Friday, 18 December 2015

High Rotation Reads: Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani was one of those flip the pages library finds I had last year around this time.  I originally picked it up because the teacher for the Music Class Little Tree is involved with had focused on Jingle Bells for the season and I thought the illustration style was beautiful. 

It was with surprise and delight that I realised this book is a whole lot more than a recounting of the classical song.  Using the classical melody of Jingle bells it touches through the cultural traditions of Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Italy and Kenya for the "Christmas season".

For the last two years the main attraction of this book, to Little Tree, has been the fact that I sing the text and he plays along with a Christmas bell on a ribbon.  That said this year it prompted the question of "Why do Italian Children get presents in their shoes? Leading to the research that La Befana, who got lost following the Three Wise Men, leaves presents in the shoes of Italian children one the eve of Epiphany, January 6th.  Needless to say I am delighted at this first, and I expect not the last, exploration into differing cultural practices prompted by this book. 

I was more than a little distressed when it seemed that someone had decided to prune it out of the local library's Christmas collection.  For us I see this book as being one of those books we will read as a tradition so in the end rather than race around the catalog trying to find a copy at another library this year I just went out and bought it.  That way I know that we can share it whenever we for as many years as it piques Little Tree's interest and captures his imagination.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Around Here - Creating a Culture of Making

Little Tree has a couple of little boys who he has known since he was around 16 months old.  They met at a newly formed playgroup and all us mums appreciated each other enough to keep things rolling.

Now that my boy is getting ready to turn 4 he has known these friends for more than half his life.  To say they are tight might be a bit of an understatement.  They know each other well enough to be happy to share, when they're in the mood, or push each others' buttons with wild abandon.

Meaning they either play beautifully or it's all out war 

Needless to say these are Little Tree's, chosen, heart people so I knew Christmas should not go unrecognised.  

It was with that thought I approached this because I really wanted his gift to have some of him with it.  I wanted it to be something he had spent some time on and had a real level of choice about.  It was with these thoughts in my head the stencil T-shirt he made himself earlier this year popped up.  

My criteria was met as wanted something made not just bought and the end product was useful.  Over and above that he could have full freedom of choice as to the mix of colours, who got which design  and it is likely to appeal to a 2-4 yr old so hopefully he will get a couple of smiles when the wrapping paper comes off.  

He's done the making as part of his advent activities.  I got a couple of surprises along the way as I assumed he would choose the vehicle stencils again he but definitively chose sea animals for each person.  He also put quite a bit of thought into who got what stencil by relating it back to something in their life.  One of his little buds loves orange and has the goldfish locker at preschool,  the other loves turning over rocks looking for soldier crabs when they play at the estuary (so he chose a crab stencil).

This quick easy activity hasn't required much in the way of time.  It is totally forgiving when it comes to accuracy, a plus as precision is not the way Little Tree rolls, as long as you use a nice wide tape to tape the stencil down to the shirt.  Best of all it has produced an end result that Little Tree has been proud of and his happy to give people he loves.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Around Here - Cheap and Cheerful Colour Mixing

Colours and colour mixing is something that I keep presenting.  Up until this point it's all pretty much been pouring liquids and mixing them to make colours.

That's all well and great.  Over the months we have done a lot of those activities and he really enjoys them.  He is also starting to get the gist as the last time I asked him what two colours I needed to mix to make a third he got it right.

That said I wasn't confident that he truly understood that whatever the form of the colour that you would end up with the same result.  I really wanted an activity that underlined colour not form.  Thus I have been eyeing off colour paddles for a while but I just couldn't justify the expense so I have been putting it all in the too hard basket.

Then I saw Kylie at How We Montessori print on transparencies so it got moved to the maybe basket.  The problem was I didn't know if you would get the same result from a laser printer (I don't own a personal printer so my resources are done at the local print shop) and I didn't know if they would be happy printing on transparency given the price, for them, if it all went wrong.  Thus it again got shelved.

Some time in the last week I had a flash of inspiration - cellophane.  That said not straight cellophane because that would last 3 seconds in this house - laminated cellophane.  In the end I also decided that borders were useful.  I found they really differentiate when the sheets are overlapped making it really clear that the new colour is a mix of two by creating a firmly defined window.

