Saturday, 22 December 2012

How to Have a Not-So-DIY Christmas

My fond Christmas memories of childhood are centered on the women in the family who created such  simple happy traditions.  My (working) mom would put up our tree herself and wrap presents on weekends while playing carols for us on the cassette.    My titas would outdo themselves each year creating games, programs, and perfect gifts.

And then there was always that one Tita who did things her way.  

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Teaching Concentration A Little Too Late

I have a preschooler with a short attention span.  And it's not because of the iPad.  Here’s how I had something to do with that and how I’m trying to remedy it.

Ladybug Girl’s learning style is tricky.  

Contrary to the (Montessori) belief that children love doing the same activities as a form of mastery, in many things she gets bored with repetition.   Some of her leave-behind trays are done just once and she’s not interested anymore (!).

Her Innate Intelligence results (background here) also showed that she isn’t an independent learner -- she learns best one-on-one or following a role model.  This was one of the main reasons why I felt traditional methods wouldn’t suit her formative years.

Ladybug Girl in her many distracted moments - notice the exasperation from her teachers?
A hilarious contrast in concentration: Ladybug Girl's marshmallow art vs. her playmate's.  
I realized I had fault a few weekends ago.  

Ladybug Girl had picked up a Color Wonder paintbrush set that was lying around while I was organizing her supplies.  I had kept the set a few months back because she wasn’t so interested then.

She began to paint while telling stories about her work.  Shocker to me.
She had always lost interest in drawing or painting because her skills were not as good as she wanted.    But now as her hand skills improved, so had her interest in the art.
She became absorbed with reading the instructions and painting more stories.
I soon found myself calling her attention for some new use I just thought of - that’s when I stopped abruptly because I realized that I was so excited by her budding interest that my first response was to interrupt her with new ideas.
"Hey Ladybug Girl!  Try it on your dress!  Try it on the wall!  Tell me about your painting! Do you want to...?"  It was me who was the impatient one!
In hindsight, I would do this a lot during floor time.  And so would Awesome Guy.  And so would any parent excited to teach their kids about the world.

So actually the first step to teaching concentration is to stop the heck interrupting them.

And the next step I'm trying on weekends is to find activities she likes to get 'lost' in, and allow her some space (ironic to my hands-on tendencies).  The "Follow Your Child" principle is at work so her play can be more open-ended while I learn more about her interests.  

So far I'm sure about these concentration-building play areas:

"Messy" sensorial play.  This was originally a color-wheel mixing activity, and it evolved into experiments and storytelling.  Her favorite things.

Not an uncommon sight to see her plopped down doing this anywhere.  Now I let her seek me out after she's done rather than invite her to do other things in the middle of reading.  
I also think she should know the word "concentrate".  I found this that did the trick:

This makes "concentrating" clear and fun : not at all sermon-like
I also get a few more minutes here and there which is really useful now that I'm on a major home purge cycle.  It sounds too good to be true doesn't it?

I am really, really concentrating that it isn't.

Friday, 14 December 2012

DIY Solution to Playing at Night

When it's night at our home, the fluorescent lights go off and the lovely yellow-tone lights come on.  
I prefer yellow light for a relaxing mood after office.
This also worked as a nice parenting tool  ever since Ladybug Girl was a baby : yellow lights (and music) in her playroom established the beginning of a bedtime routine.  The change signaled winding down and eased her into taking her warm half-bath and touch-therapy massage before bed.  Even our bathrooms have a yellow-light option that goes on at night.
Ladybug (Baby)Girl winding down for the night with ambient lighting
That's why as a corporate mom who always comes home way beyond the sun going down, you may notice that many of our activities (and my posts) all have horrible fluorescent lighting or wrong dim lighting.

In my blog-exploring-me-time while my family sleeps, I came across an intriguing play tool called a "light table".  There are various ready-made and DIY versions out there but they all look like a mini-version of professional drafting tables.
photo courtesy of google images

What a friendly solution to a working mom to be able to get home at night and still squeeze in some play without disrupting her winding down routine (so much)!

