Monday, December 21, 2009

Sugared Cranberries: A (Semi) Healthy Holiday Treat

I went in search of a Christmas treat that we could make that wouldn't be completely devoid of nutritional value. I came up with something kind of fun! Sugared cranberries are full of vitamin C, good for urinary tract health, have fewer calories per serving than most Christmas treats- AND they're tasty and festive!

The recipe is from Cooking Light, but I would add that whereas they say to remove the sugar syrup from heat before one adds the cranberries, I found that one should leave the cranberries on the heat for a couple minutes so that they will soften enough to absorb sugar.

Have you found any good, healthy holiday treats? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wooden Puzzle Science Lesson

Here's a new twist on putting together wooden puzzles with your toddler. I've discovered lately that it can be a fun opportunity for teaching science facts about animals.

As I take each animal out of the ziploc bag I say (for example), "This animal eats bugs; It's a ____"

"Frog," M answers as she takes the puzzle piece and puts it in the correct place.

Once all of the pieces are placed, I ask, "Can you hand me the animal that eats bugs?" She gives me the frog, and so on and so forth until all of the pieces are put away.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rainy Day Pillow Jump

My 2 year old asks to do this about 3 times a day. It's great for using up extra childish energy when the day is too wet or rainy to go outside.

I pile all of our downstairs pillows, cushions, and blankets around the floor below our big arm chair, clear the coffee table out of the way and let M jump off and climb up over and over until she is spent and ready for a nap. She likes it when I say, "One, two three...jump!" or when I tell a little story like "The man jumps out of the plane- and one, two, three! Down into the clouds!"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Our Family's Advent Tradition

Last year was the first time for this Advent tradition in our family. It is basically an expansion of the traditional advent wreath; instead of lighting five candles we light one for each night. Before the candle is lit we read two passages of Scripture together- one from the Old Testament that foreshadows the coming of Christ in some way, and another from the New Testament that highlights how it was fulfilled in Him. We talk about the significance together and then with candles lit and lights out we sing a Christmas carol or hymn about that aspect of Christ's coming.

Coming up with the Scripture passages was really a great Bible Study for Ryan and me. It also has really helped me to think more deeply about the meanings of Christmas carols. The log itself was made by my father. Isn't it beautiful?
It was made it out of a poplar tree that he cut down in our woods. He flattened the log, and then drilled holes in the top for the candles.

We would like to build on this tradition by coming up with corresponding symbols for each night and doing something hands-on with our children with those images, but we haven't worked out the details yet.

I would love to hear about ways that you help capture the anticipation of Christ's coming with your family. Please feel free to share!

Baby Initiated Peek-a-Boo

Playing a game with a newborn is a little tricky, but being a game-loving family, we try our best. Here is something my husband came up with for M when she was a baby that we do now with Baby G.

When the baby is sitting in her bouncy chair, my husband tosses a baby blanket over her head. She, of course, has a pretty constant flailing of arms, and soon the blanket falls down from her face. We exclaim peek-a-boo, and usually earn a big smile- sometimes giggles. I don't imagine there's any connection at all right now in Baby G's mind between her arm flailing and the peek-a-boo, but I remember that with M, it really seemed that over time she grasped that there was a cause and effect involved.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wrapping Paper Fun

For her Daddy's birthday, I wrapped M's present to him with white wrapping paper and then let her decorate it with foam stickers. When she was done, we tied it up with a nice satin ribbon.

Having decorated it herself made it more fun for her when he opened it, and it even looked (half-way) decorative. I'm thinking about doing something similar with red and green stickers for Christmas.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Homemade Opposites Game

This game was actually more fun to make than to play. For M, learning about opposites has coincided with the beginning of a burning curiosity to see the pictures that I take of her on the digital camera. So, one day I decided it would be fun to have M act out some of the opposites that she is learning while I take pictures.

I printed those pictures cheaply on our printer, labeled them, stuck each one back to back with its pair and covered the cards with packing tape (acts like laminate).