How will these last?

I honestly have no idea.  As I used photo sized pouches they are pretty strong with regard to accidental damage.  The problem is I am not at all sure if sustained sunlight will wash out the colours in the cellophane.   Once you have bought your cellophane though the cost of repeating is basically a few cents for the laminating pouch.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Life cycles - Not Just for Animals

I've been itching to do some more life cycle work with Little Tree.

The one artwork he has done in the last 6 months that I would say is considered and age appropriate was when we were reading a book called Boobook, about Boobook Owls, and he decided he wanted to map the life cycle as it followed through the book. 

It wasn't just his normal expression of lines.  It had an Owl with a face and claws.  It had the nesting hole with some eggs along with some other features that although totally unrecognisable without explanation were actually a considered attempt to visually represent something solid. 

We have done matching cards on the life cycle of a lady bird and it got at least a few uses, over about a week, before he decided he was done. 

The one time I have seen really solid repetition from him was when I introduced the frog life cycle puzzle.  He must have done, pulled apart and redid that puzzle at least 3 times in a row when it was first introduced.  Then there was varying amounts of the same over about 3 or 4 days until he decided he was done. 

Thus I knew there was an interest so the question was how to cultivate it.  He had already done chickens from eggs at preschool so I didn't see any point repeating it.   I couldn't find any easy source of the normal options (ladybird, silkworm, caterpillar, etc) available here so I started nut out what we did have available. 

We had plants so I decided to run with it.

I had grown one quite unusual heirloom variety of eggplant last year.  It got started late and when we around mid year the plant with about 3 fruits got quite badly damaged.  The eggplant survived but failed to set any further fruit and in the chaos of the move got firmly neglected. 

It was around September when I looked around and decided I needed to do something with that pot.  The eggplant was alive and kicking, despite the neglect. Unfortunately the damage meant it wasn't going to be something that would run for a second year so I harvested the fruit with view to seed saving then replaced it with a small rosemary seedling that needed a more visible position and a much bigger pot if it was going to make it through this coming summer.  

The first step in making this about life cycles was to harvest the seeds from the fruits.  One afternoon we both sat down with an eggplant each and pulled it apart.  He only lasted about 10 to 15 mins and took about 7 or so seeds but it was the concept of harvesting seeds I was aiming at not necessarily the execution.  After carefully sorting the seeds from the flesh and leaving them to dry for a few days I put them in a storage container in view to planting them soon.

Um.. well, two months later the first lot went into soil.  Then failed to germinate.  Now eggplants like things hot and we haven't been cold but we also haven't been hot so I was mildly concerned but not totally ready to give up.  In the end I decided on the "throw the kitchen sink at it approach" and planted about half the seeds we had collected all in one go.  I figured that if the fruit had rotted down that is the type of dispersal that would have existed.  To say it was overkill for the box is being circumspect but I was a bit desperate for at least a couple of seedlings to demonstrate.

Thankfully in the last week two have germinated. 

One is looking pretty so, so.  It wasn't strong enough to unclamp the seed casing off it's seed leaves. This is something I have generally found a bad sign but it was the first, and at the time only, one so I do something I don't normally do and unclamped the casing using my fingers. About a week later the seed leaves are tiny and a yellowy green so I don't hold a lot of hope.  That said I am of the firm belief that plants want to live, so generally try and give them a good feed and see what happens.

The second one that turned up in the last 24 hrs is looking good.  No sign of the seed casing, beautifully stretched toward today's drizzly sky.  I'll be a lot more comfortable once it moves into producing true leaves but I think I have a goer here.

They've both been potted into a nutrient rich soil mix to try and get some size on them then into the garden they will go.

My plan is to go from seed harvest to seed harvest this season.  When I put the seedlings in the garden I want to add a little laminate life cycle card to highlight the stages and bring steps we have already done to mind. 

As this project will have been going around 6 months at the point of completion I think this is going to be crucial to give it a solid foundation in reality. 

