About me and my blog

miércoles, 19 de diciembre de 2012

What's new: sense of humor, going extrovert, and new baby

It's been two weeks since baby A joined our family.
During these two weeks a lot has been going on at many levels. I still too feel weak to write a full post but I did want to share the news as well as the fact that M is undergoing great changes. She has suddenly become a big sister and shows interest in the baby specially in his needs. She has also been showing her peculiar sense of humor as of late, changing rhymes, for instance. It is fun to hear her recite "this piggy went to mercadona (local supermarket), this piggy went to Lidl (another supermarket)". The rest of the piggies cried... We have noticed she seems to have outgrown what I thought was her innate shyness. She is very talkative and even answers when someone she hardly know asks her something.
My best intentions of posting about our Advent's activities will remain just intentions, I am afraid. We had planned an activity for each day but we only got to the 5th. I hope we can go back to them next year...

I'd love to hear about you!! Are you in the midst of Christmas preparations?

jueves, 29 de noviembre de 2012

What's new: adverbs everywhere

We've been quite busy doing Christmas related activities and baking as of late. Time goes by real fast and I don't know how much time we have until baby's arrival. I feel it closer these days, but who knows, the due date is Dec., 15th.
The figure of the gingerman has been ever present since I introduced it to M. She likes it so much we have it on a t-shirt, we make gingerbread cookies, use the cookie cutter to play with the play dough, and I have even made a gingerman hand puppet. Unfortunately this photo is the only one to share... I will try to make some pictures of the results of our activities but it turns out that M gets distracted by the camera if I want to photograph her while she is working so I have ended up taking very few pictures. Concentration is something we value highly around here.
We have rushed up our Christmas decorations this year and our house is already filled with toddler's art, just in case M's brother arrives and we don't have time for that. We hung up the Advent's calendar I made last year, made salt dough Christmas decoration painted with glitter, and filled the shelves with Christmasy things. The three finger puppets we got last year (Rulphus, the reindeer, Snowman, and Santa) are among M's favorites.
Hearing M talk is amazing these days. She speaks mostly Catalan, although she addresses me in English with very few exceptions. Most of the time she describes what is happening here, there and everywhere, sometimes mixing events from the past but never forgetting to sprinkle her sentences with adverbs. She has started using frequency adverbs, which is quite fun since they are not exactly "properly" used. When she repeats what she is told, you can get the impression she knows what "yesterday" or "tomorrow" means as in "Clara is coming tomorrow", but other times it is clear that she is adding the adverb just to make the sentence sound better, longer, or the like. She places them in the right position, though. Her use of connectors is also something. She can use the "because" to connect two sentences that have nothing to do one with the other. However, the more she uses it, the closer she gets to the correct use of it.
It is amazing how language is acquired through experience and repetition. In my opinion it is highly valuable to engage in one's children's language acquisition, since the more verbal they are, the less probabilities there are for tantrums.This is just my opinion, I repeat. However, I often see children whose inability to express what they want lead them to throw tantrums. These children's caretakers often can't understand what is going on.
Well, I feel I really need 1) to get some sleep, and 2) to devote some time to writing opinion articles... but for both I need time and I don't know where I am going to get it from...
Good night!!

viernes, 16 de noviembre de 2012

Play dough

M concentrated on decorating the play dough with marbles, pipe cleaners and string
It's been some time now since we first started making our own play dough. At the beginning, about half a year ago, M was not interested at all and the dough would remain in a basket on the shelves until it dried out. However, I decided to give it a go before Halloween and this time it has certainly been a success. We made it for a weekly play date and the other girl enjoyed it very much as well.
Something that has surprised me this time around is that the dough gets better and better the more used it is. M asks to play with it everyday and it has become soft and resilient at the same time that it's kept the cinnamon flavor. We are very happy about the recipe we are using, so I've thought I would share it.
That's the 2 of us making the dough

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of salt
2 tablespoons of oil
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
1 cup of boiling water
food coloring for color
essence, spices, or essential oils for flavor

We mix all the ingredients in this order and then knead until the dough looks all right.
We could make some balls to give as play-date favors out of this batch
This recipe contained a little bit of orange food coloring for color and cinnamon to give it a scent that would evoke the season. Another batch we've made had a little red coloring to make it pink and strawberry scent. My husband pointed out that it really looks like chewing gum and it is true.
With a little bit of black construction paper and a short piece of green pipe cleaner, we turned one of the balls into a small Halloween pumpkin for decoration. But this is of course an activity for older children...

