Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lacing Cards

The Eskimo and I made a trip over to Teacher Heaven today. More like stay-at-home-mama heaven! Wow, I could have spent a small fortune in there! Luckily, I refrained, and stuck (mostly) to my list. I wanted letter flashcards in English and Spanish as we're going to be starting a letter of the week theme around here. The Eskimo has already shown a lot of aptitude for and interest in letters, so I thought we'd make it official. However, it was one of the things NOT on my shopping list with which we had the most fun this evening: lacing cards!

If you've not seen these before, they're basically a picture printed on heavy card stock with holes punched in it. The idea is for the little one to lace a shoelace or similar string through the holes, practicing fine motor skills. You could definitely make these yourself very cheaply, but the set was only $3.99 and I kind of knew I was never going to get around to making my own. This has been on my to-do list for a while, so I was pretty excited to see them at the store.

I showed the Eskimo what they were for and let him at it, trying to give as little guidance as possible. By the way, the whole process made me twitch. I wanted so badly to reach in there and "help" him by doing it for him. Incidentally, this would not actually be helping him. Doing it for him robs him of the experience of figuring it out. So, I modeled the behavior and then gave minimal verbal instructions for his first couple attempts. Then, I sat back and watched. Yes, he laced! No, he did not do it perfectly or sequentially. But that wasn't really the point of his first attempt. The point was for him to learn a new skill and work on his fine motor skills. And one day, when he can sew his own button on his shirt, he'll thank me (okay, he probably won't actually thank me, but he should!).

Look at that concentration:

I'm not going to lie, the Eskimo also tried to turn this into a fatal weapon. He was swinging that zebra card all over the place. He was also whipping the extra shoelace around until one end hit him in the face. Natural consequences, eh? I did warn him it was going to happen, but some things you really have to learn on your own. So, the Eskimo's lessons for the night: basic lacing skills, and plastic-tipped shoelaces sting when they whack you in the face. My work here is done.

Monday, February 27, 2012


So I read this article on seven foods to avoid. On the list was microwave popcorn. It's not something we eat often, but I do enjoy the simplicity and deliciousness of a bag of popcorn. However, I'm not keen on ingesting chemicals that can cause cancer and infertility. We found a simple solution. Here's what you need:

Popcorn Kernels
Paper lunch bag

Put about 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels into your paper bag. Fold the top over once or twice and put a piece of tape on it to hold it closed. A word to the wise: do NOT fold it down too much. Your popcorn will need room to expand and it will make the bag explode if you aren't careful. Don't ask me how I know this; I just do. :) Microwave for 2-3 minutes, or until there are a few seconds in between pops. It took about 2 minutes in our super-powered microwave.

We ate ours plain, but you can add whatever seasonings make you happy. I think I will put a little Lawry's Seasoning Salt on it next time. This is a great snack for the little ones. The Eskimo got a huge kick out of listening to the popcorn POP. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Water beads

Sorry for the absence. Parental units were in town, and that left very little time for blogging. So, to make up for it, today's post is about something really fun: water beads! The original inspiration for this activity was found here via Pinterest, once again. You can purchase water beads (or gems) already hydrated, but they're way more expensive that way, and you'd miss out on all the fun of watching them grow. When you buy them, they look like this. I bought mine at Michael's, but I think they're available at places like Walmart and Hobby Lobby, too. I can't remember how much I paid for them, and Michael's doesn't list the price online, but I want to say it was less than $5.00. I'll have to confirm and get back to you.

Anyway, let's get down to the fun. I dumped about 1/3 of the packet into a clear bin and added some water.  At this point, it wasn't that exciting for the Eskimo, but he had fun splashing:

Then, the beads slowly started swelling, I added a couple drops of food coloring, and we got a spoon and a cup. Let the games begin!!

Some words to the wise: I spent the first 15 minutes or so of this activity trying to keep all the slippery little beads in the bin because it was driving me nuts to have them rolling all over the patio. Let me save you the trouble. Don't bother. These suckers are going to go all over the place and there's nothing you can do about it. Even when your little one is trying to keep them in the bin, they're slippery and bouncy and they go everywhere. This is part of the fun. I had to set my compulsions aside and let the Eskimo play (good advice on any day, really). I tried to keep his play focused over the bin for the most part, but didn't worry about the stray beads.