6 months really is a long time when you are 3 :-)    

Friday, 13 November 2015

High Rotation Reads - Nov 6th through 12th

For various reasons we haven't really been getting a lot of new books from the library.  Those that had been chosen got read once maybe twice before sitting in our library book collection until it was time to return them so it's been nice to find one that is going to stick with us for a bit. 

I don't know how many books Jill Morris and Lynne Muir have author/illustrated together.  I am aware of two, the other was about Australian Owls, and both have been highly enjoyed around here.

As with the other, Magnificent Macropods is beautifully illustrated and full of facts with a one page write up on each animal.  What I like with this series compared to many non fiction books is that it  doesn't take any adaption for those will shorter attention spans as each animal has rhyming verse that points to an interesting fact about the animal being highlighted.  Little Tree also really enjoys the last pages where the relative animal size is drawn smallest to largest to try and give some real world perspective. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Cot Sheet to Sun Shirt

We've made it.

In the last few months Little Tree chose to give up the only consistent sleeping place he remembers and move into the double bed in his room.

Honestly for a while there I thought I might still be putting him in there until he physically couldn't contortion his way in any more.  He was comfortable and honestly there was no pressing reason for him to move, either from his point of veiw or mine, as I had removed the side and put a bed rail on to stop him rolling out when he was safe to get from mattress height to the floor on his own when he was somewhere between 18 months and 2. At just over 3.5 he decided he didn't fit any more so with no fuss, after producing my secret to the first week, dinosnores he now lulls himself to sleep with room to move.

What this meant is that when I went looking for some fabric to experiment with this full cotton cot sheet was available.  The idea for this project came from a full cotton after swim shirt I picked up at the op shop some time ago.  I found it invaluable for those times when he had been out in the sun all morning but he wanted to be outside after lunch too.  Being light but long sleeved I was happy to let him out again and know he wasn't going to get burnt.

Although I loved it it wasn't until a friend bought me Sewing for Boys last year that I started to plot to make a size up as the current one was getting pretty snug. I actually requested the book based on the online look of the "easy linen shirt" pattern where people had made it up.  The problem was although it made the pattern easy I wasn't really into the whole seam up the front move.  The fabrics I own are strongly patterned and I knew myself well enough to know I wasn't going to the trouble to try and pattern match.  Thus the plot to make it button up was born.

In the end it was a very minor tweak to make it work.  I cut it to allow the seam allowance to go from around 2 cm to 4 cm and tapered it back to 2cm, from the original seam point, to the top where it meets the collar.  Being cotton and roomy it doesn't feel hot to wear, it seems, and he loves space right now so the  stars were absolutely the right choice.

I can see a few more of these being added to his wardrobe for the summer when I have the time

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Listen to the Child - Around Here

Today we tried something new.  We entered the Dalmeny Dash which was a fund raiser for the local public school in town.  Little Tree loves to move, preferably fast, and I have always done my best to support him in building both his confidence and his strength by giving him opportunities to build these skillls every day.  That said we were never going to finish the course because we had a 2km ride or so to get to the start line.

The thing is I didn't let that stop us trying.  I know he is still at an age where he really can't judge the fuel in his tank enough to turn around early enough to ensure we get home, normally I make the decisions about distance to circumvent this, in this case I wanted to give him more ownership so I created a contingency plan.

He set a goal.  He wanted to get to the park which was the final turn around point and my first choice was not to talk him out of it.  I knew he couldn't get there and back with the extra to the start line, but he didn't need to; Nanna would pick him up.  He's young, he's strong and he was pretty determined that he wanted to get there so I thought he might manage to make it the 9 km, or so, all up that it would entail.

In the end he didn't ride to the park.  Instead he made it to the second turn, around point which was, around 6kms, or about 3/4 of the way there.  Unfortunately he exhibited a bit of  dodgy risk assessment and had a crash.

That is going to happen when you're still 3.  Anyway the first response marshal was sure he had a bruise on his cheek so was pushing to call first aid for ice.  I let him even though I was sure what he was talking about wasn't a bruise just dirt in his skin coloured nose zink, I was right.  It wasn't until we were waiting for first aid that I noticed what I was dabbing on his forehead wasn't a round puncture but a 1 cm line break in the skin that was going to need a steri-strip to stay closed.  All told it took about half an hr from incident to treated.

