Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Our Recycling Corner

I've been feeling off my game lately, and it's not just because I'm sick as I write this.  I've been in a state of  busy work glorification in the office and at home, and it's boring the heck out of me.

I miss getting creative.  Not that I'm artistic.  I just need to create something - a strategy at work or a play idea with my daughter.  

Or a recycling corner in my home.  I'm not kidding.  It's these little things that make me feel productive.  


This is an odd little wall in the kitchen next to a screen door that leads to the utility area.  It needed to be a useful spot to put our trash cans, water dispenser and kitchen stools:

Montessori gave me the idea to turn it into another area of the home that encourages order and self-sufficiency:  Everything is easily accessible here for a little one:

The paper recycling bin.  A lot of Ladybug Girl's used artwork ends up here:

The glass and plastic bin:

When the garbage trucks come, these are emptied.  The paper bin gets full easily and so the contents are transferred to an area outside - we also have 3 large segregated trash bins in the garage ready for pick-up.  Sometimes mamang bote-dyayro comes and yaya uses this to fund her phone load.  Win-win.

Some months ago we had a recycling drive at work to fund newborn health kits for Unicef.  This gave me a kick in the pants to get started recycling at home.  All too often going green is all gloom-and-doom, but here was a sweet reminder I loved watching:

If you're a Montessori-convert like I am, you'd be interested to know that they don't teach about the earth being in danger at preschool.  The first important step is to encourage love for nature, not fear.  There's a lot of outside work and play and learning the names of things first.

We've done the same at our home and I've steered clear of the heavy readings on dwindling habitats, pollution, etc.  But there are still a lot of books that do positive teaching to go green.  Her favourites:

But nothing really beats modelling behaviour at home.  A late start, but an important one.  Nothing like an easy creative solution to energize you for more.  Know what I mean?

Time to get back in the game.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Toys From Leftover Construction Scraps

In the last days of our small renovation project, we had a lot of construction stuff hanging around.  So I asked Rex the super handyman to whip this up:

A balance beam!  I'm looking forward to DIYing a cute pattern on it.

He did it in an hour, flat.  So easy!  I got the idea after seeing a balance beam in Gymboree and this on Taste Central:

Seriously is there anyone going to buy this?

Ladybug Girl loved it!  She's progressed from needing to hold on to the wall to cross the beam, to this:   

We've been doing "shows" on it.

We've also been playing with a hammer and some leftover tile grout.  Just smash a ceramic plate  (in our  case, a broken bowl that became a casualty of the kitchen reorganizing), and you've got a mosaic!

I put the bowl in a ratty old pillowcase and let her smash.   Goggles optional - it was my first time so I didn't know how it would go.  The pillowcase kept everything inside, no worries!
I wanted her to go on all-out-smashfest, but my little Dove was hesitant.  I think breaking things is so counter-intuitive for kids who are always told to be careful.  So I yelled her on.  Confused her more.  Haha!  Next time I should probably explain better.

Kept the pieces big for our first-ever mosaic.  They aren't sharp but we were careful just the same.
 Now mix up the grout, following instructions on the bag:

We just did it on the floor.  Any spills were easy to wipe up.

I got a spare packaging box lid and lined it with a plastic sleeve (from those ring binder things).

But I think if your cardboard lid is sturdy enough, you don't need the plastic.

Poured in the grout and spread it out:

Put in the ceramic pieces:

A second colour would be nice if you can spare another plate or extra bathroom tile.

All done and time for a bath!

 Our finished mosaic.  It became a nice link to her "Roman Period" book where she learned that the Romans invented mosaics.

Of course this could be all sorts of pretty, if your child is older and you can get colourful tiles at the hardware store.

I love all the gross motor practice that balancing and hammering does.  One thing this kind of play also builds in my little hesitant Dove is courage.  At the Fun Farm in Sta. Elena this weekend, she actually did the zip-line with me.  She also wanted to jump in the mud dash.

Oh how she wanted to.  I think next time I may allow this craziness.

