Author Archives: Modern Mama

About Modern Mama

A local mom who loves to explore the world with her son, while discovering new tips and tricks to enrich his life with food, activities and experiences.

Creating Crayons

It was one of those mornings.  You know the type, where the boys were up way before the sun.  So, after pulling out all the tricks in the box by 9, it was time for some sort of project to keep those little hands busy and minds occupied.

Looking at the box of broken crayons, an idea came to me.  Eureka, I found it!  Why not let them play with crayons in a way they hadn’t before.  So, like casting out bait to catch a fish, I asked them if they wanted to make crayons.  C grunted and B while bouncing up and down, shouted yes.  The bait worked.IMG_4217

I let them start to try to peel the wrappers off of them.  This task caused more frustration than fun, so I started thinking of other ways to do it.  I thought about soaking them.  A blog post by TimeForPlay assured me that it would work.IMG_4218

After a few minutes of soaking fun – the wrappers magically came off of the crayons.  So, it was onto the next step.  Taking them out of the water.  Both C & B loved this bit of sensory fun.  You should have seen their faces when they discovered that little bits of crayon had decorated their hands.  Pure amusement! It was like Crayon magic.IMG_4220

Then, B lined a mini-muffin tin.  Thank you OurBestBites for the idea.   The boys placed the crayons in the muffin-tins. And, we were well on our way.IMG_4229

After sitting in an oven warmed to 200 degrees, the crayon bits melted.  They cooled.  Such neat little —–crayon masterpieces!  Now, these artistic are B&Cs favorites for making masterpieces of their own.IMG_4239

Jars Jars Jars

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Need a morning activity for the tot(s)?  Well, this has been the biggest hit yet.  Just grab a handful of spice jars and let your little one have fun taking the tops on and off.   You can even use full jars with spices and let them use their sense of smell to match the lids.

Both of my boys can’t seem to get enough of these jars.  They try it individually, and then even do it together.  It’s so telling to watch B teach CJ how to do it.  His patience and sweet nature just shine through.  In addition to learning the Montessori termed practical life skills and developing sensory skills, he’s learning to gently use his communication skills to help out his younger bro.

 

Scooping, Pouring, Funneling

Any of you who’ve been keeping up with my blog lately know that my current strategy for keeping my boys engaged and busy is more of the Montessori genre.  Why? Well, because it has proven to do wonders for my oldest son B.

For those of you who are new to the Montessori style, there are different categories of activities.  Sensory, practical life, language, math and culture.  This week B & C are enjoying beefing up on their practical life skills.   Preparing for these activities just took a little bit of time and thought.  I carefully selected a few things and set them out on little trays on the living room shelves.  Funneling rice, tweezing buttons, scooping beans and twisting the lids off of jars are the weekly activities.

B was thrilled when he saw the new trays on the shelves.  He went to them right away.  Deciding to first conquer the funnel, B mindfully brought the tray to the table.

photo(17)C followed in suit but picked the beans.  I suspect he may have been attracted to the beans, because they included a yellow spoon.  And, he’s really into yellow right now.  So, if there’s something else I want him to try, I might just try to incorporate yellow.

photo(18)Anyways, it’s really easy to create little activities like these for tot(s).  Most things are in your kitchen.  Or if you want different things visit a local thrift store and you’ll be able to score some cheap materials.  For 20$ I scored an abundance of offerings like tongs, spoons, bowls, pretend fruit, buttons, etc,

After working on their practical skills and fine motor development, we went on to more gross motor fun.  Building forts and castles, and falling onto pillows.

Clearly we don’t do Montessori activities all day long.  They are just the activities prominently offered in the living room.  In all honesty, the boys will focus on these activities for about an hour at a time.  Then, we go on to more imaginative types of play and more Waldorf style outdoor play.

Thanks for reading.  Check back for more fun activities to do with your tots.

 

Seasonal Sensory Slime: Sorting Pumpkin Seeds

photo(25)After a full night of Halloween fun, the boys and I needed some chill time at home.  But to keep them busy, I used the fun “pumpkin brains” from our pumpkin carving efforts to create a slimy sensory experience.  A bowl and a colander later I was in business.

Basically dump the “pumpkin brains” into a bowl.  Add a bunch of water.  Set a colander or another bowl next to it.  And, let your little one go to town.

B spent forty minutes enjoying the slime.  Afterwards, we made some roasted pumpkin seeds.  Want to try our recipe – check here.

Teaching Colors

photo(16)My almost two year old has been rather focused on learning his colors.  He sings songs that go something like this – blue, green, yellow, green, and so on.  He even woke up one night saying “blue, no purple, no blue.”  Clearly colors are on his mind.