I checked the next check point wasn't far ahead of us, I was almost certain it wasn't but didn't want to create a situation where he felt like he had failed because he tried but didn't reach it.  Although First Aid was pushing a bit to pack us in a car back to the rally point, for no other reason than they were probably convinced the last place he would want to be is back on the bike,  I gave him a choice.   I could call Nanna right then or we could go on to the next checkpoint so he could get his stamp.  He had already asked to keep going while we were waiting for First Aid so I was pretty sure of his choice but as I said it was about giving him ownership of the journey.   

 We got there.  The check point had been packed up because we were in the last group off the start, add a half hr to that and they thought everyone was done, but the girls came back and stamped his card and made a bit of fuss of him.  Regardless of from being the proud owner of a split lip and 2 shiny new steri-strips to the forehead he had a great day.

Would he have felt differently if I unnecessarily took control and forced the day to end in a heap on the side of the road?

Honestly who knows.  

What I do know is next year he'll make it to the park if he chooses to.  

In fact I will be sort of surprised if he doesn't make it there and back.

Friday, 4 September 2015

How to Tank a Tray - Continent Animal Matching Australia/Africa

I'm writing, for myself, as I always make an error in this area and it needs to stop.  This mistake always hinders his interest and interfears in Little Tree's engagement with the tray. 

What do I do?  
I fail to include a control card.  

Little Tree isn't a child that is going to calmly ask for a demonstration of an activity then focus deeply on the process while said demonstration is being performed.  He is more likely to signal some interest in the tray by moving the pieces off the shelf then his ability to do the activity totally independently isn't there he will simply walk away to forever loose interest.  Even if by some chance you do manage to do a demonstration he will  more than likely be climbing the furniture rather than looking in the direction of the person demonstrating.  

In this case I had totally talked myself into the fact that he knows what Australia looks like, thus there was only one unknown that being the continental shape of Africa.  He is more than able to name every animal included in the sorting box.  In my view he was well aware of the Australian Animals being Australian.

What happened?
Well it seems that he was able to name Africa,  I am truly not aware of him ever seeing it before so he may have been making an assumption from the animals provided, but not Australia.  With a bit of prompting he got Australia without me actually having to tell him but as soon as that happened I knew I was in trouble. He then put the Hippo on Africa, then decided the possum lived there too.  I asked him if he was sure the possum went there as Grand dad goes looking for possums, attempting to prompt him to self correct, and he held his ground that they lived in Africa so I let it go not wanting to totally trash his confidence in his ability to do this work. 

Unfortunately it seems that one question had done exactly that.  It was then he started playing with the lion cub, insisting on going to get the male lion out of his models draw to create some imaginative play scene. 

That was the last interaction he chose to have with the continent cards and he hasn't done anything with the tray now for over 3 days except use a couple of the models for his "zoo" this morning.  I'll leave the tray out until the end of the week just to be sure but right now it looks like my need to ask that question due to not including a way for him to self correct at the end has been the death of this particular activity. 

If it was the first time it had happened I wouldn't be happy but it would be easier to give myself some grace.  As it is NEED to remember this as some version of it happens all the time and spending time on providing activities then setting him up to not be successful is not doing either of us any good.

Even More Beautiful Creatures

I am going to say right here and right now that this particular cd is one of the luckiest purchases I have ever made.  I bought it from the op-shop with absolutely no idea what I was buying and boy did it come up shining.

Although definitely children's music, in my opinion, it is very "Parent Friendly" and doesn't go for the demeaning custey hook.  The music is lively and engaging but the real treasure here is the lyrics of the songs.  They are wonderfully full of "real" information and vocabulary.  

If it wasn't for this cd I would have no idea how to tell a leopard from a cheetah, well now I do.  Much of it is storytelling from the animal's point of view.  Due to this there is quite a bit of animals talking/singing to the audience but apart from the very emotive "A Lion has a Right to be free", and the two meercats falling in love, I would say that the way it has been handled in a pretty low key way by sticking mostly to observable behaviour rather than "feelings".  

