As a mom (and teacher), I strive everyday to engage, nurture, and expand the mind of my little one.
Here you will find the books, music, and activities most useful to me in my endeavors.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Everyday Learning: Left and Right

I've been working lately with NHV to learn left and right ... in particular her hands and feet :)

Here are a few simple things that have worked for me us:

Play Hokey Pokey ... there's a no brainer for you ;P  
But it's also helpful if you put gloves and socks on before you start playing.  When the song announces, "Put your right hand in," I take off her right glove as a visual and kinesthetic clue.  Same thing with the socks.  Or you can add a sticker to the hand or foot that the song calls for.

Another game we love to play ... and it is a little "gross" ... 
Let Me Smell Those Feet
I don't ever make NHV smell MY feet, but I do pretend to smell hers, and she loves it!  I'll say, "I wonder which foot is stinkier, your right foot - sniff, sniff - or your left foot - sniff, sniff."  I throw in a few dramatic "peee-uuuus" and we start giggling!  Then I'll ask her to raise her right foot so I can get another smell ... and so on.  If feet smelling is too disgusting for you, we've also played Let Me Kiss That Hand :)

I Want To Hold Your Hand ... 
"Which hand do you want me to hold?  Your right or your left?"
Giving choices is a way of helping toddlers feel in control.  And an in-control toddler is a happy toddler, so I am constantly offering NHV a choice ... to the point of being silly really!  But this isn't a silly example.  It has ended hand-holding struggles and reinforced her distinction of left from right.

Which Way Do We Go?
When we're on a walk around the neighborhood and come to an intersection, I let NHV make the decision (again, I think choices are awesome!).  I tell her to STOP and then stand with her arms out like the letter T.  

I say, "Wiggle your right hand.  Wiggle your left hand."  This is a great way to practice the need to stop and listen.  Then, I explain her choices while shaking the coordinating hand.  If we go RIGHT, we'll end up at the big park.  If we go LEFT, we'll end up walking past O's house."  Which way do you want to go?"

Got the Munchies
While NHV is eating a snack like Veggie Booty or Yogurt Bites - something she picks up with her fingers - I'll tell her, "Your right hand has the munchies. See if you can eat two bites with your right hand."

What special tricks do you know for reinforcing left versus right?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pinecones, Rocks, and Leaves

Oh My!

The weather here in the NW has been incredible ... very un-winter-like.  There's been plenty of sunshine and moderate temperatures, which means we've been taking walks ... and squinting as we go!  

When you're "stuck" at home with a two year old and a two month old, the chance to get outside is such a blessing.  When your walk turns into an afternoon activity for the toddler, you've pretty much hit the jackpot!

As we walked through our 'hood, NHV carried a plastic bucket and collected whatever struck her fancy ... mainly pinecones, rocks, and leaves (as the title of this post suggests :P).
When we got home, first order of business was to give her "finds" a bath.  Natalie loves to bathe things, and it usually eats up a good 20 minutes ... 
  • While running the water, we talk about temperature and feel the water change from really cold to warm.  I also remind her that colors on the faucet knobs tells us which is hot, which is cold.
  • As the sink fills, we do gentle splashes and harder splashes to see what happens  ... how is the noise different?  what happens to the water?  A big mess ensues, but that's okay :)
  • Objects go in the water one at a time.  We talk about how the color changes when it gets wet.
  • And finally, Natalie "observes" that some of the objects go to the bottom of the sink while others stay at the top.  Great opportunity to reinforce vocabulary: sink and float.
We also took the time to dry everything and wipe out the sink ... cleaning the powder room was on my To Do List anyway, and Natalie was happy to help!

And since baby sister was still taking a snooze, we decided to "take off our scientist lab coats" ... quite literally ... and get artistic.

As you can see, by artistic I mean we busted out the paper plates, brushes, and paint.  No guidelines here.  I just squirted a little paint on the plates and we gave Mother Nature a little run for her money ;)

I love that Natalie gets some fine motor practice, and she just loves that she's making a mess!