miércoles, 14 de noviembre de 2012

Rainbow activities

Colors were the first topic we worked on when we started this school year. After some activities that reinforced the notions of basic colors M already had, I decided to widen the scope to secondary colors and what better than the rainbow to work on seven colors?
The first activity I left next to the window just as a suggestion was a foam rainbow together with a bowl of water. M knew well that those foam pieces stick to the glass if soaked in water and the moment she saw the invitation, she set to work. Once she had been working for a while, I took the opportunity to review the colors with her and sing the rainbow song a couple of times. 
Foam rainbow and a bowl full of water
It took M less than a week to learn these seven colors, after all only four of them were more or less new but it made 14 words, since she learned them both in English and Catalan. 
Among the rainbow activities featured also our home-made crayons, which were quite used for a while.
Something else we made was a painted rainbow to use for matching activities and these have engaged her several times since we made them around the second week of September for the first time. Had I been thinking of posting this, I would have used tempera or acrylic paint but since I thought it would be an activity for a while I used crayons. It would have looked neater...

M matching painted clothes pegs to the rainbow

Matching colored feathers to the rainbow

martes, 13 de noviembre de 2012

Home-made watercolors

M really likes painting, coloring, and experimenting with paint, so the other day I set up an activity that cost me close to nothing and that turned out really successful. 
We made home-made watercolors. We had never tried it before and it was really simple. First, I gave M a dropper full of water and a plastic egg box. She experimented with the dropper a little bit, then accepted my help. We would otherwise have had way too much water in each hole.
We then added a little bit of cinnamon, orange and green food coloring, turmeric, and curry, and we had nice watercolors to paint with!

Do you have any favorite home-made paint recipes or painting ideas? I would really like to hear!!

lunes, 12 de noviembre de 2012

Button snake

I had never shared a video before and I don't think I will do it often, but this time I've considered it the clearest way of showing our latest creation.
I was inspired by Counting coconuts to make this button snake, and well, it was actually my mother who helped me with the sewing. Well, she has more time than I do and is much better and faster with the needle. It was not our first button activity but it was more age appropriate than the one I made before. I had not planned to introduce the button snake to M yet but the other day, while moving some boxes, the snake fell to the floor and I thought "why not" present it on a tray, just as an invitation to play.
The button snake is a nice invitation to learn buttoning and it turned out to be a real hit. Not only did M get the button through the buttonhole but she spent considerable time in a state of concentration that I love to observe. She enjoyed the activity so much that we took it to the car, where it is always a bit difficult to find interesting things that she can do while seating.
The snake is really easy to make. You only need a string of cloth that you can cut out from remnants, a button -I chose a big one, like the ones winter coats usually have-, several squares with a button hole in the middle -I used felt for those- and you have the toy. Simple, cheap, and nice. And a nice way to learn how to button up.

martes, 6 de noviembre de 2012

What's new: nursing teddies

Halloween came and went and although we had done some related activities, namely pumpkin play dough with cinnamon flavor, small pumpkin boxes recycling egg cartons, and a pumpkin costume, I now realize I took pictures of none of these activities. There is here a tradition called "castanyada", where people gather to eat toasted chestnuts and small cookies called "panallets" and that's what we celebrated in the end. My husband and M made panallets and we invited some friends over for the weekend. The girls were very excited to spend together longer time than is usual.
My dear girl turned 22 months on the 22nd of October and I can tell she has really grown in maturity lately. She is able to express much of her feelings and I think this enables her to feel more at ease and confident about life in general. Not that she is suddenly a bold girl, but she dares to talk to some people and yesterday, for instance, in the supermarket she greeted an unknown boy with a "hello boy" after they had stared at each other for some seconds. And even when she has been shy and silent in a situation, she is able to relate it with humor, as if she had been chatting and taking part of it. This really amazes me.
She has started talking to herself a lot as of late and it is not strange to hear her up and down the house describing what she is doing or what she is going to do, or talking to her teddy. Today I have heard her asking the teddy if he wanted some milk. He must have answered positively because she has proceeded to nurse him and afterwards she has asked him if he wanted to get some sleep. This nursing teddies is something new. Although "we" weaned when she was 17 months, we have never stopped talking about how there will be milk when the baby is born, and she has seen in many instances friends of hers or babies nursing. I love how she incorporates nursing as one more natural aspect of life.
In terms of language, her structures are getting more and more complex and she can now relate quite long sentences with connectors. I find it really funny, though, that despite using "because" apparently well, the sentences she connects often have nothing to do with one another. Another amusing mistake occurs sometimes now that she has incorporated the verb to be in simple sentences as well as in the present continuous/progressive form. Thus, she often says things like "are you cold", to express that she is cold. I love it because while you can see that she is learning to speak really fast, the way she uses language is a very clever imitation of what she hears. It is amazing that children who start talking under the age of 2 or so often invert the personal pronouns. My husband mocks us 'cause some mornings our conversations sound a bit crazy with M saying "good morning Marina" and me answering "good morning mama". It is also incredible how fast she grasps all she hears and this reminds me we have to be extra careful in the way we say things. This evening she was telling me "the baby is kicking me". She must have heard me saying this some time and it has made me think I should speak appropriately all the time. It is not easy, though. Plus our English has so many interferences and, be it as it may, M uses Catalan most of the time. She has picked up the costume of translating and she uses Catalan with everyone around even if the person has addressed her in English. It is as if English were only mum's language...
I haven't mentioned  the baby in my updates but he is growing nice and healthy -I believe- and is due to be born in a month. Having him in mind, I have kept my mother pretty busy as of late... and this is some of what she has made. Apart from a Gobbi mobile I am still trying to assemble. As you see, knitting is one of her crafts -not mine. I am lucky enough to have her to make my designs come true.
Interlocking knitted rings. Thinking ahead of time... just in case we don't have time later on. 