Overall I am really happy to have this in our collection.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Days have Names, Days have Numbers

 Little Tree is really starting to get a handle on the fact that time passes, both during the day and during the week. During the day his markers are Morning tea, Lunch, Afternoon Tea and Dinner.  He is now solid on both hands at the top of the clock being Lunch time, he is even getting aware of the fact that if we haven't had lunch right on 12 that times after 12 might also be pointed out to be lunch time.  This one is a bit vague as although he is getting there he isn't totally solid on the little hand being the valid marker in this little scenario so sometimes he will mistakenly decide it's lunch before 12 but not in the dogged "is it lunch time yet?" way that led up to this need for understanding.

We have 3 activities during the week that always happen on specific days (preschool, dad day and music class). These activities that repeat every week have really solidified for him that time is not this vague amorphous thing. It was him often asking is it "preschool day" that made me realise that it would be useful to him to really see the days passing and that regular events reoccur on a 7 day pattern.  Thus the Calendar was born.

I have had this weekly planner for a while and planned to use it for mapping household jobs but the planner got lost in the move and didn't turn up until about a fortnight ago.  About the same time Kylie at How We Montessori put up her inspiration post  about calendars and I decided that was a much better use for the tool.  I first started out with just adding a dry erase number every day, we started about mid August,  but of course the first thing he did was rub them all out.  Within 24hrs it was all unreadable so I accepted that tempting a 3 yr old with something like that was really just asking for trouble.

In thinking my way though I remembered I still had some magnetic sheet designed to go through an inkjet printer.  As I no longer had a printer I decided to start with some ply wood numbers from the local discount store, that I had painted, then glued them on. I figured this gave a really robust set of numbers that would have texture if he decided some time in the future he was interested in tracing them with his finger.

To this point it's been so far, so good.  He has mostly really enjoyed the routine of matching the dry erase day number that I write up there, the night before.  He is even starting to get the idea of numbers bigger than 10 and that they might conform to some type of pattern.   Something that really seemed to be unfathomable before so not only does this seem to be working to clarify the passage of time but also that numbers are useful in more than just "counting".

I expect I will be adding a few more things, in the future, like the year and possibly some type of weather magnets but right now it seems to be working for him in this very simple and stripped down state.


Friday, 28 August 2015

High Rotation Reads - Aug 22nd to 28th

 Now Little Tree's second love to dinosaurs right now is space.  That said he isn't quite as enthusiastic about this one as other I Wonder Why books in the past.  To me the facts seem like they should be engaging  but it's just not connecting for him so I might allow it to go to the bottom of the basket without any fanfare and try and introduce it again when he is a bit older.

As the enthusiasms, of three yr olds, go Trains has been high on the agenda for a long time.  This book with it's wonderfully accurate colour pictures and wide range of simply addressed topics has been amply appreciated.  As an op shop buy this particular edition is a bit hopelessly out of date, the English/France Channel Tunnel hadn't be completed at publication, but as most of the information is historical this has been less of a problem than it might otherwise be.  It has certainly put the Collins Eyewittness Guides on the map for us and if I was ever to see one on a topic of interest I would now be compelled to flick though 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

New on the Shelf - Imprint Matching

Last school holidays the local council ran a series of activities at the Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens.  One of the activities for the day was "make a plant fossil".  Now as Little Tree is into dinosaurs the word fossil hooked him in.  Being who he is at this point in time Little Tree made his a plant fossil, then rolled it out and made another, rolled it out again then decided to "write his name" into to the clay and 5 minutes later had very happily completed his process by scrunching it up and making a clay rock :-)

 Thankfully though through that the inspiration, this matching was born.

I had an inkling this would be, mostly, reasonably easy for him so to make it harder I left most of  the matching objects up on his nature table so he had to find the ones he deemed most appropriate.  

That said I knew the acacia seed head imprint, top row middle, was going to be the hardest for him to find as he needed  to match something that didn't have much in the way of visual cues to shape from the imprint, if he just guessed and didn't try it from different angles it wouldn't fit.  Thus I presented all the plant materials on the tray from the beginning as a straight one to one matching tray which made, all but the acacia, very easy but gave him good insight to work with the shells tray where he needed to find the materials himself.