But of course my DIY solution is again so very laughable.
Plastic bin + christmas lights = super simple light box.  What the heck, it works.
We played with expanding water beads for the first time this way (sold as Orbeez in toy stores)
On our bed, no less - how's that for squeezing in play before bed?
They feel really new to touch, and were very pretty against the light.  So it was a new sensorial learning experience for Ladybug Girl.
She kept wanting to touch them.  Frankly, so did I.
I used the opportunity to work on her concentration and fine motor skills (she needs lots of practice)
Undecided which hand to use so she used both (but she's a lefty most of the time)
Use clear cups to mix colors (see we made purple!) and slotted spoon so water doesn't spill

We had thirty minutes or so of play, then it was natural to transition to bed by picking up a book.
Bedtime reading via halogen spotlight (on a dimmer)
Who knew lighting could be a handy parenting tool?

Thanks to Birgit O'Connor Watercolor's post for featuring our super simple light table!  For other ideas on light table play, check this lovely Pinterest board here.  

Monday, 10 December 2012

Take-Anywhere Learning Tool: Washi Tape

Washi tape isn't just pretty, it's become a tool I keep in my bag all the time.  I find so much value-for-money in it despite the premium price.
Washi tape can be found locally in Heima
I usually have a take-along activity bag for Ladybug Girl when we go out.  I change up the contents, but it always has washi tape in it.

Our art bag sparks a lot of uses.  Click here for a round-up.

Here's why:

safely stick down paper and coloring pages on any restaurant table surface to prevent it from moving around (I only have a picture of this sample activity we did at home)
It's easy to manipulate, so it encourages fine motor skills in Ladybug Girl
Her ninang used it to seal a book she wrote for her while on a trip
She liked playing with washi tape better than the mosaic stickers on the plane
Using tape to hang up our gallery of artwork done while eating/waiting during Singapore trip
Of course we use it regularly in her room for her leave-behind activity trays

Bonus: it's easy to cut for this little lefty

Using it as bandage while playing emergency room surgeon
Leaving her quick pretty notes to read
One time I didn't have her whole art bag with me, and we had to wait for Awesome Guy to finish a meeting at a restaurant.  I found washi tape in my bag, and stuck down old receipts on different tables - we played "read a secret note"and had so much fun.

Of course for crafty crafters, Pinterest has a lot of ideas for washi tape.  Maybe someday I'll have time for that, but these useful discoveries already make me feel a little craftier.

Puwede na yon, why ba.

Home Purging Cycles

I go through cycles of purging our home storage every so often to keep sane.  Some years ago, I took a clutter personality test from a book that gave organizing tips for each type, such as:

Friday, 7 December 2012

Easy Weekend Play: DIY Christmas Wrapper

Weekends are when we have the more - shall we say - fun activities where I can join in and supervise more.  But really, it's just my sneaky way of making sure she'd like activities with me, not yaya.  Besides when it's more fun, it lessens the chore that playtime can sometimes feel like.

I'm already looking forward to the weekend after a long week at work.  I think I'll revive this little activity for the holiday preparations!

Take some paint and a big piece of craft paper and make prints with feet and hands.  Even better with a playmate (that's how this one was made):
Tape the paper on floor and have her step on trays filled with paint
Then use it as wrapping paper!

She wasn't too adept at her fine motor skills enough to help with the wrapping then, but we'll try again this year as we remember three special steps from Special Agent Oso.

Three steps (that are really five) to wrapping paper
Wish we had started out early because I discovered that you can DIY edible paint for babies too!
Edible paint recipe here

What I will never, ever do again is this:
So wrong...
... to try this with a real stamp pad.  
We both went to school/office with purple hands and feet for the next two days.  

For an intelligent parent, I can be pretty dumb sometimes.  

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Leave-Behind, No-Waste Playdough

I love Playdough but it doesn't love me back.  Here's another simple compromise a working mom needed to make.

