear your 'S' proudly and let your cape blow in the wind. I know who you are and I am proud of you!

Noelle Mountain

Anyone who is a parent of more than one child knows it can be a bit tough juggling their attention between the two; especially if you have a child who is eager to share his every accomplishment. Lachlan is a great big brother but he certainly can have his moments when he doesn't want his sister be involved in anything. This is a part of the adaption process when you are no longer the only child; sharing affections and objects with others can seem 'not so fun.'

A few weeks ago we had a week or two straight were Lachlan just didn't want Noelle next to us when we were playing together. She of course is a baby and likes stimulation and interaction, after all she is human! I always have her sitting in her bouncy seat or plopped ever so snuggly in our bean bag chair so she can hear and watch us play. I always look at her and ask her questions when role playing just as I do with Lachlan. Noelle is a happy baby and will never disappoint-she always gives a smile and giggle back.

The other day I made the mistake of showing Noelle a train while Lachlan and I were playing. He did not like this. These are his trains, of course, not some slobbery baby's! I explained to him not to worry. She's just looking at it, she's too little to ply with his toys...yet! Well, to Lachlan, simply looking at the train was unacceptable. I obeyed his request as I didn't want a jealous rage to begin and Noelle, certainly cared none the less. This reaction went on for a week and finally I decided we are going to make Noelle a positive association when it comes to play, not a negative one. If I can convince him that Noelle has something to offer by being around, he'll be more likely to accept it. So you might be asking, "what does a drooly, baby that sits around like a sack of potatoes have to offer?" Well, I'll tell you...

So Lachlan and I being playing trains as usual. He's 'Lady' and I am 'Rosie.' (from the Thomas and Friends collection, just in case you aren't in the steamie groove). Noelle is sitting quietly on the bean bag chair and all is good. She's being her sweet and most gassy self as usual...Just smiling away (probably the gas...) I ask Lachlan, I mean 'Lady' where we should go today? He says to the zoo. So to the zoo we chug. "Chug Chug Chug" we go merrily along. "Oh, wait! What is this?" I ask. Lachlan looks at me in anticipation of what is to come. 'Rosie' approached the bean bag chair and Noelle. "Why it is a mountain!" Lachlan likes this. "It is Noelle mountain!" I exclaim. "Shall we go up it?" Lachlan replies with an "oh, yes, mommy!"

So up, up we go. Up Noelle mountain. We reach the top above Noelle's head. "What do you see down there?" Lachlan says, "O-elle!"
"That's right! Noelle! A giant baby!!" Lachlan laughs in excitement. I ask if we should drive out trains down to talk to this massive baby in the middle of the mountain. He is very keen. We drive halfway down next to Noelle's shoulder.

"Hi baby!" I say. "We like your mountain! Would you like something?" I ask Lachlan what we could give this big baby. He suggestes some apples so off we chug down the mountain to get some pretend apples and make our journey back up to Noelle.

"Here O-elle!" says Lachlan as he gives her some pretend apples. "Want some water, too?" he asks. "I think she does," I reply and down the mountain we go again.

This continued for almost an hour. I was so pleased to seem him being a willing participant in a play session with his sister. Of course, he thought it was all about him as toddlers do, but makes no difference! Now every day Lachlan asks me if we can go up Noelle mountain. Not only does he bring her pretend food, he's begun bringing her a teether as well when she's upset (she has two little teeth popping up!)

All it takes is some creative thinking and positive associations and you can foster a great sibling relationship. It also takes time. For some, a lot of time, but they'll get there. Rome wasn't built in a day they say and for some children, a good relationship isn't either. Patience, patience! :)

And from the ground, grew a seed...

A happy moment for our little Lachlan. On day 14 of our seed planting we had a wonderful surprise...

It was a rainy and misty morning so Lachlan and I put on our gumboots and opened the front door to check on his pot. Like every other morning, he rushed over to the pot hoping the fruits of his labour would have sprouted. Tpday he leaned over to catch a glimpse and he was silent for a moment. I big smile filled up us face and then he finally said, "Woooooooooo!" and clasped his hands together in excitement.