Well... this is a snail for M, who adores snails. My mother had the not so good idea of attaching the knitted snail to a piece of paper. Surprisingly, the paper house has remained nearly intact after much handling.

sábado, 27 de octubre de 2012

What's new: sharing

It's been two weeks since I last wrote a "what's new" post and I feel there are many new things to mention these days. To start with, M seems to be growing taller. On Monday, I noticed she couldn't reach the floor when trying to ride a motorbike some relatives gave her. Today, Thursday, she was able to tiptoe when straddling it in the same position. Her two friends have been about 2 inches taller than her for several months but today I noticed the difference is growing shorter. Although size is not my main worry and has never been, I am really happy she is growing up. I always used to be among the smallest of my peers -not that I am a big lady now anyway...- but being from May and quite an extrovert it was never a big issue. M seems to be a bit shy plus she was born at the end of the year, so we sometimes worry about her being so beyond the average in height and weight.

On the other hand, she is really verbal and can express most of her experiences and feelings. For quite a bit now, we have been working on how to express her feelings to other children instead of crying or just going away from the situation. This week it was the first time I heard her vocalize that she didn't want her friend (L) to take away a book she was about to open. The way she did it was in the third person, but we were all glad she talked to L herself and not to me saying that she didn't want L to take something away. This has been a step forward in a process that started with her first interactions with other children when she would cry when other children would approached her too much, take something off her hands, or the like. Fortunately, we have had very little to do with children who hit.

Concerning language, I know I am always repeating the same and I don't want to sound boastful but M amazes me everyday. Her constructions are more and more elaborate each day. Last week I wrote down sentences such as "mama has gone there far behind", "li ensenyarem el bebè a la iaia", "mama wants to put pigtail Marina". She announced on Monday that her friend L "was coming tomorrow", and the following day she said "L gone to the park today". I know at her age time is a very abstract notion but I guess she mimics my speech excellently 'cause both statements were right.
She often says "X is coming" to express that she would like to see that person, and she has started to associate people -and animal- with places. Thus, Clara is in Mataró, with the turtle, and other people who are there too.

Sharing from the heart is something I start to see. We have never told M that she "should" share her things. We believe this act has to come from the child's heart and not from obeying a rule grown-ups invent. However, we have neither told her that the objects she has at home or she plays with are exclusively "hers". Whenever a child comes home, she doesn't object to that child toying around with her things, except when she has the item in her hands at that moment. By sharing, though, I mean the pleasure of doing something together and that's what seemed to happen on the picture below. M and L were eating the same ice-cream in peace while the rest of us (5 adults and another toddler) were eating ours, and nobody seemed to notice except for the photographer...

domingo, 21 de octubre de 2012

Late update

The biggest pumpkin party ever  (Sept. 2008)-
 this was my own design
One more night I have the feeling I should post something nice but one more time I am overtired and it is way too late to start uploading pictures, and so on.
I hope, I wish, it will suffice to say that I keep the blog in mind all the time. The intensity and amount of activities we are doing these days, though, leaves too little room to write and share. Little baby is not expected yet but he sometimes moves as if he were going to jump out any time.
We have been doing some Fall and Halloween activities, among which featured pumpkin flavored orange play dough, pine cones tonging, lots of window decorating with foam pieces -specially nice in this rainy weather-, a pumpkin costume, little pumpkin party favors made out of egg cartons... As you can see, I love pumpkins. My father-in-law has been growing pumpkins and squashes for several years now and he has won several biggest pumpkin contests. Some of his big pumpkins can be seen on the pic above these lines.
I haven't told you about a play-group M and I host every Wednesday.
I also have some projects that are about to see the light: a beginning sound book (M), and a sensory gel pad. I am very excited about both, although I can't foresee if M will be as excited as I am.
Needless to say, I hope to be able to share this projects with you soon. In the meantime, forgive my absence in the blogosphere.
M enjoying the new season on her paternal grandfather's farm