 What are the creative uses you've found for play around the house?  It's great when we squeeze new uses for old things isn't it?  DIY play for the win!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

How I Accidentally Raised A Reader

There are a few perks in being a full-time corporate mom, and accidentally raising a reader is one of them.

There's a lot of anxiety about reading skills when you're a parent.  When I was in college, I had a part-time job teaching a reading proficiency course for grade 4-7 elementary students (Prosec).  Every first day I would ask "how many of you were forced by your parents to be here?"

Almost everyone was.

Sadly by the time they hit that age, reading is forced drudgery in school.  Sure, you can learn to be good at it -  but if you don't love it, you will lose the skill eventually.

So this post should really be titled: How I Got My Child to Love Reading.  And this is why being a working mom helped.

Reading was bonding.  When you regularly come home long after the sun is down, sometimes all you have is a book.

It became our sacred bonding activity which I threw my energies at, taking my time and doing the voices and all.  I had no choice: at this age reading was an entirely dependent activity.  And a little of that working mom guilt added fuel to the fire.

I started reading to her when she was six months.  Not gonna lie: sometimes it was a huge effort to read the inane baby books over and over.  Please tell me you understand.

Bears hug, rabbits tickle, fish kisszzzzzzzzzzz….

At two years old, the stories were more fun for me

Time was too short to learn through phonics (sounding out letters to form words).  Because I had enraptured my daughter during our special reading time, when she was two I casually started to point to the words while I read them.

I had come across mymommyology's inspiring experience with Your Baby Can Read, which was gifted to us by Ladybug Girl's ninang.   Unfortunately it needed more devoted attention than a working mom could give.  The last thing I wanted to do was to whip out flashcards at 8 pm.

But following the same principles of building familiarity of words, I kept pointing.  Pretty soon at three years old, she was sight-reading and starting to read on her own.  Her toddler school teacher said she would even read the agenda on the board.  I was amazed!


Kids have different strengths, but I really believe love of stories and learning can come naturally.  And that's what reading is all about when it's done together.

I knew we hit a milestone when one night, at three, she shushed my attempt to read a story aloud with "ssssshh, mommy, be quiet.  I'm trying to read".  It has come to that - the ingrate!  Haha.  Nowadays we quietly read at bedtime side-by-side, and then I still read her a last book.  In my teaching stint, I read somewhere that parents should read aloud to kids until age 10!

But reading has been a lifesaver.  I can leave her notes if she wakes up and I already left for work.  I set up an email account on the iPad which both her daddy and I use to send her messages during the day (while she replies with "ok" or "ffgggggggbbbbbggggg").

Reading helped my nervous Dove prepare mentally for new experiences.  Like her first plane trip at two years old:

Yes, we would plop down inside the airport and read the "Airport" book.

Or the first time she met Cinderella in Disneyland:

She's never watched any movie because she's afraid of the villains and ominous music.   Books help!

And because of reading, I get some glorious quiet time of my own now.  When things go quiet in our house, she can be found plopped down reading in a random spot.

Ladybug Girl is going through a "sensitive period" in reading now.   At five, she has started to graduate from picture books into chapter books.

Santa's gifts this year were books: complete set of Nate the Great.  These are the best beginner chapter books ever!
Ivy+Bean.  I tried them after seeing Daphne Osena's blog post, but I didn't like them as much.
It tries to be cheeky and funny, but the defiance and naughty escapades are tricks that turn me off

She likes reference books, too.  I bought a couple of books on Cooking, Art, History, Animals, Human Body - you get the picture.  I thought she would use them for her grade school years but perhaps if it's around then it's something to be curious about.

Cooking for Kids 
The Human Body (Usborne First Encyclopedia)

There are downsides to reading early, though.  Some books should have parental guidance written on them!

  • She has started to say "you, dork!".  (Ivy+Bean)
  • Had a nightmare after reading about Viking raids (Usborne Time Traveller: Vikings)
  • During prayer for a new baby sister, she asks "does daddy have sperm?" (The Human Body)
  • Running out of space and spending a small fortune on books because there are no public libraries
Our humble library beginnings
And this keeps growing!  Aack!

