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a question and a true story

September 16, 2009

This morning I had both children in the Dreaded Supercenter, buying a few things that just could not wait until after bedtime, when I could go alone.  I had found a spare key with a flashlight attached, and Asher was playing with it in the bag of the cart, while Silas was strapped into the front (though the straps are merely a suggestion for Silas, who is completely capable of standing up in the cart while strapped in).  Anyway, I am slowly stacking groceries around Asher, trying to put the sturdiest items closest to him and the more fragile items further back.  At one point I saw him staring at the produce, key in hand, and I actually heard myself say, “Asher do NOT crank the bell pepper.”  The things you never expect to say in a day …

Which brings me to my question:  Asher has reached the age where he loves silliness and incongruence.  He loves to sing “Old McDonald had a …. octopus!” and then crack up.  I would love to do some games/ rhymes with him that really played up this aspect of toddler humor, but I can’t think of any.  Any suggestions?

We are working on a transportation theme this month, mostly because transportation is the big thing in our house right now.  Trains, racecars, and dump trucks – that’s all Asher cares about.  Even little Silas, who is not quite fifteen months old, likes to push cars and trucks around and say “beep beep.”   So I knew cars would be a big hit.

I’ve been researching transportation crafts this evening, and unfortunately we’ve already used many of their ideas in the past.  Please, send your transportation ideas my way.

I also think we’re going to make a trip out to my brother-in-law’s family trucking business sometime this month.  They are closed on Sundays, and he has offered to let Asher poke around one Sunday afternoon.  I cannot imagine a more exciting afternoon for Asher and Silas than one full of eighteen wheelers.

the truth?

September 15, 2009

A friend emailed me today and asked, “Have you given up on your activities blog?”

Here’s the thing: I am self-conscious about talking about things I am doing with my kids all the time, because it feels like a half-truth.  Yes, we paint and cook and explore together.  But I also deal with temper tantrums.  And turn on the television more than I would care to admit.  And get distracted in mid-sentence, so that my children are left meandering about, looking for what they may devour, while I’m trying to remember what else I needed for the diaper bag.  I’m a regular mom, just like everybody else, and it feels as though I’m painting a picture of soothing tones and happy faces all the time.  I wish that were true, but it’s not.

Even so, almost every single good and useful thing I’ve learned about parenting has come from another parent.  Also?  I studied child development, and care more than the average bear about the way children grow, learn, and think.  So I do think a blog that bounces around ideas would be genuinely useful.  Except that every time I start to write here, I get bashful about it.

So we’re going to start fresh.  I’ll tell what we’re doing, and I’ll assume you understand that for every good hour – when my children are engaged and nobody is crashing into their brother with toy airplanes – there has also been a moment at some point that day when I’ve had to take a deep breath and choose to step over a screaming toddler.

Agreed?  Good.  Because it’s time to get caught up on this month’s theme.

more on families

August 21, 2009

This week we painted a tree for our family tree (a family tree for a two year old is really just a tree with pictures of family members taped to it).  But we also had a good conversation about generations, and how our extended family is related to one another (by asking, “Who is Daddy’s brother?”  “Who is Mom’s mom?”  etc.).  The family theme has kept both of our interest for several weeks (which is key!), and seems to be going well.

We also checked out and are reading “What did Mommy do before you?” by Abby Levine.  As we are reading it, though, I have filled in some of their story with more of my own (such as, Mom got a degree and had a career.  I didn’t go straight from high school to marriage to babies, like the book says).  Even so, it is a great starting point for learning more about families and how they are created.

There are two other cute ideas for a family-themed month.  I hope to get to post them (along with the link with their original source) soon.

“my family” book

August 11, 2009

Asher and I made a My Family book today as our first activity for our Family month.  I asked him what he enjoyed doing the most with different members of his family.  Then I wrote the answers down on construction paper, and he decorated them.  He really enjoyed talking about all of his favorite memories with his family, and it will be a fun little book to have as he gets older.  The My Family book was definitely a hit.

mi familia

August 10, 2009

Well, I’m going to try it.  I’m going to attempt to have a theme every month as a focus of our books, outings, and activities.

My family has a skeleton to our day that never changes.  Breakfast, morning activity, lunch, nap, afternoon play, dinner prep, dinner, bath, stories, bed.  All of our families have a somewhat similar flow, I’m sure, because of the needs of small children.  And I have learned that I do not enjoy overplanning my day.  For example, I don’t know what I’ll be doing at 8:00 on Friday morning, and if I did, it would bother me.  But I do NEED a structure for our week – I need to know our time is punctuated by certain predictable activities.  It helps me make the most of my time, and to enjoy the down time we have, knowing when specific needs (for social interaction and maintaining our home) will be met.

So my idea is to have our theme of the month, and to talk about it throughout the month.  I may also plan one or two bigger events around our theme.  But I hope to have several activities related to our theme already prepared, so that when the mood strikes – i.e., when it’s raining outside, or the baby needs a longer nap, or whatever – we are all prepared with ways to interact with one another that are not media dependent.

Because my children will have a new cousin any day now, we have been talking more about families recently.  So our theme for August will be Families.  I’m collecting ideas for activities now, and I’ll post them here soon.  Again, my reason for posting any of this is to share what has worked for us and what hasn’t, as well as to hear things that have worked in your home.  So please, share!  Do you have any book recommendations on books about families?  Any ideas spring to mind as you’re thinking about family themes?  Anything you’ve done in the past that your children really enjoyed?  Anything I should avoid that hasn’t gone well for your family?

Inquiring minds want to know.

August 9, 2009

Okay, so I think this blog would be a great idea, if only I had any activities to offer.  The problem is, I got NOTHING.  I’ve done all of my fun stuff for the past several years with my early intervention kids, and now I’m out of anything novel or new to do.

But I did have an idea for this next school year.  What preschools do is choose a theme (some for the week, some for the month, depending on the school), and then teach within that theme.  I’m thinking about choosing a theme for each month, and then find activities that focus on that theme.  It would give me some direction and some new blood pumping into my used-up plans.  What do you think?

Now the real test will be a. can I follow through all month long? and b. can I follow through all year long?  We’ll see.

Any suggestions on themes?  I’ll let you know what I come up with, and I’ll definitely post any activities or links that I find here to share with you all as well.  What do you think?  Is this a really bad idea to try to do at home?

outdoor freedom

August 4, 2009

Most of the time, when I’m thinking of activities to do with my children, I’m thinking of art or academic activities. I was reminded yesterday that art/academics are really unimportant at my children’s current ages (2 1/2 and 13 months). Really, the only reason we do them at all is that Asher took an interest in them naturally, and I followed his lead into the world of foam letters and finger paints. But if he had shown no interest, it would not have been an indicator of his cognition or social development. In fact, letters aren’t even mentioned on developmental tests for children under three, and writing is only a small fraction of measuring fine motor abilities. At their ages, engagement and the freedom to explore safely are the most important “activities” any of us can do with our children. Encouraging curiosity and conversation creates lifelong learners, and teaching the value of experience over performance is the antidote to our achievement-driven educational system.

Having said that, I am the worst at thinking in terms of goals and accomplishments in my daily life.  I am focusing on being more mindful of valuing the experience above performance. Last week we went “exploring” along a local walking path to find some much-needed physical activity and freedom from the rules of being inside. Loud voices were permitted, jumping in mud puddles was applauded, and touching everything at eye level was preferred. After an hour and a half, my children were calmer, cognitively satiated, and TIRED. My sons loved the freedom, and I loved the chance to just enjoy their company without the demands of keeping them out of the china cabinet.