martes, 9 de octubre de 2012

Discovering politeness, music, and friendship

Phew, I have been absent for too long and I promise I haven't had a second to post, so busy I was preparing classes, environments, activities, both for my students and for my girl. I am terribly sorry for the loss it represents to skip two or three Wednesdays without updating M's progress. I am also sorry this will be a post written in haste, nearing midnight, and stealing some time from a precious rest. Well, I can't say I am sleeping wonderfully this days, but I do try to rest as much as I can during the night, since naps can't happen these days.
We have been doing several practical life activities around here. M is interested in squeezing oranges, spreading tomato on a loaf of bread, pouring liquids with her pitcher, transferring, and tonging. Although the tongs are a bit too big and she ends up transferring with her hands. 
Not too long ago she started saying "salut" (=bless you) after someone had sneezed. Then, it was "thank you" and "gràcies", which she uses mainly when she is the one giving something, not taking. We have also heard her wishing "bon profit" during lunchtimes. All in all it is delightful to see how modeling behavior is about enough. I really can't figure myself pushing her to say thanks to someone, in a similar way I can't push her to kiss someone. 
Music is becoming one of her favorite activities and apart from playing the piano with the daddy nearly every day, she often goes to her kitchen cabinet, grabs a couple of spoons and comes back to the living room, where she uses her round wooden block box as a drum. Not seldom she exclaims "Marina making noise", although I am encouraging her to call it music or rhythms.

Some days ago a great friend of ours gave us some money to spend on M's materials and we got a set of musical bells from Imaginarium, which M loves and uses daily. There are also some songs she prefers and asks us to sing. Lately she has even started singing a bit.
In the field of language, the novelty is the use of prepositions and conjunctions. She started first with the latter and sometimes seems to take delight in listing "the cat sleeping AND the dogs sleeping AND...". Her use of prepositions is clearly distinct in the Catalan language, where instead of a possessive 's (i.e. mama's hat) possession is articulated thought a preposition.

Finally, after many months of regularly sharing some time with two other girls (my friends' daughters) her same age, friendship seems to be appearing. She talks about them and wants to see them. Some interaction has also made appearance and I am glad that after some weeks when conflict seemed to be the only interaction, they are now showing signs of fondness.

miércoles, 19 de septiembre de 2012

Play dough and horses

The best of my intentions to keep an updated journal of our journey in homeschooling* is beaten once and again by a general lack of time and state of tiredness. At the beginning of the week I try to stay until late preparing activities and creating materials but these past evenings I have just fallen asleep while putting M to sleep. That's ok. We have been doing some activities that were not exactly planned but which thankfully turned out all right. 
Getting ready to make play dough: the process in itself was a nice activity
I sometimes feel a bit disappointed I am being unable to keep it all up but I guess that is what being pregnant of a second child while the first one is under 2 years means. Some days ago, my dear husband took M to the National Museum of Art to give me some time to rest. When I saw the photographs I just regretted I had not gone with them. The rest did me a lot of good, though. 

Here is M staring at some paintings at the MACBA
Fall seems to be creeping in. I hadn't really noticed it was getting cooler but after some rain last night it feels like autumn today. I even got my boots out and was happy to find that unlike my summer sandals, the boots still fit my feet. Am I the only pregnant woman out there whose feet seem to have grown? I have been wanting to set up an autumn tray but as of now we only have some pineapples, a tiny pumpkin and a butternut squash. My idea is to create a nice sensory tub for M to play with. We'll see if I get it before it is so cold we can call the season "winter". I still feel comfortable with the weather but I think summer is my favorite time of the year. However, I can admit there is a special beauty in Spring and Fall that other seasons may lack. And yet, funnily, my two children will be "winter kids".

Today we had the first meeting with one of the midwives that might assist us in our son's birth. I am finally starting to visualize this birth and we feel a delivery at home is the option that would suit us three best. One of the reasons I can't bring myself to picture a delivery in a hospital is that M would be left out of the experience and we would have to be separated for more time than we have ever been. As I feel it, this is an experience we don't want to have, if we can avoid it. 

