Chasing Cheerios

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Amazing Action Alphabet

A reader sent us The Amazing Action Alphabet flip chart and cd a few months ago, and these are great products! The Amazing Action Alphabet uses a multisensory approach to teaching letter names and sounds. Children see the letters, hear the sounds in a story, and then do an action. Learning is most effective when material is presented through the use of several senses.

I accepted this product for review because I knew O would love it even though she already knew her letters and letter sounds. I was right...she does love it, and I wish I'd had it sooner. It's fun to play the cd while flipping through the flip chart, and I'm looking forward to introducing letters and sounds to E using this method.

I have only a couple of complaints...I really wish the flipchart had a built in stand instead of lying flat (I guess I'm spoiled by all of the testing manuals that I use because they all have built in stands). Also, a couple of the stories were a little difficult to understand because the voices were a little strange (the main one that I didn't like was A). However, most of the stories (and voices) were great. Overall, this is a great product, and the price is right. I hope you'll check it out and let me know if you like it, too.

A Simple Behavior Intervention

As a School Psychologist a huge part of my job is planning behavior and academic interventions for kids. However, when it comes to my own child, it is a little more difficult. Luckily, I work with some wonderful psychologists who are great at coming up with super simple interventions.

O has not been listening quickly for the last couple of months, and I've found myself repeating myself more often than I would like and counting to 3 to get her to listen. I really don't like counting to just gives her a reason to wait to listen instead of listening quickly. So, I asked my friend Jan for ideas...

To do this intervention, I gave O a piece of blue cardstock (blue is her favorite color). I explained to her that when she listened the FIRST time I asked her to do something, she would get a star on her paper. That's it. Simple and VERY effective.

O was very excited about her sheet. At first I gave her stars very frequently, but I didn't give them everytime she listened the first time because random reinforcement seems to work better than continuous. Also, I didn't want her to expect to get a star for listening...I worry about eroding the intrinsic motivation that comes from behaving nicely. However, I did want her to be excited about earning the stars in order to help her get back into the habit of listening quickly. So far this is really working. Here are a few important points of this intervention:

-She is not allowed to ask for a star (this was never an issue, but if it had been I planned to tell her that she would not get a star if she asked).

-I did not ask her to do something by saying "If you do ..., you'll get a star." The stars were like a fun surprise after she listened the first time...there was no convincing her to listen by promising a star.

-I did not take away stars when she didn't listen. I didn't mention the stars at all when she didn't listen.

-She doesn't earn anything once she fills the sheet up with stars other than the satisfaction of knowing that she did a great job and earned a sheet full of stars. (Elliott's first question was "what does she get for filling the sheet?") I didn't want this intervention to be about what she would get because I don't want to instill in her that she should "get" something for behaving appropriately. I just want to help her get back into the habit of quick listening.

So far this is working for us, and we're having fun (which is the most important thing). This turned out to be a pretty wordy post (for me!) for a simple intervention. Enjoy!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Drop It In...Where Is It???

E and I have fun dropping small toys (but not so small as to be chokable) into this wipes container. I put the toys halfway in the slot, and she tries to grab them out to put them in her mouth. Occasionally, she'll push them the rest of the way in, and she reaches in to try to get them out. She'll also hold the container up to her eyes to look in it and shakes cute. We have lots of fun with this simple activity. We use a Huggies wipes container since it has a rubbery material surrounding the opening which makes it easy for baby hands to reach in without getting scratched.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fun with Unit Blocks

Unit blocks (and playsilks) are my most favorite toys for my kids, and we have really enjoyed them lately. O and I have fun building towers, and E loves to knock them down.

I need to find a new storage solution for the blocks...when they are put away in their bin on the IKEA storage unit, we almost never play with them. We left them out for a few days and played with them everyday. It's interesting how the placement of a toy is so key in the amount of playtime it sees...


I just noticed that I have 1000 followers on blogger. Thanks!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Baby in the Mirror

I've planned to write a post about E's Montessori bedroom, but I never have...mainly because we spend so little time in there. We sleep on the floor bed, but that is about it.

