Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Getting a Little One Involved in the Garden

This year is exciting for us in that it marks the first year of our married life that we've been able to plant a real, in-the-ground- vegetable garden. We're starting out small (25 square feet), but it's already such a source of delight to me! It's been fun getting M involved in the process too. She's not really big enough to hoe or to weed yet, but here are some of the things I have been having her do with me:

- planning (discussing and looking at pictures of the different things we could plant)
- putting the seeds in the ground
- covering them with dirt
- watering/ fertilizing with spray molasses
- harvesting (yes- already! we like to go out before dinner- each with a pair of scissors in hand and a basket to cut chard and spinach for salads)

For a beautiful children's book to accompany gardening adventures, I can't recommend highly enough A Seed is Sleepy by Diana Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. The plant and seed illustrations are large and detailed without being too busy; the words are gently childlike. It's wonderful!

Have you found other ways to involve a little one in your gardening? (or any other good children's garden books?) I'd love to hear about them!

Run 'N Spell

M seems so much happier (and more manageable) when we've been able to include some active activities in our day. My latest attempt in this direction has been "Run n' spell." Here's an example of how we do it:

Me: Run and go touch something in this room.
M: (runs to couch) couch
Me: Ok, M, come on back and we'll see if we can spell it together. c-c-c-ouch. What letter makes the c- sound?
M: C
Me: That's right! Couch starts with C. (as I write it on an index card) c-o-u-c-h. Ok- go give the couch it's name tag.
M: (runs back to couch and puts the card on it)

Despite its simplicity, M really gets a kick out of it!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Strawberry Picking

A couple of years ago our family had a wonderful time at Sweet Berry Farms pumpkin patch. Well, last week the girls and I went again- only this time to pick strawberries!One especially fun thing about the farm where we went was the abundance of animals for the kids to pet and feed after we were done picking strawberries.
To find a farm for strawberry picking near your location, Pick your Own is a good resource.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What Doesn't Belong: The Simple Version

We have been playing a very primitive "What Doesn't Belong?" game during M's school time lately. I draw a row of objects all the same except for one that is different either in color or in shape. Her job is to point out the one that doesn't belong.

Then I fold that row down and do another (it's less confusing when she can only see one row at a time). We do about 5 rows in each sitting. She understands the concept now and enjoys it. Any suggestions for the next level of difficulty?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Edible Playdough

28oz peanut butter
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
6 TB honey

Run powdered milk through a food processor until powdery (I should have done this but didn't- you can see that it made my dough a little grainy). Combine all ingredients. Mix well and knead with hands until workable.

Makes enough for about six kids to have a little to play with and plenty to eat for a snack!

Set out other little snacks to use for decorating (cheerios, raisins, nuts, marshmallows, coconut, pretzel sticks, etc) I also set out a couple of little pots of honey that the kids could use with the pretzel sticks as "glue."

Lots of fun!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mama's Busy Game: Categories

I find that most days there are times when I am busy doing something with my hands, but my mind and mouth are free to interact with my daughters. Sometimes it's nice to just enjoy silence and time to think, but at other times I don't want to waste the moments with M and G.

One game that M and I often play while I'm making dinner is "Categories." I think of a category and we each try to think of examples. I might say, "Let's think of different animals." Then I ask her "Is a lion an animal? Is a chair an animal?", etc. (M really enjoys it when I make ridiculous suggestions!) Then she will do the same thing, and we will go back and forth until we have exhausted the category, and then we will move on to a new one.

This game is, of course, very flexible, educational, and can even help teach morality. One recent category we've explored is "Let's think of good and bad times to be silly."

Can you think of some good categories to explore with a two-year-old? (I may use them for dinner tonight!)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Uppercase/ lower case wheels

I have great hopes for my new little box of brass fasteners. It seems like they could enable a lot of fun creativity. My first project with them was a set of simple wheels for M to turn and practice correctly aligning her capital and lower case letters. It works well and has become a semi regular feature during our school time.

Does anybody else have interesting ideas for things to do with the fasteners?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Homemade Book: See and Say Book

My mother is very good at thinking about M's next logical step in her progress toward reading and making little books geared to help her advance. Her most recent book is especially good in this department.

It is a simple story with events, people, and places especially tailored for M's world. The words in the story are interspersed with pictures so that as I read to her and track where we are with my finger M can supply the words that are illustrated.
Here is a little video of R and M reading the book together.

(Often, my mother and I make books for M using these blank books, but this time my mother just taped pieces of cardboard together- not quite as durable, but it still looked nice!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Review: Island Adventure Water Table and Your Ideas for Summer Fun

It's certainly fun to have a new enticement for little ones to want to spend time outdoors; so when I was recently given the opportunity to review the Island Adventure Water Table made by Little Tikes, I jumped at the chance.

Here are the table's basic features:
- three bellows for the child to push
1. to make a water fountain spurt up
2. to cause a drawbridge to go up over the moat
3. to make the water in the moat circulate and push the toy boat forward

- a small waterwheel that turns when the child pours water into a spout
- a toy car and toy boat

- Probably the best recommendation is that we've had it for weeks, and my daughter still asks to go play with it just about every day. She can play by herself, and play imaginatively and creatively.
- The water wheel works very well and is fascinating to toddlers
- The height is just right for 2-5 year- olds to play standing up

- The bellows for the drawbridge and water circulating in the moat don't work very well at all. In fact, we have yet to succeed in getting the water from the bellows to push the drawbridge up- even once.
- The legs fall off every time every time the table is moved.
Bottom Line: If you are looking to buy something engaging and relatively inexpensive for summer fun, I think this is a good option, but I would suggest maybe letting your kids discover what the moving parts do on their own. If you get them excited ahead of time about the way it is advertised they may be in for a disappointment.

The water table is a fun choice, but I'd also love to hear about other summer toys that your families have bought or made or ideas you've come up with that don't require any props at all!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Pleasant Home

[W]e must get over the idea that we can't decorate by ourselves. Granny's antique rocker, the stool we got at a yardsale, the pillow embroidered by a friend, the stack of baby's books, the sheets of music at the piano, the flowers picked from the garden this morning; these are what give our homes soul and make them pleasant to be in.

Now, I am not here to promote a certain kind of decorating. We all have different likes, opinions, and resources. We put the bowl of fruit on the table because we love the way it lights up when the sun pours in the window. We are God's people. He created light and texture and color for His glory and our delight. The more we delight in his gifts, the more we can please Him. Our homes are the canvases He has given us to paint. Let us paint them with soul, with gospel, and with all our might.

-Nancy Wilson from Praise her in the Gates