On a weekend festival last week M got the chance to ride a horse for the first time, and a really tall mare it was (notice my husband's head peeping over the horse's withers. He is 1,83 m tall //around 6 feet). I was very excited and delighted to see that she wasn't a bit scared, she just enjoyed it.
Riding a horse for the very first time
In the language department, we have seen some qualitative changes in the way M expresses herself. She is able to construct longer sentences and surprises us with structures such as Subj+verb+object or with the correct use of conjugations (gos dorm // gatets dormen). She is good at describing what she sees. While in a park she told me the other day: "that moto(rbike) falling", and some other day "boy eating chocolate". She often uses sentences including "to" for purpose, specially when she wants to do something or to go someplace "to see papa", "to see Lila -her friend".
She is starting to use some adjectives as well as in "red shoes", "soft pillow" or "black glasses". Her use of connectors such as "because" is still a bit erratic but she surprised me the other day saying "because mama". I've heard her using "enough" and"like" for comparisons, which are also novelties. But the most incredible sentences, in my opinion, were "these girls jumping to eat sausage", "aquestes noies què fan?" qui és aquest bebè?", "meves sabates són aquí sota", and "petita Marina banyat la piscina" (6.9.2012). I wrote down the date 'cause I was really impressed. She seems to retain sentences she has heard and to repeat them afterwards. Her use of pronouns is upside down, "I" being "you" and the other way round. However confusing, I think we are managing to understand her most of the time.

* After some reflection, I have considered it necessary to clarify my use of the concept of "homeschooling". I wouldn't like to trigger a debate around schooling, unschooling, and so on, so I'd better explain myself. M is only 20 months old so it is not really accurate to refer to what we do as "homeschooling". I do it only out of a necessity to give a name to what we do and the thrill of being the one who cares for M development and education. It is truly uncommon where we live for a toddler of 20 months to stay home with a parent, so I have sometimes felt compelled to justify my position. This might be silly but being able to prove all we do makes me feel I am justifying a whole way of raising kids and showing people that staying home doesn't mean "doing nothing, or letting your kids watch TV all day". Well, we don't even own a TV set, ahem...

sábado, 15 de septiembre de 2012

The pleasure of bedtime

Some weeks ago I would have never imagined I would write a post under such a title. It took me a great amount of meditation to come over the frustration that giving up putting my little one to bed had thrown me in. Shortly after we weaned, we found out that the only and -at the time- probably best way of helping M to sleep was pacing up and down. Since I was generally tired and carrying weight was not the most recommendable thing for me to do, the daddy took over. For nearly two months he had been putting M to sleep and I really felt frustrated, not only because I missed those snug moments with my girl, but mainly because she had started to reject my presence during bedtime. Every time she said "mama no, mama no", my heart would break into pieces and I ended up feeling rather sad. I know these things do happen but I had never thought it could happen to me and I was determined to find a solution. The daddy was not happy with the situation either and pacing up and down the corridor, even the garden twice or three times a night was not his favorite activity, of course.
Around a month ago I made my mind up and went away for three days, that is three nights and three naps. I knew that could be a totally crazy thing to do but inside I felt a great conviction I would be able to manage it and who knew, we may be able to establish an easier bedtime routine. I nearly forget to mention that during those two months Marina dropped many naps and that, as you can imagine, didn't help at all. She was waking between one and four times a night.
The first night we were away from home, without daddy, it took me nearly two hours to get M to sleep. I know, it is a lot but I was so very happy she had not complained, not rejected me, that two hours felt like ten minutes. Although it was a bit tiring, I was able to put her to sleep three nights and three naps. Besides, she more or less slept all through the night with eventual awakenings to drink or go to the toilet. On the third day, the daddy came to pick us up and we went back home.
With some exceptions, I have been sharing bedtime with M ever since and we are all happier. We both seem to enjoy our newly adopted routine, which includes shadow play, singing lullabies, and caresses. Many nights the last thing M says before falling asleep is her "mamma" in a sweet tone. She seldom awakes during the night and wakes up very refreshed from a good night sleep.

Up to here it may sound like a love story with a happy ending but the best is yet to come.
During the first months of pregnancy I was not only feeling rather sick but also guilty. At the beginning I felt Marina was too young to have to share my/our attention and as time went by my mama-guilt feeling grew towards the other direction, I feared the tiny baby growing in my womb would feel displaced since once the sickness and tiredness was gone I didn't think much about him. All that time I was craving for a feeling of balance. It was not easy to come to terms with the fact that we would have a baby without having planned it at all. However, a good friend of mine kept repeating that a sibling was the most precious present we could give M and in the end she convinced me. I was no longer feeling guilt, which was fine but now I didn't find it easy to connect with my baby. I was so committed to preparing activities for M, being with her, teaching, bringing her places... The surprising thing of it all is that the one who has brought me back to center and helped me connect with this wonderful baby growing inside me is my beloved 20 month old daughter.
Everyday, when we lay in bed singing lullabies and whispering, she asks me to see the baby (read belly) and she caresses it while gently murmuring "baby, baby". Her sweetness and open-heartedness have convinced me it will be fine to have two to take care of. I am so very grateful for her teachings!