Lately, I've been trying to spend more time playing in front of these mirrors on her floor. She really enjoys them, so I'm trying to set aside some time each day to play in this space with her. I'm thinking of putting a baby gate in her doorway so I can leave her in her room to play by herself while I wash clothes. I have a feeling that she may climb the gate, but I may try it anyway...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Painting a Birdhouse

O painted a lighthouse birdhouse for her daddy for Father's Day, and she REALLY got into it! She started painting with brushes, but she quickly decided that she'd rather paint with her hands. She mixed the paint together and smeared it all over her hands and painted the house. Before I knew it, she'd smeared the paint all the way up her arms to her shoulders. Wow! Then she asked for a wet towel to wipe it off...Um, no. I took her out to the deck and sprayed her off with the waterhose. What a fun and messy day!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tunnel Time

O and I have been setting up obstacle courses in our den for E to crawl through and this tunnel was a popular addition! We set up the tunnel for E to crawl through, couch cushions for her to crawl over, chairs to crawl under, etc. I was really surprised by how quickly she crawled through the tunnel and then continued to crawl through it over and over again. It's amazing how different she is from O...O didn't even start crawling until she was 10 months old. E is only 9 months old, and she is crawling, climbing, standing, etc and I'm very afraid that she may be walking soon. Slow down baby girl!

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Not a Paper Towel Roll"

O was having a GREAT time playing with a paper towel roll a few days ago, and it reminded me of the book Not a Stick. I started asking her "Whatcha doing with that paper towel roll?" and she'd say "It's not paper towel roll. It's a ..."

We had fun reinacting the book (with a twist)...O LOVES to reinact books, movies, recitals, etc. The "not a paper towel roll" was a telescope, microphone, megaphone, microscope, magnifiying glass, vase, cast, drumstick, sword, horse, train, etc. Who needs toys when you have trash?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Piano Girl

Playing her piano is one of E's favorite things to do! She loves to pull up to her piano, and I couldn't believe when she stood up and started playing her piano a few days ago. Our baby girl is growing up way too fast!!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Little Ballerina Shadowbox

O just completed her 1st year of tap and ballet lessons, and she LOVED it! She spends most of her time dancing and putting on shows, so her recital was especially exciting for her (and us!). She glowed on stage, and we were so excited to see her so happy.

I made this ballerina shadow box as a memento of her first year of ballet lessons. I used double sided tape to attach her 1st pair of ballet shoes and her ballet picture to the matte. This shadowbox took about 5 seconds to put together, and I love how it turned out. O gets VERY sad when she sees it because she's so sad that she doesn't fit in her ballet shoes anymore (she has several hand-me down pairs that do fit), so she says that she can't even look at it. What a sweet and silly girl!

I'm looking forward to making several more shadowboxes of special mementos...the only problem is that I have no where to hang them. I wonder if we should buy a bigger house just so I can have wall space for O and E's artwork and shadow boxes...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

From Art to a Softie

I found this post saved in draft from months and months ago. I can't believe I haven't posted this already...

A few months ago O drew this portrait of her baby sister. I loved it so much that I wanted to do something to preserve it (she drew it on lined notebook paper). After thinking about it for a few days, I realized it would make the perfect softie!

I traced around O's drawing with an iron-on transfer pencil (I have no idea where to find these pencils. I have looked and looked, and the only one I could find was in my mom's old sewing stuff, so it is probably 30 years old). I ironed the drawing onto a piece of cotton fabric. Then I embroidered along the lines using the backstitch. This was simple and fast to do, and O was VERY proud.

After I finished the embroidery, I cut out the fabric along with a same sized piece for the back of the softie. I pinned them right side to right side, sewed them, and left a small opening for turning. After I turned the softie right side out, I stuffed it, and my mom sewed the small opening closed. Done!

O stared it for a while and wondered why she didn't give baby sister a nose or a neck :) I'm looking forward to making more softies from the girls' drawings. I'd also love to make pillows using their drawings (which would make a great gift for grandparents).

