Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tuesday Teach 'em: Great Montessori-Type Activities BARGAIN PRICES

I opened the mail today while Caroline was napping, which allowed me to peruse some of the catalogs I had received. Imagine my delight as some of these finds in the Oriental Trading catalog!

6 Children's Colorful Aprons for $16.95. (That's $2.83 per apron!) These are solid colored and meant to be decorated with paints. I could see using a couple in that way for art projects, but I'd also leave several plain -- a couple for kitchen help; a couple for art-work -- one for Caroline and a spare for doing those activities when a friend visits.

Easy to Grip ABC foam stamps -- comes in your choice of lowercase or uppercase for $12.95 per set. I'd start with lowercase since those are the first letters to teach children as the majority of written material is in lowercase.

Just Shake It! Listen and Match set for $19.95 -- This is a great sensorial exercise! Six unique sounds in twelve wooden shakers. Children shake, observe by listening carefully, and match the like sounding shakers.

Totally Touchable Matching Board for $9.95 -- Another great sensorial exercise -- this one has ten assorted textures to be matched

OK, that's just what I ordered! There are lots of lacing activities, arts and crafts, musical items, and other manipulatives. There are even cross-section models of the human brain and human heart for those with older kiddos! AND FREE SHIPPING FOR ORDERS OVER $75.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Journey to the Potty

No more diapers here! When I was planning our potty training time, I thought we'd go for a three-day-at-home bootcamp (diaper-free, stay home) over the Fourth of July weekend. Then I realized that July 4 was in the middle of the week and I wouldn't have daddy back-up so that Caroline could just be at home in panties for three days straight. I thought about putting the process off until Labor Day weekend, but then all of a sudden, Caroline seemed ready and I decided to just go for it! I've always heard it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so I wanted to have 21 days in panties before I declared it a new way of life.

Day One:

used potty all morning, wore diaper for nap, then back in panties
pee'd on Mother's Helper and went back in diaper for rest of day

Day Two:
wearing diaper out of house; peeing in potty in house
pee'd and pooped on potty of her own initiation!

Day Three:
Brought potty into master bathroom on her own while I was in the shower, went back and got a book, came back and sat down and pooped
First outing out of house in training pants -- pee'd in public toilet at Heartsong Music Together

Days Four through Seven:
sometimes in diapers, sometimes in panties, some accidents
moved from waterproof training pants to padded panties for outings

Day Eight:
going out of house in panties, using public toilets
accident at home -- pee'd on floor about five minutes after pooping on potty (told John "It happens.")

Day Nine:
waking up dry from naps

Day Ten:
in panties all time now -- pee'd on floor at friend's house (and still talks about it)

Day Eleven:
asked to pee in middle of night -- dry besides that
no accidents!
used public toilets a couple of times during day

Day Twelve:
no accidents, used public toilet
dry all night without a potty break

Day Thirteen:
no accidents!

Day Fourteen:
refused to take off overnight diaper when she woke up -- peed in it and then let me put her in panties
used public toilet while out shopping
insisted on napping in diaper

Day Fifteen:
No accidents!

Day Sixteen:
Uh oh...playing outside...gotta poop. Didn't make it inside in time.

Day Seventeen through Twenty-One:
Still having occasional poop misses (but only one pee pee accident in two weeks!)
Wearing a diaper overnight
I'm comfortable enough going out with her in panties as she will use public bathrooms (with a potty ring)

Today: Woke up dry!

Some things I found helpful through this process:
Potty Training Info at Drsears.com
Baby Bjorn Potty Chair
Baby Bjorn Potty Ring
Once Upon a Potty
Potty for Me
Trickle Free Trainers
Gerber panties

Sunday, July 29, 2007

La Leche League's 50th Anniversary

Want to know more about La Leche League? Here's a fabulous news feature from Chicago Today.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lookie what I made!

This is quite a feat because 1) I have very little patience, 2) I'm not very crafty, and 3) I'm not very detail-oriented (oh, and I have a toddler and a houseful of company right now!). *But* I have a daughter, and her bangs are getting long so she needs to wear them up everyday (topped with a bow, of course), and she has these CUTE shoes that you put a pair of bows on to make them match every outfit ... so I had to experiment. Ms. W at Haphazard Happenstances was my inspiration and instruction. I modified a bit because I had to use alligator clip bows, and once again, I'm not very detail oriented.

Here are my tips:
1. Print out Hobby Lobby's 40% off coupons (or get it in the paper).
2. Get your ribbon on the scrapbooking aisle. They have these great pre-coordinated multipacks, and if you use your 40% coupon, you can get a pack with a selection of five patterns, enough to make three ribbons, for $5.00. Considering you'd pay MORE than that for ONE boutique ribbon, and this only takes about fifteen minutes, it is well worth it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Changing Mindset

As I paused in my dinner preparations to scoop my frightened toddler into my arms for the tenth time since the thunderstorm had begun just a few minutes before, I wondered what I could do to get her over her fear of thunder. I told her that thunder is just noise. It can't hurt us. I told her that the thunder was just answering the lightening. We imitated the sound thunder makes, and she finally agreed with me that thunder was fun. She wasn't afraid. Then it thundered again, and I got a nice long cuddle.