How do you turn a simple walk into an afternoon of fun?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Musical Hand Wash Timers

I have always been a big advocate for handwashing.  As an elementary school teacher.  As the mom of a toddler.  As a person who prefers being healthy over being sick.

I am not a germaphobe, but I am very germ conscious, especially since bringing a newborn into my house.  

I insist (politely, of  course) that NHV wash her hands as soon as we get home from where ever we've been ... eventhough I've already doused her with hand sanitizer when we get in the car.

As she climbs up on her stool, I even explain to her that we are washing the germs off our hands.  When she asks, "What are germs?"  I tell her they are things that can make you sick and they get on our hand when we touch things that a lot of other people have also touched.  (I sure hope I don't give her some huge complex!)

While we're at the sink, we pick a song and sing together ... a good distraction for making sure we've scrubbed long enough.

Recently, I saw this advertised in a magazine ... and further "researched" it online ...

It's a little timer that attaches to the top of your soap dispenser.  The music plays for about 25 seconds, the recommended time for effective hand washing.  For the reasonable price of $3.99, I think I've gotta try this.

Perhaps this will make hand washing more fun, and it may even encourage a bit of independence.

What do you think?  Worth the money?  Necessary?

Do you have tricks you use to make hand washing fun and effective?  Please share!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Question of the Day - Naps

As moms (and dads), we are suppose to have ALL the answers, right?! The big ones like the hows and whys. And the more mundane wheres - like my shoes? I tell ya, Alex Trebek's got nothing on the parents of the world!

It's a good thing we have each other to rely on. To share what works and what doesn't. To suggest a new approach. To tell about the latest and greatest and the oldies-but-goodies. To speak from experience. To learn from mistakes. To impart wisdom. To provide ah-ha moments :)

Right around the holiday season, my husband composed this little ditty to the tune of "Oh, Christmas Tree."  It has since become a daily ritual ... we sing it on our way up the stairs at naptime.

Oh nappy-poo
Oh nappy-poo
It is that time in the afternoon

Oh nappy-poo
Oh nappy-poo
What would we do without you?

Now, there's a question.  What would we do without our naptimes?

At our house, I so look forward to 1:00 ... when I know that I won't be entertaining my toddler for a few hours.  And I may even manage to accomplish something around the house .... or, gasp, take a nap myself!

NHV (2.5 years old) naps for about three hours every day.  I put her down around 1:00 and never let her sleep past 4:30.  However, in the past few weeks, she has thrown her fair share of nap rebellions.  At least once a week, she completely refuses to nap.  I insist that she rest for two hours.  And when NHV doesn't nap, she's a cranky mess, so I know she NEEDS a good nap everyday.

So here's my question for you ...

Is your toddler still napping?  For how long?  At what time of the day?  Are you having any nap struggles?  Be sure to include your toddler's age in your comment.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Try It: Foam Paint

Love to paint with your toddler?
Or at least love the idea of painting with your toddler?

Hate the mess?
Hate all the wasted paint?
Hate the time it takes to dry?
Hate the thought of toxins or allergens?

If you're head's a-nodding ... 

You've gotta get some FOAM PAINT.

I stumbled upon this fantastic art supply while at a recent preschool open house (a big decision process I'll save for another post).  Based on a quick search, I think you have to order it online - wish a local store carried it.  I did find foam paint at this school supply site for about $5 per bottle. I think it would be completely worth it to order a few bottles and pay for the shipping, especially when you consider ...

  • Foam paint does not spill ... or drip!  
  • A quick squirt - right out of the can - is all it takes to get your toddler painting with fingers or brushes or any kind of painting tool.
  • The product overview claims that "an 8 oz. can equals 14 full cups of awesome art activities," and 14 cups is a lot of paint!
  • Also, foam paint is completely allergen free ... the description says that it does not contain latex, dairy, casein, egg, gluten, peanut, tree nut, or soy.
  • It dries very quickly ... and you can even wipe it with a paper towel to dry it instantly!
Art projects just got a whole lot more fun with FOAM PAINT!