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A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Recycled Paper Bag Tiger Puppet August 3, 2010

Zach, Emily, Isaac and I had some errands to run today. We were out and about during that critical hour when kids suddenly become ravenous. It’s one thing for mommy to wait for lunch, but Zach…well…his inner demon emerges within about 2 minutes of deciding he’s hungry. Now. So, I had a crucial parenting decision to make: deal with the tantrums in public, or hit a drive thru. McDonald’s it was!!!

Now, before you make a critique of Zach’s nutrition for the day; he basically ate his side of apple slices (not fries) and nothing else. The boy loves his fruit. He also drank his milk. So really, it was my wallet that hurt more than his tummy today! We won’t talk about what I had to eat (but, am I a sucker for those fries, oh boy).

Anyway. Happy Meals these days come in paper sacks. Not the nifty cardboard boxes we got as kids. When I saw the bag I thought, “Cool. A craft supply.” Yeah, how nerdy am I?

Happy Meal Sack

So I took this paper sack and turned it inside out. A blank canvas perfect for paper bag puppet making! A tiger paper bag puppet to be specific.

Happy Meal Sack turned inside out

Aside from a paper sack, here are today’s supplies:

Paper sack, black construction paper, orange construction paper (not pictured, oops), scissors, glue, googly eyes, orange paint, paint brush

I decided on this project for several reasons, besides the availability of a paper sack, that is. 1.) Zach has acquired an imaginary tiger. We pet the tiger, we watch it eat grass (apparently this tiger is a vegetarian), we make it go away when it is scary. So, I thought it would be fun to personify an animal he likes and 2.) It’s an opportunity to practice cutting with scissors, which is a fine motor skill.

First, Zach painted the paper bag. Actually, I had to BEG him to do this. He’d already spotted his new safety scissors and was semi-obsessed with wanting to cut things.

Painting the paper sack orange. Or, terra cotta, if that's the paint color you have.

While waiting for the paint to become reasonably dry, we cut stripes, whiskers, ears and a nose out for the tiger out of our black and orange construction paper.While I was holding the paper steady for him, Zach was actually surprisingly good at using the scissors. I bought a special kind that has a little plastic attachment on it that helps the scissors bounce back once he squeezes them. Once he gets the hang of the motion, I can turn the plastic part the other way and Zach can do all the cutting on his own.

Cutting the orange paper

Then Zach glued the stripes to the orange bag, to make it more tiger-like. At this point in time, Pete came home from work. Pete was astonished to see that Zach could glue and cut things and that I wasn’t doing it all for him. If my kid doesn’t learn colors or the alphabet after this year of projects, by golly, he will know how to make random stuff out of paper and glue!!

Glueing

And sticking

Of course, now that Daddy was home, Zach wanted nothing to do with craft time. Yeah, yeah. I get it. Mommy is second-fiddle to Daddy. Don’t worry. I’ll make this tiger by myself. No, really. It’s fine.

So, I finished gluing on the whiskers, nose, ears and googly eyes to make a lovely tiger puppet.

What a lovely tiger puppet

Zach did play with the puppet later though!

Rawr

What did Zach learn today? He worked on the fine motor skills of scissor usage. We also talked about colors–black and orange.

What did Mommy learn? That Zach is suddenly a skilled scissor user. Who knew? Guess all that playing with cotton balls played off!

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Whoa…is it dusty in here or what? July 30, 2010

Um, hi.

I know, I know. I said I would write. I said I would write EVERY day. And I intended to do that. And then, well. You see, I got BUSY. And I bet you can hardly imagine that, as a mother of now nearly 7 month old twins and a 2 1/2 year old, I might be busy. But I was.

Sorry for neglecting you, my precious blog. Sorry for abandoning you, my handful of faithful readers! I am back. And that’s the thing about journeys right? You may get off course, but it takes just one step on the old path to get back on it again. So. Here I am.

And never to fear. I may have been too busy to write (and boy do I have the list of excuses, but I’ll spare you), but not too busy to be keeping my children busy!