I guess getting to buy all those books is a working mom perk too.  We don't get much of them, so I need the self-gratification- hahaha.

If only handwriting and beginning math were as natural!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Fun Baths: The Preschool Roundup

We've entered a new stage in our fun baths in the last year or so.  While our toddler baths round-up usually had me jumping in so I could bathe her and bond with her, now she's learning to take baths on her own.  Two completely honest words about this : THANK GOD.

Surprisingly, it's possible to have thirty minutes while the kids have more fun without you - thanks to simple ideas and a preschooler's growing imagination.  

Our new "tools" are old ones.  We still have these bath crayons and they are ten times more useful now that Ladybug Girl can draw and write better.

We finally found bath crayons in Manila at ELC - not my favourite store but at least it's here!

I like to leave something on her shower walls for her to discover at bath time.

Connect-the-dots practice for handwriting

An attempt to practice handwriting.  But she drew her answer.
Her favorite ninang's storytelling in the bathroom

Recently practicing her memorisation of the number bonds of 10.
(See why here, a beginning math round-up that was featured on!)
It's what we bring along when we travel to hotel bathrooms.  And if the floatie fits, take it into the tub!

Our poor man's bath tub has been a perfect play area.  All it is a knee-high tiled wall instead of a shower door.  It was my parents-in-law's idea and it was genius!

I put the drain plug in and let the water run for five minutes before I call her.
Once she sees the water collecting, she can't get her clothes off fast enough

The wall also holds in messes (is that a word) and becomes a ledge for play.

Bathing her gift from one of her Ninsies with an empty bath bottle.
(This pink Johnson's Baby bath variant is going to be phased out soon so I'm hoarding this fave.

Making potions or what have you with a few containers and food colouring diluted in spray bottles.
We use it to colour the bath water sometimes too!  I keep the spray bottles stored in those shower shelves.

 If you don't have food colouring, use a washable marker.  Yup, you heard me.

Save those nearly-dried out markers for some really colourful baths.  They'll love it!
Here we used a blue and green marker to colour the water.

Freedom to draw on the walls!

Isn't that a great colour of potion?
To make the most of each marker, break off the tip with some pliers to expose more of the ink nib:

You don't have to, but it intensifies the colour by about three times!

Suggest some small-world play or leave it to their imaginations:

She wanted to make the sea and drew some seaweed. 

Then lots of storytelling

And help cleaning off the crayon art with a sponge (also kept handy on the shower shelves)

 Waste not-want not!  Keep those marker caps too!

Makes great "pasta" for cooking

Sometimes the grandaddy of ideas strikes when you think like a child.  Does yours love baking as much as mine?  Mine loves watching how-to videos on You Tube.

Ice-a-Cake in the bath!

Put in her plastic stools as tables, Make icing out of shaving cream and food colouring, Find something to stand-in as a cake (this wooden cake base is on its third life so I didn't mind it getting wet), Add a spatula et voila! 

Doesn't that look like fun!

Disclaimer: the red patches on her skin was from adult sunscreen that I put on her after I forgot the baby one at home.  It's not from the shaving cream.  Although I wouldn't let it stay on skin for long either.
Even more fun: using your hands and loving the sensorial feel of squishy shaving foam

I brought in a plastic bowl from the kitchen, turned it upside down and it got iced as the cake base.  
And she decorated with her bath toys.

Here's the cupcake version.

This time I used a muffin tin, shaving cream, and sponges for cupcakes
Mix the food colouring in

Holding encourages more control!  These were actually pool noodles I had cut up some time ago for boats in the tub.

Ladybug Girl loved it so much she said "even if there's no corner bakery here, I'll still do this, mommy".

And so she has.

Then hand them a paintbrush (or three) with the leftover shaving cream and stand back!

She was humming.

Lost in her imagination

When I was a kid I would bring my doll to the bath and I could stay there for  a whole hour.  There's something about baths that's so magical that time stops.  If I remember that from my childhood, then I'm glad my daughter will remember happy baths as well!  

What are your child's favourite things to do in the bath?  I need more ideas!

See our toddler baths round-up here.