Sunday, 28 April 2013

After-Work Play: Easy Ref Cake

The Lord truly blesses working mothers with bursts of energy.  Most days I'm so tired when I come home, but having someone so happy to see me gives me that extra boost I need to resist the urge to tune out and snooze.

After-work play is one thing I need to keep working on for quality time and ideas.  Otherwise, half the time it's iPad.  Thankfully, I have a mental stock of Pinterest ideas to grab from.  

This was one of them : a quick no-bake cake to make together.  Just thirty minutes - and it was yum.   

Thanks to my lovely lovely friend, Nessie, for the pin.

We just got lucky everything was on hand.  Her lola had just given her this:

Regular graham crackers works too.  I put it in a ziploc for her to mash with a meat hammer - instant piecrust. 

Then we made the filling with 1/4 cup cream cheese, strawberry yogurt (1/3 of the cup) and honey to taste:

We used honey instead of sugar because "sugar is bad for the teeth".
(I love kids educational shows no matter what anyone says.  She never would have gotten that from me.)

"Stir stir stir, till everything's a blur" - she still says this quote from our favorite blog My Milk Toof.

I cut up the frozen berries and we added them to the filling.

Assembly time:

Lastly, some berries on top to make it pretty.


Awesome Guy and I finished it the next day.

Tired as I was, doing an activity that was different from most days was a nice little energizer.  While other moms bake for talent, I bake for play.  Or guilt.    

Yeah, I have my issues.  Hence the blog!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Neon Experiment Gone Wrong

Help.  I'm stuck.  I thought that bright spots of color would liven up my dark corner project and I picked neon - whyyy.  I blame Pinterest.

Here's the dark corner the last time I left it.

See the horror story start here.

Those chairs were old and rusty, so I didn't feel too nervous about experimenting with them.  

Covered up the wood part.  This took 15 minutes (and then yaya did the other chair).

Then it took another fifteen minutes each to paint the chairs.

My pointer finger was killing me! (Don't buy the 'premium' brand from True Value. I finished a whole can on this chair since the trigger was so tricky.  The cheap spray paint brand from Ace works better.)

I'm getting to the problem now.  At first I was pleased with how it turned out.

Just don't look too closely at the paint job, but not bad for a quick makeover.

But when I step back and look at the whole thing...

There's just something wrong... or missing... or something.

The neon is too... neon.  It feels like I need to add more neon decor just to balance things out.  That's not what I wanted (or have time or money for).  Rookie mistake.

Any ideas out there?  If I'm going to repaint it, it better be the last time!
I'm trying to convince myself that it's growing on me... but no.  Just no.

Follow the next chapter of the dark corner project here.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Play Spaces: The Bathroom(!)

This was not my idea.  It was Ladybug Girl's - and I absolutely adore it!

Ladybug Girl and I were doing a little project together, when she disappeared for maybe twenty minutes while I kept painting.  She was clearly busy - I could hear her chattering as her footsteps went back and forth along the corridor.  

She came back and said "let's go to the zoo!"

I thought it was just one of her usual outbursts because of the books she reads ("Let's go to Australia!  Let's go to the library!").  But this time she said "come on, mommy, I'll show you!".  

She led me to the bathroom.

She had a made a zoo in it.

This was the petting area where you could feed the animals.

Over here by the door was a "fish".
There was water in the bowl, and she had drawn grass on the wall using her bath crayons.
In front of the toilet were more animals like "ladybugs" and "fireflies".
You could buy "food" for them over here.
(Notice how we keep the bath crayons accessible?  I can't find any in Manila, but see here for an easy DIY-version)

Inside the shower-tub area she had put the special animals...

... like the lion!  

This may look like chicken scratches to some, but to a mom they're  the beginning of fine motor and concentration skills.
And memory skills too.  We love going to Singapore for their zoo, and she remembered that only bushes separate the animals from the people.  If I were to draw a zoo from my childhood it would be lots and lots of cages.

We spent some time inside playing pretend.  I thought this was a great play space created by Ladybug Girl - so creative to use the bathroom of all places, even beyond bath time.

This time it was all her idea.  Such a spark in her eyes I saw.

Early on I wrote this round-up of bath play ideas we would do.  I love that Ladybug Girl is getting old enough to add to this list, too.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Getting More Play From Puzzle Sets

The thing with puzzle game sets for preschoolers is that you need to spend considerable floor time teaching the rules and solving successive levels with them.  Then the puzzle gets packed away and forgotten.

Frankly, it's not my favorite way of spending precious floor time with Ladybug Girl because puzzles are really more for individual play.  I still prefer to play together over being her teacher.

Now fast-forward to the solution... you guessed it, a leave-behind tray.

A simple and inviting way to solve the puzzle


This set was gifted by my sister to Ladybug Girl on her first birthday.  Sometime after she turned three and I brought this out to play together, she didn't show any interest.  But when she turned four, I brought it out again and just left it out on her shelf like this.

This is a super easy way to create a daily logical game for preschoolers.
Just flip to the next puzzle page and set out the pieces.

I found this picture, snapped by Ladybug Girl herself.