To fill you in on the past almost 2 months, I’ll just do a sneak peek here. Then, as I have time, I will update these sneak peeks with posts and tutorials. But I will simply move forward as I do that, so as not to create an even FURTHER backlog as I try to catch up.

So, since we last spoke. Here is what we have been  up to.

We….

Wrote our own songs & lyrics

Went on quite a few road trips to Michigan and Minnesota

Got to ride on Grandpa's tractor

Got to see our G.G. when she came to visit

Made a fort out of blankets in the living room

Painted picture frames for all our grandpas

...and for Daddy

Painted a t-shirt for our cousin, Ethan, because it was his first birthday

Made the wrapping paper for Ethan's present

Celebrated Father's Day

Learned to use a train whistle

Went to a BBQ at Uncle Chris' and made new friends

Went out for ice cream

Flew remote control toys with Daddy (this is a helicopter)

Painted the letter D

Made a Chinese "Dragon Kite"

Made thumbprint art

Killed time at the Dr.'s office by practicing shape recognition

Made an entire orchestra's worth of paper plate and cardboard instruments, like this Paper Plate Violin

and this Paper Towel Tube Flute

and these Paper Plate Cymbals

and finally, a cardboard box "Color Piano" (I think my kid is going to be a musician one day)

Had to go in the basement and hang out because of tornado sirens

Made thunder noises with a big sheet of paper and talked about weather (so it's not so scary next time there is a big storm)

Did 4th of July themed activities like hand print fireworks with Mommy

and lit up "snakes" with Daddy (insert Mommy "eyeroll" here)

Got our first set of golf clubs at Grandma's house in Minnesota

Went to the splash park (and the beach, and played in our sprinkler, and played in our kiddie pool)

Started solids

Found our feet

Went to Aunt Ciana's graduation party in Michigan

Made an awesome race car out of a big, cardboard box

Played "house" and "restaurant" and "this is where the puppy lives" with a big, cardboard box

Painted whatever we wanted with brushes

Made scribble drawings

Played with Easter Eggs (again)

Pretended to be a puppy (a lot).

Decided that THIS is how you play with a bouncy seat (and there's no stopping us)

Started trying to CRAWL (Mommy says, "AHHHH!")

Played with textures like crinkly newspaper

Made an elevator on our living room wall

Painted with noodles. How silly!

Decided we should do things, "All by ourselves"...like put on our sunglasses.

We went to the park, and on playdates. We pretended to be puppies and frogs. We developed an imaginary tiger as a friend.We colored and painted and cooked and made things…like I said…we were BUSY.

And there you have it. Whew!

(please check back for individual posts on these projects as I get time to update them. I will link the posts to the pictures.)

 

Day 36: Snacklet May 24, 2010

A snacklet is a bracelet, made out of snacks. It could also be a necklace (but would then be called a snacklace). It’s fun because it’s an educational activity, but you can eat it!

Today’s supplies:

Cereal with holes (like Cheerios or Fruit Loops) and pipe cleaners

I admit that I bought the Fruit Loops solely to do this project. We don’t normally serve them here, so needless to say we all went crazy with cereal eating and 2 days after I bought them, they are GONE. LOL! What a treat. But, I managed to save enough to do this. Cheerios work just as well, skills wise, but the Fruit Loops just make it look so much more festive and colorful (and teach color). I could have used string instead of pipe cleaners for this, but I wasn’t sure how easily Zach would be able to get the cereal on the string, so I started off easy. Next time, I’ll use string or yarn, he did pretty well with this today. I read about this activity HERE. It helps him with his fine motor skills. As I mentioned, the Fruit Loops can provide a lesson in colors. And you can count each piece as you put it on. We didn’t, but if you wanted too, you could also teach pattern (Red piece, blue piece, green piece. Red piece, blue piece, green piece, etc.). It’s also a nice after nap snack.

So, basically, I just had him slide the cereal onto the pipe cleaner. It was a little difficult to convince him to not eat the cereal first, but as soon as I did one as an example for him and showed him he could eat the cereal later, he was in.

Showing Zach how to lace the cereal onto the pipe cleaner

After doing a few pieces for Zach, I held the pipe cleaner and let him slide the cereal on.