Have a few different utensils available to your little one. We had a couple different spoons and a measuring cup. He loved filling the measuring cup up with the spoon, or having one of us pour the beads into his hands. He also loved pouring them into our hands. In the last picture, you can see the Eskimo trying to balance the beads on the back of his hands. Cute!

Most of all, let your child direct this activity. You will be amazed at what he (or she) comes up with. Let him dig his whole arms in, let him put his feet in, let him fling beads across the yard. He is learning with each and every one of these things. That being said, we did have one rule: not in your mouth. While these beads are safe for play, ingesting them is not recommended. So keep an eye on your little one.

And by the way, it was in the 80's down here in Texas today, so outside diaper time was totally appropriate. If it's still cold where you are, consider a midday bath activity. You'll have to be prepared to clean up slimy little beads from all over the floor, but it will be really fun. And I kid you not, the Eskimo played exclusively with these for over 2 and a half hours today. Incredible!!

Final note: at the end of this activity, you're left with a whole bunch of water beads. I've decided to make use of a some of them. I found a clear glass jar in our recycling bin and filled it with water beads. I've stuck a garlic clove in there, and I'm eager to see if it will sprout. I also took a few of the leftover beads and put them in an empty water bottle to make another sensory bottle for the Eskimo. I will post pictures of both tomorrow, but my camera is retired for the night. :)  Enjoy!

ETA: Here are the pics

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tired Mama

Okay, so we all have those days when we're not at our best. Either you're tired, sick, or just plain cranky. When you have an office job, you can usually just hunker down behind your desk and wait for the day to be over. But when you're a stay at home mom, not only is that impossible, but your day isn't over until bedtime. I can't hide for 12 hours from my "co-worker". As if it's not bad enough to be feeling crummy, I usually end up feeling guilty for not interacting with the Eskimo as much as I should. But really, there are days when I just can't. So, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to get him playing by himself, happily.

Busy boxes/bags: Activities that entertain with minimal interaction with Mom. Stuff like this and this work pretty well. While things like the pom-pom bucket are definitely better when I'm sitting there, talking to him about the colors, etc, he's also completely capable of doing that all on his own. Of course, he's also capable of stuffing pom-poms up his nose, so I keep an eye on him. :)

Backup toys: These are toys that I have hidden from everyday use. Usually because they're not the type of thing I like him playing with all the time. They're toys that tend to do the playing for him and don't allow him to use his imagination. Also, they usually run on batteries and are loud and annoying. But hey, if it means I get to hide for an extra 15 minutes, so be it.

Make a fort: I did this this morning, and it entertained him for an hour. I'm not kidding. The Eskimo has access to our tupperware cabinet, and he loves to sit in there. This morning I pulled out the drawer above the cabinet and hung a towel from it. Instant fort; instant happy boy. I even let him eat his breakfast in there this morning.

Let your kids take care of you: No, it's not going to be the chicken noodle soup and foot rub you were hoping for, but the Eskimo LOVES to tuck me in. When I lay down on the floor, he runs to grab me a pillow and a blanket. He will then tuck me in, and often will come lay down next to me. It may not be the 2 hour nap you're craving, but it sure beats nothing!

Call in backup: If you have backup, use it. Whether it's your significant other, family or friends. Not always an option for all of us, but hey, if you can do it, go for it!

I think what we all need to remember is that children really can entertain themselves very well. Many parents feel the need to interact every step of the way. Let your kids show you how good they are at entertaining themselves! Supervise from a distance. Tell them what a great job they're doing playing by themselves. "I really like the way you're playing" can go a long way. And honestly, I think this is pretty good advice to use everyday, not just when you're feeling off. Kids need to be able to entertain themselves, so give them a chance to practice this skill. And it IS a skill. Allowing them to practice playing alone when you're feeling fine will make it that much easier to supervise from the couch when you're feeling off.