This is the same trick I use for invitations to do regular jigsaw puzzles.  Ladybug Girl did not take to jigsaw puzzles early - it was tricky finding puzzles at the right difficulty level that would interest but not intimidate my little Dove.

Ladybug Girl stayed away from the jigsaw puzzle I started, looking at the box and tentatively peeking again.  But she didn't feel confident to approach me until the last few puzzle pieces were left.
This was just four months ago.

So thankful that a sweet co-worker gifted her with this cute starter jigsaw puzzle set last Christmas : it had 10 puzzles of increasing difficulty.  We're now nearly halfway through with one puzzle per day.

I asked yaya to cut the picture on the box as a guide.  Then our new easel doubles up as an inviting workspace for leave-behind puzzles thanks to our trusty washi tape and contact paper with the sticky side up.

Best of all, when I come home from work she proudly takes my hand and shows me her puzzle for that day.  It still fills me with wonder at the progress preschoolers make in just a few months with a few days of play.

I love that she's discovering something new I leave each day, and that I'm discovering something new about her too.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Sandy Paint: Weekend Play

We love to make a mess of weekends.

Weekends are when I road test ideas I get about play - usually it's when I can join in and we can get messy.  There's some magic in sensorial play that makes Ladybug Girl practice concentration and build confidence through new experiences.

Weekends are also when yaya gets her days off, so these are the times to bring out the extra-special bonding ideas like this:

Like most kids, two of her favorite things are paint and sand.  So why not combine the two?

This had only 5 minutes of set-up time outside.  I invited her outside after her nap for a surprise:

"What's this..!" - A child's awe is a joy to behold.

I showed her the materials and said she could mix the paint and sand together.  Then stepped back, curious, to let her lead the play and learn more about her.

When I started out two years ago on a playful parenting style, I would direct a lot of her play towards how I pictured "fun" would be in my head.  Later on, I read that when parents do that, it stops creativity and confidence - and in fact we would have a lot of stand-offs that stop the fun.

For example, I had expected this to be the outcome:

Mix first, then make pictures with the sponge brushes.

But Ladybug Girl had other ideas.  She started with something familiar we do:

She put a blob of paint and then folded to make a print.  Then added something new: a sprinkle of sand on top.

And that began her art:

Dab.  Sprinkle. Shake.

And kept her going.

Dab.  Sprinkle.  Shake.


... was

... fascinated!

I fully expected her to lose interest after her usual half hour (if I'm lucky).  But this time she kept at her work for an hour and twenty minutes.

And I was fascinated seeing her in deep concentration.

See how filled up the paper was getting?

I was not oblivious to Ladybug Girl's "come on, mommy!" urgings.  So typical that despite her concentration, she remains sensitive to the people around her.

As I joined in,  my little Dove would look over to keep encouraging "that's beautiful, mommy!"

But really it was she I was intent upon.  I was indulging in some mom-fantasy:

This reminded me of a scene I witnessed along the quaint Haji Lane in Singapore, of this shop owner doing her thing.   Awesome Guy and I sometimes talk about how we wish Ladybug Girl to grow up specializing in a craft of her own expertise  Not corporate - haha.   

Oh I am so wondrous of the magic of play.

She was incredibly proud of her finished work.

As was I.

Now that was fun.  And it was just sandy paint.

  There's something so great about gunky hands.  It's a mark of getting lost in satisfying play.  And proof of why weekends are pretty special to a corporate mom.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Leave-Behind Trick : Add An Egg-Timer

A simple trick I use to add a twist to Ladybug Girl's leave behind activities is to place an egg timer on her activity tray.

It works because the timer makes the activity into more of a game - especially when it's not an activity she likes that much.

She's not a big lover of puzzles, even easy toddler puzzles like this.  This sat on her shelf for a week.
When I added the timer and note, it got done the next day.

The trick is to first make winning achievable (for my little Dove-personality daughter at least) by matching the difficulty level to the 3-minute timer.  The puzzles above were a set, which eventually became the final challenge to do all four puzzles in 3-minutes.

Same situation with her salt-tracing tray for practicing writing.  This was ignored until I put the timer.

This was a one-minute timer for to feel the sandpaper letters with her finger, then trace them on her salt tray.

This was a salt-tray variation for her to practice her name for 5 minutes.
Her yaya says she didn't use all 5 minutes though (the idea was for her to keep 'erasing' the tray).

The timers also come in handy for a visual tool so she can grasp the concept of time.  We use the 10-minute sand timer to countdown the final moments before bathtime, bedtime and end-of-iPad-time.  Her yaya also uses them when I'm not around, so they're always out on her playroom shelf.

I have this set, but frankly it's too pricey - an egg timer from national bookstore would work fine.

Sand timer set from Hobbes and Landes, Php1,500+

Sand timers are pretty useful for leave-behind activities - I have a feeling I'm just scratching the surface at all kinds of play with them, too.

Except boiling eggs.  I always thought it took 3-minutes to boil an egg (that's why they're called egg timers I thought!).  But we literally had an Easter egg emotional breakdown that shattered that notion.

Poor little egg didn't make it to Easter!