Thursday, 24 October 2013

Make Together: Montessori Color Tablets

I think this DIY puzzle project breaks the rules of Montessori but I'm sharing it anyway because it has worked for us.  And it's fun to make.  And it's fun to break the rules sometimes.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Two Ways to Make Play Oceans

My officemate just told me about this cute new service called Sandbox that delivers monthly kiddie play packages to your home.  I love the idea that kids get mail!  The only thing is - it's pretty expensive.   And since I'm neither an early-adaptor nor am I Daphne Osena, I will try my best to ignore the temptation.

Their first package is on ocean play - and it's my inspiration for this next post on our 'weekend play series'.  So easy, messy and fun:

First up, an ocean in the kitchen.  Make blue gelatin and freeze some plastic sea animals
Careful, it's hot!  For younger kids, you can just prep ahead and let them pour the cooled mixture.
Pouring is great practical life work in Montessori schools.
Put the animals in and spend time talking about them or playing pretend.
You could also let the kiddos be the ones to wash the plastic toys first.

Once chilled and firm, practice slicing and scooping to serve.
Test their animal memory or use this as a lesson in what's what.  Keep playing!

It melts fast, so be prepared for this messy part!  This was berry-flavored and so sweet, that we just went ahead and let it melt.  Later on yaya diluted it with water and made herself a yummy juice.  If you can't find blue gelatin, you can always add food coloring to the clear kind.

Second, make a beach with tray of sand and colored water.

This would make a great lesson on beach animals
This time you can use more options for the blue color.  A little watercolor or poster paint, even.
This one was an expired bottle of Listerine Mouth Rinse for kids.  Hahaha.  It smelled great!
Sensorial play is really still her favorite kind.
Check out our other sand play ideas particularly for toddlers here and for art here.

Inevitably weekend play becomes super random:

I remember doing this when I was a kid, do you?

I still love the play-package-by-mail as a gift idea.  I think gifts you can happily throw money at, but playing with your child doesn't have to be one of them.   All we moms need is a weekend to follow our child's imagination.

And maybe Pinterest.

more weekend ideas here

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Elusive Toy Library Theory

I heard about this "toy library" theory where parents keep toys to a minimum by rotating what's on display and keeping the rest hidden.

It's easier said than done.  I've been fixing a toy closet for nine months now.

Back in January we had Ladybug Girl's closet made over to encourage more independence and confidence.  Maybe that was over-reaching but these closets had ambition!

The other ambition was that hopefully the second closet will be for her sibling someday.  If you build it, it will come.

The one on the right is pretty successful.  It's her clothes and linens closet.

Ironically she hadn't shown much interest picking her own clothes.  Which is fine because I live out my stylish wardrobe fantasies through her while my body and I are not on speaking terms.  But she does fetch her nightwear for bed thanks to the low shelves. 

The closet on the left is meant to be the toy library.  

Believe me this doesn't look like progress but it is.

The goal is to keep all toys and leave-behind activity materials in one place.  Except for her play kitchen space in the family area, she would know where all her things are.  

There are some working areas like:

1.  The Dress-Up Station
Costumes and ballet gear and (sige na nga) the princess crown
Getting out her dress up things herself
She dresses up for ballet "shows" (left) and sometimes wears a crown to school (right).  

2.  The Toy Store Easy-Access Shelves:
Our very own toy store!  I also put the newer toys and gifts she received for her birthday here. 

Here she is reaching for the Orbeez toy box.

3.  The Heavily-Curated Stuffed Toy Collection:
It looks manageable here but I still wish this would be half its size.  
She does use the toys though.  One time I checked in on her during the night and caught her in the darkened room, holding a flashlight and reaching for a toy "to cuddle for sleep".

4.  Out-of-Sight Toy Stash
Toys I'm saving for future use and her Strawberry Shortcake collection for when she plays with her bed playscape.

And then there are the parts that need work, like:

1.  The Small-Toy Drawers
Zero play -- they need labels

2.  My Leave-Behind Activity Supplies
This was meant to be my storage for rotating repeat activities I would leave-behind for Ladybug Girl everyday.
This is why it doesn't work: 

Half-done ideas clutter in the spare room/library/office/dumping ground

So until I finish up that pile, those organizers aren't really being useful as a self-limiter to our toys and supplies.  But every single time I work to clear the pile, I get more ideas that I save up for when I have more time (I never do).

I'm getting to my breakpoint where I can't stand the mess and I'll just throw everything out.  That may not be a bad idea.

Overall it's still great.  I wish I had gotten started on it earlier when she turned one and all the toy store stuff started pouring in.  But since that Strawberry Shortcake Sale lesson, we keep a one-in-one-out policy.  It's also "saving the planet from trash" so she actually says she has too much toys.  It helps when she really wants something, I ask what she can give away.

I love it when she yells "Mommy!  I found the walkie talkie!" or another toy that got buried in memory and the old mess.

Rediscovering this dog walking toy after the closet rearrangement

Some toys still multiply despite the toy library.  Her father just can't resist Happy Meal toys and the occasional "guess what I have for you?" surprise.  But by this time I can tell which toys make it to a semi-permanent place in her shelves.

None of them.

So our toy closet is not perfect, but it's a good start!