"What is it?" I asked. "It's a fow-er, mommy!" He began pointing to the sky. "It gonna grow up big and tall like a twee!" He continued to ramble on with so much excitement I only caught few words; something about watering it and high as the sky. Now that his pea seedling is a real tangible thing, I'm sure he was envisioning it growing up to the clouds; perhaps to climb and find treasures galore and battle giants. The rain began up again so we had to go inside. Lachlan continued to talk about his seedling an occasionally ran to the front widow to look at it (the reason it is growing in the front of the house in a pot and not in our veggie garden. He can sit and look at it from this spot whenever he'd like)

So we'll keep on keepin' track of the seedling. Only one of the four up thus far. I'm thankful for the one. Lachlan was drowning the poor things with water I thought they'd never sprout! I was already thinking of way to secretly swap out the duds with a dummy! Thankfully it didn't come to that because if I had to I would. After all, a mommy's got to do what a mommy's got to do!

From Little Things, Big Things Grow

Winter. Winter in Australia is lovely. On a sunny day we can go outside and not worry about chasing around our toddler trying to keep his hat on. We don't need sunscreen and we can stay outside as long as we want without feeling like we are going to melt.I love it. So far, this seems to be one of the warmest winters we have had since I've lived here. (knock on wood! We're only in the third week or so...)I do remember my first winter here: my husband and I just moved into our house, were sleeping on an air mattress with no heat and woke up to frost and icy windows. We soon found out it was a record low. So far that hasn't been the case, it has been great weather to explore the outdoors.

We try to take advantage of the sunny days as much as we can in our house. I can not stand being cooped up inside. Something I thank my mother for because she always made us play outside on days when it wasn't rainy or too cold. I later realised this was to keep the house clean. Something I didn't appreciate as a child, but with two little ones of my own, I totally understand and they haven't even reached the age of inviting friends over yet! I can definitley add "maid" to my resume.

We've been spending a lot of time at the zoo or finding an orchard or farm somewhere to visit. Last weekend we went mandarin picking for the second time this year. Although, Lachlan says he doesn't like mandarins, he certainly enjoys the orchard experinece. I always found an orchard to be somewhat magical when I was a child; running along the rows of trees, weaving through low branches trying to get lost in hopes that you could be smart and brave enough to find your way back. An orchard appeals to the senses as well: sweet smells and tastes, soft grass, smooth leaves, the sounds of birds singing and pruning shears clicking; followed by a soft thud as the fruit joins the others in the bucket. Oh, how I love a day at an orchard!

Lachlan found his magic in the tree ladders. He'd climb to the top platform and look at the tree in search for the perfect mandarin to pick. Once he'd find it we would hear "this one, Daddy!" My darling husband, no matter how far away or how high up a ladder he was would stop what he was doing to clip that perfect mandarin for Lachlan.

I wasn't much help in the orchard this time around. I was carrying our 12 week old so I merely supervised and most importantly tested a mandarin from each tree to ensure its sweetness. Sometimes I wasn't quite sure and did a second run just to be certain--very important and tedious business, I tell you. What ever would the boys have done without my tasting expertise?

I particularly enjoyed Lachlan helping his daddy out. They have that special father-son bond that any parent would hope for. He loves his dad and likes to mimic him; such an important process in the developing child. Sentimental me tried to capture every moment I could with the camera hoping that the feeling would forever live in the photo;sometimes a photo is truely worth a thousand words.

After our mandarin picking adventures, Lachlan became more interested in seeds and how things grow. I always cut an apple for him crosswise so he can see the little star that lives inside. This week, Lachlan wanted to keep the seeds and asked if we could plant them. It was late at night so I told him we could in the morning. He gripped the seeds so tight in his hand and keep them safe and warm. He even slept with them that evening. In the morning we went headed out to the garage to find a pot and some soil to plant his seeds. During this process, Lachlan dropped his seeds somewhere never to be found. He was very disappointed and of course there had to be no more apples in the house to replace them! I promised him he could plant seeds and I wasn't going to break it. I went in the house and dug through my seed drawer to see what I could find. I took the whole drawer out for Lachlan to pick something. While he was doing this he discovered the labeling stakes and decided to created design with those as well.