jueves, 13 de septiembre de 2012

Our new art caddy

Some nights ago I was wondering whether it was reasonable to buy an art caddy online. Things are the ones I find more useful are not found in Spain but I just couldn't justify the expense when there are so many things that can sub for an art caddy and when our economy is not exactly bursting.
I left the thought in the air and went to bed early, for a change, only to get up again some minutes later and set myself to create the art caddy I wanted for M.
One of the goals was to have all M's "colors" (she keeps calling "colors" anything that writes or paints) stored in the same container. Another was for her to have easy access to them. Last but not least, I wanted it to look beautiful.
With these three aims in mind, I got one of the square baskets we've been using for multiple purposes. It was a bit too deep so I lined the bottom with a cardboard dais to make it shallower. I then got out some sticks from an old fan I had saved for an occasion like this and divided the basket in six sections. I then found some of the sections were too shallow to contain the pencils without them sticking out too much so I dismantled the whole thing again and made a hole for one of the sections to be deeper. I assembled it back and voilà; we had a beautiful art caddy. Maybe not like the one I would have bought but home-made and free. I couldn't wait for M to wake up and see it. My husband objected it was not very sturdy, that M would take the sticks out, and we would have to be picking it up and assembling the pieces back all day, to what I said he might be right but I liked the challenge of offering her an object that enabled both chaos and order. Our previous set-up had not been very successful at controlling the chaos created by our toddler when painting and we had been picking up crayons, pencils and markers from the floor for over two months. I thought the caddy could be a way of modeling order for her and I am happy to say that apart from the wax crayons compartment that she wanted to take out the first second she used the caddy, the rest has stayed in place and she has been putting back markers after using them. Hurrah!!
By the way, this is the way the art caddy looks:

From left upper side clockwise: the first section contains stick crayons, and well, I've removed them 'cause M seldom uses them and they are too fragile. In the center are my attempt at making rock crayons. They have been a great hit and I am so proud of them that I think I will turn all the stick crayons into this. Then there are the Giotto markers, they are great for toddlers because they are totally washable, toxic free and thick. Then the wax crayons; a paintbrush (the thicker and oftener used one was in the sink when I took the picture); and colored pencils. These are the Stadler triplus, excellent for toddler's grip.

martes, 11 de septiembre de 2012

First week of school. Part 2

As a way to illustrate what we did on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I'll wave my magic wand and upload some pics. Again, they are photos I take with my cell phone so the quality is not the best but you can see we are still enjoying color related activities. I hope you can forgive my lack of words.

First thing in the morning before combing, breakfast or any other thing

Pros of suggesting an environment: there you see; second use found to the set of  chopsticks and beads

The next day I changed the beads for more difficult ones to add challenge.

I know, I know: are the colored pens for the mother or for the daughter?
Well, I guess we can share them!!

miércoles, 5 de septiembre de 2012

First week of Tot school. Days 1-3

The idea was to throw a party to celebrate the beginning of our school, but we haven't had time to arrange everything in the way we want, plus many friends were still away on vacation. So, today tot school has started without any previous event.
By "home or tot school" I mean all the activities M and me do in the morning. Activities I have scheduled for our first trimester, that is the next 16 weeks, or until the baby is born.
Having around 16 topics in mind, I will set up the environment for M to learn as much as she wants. I try to plan inviting set-ups where she decides what she wants to do in a way that is connected with the topic that is displayed that week. I won't push her to do anything, just support her in what she decides to do, observe her and let her be.
This first morning, for instance, after getting up and having breakfast, she's been toying around with the first items that were displayed on her shelves:
After some minutes, she has realized the weather was a bit cool and we have headed for the bathroom to get dressed and groomed. Curiously, she has decided to wear a red jumper, just like the bottle she was playing with a second ago. "Red" is the color she knows best. Then comes "blue". And as for "yellow"she gets a bit mixed up sometimes, saying "purple" instead or not saying anything. We did enough activities in the past so that I can ask her now "what color is this?" Of course, here I mean only the three basic colors, although some weeks ago, when I made her rock crayons I was surprised to see that she was able to correctly associate each of the six colors we had.
Already dressed, she has headed for the kitchen on her own account and has come back with a pot of yellow finger paint. I guess something has made her associate the bottles activity with the paint. Although we often draw and paint with a variety of supplies, we have only used those pots of finger paint three times. I have set up a table and brush, glass with water and cardboard outside, and this is what she's made.
Then, we've gone downstairs to load a washing machine; activity she often wants to do all by herself. We've had a snack and we intended to go to the library to get some color related books. M was very excited about the idea of library books but since she has not been willing to seat in her car seat, we've come back home.
Quick lunch and before 12 she was napping.
Today is also my first day of work -ehem- I will be working around 5 hours a week as of now so I don't know if I should call it "work". Anyway, since I am teaching this afternoon, today we're done with school activities.
As you can guess, this week will be devoted to "colors" and I intend to display secondary colors and see how we get along. If you are interested, be sure to check back with us soon.