Some of the opposites that we found were easy to capture in pictures were:

on/ off
empty/ full
happy/ sad
apart/ together
up/ down

To play the game, I place one card face up in front of M and ask her, "What is the opposite of ____" When she answers, I say, "Turn it over to see if you're right." Then she takes a turn showing the cards to me and asking me for answers.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Child's Art Display Frame

If you have any one with young children on your Christmas list this year you might consider getting them something that my mother in law bought us this year that we really like (it came in the mail, and we accidentally opened it early- oops!)

It's a picture frame cabinet that swings open so that you can easily press your child's artwork in place and quickly close the door. (It takes all of 3 seconds) There is a spring mechanism that allows you to push as many as 50 pages in before you take them all out and start again fresh. It works great! I really recommend it!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Nature Banner- Year Two

Last year around Thanksgiving time, M and I made a thank- you banner to the Lord out of items we had found in nature. We really enjoyed the activity, but I remember saying at the time that I didn't know whether or not we would continue it as a family tradition.

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that shortly after Thanksgiving last year our family had a fire that wiped out just about everything in our apartment. The Thanksgiving banner was singed, but was still on the wall when we walked through our burned apartment for the first time. It became a powerful symbol to us of God's goodness through difficulty.When Thanksgiving rolled around this year there was hardly a question in my mind about whether or not we would do the banner. The year has brought so much to be thankful for, and I love the potential the banner has for drawing our attention to both the continuity and changes in our family history.
This year it wasn't just M and I collecting bits and pieces from nature, but little baby G was with us too! And instead of taping the words onto a rented apartment wall, we put them in the living room of a home that is our very own. In the space of one year so much has changed, but God's grace to us has been very constant!

(I don't know if you can see it or not, but several letters are made out of some very beautiful blue bird's feathers that we found in the park as we were hunting for nature materials- it was a very fun find!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Alphabet Block Spelling

I'm sure mothers have been doing this activity for a hundred years, but it just now occurred to me. M loves alphabet puzzles, and sometimes I wish we had more of them for variety sake. The other day, though, I realized that her wooden alphabet blocks could be used in much the same way.

I gathered some blank paper and a pen and wrote out a variety of letters on a page, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Then I found blocks with letters that matched and had M place them in the correct places.
Next, we decided that rather than random letter placement, we would spell words (starting with M's name, of course). M seemed to feel very grown up to be able to make her own name, and the names of each of her toy animals.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Colorful Scratch Craft

My mom recently send M a fun craft in the mail. It was a sheet of cardboard that she had entirely colored with different colored crayons. She then painted over it with black tempera paint.

M's job was to scratch off designs onto the sheet with a spoon, fork, or just her fingernail. Very colorful, fun results!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Toddler Chore: Sorting Silverware

Sorting silverware into the silverware drawer is M's latest contribution to work around the house. She, of course, is tickled to be involved in the process of putting dishes away.

The only problem is, when I teach M a new skill she often wants to do it every time it needs doing. So unfortunately, the times when I'm busiest, and just need to do the tasks myself also become the times I have a frustrated, unhappy toddler on my hands. Do any of you struggle with this problem? Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Homemade Baby Book: Eyes

I have been noticing lately how much G's eyes are drawn to pictures of eyes in books we read together. It has made me think, "Wouldn't it be nice if she had a book full of eyes from people that are significant in her life?"

And since I still have some blank board books left over from the bunch that my mom gave me a while back, I decided to make a book this morning using pictures I printed off of our computer. (I use packing tape to laminate the pictures and attach them to the pages)Each page has the picture of the eyes of one family member and the question, "Whose eyes are these?" along with the answer. G seemed to enjoy looking at the pictures when we read the book this afternoon, and M really enjoyed showing it to her little sister and asking her the questions.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blow-up Mattress Trampoline

After our guests left this past weekend, my husband let some of the air out of the air mattress to create just the right amount of bounce for springing M high in the air. Lots of giggles, let me tell you...but honestly, it was also a smidge dangerous.

We had to make sure there were no sharp, hard objects around the perimeter of the mattress, and even then we had to be careful how high we bounced her- it was really powerful stuff!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Toddlers and Remodelling

Here's M "painting" our dining room walls with water while I painted on the other side of the room with green paint. She LOVED it (and it kept her out of the wet paint)!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Musical Glasses

I don't know about you, but I find that my toddler gets particularly restless around dinner time. Of course, this doesn't work well for making dinner...