Lachlan in the end decided to plant some sugar snap peas. You can tell by the pictures he was very involved every step of the way. In fact he did all the labour. I only guided him by asking questions to see if he knoew what to do next. I always beleive in speaking in developmentally appropriate detail to children.Sometimes we 'dumb down' our talk thinking they won't understand; however children are very capable of understanding more than we think. How else will the make connections to the world unless we provoke thought through conversation. Our process went something like this:

First, we find a pot and soil and discuss that we are preparing a nice little bed to plant our seeds in...
Next pick out the perfect seeds. We talk about how inside of each seed there is a tiny little baby seeding waiting to come out. All it needs is some love from us which we give with a sunny spot and some water...
We then space our seeds out in the pot, explaining that they all need their own bit of room to grow; just like us. When the baby seedlings wake they'll want to stretch their little root legs and feet and will need some space...
Each seed gets pushed into the ground to make sure that it is warm and snug in a blanket of dirt...
Next we get our watering can and some water from the tap. If it doesn't rain the plants will need us to give them a nice drink...
Lastly we give the seedlings a nice long drink to help them get a good start in life. Growing is thirsty business!
We also write a name label for the peas so we won't forget what they are and so they'll know who they are when the pop up into the world!
Finally, the thoughest part--we watch and wait and wait...

As stated in other blogs of mine, provocation is so important for the learning process; asking questions to expand on what children already know is very helpful to their cognitive/problem-solving skills. Lachlan did really well coming up with the answers. He knew a lot more about gardening then I would have given him credit for. I suppose he pays attention to hubby and me in the veggie patch after all. Either way I hope he has a little green thumb. Time will tell! Why not try planting a seed with your little one. It is a great first lesson of life, the responsibilty of caring for something and even teaches children about death. I'm just hoping our little peas make it to the seedling stage first, as Lachlan is watering the heck out of it! Peas are a great plant to grow with children though as their germination is only 7-10 days. It is a relatively short length of time, though for a child it can seem like an eternity. Lachlan's immediatley began staring at his pot, and staring and staring and waiting and waiting. Guess I'll go wait with him. Until next time, Happy gardening!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chalk City

It is a perfect sunny day: not too sunny, not too cold. A jeans a jumper kind of day. What do you do you might ask? Well, normally I would say go for a nature walk or catch a train for an outing in the city. But on this particular day, our baby girl was sleeping, dad took our car to get serviced so Lachlan and I were stuck at home.
Being the clever little lady that I am, I asked Lachlan if we could bring the city to us. "Oh yeah!" he said ever so excitedly. "How might we do that?" I probed him. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "How about we use this chalk?" The wheels began turning in his head at this point. "We draw a city, mommy!"...and so we did. I asked Lachlan what our city needed: a Woolies (our local supermarket),hospital,police and fire stations,school, park (with a slide and sandbox, of course) and most importantly a train station. How could Lachlan live in any city without a train station?! I added a church and some additional houses.

So there on our driveway we drew what would be hours of fun. We both crawled back and forth on the concrete moving our cars around on the road that we both ended up with holes on the knees of our pants. I asked Lachlan where we should drive to next in our town and as we arrived to our destinations we realised we had no where to park. This is the best thing about a chalk city, you just draw as you go! We added parking spots and trees where we thought trees should go. When we came to railway tracks, Lachlan said we needed boomgates so we drew some too. Before you knew it we had a very busy town complete with a zoo and skyway or sky "train" as Lachlan likes to call it. The next best thing about a chalk city is that it is cheap! Got a driveway or sidewalk? Yes, you say? well then you are halfway there! Find a piece of chalk and a few cars and you are all set. If your child is deprived of toy cars then grab a couple of rocks or sticks and pretend those are cars. Use your imagination and have fun!