After going a little crazy with buying playdough when it was safe for Ladybug Girl to play with, all I ended up coming home to were mixed colors and hardened clay.  I'm sure every mom will relate to that, (like OC Mom in Manila's post here).  What a waste!

So we just ended up using the hardened playdough in projects like this:
our first volcano using hardened playdough, baking powder + vinegar with with red food coloring
I envy moms who can leave playdough readily available with the rest of the toys.  Or those who can supervise creative things that leave playdough out in the open like this:
Playdough activity area from above blog I follow
I even tried to do a leave-behind tray with playdough, copied from another site (which ended up being too much work than it was worth):
The point was to stick the playdough "apples" on top of each family member, just like the book
I went through two cans of playdough for the duration of the tray and just felt it was such a waste (though fun).  Playdough is definitely not leave-behind friendly for the DIY Corporate Mom!

So now it's pretty much a supervised activity for floor time with me.  Which means I pre-prepare it (does that make sense?), and use it for playful learning like these instead:
Mixing colors to make green and varying hues of it (a sensorial activity)
Practicing fine motor skills work like rolling and slicing
Making collages (which I confess I dismantle and return in proper cans afterwards)

So what is a friendly leave-behind alternative for the working mom?  Moon dough!  I use it with Ladybug Girl's Play-doh letters and numbers (but it doesn't work with the fancier mold sets, I tried).
Ladybug girl stamps the words, following the flashcard, on moon dough.  We also use it to stamp her name.
The best part is it never dries out, and I just smudge away the stamp dents with my fingers - and it's ready for a new word instantly!

We also use it as a pretend clay tablet like the ancient students during the Egyptian days.  I make her do lines and pictures to practice her writing without her knowing.  Since she's still developing her fine motor skills, this encourages her to focus on making words without the struggle of writing.

So now this DIY Corporate Momma can have the best of both worlds. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leave-Behind Activity Trays: Hands-On Parenting Tool

After I discovered and fell in love research about Montessori methods, I started to leave behind "do it herself" activity trays available for my new preschooler while I was at work.  I didn't even know the full Montessori curriculum - you don't need to - it was really just for fun.  Or to lessen the guilt.  (Ok, both).

I would be thrilled to come home and find that she did some things I left for her.  It was almost as if I was there myself!
Her activity trays before and after their debut on her playroom shelves.  
Much as I wanted to do all the creative stuff on the homeschool blogs I follow, it simply isn't possible to be that hands-on for a working mom.  Literally, career talaga these homeschool moms.

What working moms need to start are easy:
  • Trays for self-contained activities.  This can be anything from cardboard shoebox lids to baskets.  I was OC, so I got mine for 40 each at Japan Home.
  • Easy-access tables/shelves where the trays stay as a ready invitation to play.
  • An actual floor time lesson or two to show her how to get and return trays on her shelf.  We spent some weekend time doing some trays together as well, so she knows how the general thing works

"What's this?" - Ladybug Girl's excitement when she first discovered the trays in her room (July 2011)
I found I needed to tweak things a bit so that Ladybug Girl can do things on her own, since she tends to get discouraged when she doesn't immediately succeed.  

A lot of ideas in the homeschool blogs are generally ones that need a lot of setup and direct supervision, so here I will capture the tools I discovered that make setup easy and lessen the potential of frustration when I'm not around to guide her.  

Here's a quick one:
Clear contact paper!  (find this in True Value, Handyman or Ace)
Since she does her trays pretty much alone, sticky contact paper keeps things in place like an invisible guide. To illustrate:
Cut out and attach to a clipboard, sticky side up, to hold paper games in place.  Games can be anything you can think of.
Contact paper on a larger-scale for an inviting and neat way to work on puzzles
Attach it to glass for an anything goes canvas for art.  It stays sticky for a long time so we leave it up and keep reusing it.
It's DIY, it's hands-on while allowing me to be at work, and it's playful learning for Ladybug Girl.  

I love stumbling upon these simple solutions.