If I’ve learned anything from my first son, it’s that these moments of interest can be fleeting.   One week it’s colors, the next it’s diggers, the next it’s skeletons.  So, for me it’s important to jump on the bandwagon while it’s there.  For C’s color parade, I jumped right in.

I put together a fun matching game that he can play whenever he wants.  He matches his favorite toys (cars or trains) to color swatches.  Sometimes he just plays with the swatches, other times he actually does the matching component.  By the way, the color swatches are paint swatches from Home Depot.  But you can use anything.

In addition, we’ve been reading books about colors.  His favorite is Brown Bear Brown Bear by Eric Carle, which teaches the names of animals in addition to teaching colors.  It’s rhythmic cadence makes it fun to read time and time again.  Another book is Baby Colors, which has darling pictures of babies dressed in clothes of a certain color. I like this book because it also has photos of real life objects that C can easily identify.  photo(15)

Since C is into trains, Freight Train by Donald Crews is another winner.  Who doesn’t like a book that combines trains with colors?  Lastly, Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni is a classic.  It begins to teach the idea that colors can combine to make a new color.   When I read this to C, he was speachless.

Lastly, we play the tot version of ISpy in the car.  It goes something like this, “I spy something green.”  C looks out the window and starts talking about whatever he sees.  Then, I ask him if it’s green, etc.   This one works well, especially when he starts to fuss. It takes his mind off of things.

What’s your favorite way to teach colors? I’d love to hear!

Montessori Convert

mornings at our houseAfter literally years of research and trial and error, I have found the right educational fit for my son, Montessori.   Before he could walk, I began researching preschool methodologies and consulting professionals about the right fit for him. Montessori v. Waldorf v. Play Based.  The debate ensued. (See my earlier post) I looked to find him the “match,” somewhere where he would build his confidence, develop his intellect and be able to enjoy his precious childhood.

The consensus was that social and emotional development was important for him and that starting a more structured academic experience had little benefit.  So, we started out at very play-based schools.

The first school was of more of a Waldorf philosophy which aimed to promote social and emotional development through creative play.   B enjoyed it and did well.  The director was extremely well versed in early education and child development, and the teachers were engaging, positive and nurturing.  The children were well behaved, expressive and welcoming to B.

Just when we thought we had it made, a spot opened up at the coveted play based local school.  It’s the type of school where the wait list is a binder.  We thought long and hard about moving him there.  A difficult decision to say the least since he was content.  We were ultimately sold on the progression a different teacher and classroom each  year for 3 years.  We also liked the idea of having B be one of the oldest children in the class – we thought it would teach him to be a leader.  With so many of our friends’ children thriving there, it seemed like a safe bet.  The decision, however, completely backfired.  He regressed from knowing his shapes and colors.  He protested going to school.  Walking from the car with his head low while dragging his feet.  Thinking that consistency might help, we kept him there for a year, hoping that things would change.  They didn’t.

After the play based approach failed, it was time to try something different.  My husband had much success at Montessori.  I was reluctant based on the professional opinions I received recommending a play based approach for B and critiques about the method that it could limit creative and imaginative development.   Having tried the play based model, it was time for a change.  Three of B’s oldest buddies were at the local Montessori.  By some miracle, there was a spot for B.

I was reluctant at first to try Montessori based on critiques that it imposed too much rigidity to early childhood at a risk of stifling creative and imaginative development.  I can say, however, that while this may be true for some children, it does not ring true for B.   Within weeks he started asking to go to school.  Now, he tells stories, sings songs and dresses up as whatever he imagines.  Clearly his imagination is booming.

I have no idea what is going on at his new school, but whatever it is, it is truly magical for B.  in a very short time, I noticed changes in B’s ability to express things in a positive way.  Out of the blue, he’d tell C or me that he loved us so much, calling the sky or falling leaves beautiful and start to sing songs.  He’s more independent – demanding to try things himself first.  Yay!  Whether this is due to his age or the school, I’ll never know.  All I know is that he is blossoming.

I am now a Montessori convert and am looking forward to C joining the ranks when he’s old enough to do so.  In fact, I’ve again started reading Maria Montessori’s books basically promoting an educational approach to follow the child’s development and build independence.  While it didn’t seem a fit years ago, now it is.

I’ve begun to try to incorporate many of the ideas into our routine at home, swapping bookshelves cluttered with toys with more targeted and organized choices.  Both boys are thriving beyond what I could have imagined a year ago.

Don’t take this post the wrong way.  I’m not saying Montessori is right for every-child as I believe that no 2 children are the same, they are unique.  What works for one child may not for another.   All I’m saying is that Montessori works for B.