Figuring out how to get the cereal on the "stick", as he called it

Then, after we filled the pipe cleaner up, I tied it to his wrist and let him eat from the snacklet. He thought this was pretty fun.

Tying the bracelet to his wrist

What a fine looking bracelet, I mean, snacklet

Yum!

Then he decided he was confident enough to do the next one himself.

Doing it all by himself

And, if you’re wondering why his face is so messy, it could be because he decided to eat his lunch like this today:

Eating like a puppy

Talk about an imaginative kid! He was pretending to be a puppy this afternoon. And uh, no, I didn’t clean his face before nap. Oops.

What did Zach learn today? He worked on fine motor skills, counting and colors. And he got to eat some yummy (forbidden) sugary cereal (notice I also included some healthy Cheerios too though!).

What did Mommy learn today? How fun it is (however messy) to watch my child pretending. He’s so silly!

 

Day 34: Abacus May 23, 2010

Today I spent the day with some girlfriends at a teeny little store we like to call Ikea. OK, so it’s not so teeny. And it’s pretty much impossible to go there and not get sucked in for a good 4 hours. And besides carrying the world’s greatest selection of particle board and wood veneer furniture, Ikea also has an impressive display of educational, reasonably priced kids toys, like the wooden abacus I bought for Zach.

Zach's new "toy"

According to the New World Encyclopedia (whose website looks suspiciously like Wikipedia, so take this definition for what it’s worth), abaci have been “in use centuries before the adoption of the written Hindu-Arabic numeral system and is still widely used by merchants and clerks in China, Japan, Africa and elsewhere.” In other words, a really long time.

I basically bought it because I knew that Zach would have fun sliding and rolling the beads under his hands, so it’s a sensory toy. I also knew he’d like to count them. The beads are colorful, so I can use it to teach him colors. They are also grouped in 10’s, so we can learn to count by 10 (up to 100). It’s all sorts of usefulness. It also looks like part of the playscape at our local playground and Zach loves to play with that.

So, when I got home from the Ikea-fest, I unwrapped the abacus and put it in front of Zach. He took to it immediately. He slid the beads back and forth. He took the palm of his hand and spun them around (this made him laugh because it kind of tickles). He counted them one by one. And he even told ME the colors of some of the beads. Yellow and Green specifically. On his own. Yay Zach!

Moving the beads over one by one

No. We have STILL not painted that wall. It'll happen. Someday.

Of course, you know that we can’t do anything here without enlisting the help of the front loader and/or dump truck. Zach said, “Yellow tractor. Here tractor, yellow.” I assume the last yellow as for the beads. And then he made the tractor play with the abacus.

Tractor + Abacus = Fun

What did Zach learn today? The abacus was good for all kinds of things: sensory play, color learning, counting practice, imaginative play (with the tractor) and motor skills.

What did Mommy learn? Occasionally I hit the nail on the head in the toy department. And this is great for long-term use as he gets older and learns more math.

 

Day 33: Ripping Paper

When your child seems to be in a destructive phase, rather than a constructive phase, it can really grate on your nerves as a mother. Instead of coloring, he’d rather throw the crayons. Instead of reading, he’d rather test the strength of the book pages. Instead of building towers, he’d rather knock them down. You get the idea. So the best thing to do is to remember the mantra, “If you can’t beat him. Join him.”

Today’s activity not only harnesses fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, it also spoke to Zach’s desire to tear things up and make a mess. It’s pretty simple. Tearing and crumpling up strips of paper. Yep, it’s a legitimate learning activity! I read about it HERE.

First I gathered up the junk mail newspaper pages that we get in our house every day. Mostly ads for the sales at the grocery store (clip the good coupons first, of course).

Making use of junk mail

Then I called Zach over and told him I needed help (this works better than, “Let’s do a lesson!” because he likes to be a “good helper”). I said I needed to make paper strips. I showed  him how to tear the paper into strips and handed him a piece. You may not really think about it, but tearing paper into strips takes some dexterity. Dexterity that adults come by easily, but 2-year-olds are still learning.