Notice how empty our notice board and working table look at the beginning of the week:
This is a very easy activity that took me just five minutes to put together. The wooden blocks belong to the box you can see on the right in the pic above. I took three red blocks and three blue ones from the set and placed them in the tiny basket. Then, I painted the equivalent shapes with markers, and voilà. 
 M found the activity on her table and set to work straight away. I actually didn't notice because I was in the kitchen but she had done it right and I noticed it was very easy for her. I regretted not having included yellow and green as I had first intended, but the yellow was too pale for the cardboard and when I prepare things close to midnight I am too tired to look for solutions... She liked it anyway and wanted to play while waiting for lunch.
 In the meantime, as well, I took the opportunity she was so concentrated and interested to introduce "light blue". We toyed with some light blue items and then filled in a bottle with light blue glitter and water. Wonderful activity to foster practical skills such as using a funnel. It's a pity I forgot to take a picture of our new blue light bottle.


However sick and hopeless I felt yesterday, I guess you would call today a "very successful day". Well, M has dropped her nap, but for the rest she has been fine. I had prepared three activities but she has only had time to explore one, which is fine, since the rest will be there ready for her to use if she chooses to tomorrow.
As you already know, if you have been reading this Tot school journal of ours, this week we are exploring colors and doing color activities. It might be an obsession with my profession, but I was a bit worried we don't own any books about colors, so a visit to the local library was a must this week. I really wanted to make one of those books where vegetables, fruits and other items are grouped by color but I haven't had time at all.
We attempted to go to the library on Monday but M didn't want to get into the car. We were far too busy yesterday, and I wasn't feeling well, so we have attempted it again today and it's been a great hit. Both car rides were fine; among the six ore seven color related books we've borrowed three which are quite beautiful; M has enjoyed the kid's space, painted a bit, given her painting to the librarian, gotten her library card, played with the colored cushions.
In the afternoon, after no nap--- we've gone to our favorite park, where we had a date with M's two friends, and both car rides have been fine, which is incredibly good, given the state M can be in after a whole day of activity, no nap and her absolute dislike of cars.
(Sorry for the quality of the shots. For practical reasons, I only use my cell phone.)

viernes, 31 de agosto de 2012


It is a tradition in nearly every town in Catalonia to have giants and this summer M got acquainted with it. At the beginning she was all excited about the idea of giants but when we first went to see them in person she was terribly scared of them. She was afraid of the loud rhythms, the fireworks they make along the way, the noise, and whatnot. Any time they were in sight she would beg to go away, so after three attempts, we quitted the festival.
Nevertheless, she kept talking about giants, asking us to sing a typical giants' song, to draw giants, and so on.
A month afterward, we happened to be at another festival where there where giants and loud music and she wasn't so scared, just taken aback. After that, she was even more excited about giants and has kept it up for the whole summer.
Tomorrow is going to be our third time and I just can't wait to see her reaction. Will she be delighted? terrified again?

Is there anything that has captivated your children this summer? What is it? Do they have ambiguous feelings towards the thing they are attracted to? I'd love to know!

miércoles, 29 de agosto de 2012

Some corners of our home

For some months now M has had a cabinet of her own in the kitchen and another one in the toilet. There, we keep all the items she needs for toileting, eating, or cooking. Since she started to move around we've tried to make our house as child-friendly as possible and these corners were just a response to M's needs. In my view, they have proved to be excellent ways to promote autonomy, both in the toilet and kitchen. Among other things, these cabinets have helped her familiarize with kitchen utensils -I was lucky to find a wonderful kit of child-sized kitchen utensils-, facilitated her use of combs, brushes, face clothes, and the like.
Kitchen cabinet
As you can see, in the kitchen cabinet (L to R) we store some glasses and a pitcher, flatware, bowls, and a pot with a ladle, wooden spoons, slicer, rolling pin, and spatula.
Bathroom cabinet
This cabinet houses all M's toiletries and more. It is actually the lowest part of our bathroom cabinet and this makes it absolutely easy for M to open and close it. From top shelf down (L to R), it contains a cardboard tray with face clothes, another one with underwear, and some towels; a tray with M's toothbrush and cup, a tray with bob pins, hair ties, headbands, comb and so on, and a mirror. The lowest shelf treasures some books. M has two favorites she usually wants to read while in the toilet but this gives her more variety - and proves to be an excellent spot to keep books!!