In addition, there are universally applicable concepts like building independence and instilling confidence.   Whether a child gets that through Montessori or Play-Based, it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is finding a good fit and helping to build the child.

Do it yourself halloween decorations

 photo(22) The boys and I have been busy spooking up our house. Determined not to spend money on anything but pumpkins, I decided to forge around the house to create decorations myself.

I admit, I’m in love with anything from Pottery Barn Kids, especially their painted signs. Though I wanted to make something more personal while incorporating my love of handprint and footprint art (not to mention not breaking the bank.)

2$ later, I was ready to make my own signs to hang and place in the garden.  The boys and I painted the stakes, then decorated them.  After putting on the final gloss and nailing them together, they were ready.  Voila- a fun decoration that will grace our house for years to come.

Want to20131018-123533.jpg do it yourself? All you need are a few supplies. You may even have some on hand.  If you want to make the garden sign – then grab one piece if wood about 2-3 feet long and wooden stakes (as many as you like available at amazon), a few nails and paint, and a sealer. Hardware stores sell single fence pieces separately. Mine was 2$ which beat spending 19$ per sign from Pottery Barn Kids.

If you want to make a hanging sign, just grab some eye screws that yophoto(23)u would use for hanging a picture and a bit of twine.  Super easy!

By the way, don’t let a trip to the hardware store set you back.  It’s pretty to find the wood section – just follow the scent of sawdust.  Of course, in doing so be ready to see some Christmas goodies.  Can’t we get through Halloween first?  And what about Thanksgiving?  Those turkeys need to be celebrated!

After you are ready to go – break out your paint and go to town. I used tempera paint as it is what I have most of, but acrylic would work even better.

Let your creativity guide ya! The possibilities are endless.  Need inspiration? Do a quick Google search for images.

Once you finish painting, let it dry. Once dry, then coat with a sealer.  I used a gloss varnish as it was what I had on hand from making CJ’s solar system for his room, but there 20131018-123458.jpgare spray sealers that will work too.  Again, just grab it at the hardware store.  At this point you can add glitter if ya like.  My boys sprinkled it on everything.  And, it made a cute accentuation of the pumpkin stems, which you may have guessed were made with their thumbprints.  Let dry overnight.

Then you’re ready to break out the tools. Grab your hammer photo(21)and a couple of nails and seal the deal. Or let your little Bob the Builders have fun nailing it in.    I must say that my late grandfather who was a talented carpenter and general contractor would have loved teaching the boys to drive in a nail.  But alas, I got to have the pleasure.

Then, get your goblins to help you pick a spot for your decorations!

Pumpkin Milk or Latte: Add a Healthy Treat to Your Morning Routine

photo(9)Fall is one of my favorite seasons for many reasons including the changing colors, the festive flavors and the pumpkin patches.  I admittedly am one of those people who looks forward to Starbucks release of the pumpkin latte.  I practically jump for joy when I see the plethora of pumpkin flavored offerings at Trader Joe’s.  You could call me a pumpkin-holic.

I’m proud to say that I am passing on my love of pumpkins to my boys.  They too enjoy visiting pumpkin patches as well as all things pumpkin. We’ve made pumpkin flavored soup, scones, pancakes and muffins.  My latest creation however is my favorite yet – pumpkin milk.  Both kid and adult friendly, pumpkin milk can be enjoyed on its own or even added to coffee.  Say hello to a homemade pumpkin latte, which is much more budget friendly than the nearly $5 and 400 calorie Starbucks latte that despite the name doesn’t include any “pumpkin.” (Sad News for Pumpkin Spice Latte Fans)

Would you know that pumpkins boast many health benefits as according to WebMd they’re loaded with vitamin A (beta carotene), low in calories as well as fiber.  Apparently, “Known for its immune-boosting powers, beta-carotene is essential for eye health and has also been linked to preventing coronary heart disease.” (Superfood-Pumpkin, Caitlin Covington) Pumpkin is loaded with vitamin k as well which is said to be able to reduce the risks of some types of cancer.

So, this mama is happy to add the pumpkin milk warmed for my boys in the morning.  They start off the day downing full fat milk enhanced with the benefits of pumpkin.  Want to try it?

Well, here’s myphoto(7) recipe:

  • 1.5 cups of whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons of canned pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice (or combination of such spices – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamon)
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar (or other sweetener)

gather your ingredients.  Set all ingredients in a saucepan on the stovetop.  Turn heat to low and whisk until at desired temperature. photo(8)

Enjoy plain or add to coffee.

For other fun fall ideas, check out my posts about pumpkin patches, fall art, setting the table and cheap and easy Halloween decorations.  And check back for some crafty ideas as the boys and I are brewing up some Halloween fun