Here's something I did one evening that helped keep everyone happy: gathered the glasses that were going to go on the table that night and filled them with water to different levels. I gave M a small metal instrument to ding the cups (along with strict instructions not to touch the water itself) and let her serenade me with "water music" while I worked. Fun!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Favorite Books for Under-Two-Year-Olds

By the time M turned two we had spent a lot of time at the library and had accumulated a lot of books from garage sales and as gifts. This is our list of favorites- the ones that got read over and over and stayed enjoyable to both Mom and Baby. They are listed roughly in order of age-appropriateness.
Babies: Great for it's small size and pictures that capture even a 6 month-old's interest.
Animal Sounds: Any animal sounds book is good, but we especially like this one.
Pat the Bunny: So interactive and sweet!
Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?: Great rhythm and fun sounds. I prefer the board book version; the full version goes on too long for a young toddler's attention span, I think.
Goodnight, Moon: Soothing bedtime classic.
The Foot Book: Again, for young toddlers, I prefer the board book, shortened version.I'm as Quick as a Cricket: Capitalizes on a child's enjoyment of comparing him or herself to different animals. I prefer the full-size version of this one (not the board book which is missing one of our favorite pages)
Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb: Great rhythm!
Where's Spot?: Simple pictures and easy to open flaps. Kids seem to like books about hiding!

Going to Sleep on the Farm: Beautiful pictures, especially showing the interaction between a father and his son; simple, lulling words.

Does a Cow Say Boo?: Wonderfully fun book for kids who know their animal sounds and are ready to enjoy a spot of mischief.
How Do Dinasaurs Say Good-night?: The other books in this series are fun too.

Green Hat, Blue Hat: Capitalizes on kids' enjoyment of wearing clothes on the wrong body parts.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Wonderful, suspenseful classic written for older kids, but also enjoyable for young toddlers
So...those are our favorites. I'd love to discover other good books for this age range by hearing your recommendations!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One Trick for Toddler Educational Activities

I don't know about you, but when I'm working with my toddler on learning games I occasionally run into one of two problems:

1. Sometimes she will be afraid to answer because she is apprehensive that she will get the answer wrong (not that I ever punish her or try to make her feel badly- just seems to happen sometimes)

2. Other times she is feeling silly and gets a kick out of purposefully giving the wrong answer.

I don't want to push the learning games too much when she's really not in the mood for them, but occasionally I persevere using a trick I've found to work amazingly well. Instead of playing the game with M, I will ask her to bring her doll over to me and I will play the game with the doll while M holds her and moves her hand to point to the correct answers.

This trick seems to completely eliminate any fear-inducing pressure to get the answer right when the game is difficult (after all, it's the dolly getting the wrong answer-- so nothing personal :-) If I suspect that the game is maybe a little too easy, I'll ask M to teach the dolly the information (or her baby sister if she's awake and nearby) which usually sobers her up and eliminates silliness.

So far, this approach has been almost entirely successful. I'm sure that the novelty will wear off sometime though; do any of you have any other tricks to suggest for helping toddlers with learning games?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Great Daddy-Toddler Toy: Measuring Tape

I was really surprised this past Saturday morning to see how much enjoyment my husband and M got out of exploring a measuring tape together- well over a half of an hour! M had fun pulling it across the room and watching it as it zipped closed.

Fun with Newspaper Inserts

A couple of weeks ago I bought three Sunday newspapers because I knew that the coupons that week were going to be worthwhile. Here are some things M and I did with all those extra glossy ads we had around the house as a result.

Swimming: we spread them all over the playroom floor and pretended we were in a swimming pool of newspapers.Crumpled paper war: we grabbed hand fulls of papers and tossed them at eachother."Falling Leaves:" Using a chair I piled as many papers on top of the ceiling fan as I could and then turned on the fan. M had so much fun standing under the papers that were billowing down that she wanted her little sister to get in on the fun too. At her suggestion, we moved G's bouncy chair under the fan, and we all enjoyed the shower!

It's Playtime!