Attempting to rip the paper

At first he was just trying to pull on the paper, as if he were ripping off little bits, or pulling it apart. So, I had to show him again how to rip it into long strips. I actually had to start the rip for him and then let him tear the rest of himself. After we ripped off enough strips (read: after he started showing some boredom in ripping strips of paper), I then asked him to help me make paper balls.

Crumpling paper is another activity that takes more dexterity than you think it does. I had to show Zach how to smoosh and crunch the paper up in his hands. At first, he just crinkled along the strip, but then he understood how to crunch it up between his two hands to make the “ball” shape.

Crumpling the paper

Then, the fun part. Throwing the paper balls!

Throwing? Easy! This part I got down!!

Yes, my living room floor DID look like this in the end. But thats OK, newspaper is not the messiest thing I have had to clean up in the name of crafts and learning!

What did Zach learn today? He worked on fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

What did Mommy learn? To think on my feet. We had another color learning activity planned and it ended disastrously (“No, no, no, no, no, we don’t put pipe cleaners in the toilet!!!”). I was super frustrated, but once I began an activity that fit his mood, things went much smoother.

 

Day 22: Cotton Balls May 10, 2010

Filed under: counting,fine motor skills — Erin Brambilla @ 9:28 pm
Tags: ,

Yes, today is another day involving random household objects in mixing bowls. But, this is different. Today’s activity is about fine motor skills, not sensory development. See. Different. Even if it is just some cotton balls in some mixing bowls.

All kids focus on different skills at different times and excel at certain skills above others. Zach is a kid who has mastered his gross motor skills. He can jump using two feet, instead of hopping from one, and gets some good air. He can run, and run FAST. He climbs up everything. His verbal skills are OK. He’s certainly talking more and more these days (it’s kind of amazing actually). The area we have never really spent much focus has been fine motor skills, like writing. Or using utensils better, I have never really given him the chance to eat something like soup, for instance. I always feed him foods that have the option of using his hands if he wants. Or foods that stick to the spoon without running off of it, like yogurt.

The other reason, besides being necessary, to work on fine motor skills is that we’re doing a lot more crafts these days. If I’m going to have him help me more with these, he’s going to need to learn to use scissors. Right now he just can’t. So today’s activity helps with this skill. It will also eventually help his hand dexterity and he’ll have an easier time learning to do things like hold a pencil properly. I learned about this super simple activity HERE.

Here are today’s supplies:

2 mixing bowls, tongs, cotton balls

The directions are simple. I put 10 cotton balls in one bowl. I showed Zach how to hold the tongs like scissors. And then I told him to pick up one cotton ball at a time and move it from the small bowl to the big bowl (bonus lesson on sizes and opposites there, oh and counting too!).  I demonstrated first, then asked him if he wanted to try. He was very into it.

Trying out the tongs

We quickly learned though that he is not quite ready for the one-handed, scissor-style tong actions yet. So I did a few with him. And then we just focused on using both hands. Even using two hands required a lot of concentration and coordination on his part to get each cotton ball individually, pinch it and move it over. At times he got quite frustrated (but lots of cheers and encouragement helped).

Two-handed tong action

Eventually, once he got pretty good at getting the cotton balls back and forth between the two bowls, he started getting fancy. He spaced the bowls out and sat in the middle of them. He’d pick up a cotton ball from one bowl, do a spin move, and then put the cotton ball into the other bowl. Kind of like a cotton ball dance. Silly kid.

I was actually quite surprised at how into this activity he was. He jumped right in and moved cotton balls for a good 20 minutes. We’ll have to do this one again and see if we can master the tongs with just one hand. But for now I am quite pleased with the results we achieved today.

What did Zach learn today? He worked on some fine motor skills. Hopefully someday soon he’ll be able to cut paper when making his own crafts. He also got a little lesson in patience. He’d get frustrated with the tongs when he would “forget” how to get them to close. He’d start getting angry and I would have to say, “Think about it. Do you push out or push in to close the tongs?” and he would calm down and think, and then get it right. That is a big step for a 2-year-old.

What did Mommy learn? That again, stuff in bowls is fun. And that Zach does have a desire to learn. He showed me a lot of determination today.