All the items he chose were correct to the type of material, i.e. the correct size and shape of shell. He also correctly moved them around so they sat neatly in the imprints.  As these things go that's a successful activity in our world.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Blocks, Blocks and Building

Hammer Blocks (How We Montessori)
Lego Juniors, Fire Truck & Waste Truck (Kmart)
Cars and Construction Vehicles(Siku, Matchbox)
Haba Technics Lg Vechicle Blocks + Lg Builders pack (Send a toy)
Personal Designs Record Book (contains Photo's of previous projects)
Green Inspirations Folder

Little Tree has required quite a bit of encouragement to really get into blocks and building.  

When he was younger I kept presenting block options and having them ignored.  When he was somewhere between 2.5 and 3yrs I found Haba Vechicle blocks.  With a quite a bit of time at introduction to help him replicate the designs in the included inspirations book he was off.  

In many ways these Haba  blocks have been great for his ongoing development.  Getting the wheels and block clips on and off the blocks  has built hand strength along with hand eye co-ordination and using the "trailer brackets" initially required quite a bit of patience on his behalf as the connections are firm but reasonably small. Connecting the block clips also starts to build the concept of force and that somethings are stronger in certain directions than others and this is a concept that he is starting to take in

He still doesn't do a lot of architectural type "buildings" that is something I am hoping to find a way to encourage in the next 6 months.  Most of his building right now is roads, cars and robots but whatever the gateway to inspiration it's always wonderful to find his constructions  and see he is practicing lots of great skills.

Friday, 21 August 2015

High Rotation Reads - Aug 15th through 21st

Now as with many families we're avid readers. 

Given a choice Little Tree tends to read books within an inch of their life for a while.  He then walks away, often only to look through them occasionally and interacts with them more in the manner of someone conjuring a fond memory rather than seeking any specific information.

With that little explanation here's what's being requested this week

Aunty M went exploring for dinosaur fossils up North and sent Little Tree this wonderful book. 
He loves it all. Right now though he is absolutely enamored with the description of the finding and recovery of Sue, who is the most complete T-Rex fossil found to date.
 This ABC has beautiful and appealing artwork but I will say the prose does leave something to be desired considering it's aimed firmly at young children.  It rhymes sometimes, other times it doesn't and I don't know for anyone else but I personally find that a bit disconcerting.  I think he does too as interest in this one really seems to come and go in a way that is not common for him

 Really aimed at infants and young toddlers but because penguins are sky high in the interest stakes he chose this one, at the library, and had me read it 6 nights running before bed.  Honestly what 3 yr old can walk past splashing, dashing and pooping penguins without a smile.

 This one is new today but I can tell it's going to be a favorite.  Beautiful Collage style illustration, which has been a favourite of his for a while, and wonderful rhyming prose all giving snippets of factual information.  Backed up by an animal glossary at the back with a bit more detail on the animals mentioned and a little blurb about Charles Darwin explaining why the Galapagos is so important in science.  

 A story about a Peregrine Falcon pair that leave the wild after a bushfire and nest on a city  skyscraper.  Based on a true story, in Brisbane, it shows the adaptability of wildlife in their quest to survive and thrive.  For those that might be disturbed the main story thread once they relocate is the male falcon hunting and bringing back food to the female, with a nice life affirming twist at the end.

We love the I Wonder Why series over here.  
I first made the mistake of trying to read entire pages only to have him zone out with information overload.  Our deal is now that I just read what he points to on a specific page then leave it at that.
I am personally not sold on some of the cartoonish illustration but the facts are interesting and catch attention.  Thankfully enough of the pictures are realistic that I can survive :-)

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Looking for the Sun

-Waiting to put those seeds in the ground-
Spring's coming we'll just have to be patient in the mean time

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Little Tree's Activity Shelves -

 Top : Found Objects & Loose Parts

Far Left : Auditory Matching (How We Montessori)
Middle : Life Cycle of a Lady Bird (Free: Montessori Print Shop)
Far Right : Hammer, Screw and Nails Activity - Linked to pre-drilled holes outside