Instead of trying to fix the "problem" I decided to shift my focus and just enjoy the rare chance to cuddle with my daughter. I've always liked stormy weather -- the peaceful feeling of the darkened sky, staying inside, the good excuse to nap. Thunder hugs are now at the top of my favorite things about stormy weather.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tuesday Teach' Em: Encouraging Little Helpers

Even young toddlers can help with some chores -- if we give them an environment that allows for their help.

Make the environment accessible: Put your toddler's eating utensils on a low shelf so they can help empty the dishwasher. Provide a place for your toddler to put away her clean, folded clothes (Caroline just carries hers to her bed for now.)

Provide the right tools: Your toddler will love helping you with housework! Use natural, non-toxic cleaning supplies and give your toddler her own spray bottle of water and vinegar and a cleaning rag. She can spray and wipe surfaces for you. Fill an old shaker bottle (like a parmasan cheese shaker) with baking soda, and she can sprinkle the tub, shower, and toilet bowls for you.

Demonstrate: Model with slow, deliberate moves -- step by step -- how do do the task. I read somewhere that the modeling should be motions only, no "lectures" or verbal explanations. It's hard for me to keep my mouth shut, though, so I try to do a run-through without words and then a run-through with explanations. Also, show your toddler where things go: have at least one waste basket accessible for throwing trash away. Show them were you'd like their dirty dishes placed. A two-year-old can reach the counter to place her dirty plates or cups on it.

Let them: This is probably the hardest part. Just let them do it. Sure, it's going to take them a bit longer. Don't hover as the plate is carried to the kitchen sink after dinner. The pile of clothes carried to the bedroom might get mussed a bit, but that's OK. Resist the urge to redo their work.

Thank them for helping.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

WFMW: The non-scrapbooker's memory book

I am not a scrapbooker. I think they are beautiful and special, but I'm just not into creating things like that myself. It is time-consuming, expensive, and clutter-creating. My non-scrap-booker alternative is to create a memory book each year for my daughter, choosing favorite pictures and memories from the year. I used Shutterfly for the book about her ssecond year of life and did a day-in-her-life theme. I can see the project evolving over the years to become highlights of the year. The book is high quality, and the photo software is easy to use and includes a variety of templates. This book cost me about $20 -- pricey, yes, but I *know* I would have spent that buying scrapbooking materials that just sat in a closet. This way, I actually *have* the book. :-)
It works for me!

For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

TTE: Books for Toddlers

Looking for ideas of books to read to your toddler? You can get ideas from award lists, like Caldecott Winners, from The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, from your librarian, from other families (like my list below -- a work in progress), or from just stumbling upon them. Make library visits part of your routine and check out a few books each week. I always have my list of to-reads in mind, but I like to get a book or two not on my list -- books that catch my eye or that Caroline pulls of the shelf and hands to me. I've stumbled upon some great ones this way. I've created an amazon list of our favorites.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

WFMW: To Do Lists

If you are a list-maker like me, try iGoogle. You can personalize the "stuff" on your page and add as many tabs as you'd like. I have one tab for homepage type stuff -- favorite links, news, email, Google Reader, etc. Another tab is for notes and information. A third tab is ALL LISTS! Google offers several types of lists -- To Do Lists, Sticky Notes, Notepads -- quite a variety. I just placed several different Sticky Notes on a tab. You have to add the Sticky Notes one at a time, but it's a quick, easy process. I have a note for blog ideas, a note for upcoming events, a note for projects ... and more and more notes. I create them as I need them and delete them on a whim. They are handy no matter which computer I am on, and I don't use a shred of paper! Organization -- it works for me!

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesday Teach 'em: Utensil Skills

A key concept in Montessori philosophy is building independence, and therefore self-confidence, in toddlers by letting them do things themselves. How many battles are fought with "twos" because they want to DO IT SELF! Helping them to do it themselves can alleviate many of these battles. Montessori ideals also stress using real or beautiful items -- wooden toys over plastic; glassware over plastic. I found a great toddler stainless flatware set at Magic Cabin to use instead of the ubiquitous plastic wares.

Caroline enjoys using her toddler-sized flatware, both in preparing snacks and meals and eating them. Since the dull knife works, she can slice a banana for a snack. The prongs on the fork really work, too, so she can accurately use her utensils.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I love robots

I've been wanting a iRobot Roomba for quite some time. I got one last week (after quite an ordeal involving a bargain, a smashed windshield, a return, disappointment, another return, and finally ownership) and I LOVE IT!!