See a gallery of our other play spaces here.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Learning About Privacy and Priorities

Ladybug Girl has this nervous habit of biting the nails of her hands... and feet.  Sometimes her daddy would come in and catch her de-kuwatro on her bed, going at those little toes.

"Da-ddy!  Close the door, I need some PRIVACY!"

She knows about privacy.  Her ninang works for a big news channel and taught me to be conscious about privacy and to teach Ladybug Girl about body parts that only mommy, yaya and doctor can touch and see.

She now closes the door when she's on her toilet, pulls the curtain when she's in her shower, and sometimes she does this:

She's putting on her underwear inside her closet for privacy.  Cute!

A couple of weeks ago, I had her pose for a shoot for our merchandising material.  For free, of course, how could I say no?  She didn't want to remove her top at first until I promised her only mommy would see her front.

Later on though, she felt comfortable enough to play around the studio without her shirt.  I covered her up with a cardigan in front but not always since it got in the way of the shot that was needed.

You know what?  I ended up feeling bad about it, and I can't shake it off.  I feel bad that I was inconsistent.  I feel bad that I wasn't more protective.  She got sick afterwards too, and I feel bad I didn't insist for the air-conditioning to be turned off.

I feel bad that I compromised my parenting instincts.  It's not like I didn't have the power to ask for things for my daughter.  Gee, I was the client at that shoot!  Our culture is too nice sometimes that I don't want to rock the boat unnecessarily.  I worried that I would be judged for being too overprotective and demanding by the people I work with.

Well, so I am.

And it's not because I am the client.  It's because I am the mother.

I've always thought I would know when to put my daughter above work, and that would be always.  Turns out I needed a little lesson to remember.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Leaving Behind Creative Tools

I know they say to a certain extent you can't teach creativity, but as a parent I love encouraging it.

Working in corporate, I've seen the differences and merits between being a critical thinker and a creative thinker.  Critical thinkers see the problems and logic.  Creative thinkers see the possibilities and surprising solutions.  All too often, you either have the latter or you don't.

A simple thing that seems to encourage creative thinking in our home is leaving behind some crafty stuff for open-ended play.  Our stuff always change but the only rule is that they're always accessible.

Closet organizer hung at a two-year old level.
The rest of the pockets held scissors, glue sticks, etc.

I stumbled upon this leave-behind solution because I wanted to encourage more fine motor skills even when I wasn't around to care for her myself.  She didn't develop fine motor early -  so I had noticed that doing grown-up led art easily frustrated her and she would give up, thinking she could not do it.

Structured art from her (non-Montessori) toddler school workbook.  These were obviously tricky for her.

It also didn't help that I was clueless how to play with a toddler. 
I thought coloring sheets were "it" and tried to teach her to paint inside the lines.  Very adult-led.
She was just two years old here.

In contrast, when she would create on her own she could do this for long minutes.
With intense concentration (nighttime was no exception)
Creating unnamed things
over and over with seeming purpose that only made sense to her

I was very careful not to ask "what's that?".  The question strangely deflated her.  Eventually as I discovered and read more about children and play, I found out that the best way to join in is to ask "tell me about it!". In my little Dove's case, so very very very casually.

"Wow, let me take a picture of your work".
I wasn't sure if I went overboard with excessive praise, but I desperately wanted her to gain more confidence.

Sometimes we would just quietly do random art side by side and I could model possibilities.

And sometimes I would be an observer pointing out something she did or throw ideas to keep going:
She either joins me in thinking "what if" aloud or firmly says we do it another way.  
I love these conversations.
It's even easy to do after work because there's not a lot of deliberate thought for me.

Since I noticed how they spark a lot of play, her open-ended craft things now take up  the prime shelf space in her room:
All sorts of paint, markers, scissors, glue, sponges, collage stuff, pipe cleaners, stickers, paper, sticks, clay.  

In the past year before she turned five, her creations are naturally more recognizable.  Best of all, she uses her imagination more often to "solve a problem".  

Here she is at her bed playscape, creating a real world of a story she had read.

I believe this is her "strawberry lake"

One time she wanted to wear her pink sneakers but they were left in school.

She ran to her room and emerged in these.

Recently my camera broke and she saw how sad I was.  
"I know mommy, we can make you a new one!"

She ran to her room and emerged with this.
She even explained that there was only one "M" sticker, so she flipped the "W" upside down.

I proudly brought it to take photos at the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit at the Mind Museum:

Ladybug Girl clicks away at the Last Supper.
This exhibit was world class -- a million times better than their usual Mind Burst series, and a nice experience on encouraging creativity.

What else does creativity look like?  I found this shortlist helpful:
  • Synthesizes ideas in original and surprising ways.
  • Asks new questions to build upon an idea.
  • Brainstorms multiple ideas and solutions to problems.
  • Communicates ideas in new and innovative ways.
I'm not aiming for Leonardo da Vinci level here.
I just noticed that creative thinkers find a little more joy being in the world.  I'd like that for my little girl.

Okay that and a non-corporate career.  

Browse our gallery of leave-behind play here.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Poopoo Party

The big dilemma in throwing a poopoo party was to figure out how to make it on-theme yet tasteful.  I wasn't sure I had the creativity or time for this.