Edit to add: I photocopied O's drawing 1st...I didn't ruin it by tracing over it with the iron-on pencil. The actual drawing is framed downstairs in the kids' art area and is hung low on the wall at their eye level.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Learning the Art of Patience

We always practice the art of patience by trying to catch minnows in the lake each spring and summer. We usually use our hands, but my niece left her net here which makes it much easier. O kept swiping (sp) at the fish to catch them and was getting frustrated. I reminded her that if she sat very, very still and was very, very patient they would come to her. They did, and she was thrilled. She named her minnow "Lucisander," and she loved Lucisander very much for the hour or so that she was in our bucket. When we went to pour Lucisander back in the lake, we discovered that she was gone from the bucket. This was a good lesson in determination since Lucisander was so determined to get back to her family in the lake that she jumped out of the bucket back into the water. O was sad, but I think she understood Lucisander's motivation. A few days later she asked if fish had good memories...she was quietly calling Lucisander's name and was wondering if Lucisander remembered her. Moments like these are what I want to remember from O and E's childhoods...we've put aside most of our Montessori and preschool work, and we've been spending hours and hours playing on the beach each day. It's a wonderful life, and I treasure every moment with my beautiful girls. God is good.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Lesson Learned

I was suckered into subscribing to Mothering magazine by the promise of a free mini beco carrier. I didn't need another magazine to read, but I thought that O would love a mini beco carrier for her 4th birthday, and I've always been a little intrigued by Mothering magazine. So, a couple of days ago, I received a book in the mail from Mothering. It seems that the mini becos went fast, so they sent books to everyone else. HUGE disappointment. I called Mothering and left a message that I would like my money refunded since I only subscribed to the magazine since they were offering mini beco carriers for new subscriptions. Someone called from the magazine and was very nice. They'll cancel my subscription, but I have to go through the hassle and expense of mailing the book back. Grrrrrr. I would have thought that the people at Mothering would have been technically savvy enough to have a notice on their site that alerts subscribers when certain deals have been sold out...they only had 300 mini beco carriers, so after 300 people subscribed a message should have come up when the code was entered saying that the deal was no longer available. Anyway, what's done is done. I'm hoping that they'll cancel my subscription and just charge me for the book (I can save it for a birthday gift). I've learned a valuable lesson...don't subscribe to magazines just for the free gifts! Also, I don't think I'll ever be intrigued by Mothering magazine again...I'll stick to Living Crafts and Family Fun!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Conversation Jar

My mom made a Conversation Jar for us for a fun Easter gift. She filled the jar with questions and activities written on slips of paper. O chooses slip of paper each night during dinner, and we answer the question or do the activity. O really loves this nightly activity!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Where do you host your photos?

I've been using dropshots to host my pics for a while, but my account is full. I don't want to pay 60 dollars to host my pics...I need somewhere free! So, where do you host the pics that you blog? TIA

More on Earthboxes

Several people have asked for more info on the earthboxes, so here is the link. This is our 3rd (maybe 4th) year of growing our vegetables in earthboxes. Usually, we also plant tomatoes in typical containers, but the plants grow so much faster and produce so many more tomatoes in the earthboxes that we decided to only plant in earthboxes this year. We have our earthboxes on our 2nd story deck, so we have very few bugs. We are able to grow organic vegetables with very little work. We just have to remember to water them which is not as easy as you would think :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Doing a Little Tinkering...

You can probably tell that I'm playing around with the layout of the blog. It's needed updating for a very long time, but I've never taken the time to do much maintenance. There's still a lot to do, but I've added a button for people to subscribe via email. Many people have requested this, so I'm SO glad to finally have it on the blog! There's also a link to subscribe in reader. I want to make a lot more changes, but I really don't know what I'm doing and have very little time, so it could be months before I get back to this :) Enjoy!

Gardening with Kids

For the 2nd year in a row, we have opted to plant our vegetables in earthboxes rather than in a traditional vegetable garden. Earthboxes are SO much easier to maintain than a traditional garden, and the plants grow so fast. We have grape tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes,yellow squash, bell pepper, cucumbers, and basil. Other than a little end rot on the tomatoes, the plants and vegetables are doing great. O is always excited when it's time to pick!