Some other corners I would like to talk about are M's wardrobe, the hangers in the entrance hall, and her work table. Let's see if I can take some pictures soon.

jueves, 23 de agosto de 2012

Summing up 19 month practical life

My dear girl turned 20 months yesterday and I am amazed at how much we've experienced together. Since she is going to have her second birthday around the time her brother is born, I wanted to throw a 20 month party in her honor, so I'll better start planning it carefully.
Today I will share a summary of M's accomplishments during her 19th month.
 * Potty learning completed both during day and night time. Rare accidents can occur if she is distracted or there is too much excitement around.
* Getting her shoes, t-shirt, and pants on. I don't know why she finds dresses more difficult to put on.
* Setting her part of the table using her placemat.
* Pouring her own glass of water.
* Taking care of plants.
* Helping with some housework such as mopping the floors, washing windows, or doing dishes. In truth she helps any time she is asked but we don't really have a routine and sometimes don't ask her to join. We need to improve this.

In terms of language, she amazes me all the time. Some structures and turns she uses are surprising, and she even makes fun of the language sometimes. The other day when we were in the changing rooms of the community pool, she told me "like it no" to refer to the noise the hand-dryers make, and later on the same day she told me "no like it, lake it", when I asked her about a book we were reading. Another day she surprised us using a German expression she got from a German book her father reads to her when they are in the toilet. We were shown some cute puppies the neighbor's dog had delivered some days before and she exclaimed "wie süss" (how sweet!). She is also picking up some Spanish and she has amused us tonight when out of the blue she has half stood on her chair and said "Menina, por favor".

Regarding gross motor skills she has started to be interested in physical activities such as running, climbing, and shooting or throwing balls. On the other hand, in terms of fine motor skills, she is really into sorting pom-poms into ice trays.

Artistically speaking, her delight are "colors" and she often asks us to draw or paint something for her. For this reason, I've made some "kind of" rock crayons for her. I could not find rock crayons in Spain but don't worry 'cause I used some very old crayons -from my husband and his brother's childhood- to make brand-new round crayons. And although the result is far from perfect, M loves them.

The old crayons just before going into the oven

lunes, 20 de agosto de 2012

A summer day in our life after our mini vacation

It is so hot around here these days that I find it extremely difficult to sit down and write a post, although there are many issues I want to write about, one of them being of course some activities we've been doing. I also want to show you around some corners of our home, especially M's cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom, but for one reason or another I never like the pictures I take.
So I will start with the activities and outings we've done this last week so far. 
To start with, we went to visit some ducks.
We got a nice numbers ice tray and tried out an early math activity with appropriate sensorial material, the temperature being over 90 ºF/35ºC.
We've also been having some fun with water balloons: here is M sorting them. During the nap, I put them in the freezer and we played with frozen balls afterwards (I have no pics of that, I am afraid).
This morning we had two friends over for a messy play date. This is the shaving cream paint we made:
And this is how they enjoyed it:
During M's nap today I also gave old crayons a go. I really wanted rock crayons but I can't find them anywhere in Barcelona, so I've decided to make them myself. More about it, tomorrow!

sábado, 4 de agosto de 2012

Ocean life mat

I got the idea of the ocean life mat from here and had it in my to-do list for quite a while. The arrival of the summer felt like the ideal time to get it finally made. In fact, it was very easy to make; I used a small blue towel for the background, remnants of felt in light blue for the shore, pale orange for a patch of sand, green for some seaweeds, and dark brown for the bottom of the ocean. All those remnants were sewed into the towel. I decided not to stitch the upper part of the shore, so there could be a pocket to keep the animals. However, we have ended up using card figures, wooden animals, plastic figurines, and even a set of ocean animal rubbers I had from my childhood. All the items have been much played with and some even explored on the light table. As you can see here:
As a background for the ocean mat and the light table, we made M's corner into a real sea-corner pinning as many clippings of the sea as we could find unto the board that usually serves us as a background setting of the topic we are presently working on.
To give the whole topic a finishing touch, we set out to the sea in a sailboat!!
And this is what we saw when leaving the shore: 
I leave you guessing what city we were in...