Painting with Yogurt

Since both girls were taking their 1st antibiotics, I'd been trying to get them to eat lots of yogurt. Since we needed a fun activity to do, I decided to let them finger paint with yogurt.

O and I put out 3 plates of plain yogurt. We tried to color one plate of yogurt purple with blueberries, but it didn't work that well. We made one plate of yogurt brown with chocolate syrup, and we left one plate of yogurt white. I taped a big piece of paper to the floor of the screened porch, and O dove right in. E was a little more hesitant. O smeared the yogurt on the paper and all over herself. She rubbed it into her arms and said it was yogurt lotion.

The girls had a lot of fun with this activity. We didn't get any great artwork out of it, but it was all about the experience, not the art :) Also, this was a great sensory experience for the kiddos. We may try painting with pudding once E is a little older and can eat pudding.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Life Sized (Kid Sized) Lincoln Logs

O had a great time building a house out of tobacco sticks with her grandparents a few weeks ago. The great thing about them is you can knock them down to build again another day. I think this is an activity that O (and E) will enjoy for years.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

MMM...Smells Good!

I recently found a set of 6 glass spice jars at the thrift store, and I could not resist buying them to set up a scent sniffing activity for E.

To set up this activity, I put a cotton ball with a different scent in each bottle. (I plan to change the scents every couple of weeks). Right now the bottles have the following scents: vanilla, apricot oil, banana flavoring, pineapple flavoring, tea tree oil, and rubbing alcohol. O, E, and I sat in a circle and passed the bottles around and talked about the scents. O and I described what we smelled...she said the rubbing alcohol smelled "horrible," and the vanilla smelled "sweet." Matching scents is one of O's favorite Montessori activities, so she was very excited that "baby sister" has a similar activity for her shelf.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

An Easy, Healthy Dinner

I don't have much time to cook, so I try to make things that are fast, simple, healthy, and don't require many pots or pans. This meal met all of my requirements, so I make it often :) I'm not sure what to call it...maybe Veggie & Chicken Couscous Casserole.

To make Veggie & Chicken Couscous Casserole, you need frozen carrots, frozen brocolli florets, whole grain couscous, and precooked rotisserie chicken (I love buying cooked rotisserie chickens from chicken usually lasts several days and makes my life so much easier). I saute the brocolli and carrots in olive oil and garlic. Once they are cooked, I pour in whole grain couscous and water (I don't measure anything...I just add couscous and water until it looks right). I shred the rotisserie chicken and add it in. This is a quick, easy, and healthy meal, and it's also great for mashing into baby food :)

Imbucare Box

We gave E this Imbucare Box for Christmas, and I introduced it to her last week (I found it for around 5 dollars and could not resist buying it for her). She LOVES it! I think I may have another Montessori girl on my hands!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

E's Velcro Board

E is always right with us when O and I do Montessori work, but last week I laid out a rug for her and set her up with her own activities. She was so excited that she was practically vibrating :) Her arms were waving, and she was kicking her feet. She loves to be included in everything we do, and she felt like a big girl with her own rug!

I introduced the velcro board, and she thought it was fun (and tasty!). To make the velcro board, I put 2 strips of sticky backed velcro on a board. I put velcro on the bottoms of several objects for her to stick on the board. She loves to pull the objects off and immediately taste them. I watch her very closely and frequently check the velcro to make sure it is not getting loose. Also, I took off any small objects that could be choking hazards. (I made the velcro board for O when she was a toddler). I'll be setting up E's activities on our Montessori shelf soon, and we are all (O, E, and me) very excited about it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Homemade Yogurt Smoothie

O and I recently made a homemade yogurt smoothie drink as suggested by a commenter. To make the smoothie, we poured milk into a glass bottle along with several spoonfuls of plain yogurt. O put the lid on the bottle and shook it to mix the milk and yogurt. She tasted it and declared that it had no taste and needed something more. She then mashed a banana and added it to the mixture (she loves to make concoctions and almost always includes mashed bananas in her recipes). She said her smoothie was delicious, so hopefully our days of buying yogurt drinks are behind us!