Because of the two returns -- the first two robots I bought were obviously previously returned -- I questioned the store manager on why people were returning these. I'd heard rave reviews from a few friends who have them. His theory is that people have unreasonable expectations of them and return them. He explained that it was more of a sweeper than a deep vacuum cleaner. That is true, but it is fine with me. My house is mostly hard floor, anyway. I don't mind vacuuming once a week (er...maybe every other week now...) it is just all the little bits of junk -- cat litter, crumbs, who knows what all -- that I hate stepping on every day.

The cats are not big fans of my robot. The thing does something that I never do -- it goes UNDER THE BED to vacuum up all their cat hair. Problem is, when the vacuum comes out, they usually hide -- yup, you guessed it -- under the bed.

My toddler loves the idea of the robot, but she gets a bit excited when it chases her. The first time I used it, she and I were about to go on a walk. Robot is vacuuming my floors, and I'm piddling around the house getting ready. I sent Caroline into her room to put on her shoes. She goes in just as the robot comes out from under the her futon. I had to rescue her and put on her shoes.

Robots are smart, too, but not geniuses, you know. Mine can close doors. Sure, that's smart...but it can't open them back up, so it gets stuck in one room. I just have to close all the bedroom doors if I want it to sweep the living areas or make sure I stay nearby if I want it to wander to all the bedrooms.

Now, I sweep the floors while I fold laundry. I sweep the floors while I blog. I sweep the floors while I work on puzzles with my toddler. Or I guess I could live the housewife's dream and sit back and eat bon bons while my robot vacuums. What a life!

Shopper's Tip: Use your 20% coupon from Linens and Things or Bed Bath and Beyond to save $$.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Thrifting Fun

I rarely hit the thrift stores, though I'm usually so excited with my finds on those rare occasions I go. Today, I went with a mission: I was looking for small pitchers for pouring exercises for Caroline. (I'm sure you'll see more about the exercise on a Tuesday Teach 'em soon.)

I found two pitchers, though not exactly the look I wanted, and a silver tray to display and carry them. One of the principals of Montessori is that the supplies be beautiful. A smart Montessori tip is the buy your "beautiful" items at thrift stores so that you don't have to worry about being too upset if something gets broken. My bonus find was this Wilton trivet to add to my collection! I have one life it already that is unpainted. It was 99 cents!! Score!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tuesday Teach 'ems: Putting on shoes

Toddlers crave independence. Their liberal use of "Mine!" and the phrase "Do it self!" are evidence. Parents can help instill confidence in their children, not through over-generous praise, but by teaching their kids to be self-sufficient.

Young toddlers can put on their own shoes. To make that process easier,

1. buy shoes that are easy to get on (slip-ons or velcro closures)
2. let your toddler practice with some shoes that are a few sizes too big (hand-me-downs or shoes from resale shops are great for this practice)
3. demonstrate for your child how to put her shoes on herself by sitting behind her and doing putting her shoes on her in slow, deliberate steps
4. give her time -- she's not going to do it as quickly as you will for awhile. Use those couple of minutes while she's putting on her shoes to get your purse or diaper bag ready to go.

Here's a picture of Caroline at about 20 months putting on her shoes. See how proud she is!

Monday, July 02, 2007

New Idea: Tuesday Teach 'ems

I like routine. I like having a set plan for what I'm doing, including what I'm writing about. I tend to be more diligent with my blogging when I have a mission. So I've decided to add my own little weekly assignment to my blogging: Tuesday Teach 'ems.

I've been reading quite a bit and talking with friends a lot about educational philosophy and teaching our toddlers. I regularly read Barbara Curtis's Mommylife blog, and I just finished her books, Mommy, Teach Me and Mommy, Teach Me to Read. I've read a few other books based on Montessori philosophy. I've also read a bit about Waldorf philosophy, and I do have a masters degree in secondary education with an emphasis in gifted and talented populations. All of this has ingrained in me the importance of child-centered / child-led approach to learning. I'm trying to bring this all together to ground my daughter in an environment that sets a foundation for learning. I don't plan to send my daughter to an academic "preschool" or spend time drilling her on the memorization of the alphabet. The foundation I want her to have is broader. I believe that mommy is the best teacher a toddler and young child will ever have. I'll probably expound on those ideas in the weeks ahead, but I guess it's important to note that my Tuesday Teach 'ems will not be about rote memorization.

Every Tuesday, I'll post an exercise that I've completed with Caroline. I predict that some will be roaring successes and some blaring failures. We'll learn together. Eventually, I can add a Mr. Linky so that others can join in on Tuesday Teach 'ems. That may or may not happen, but I'd love to get ideas from others out there.

Check back tomorrow for the first TUESDAY TEACH 'EM.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Weaning Cold Turkey

No, not *that* weaning. :-)

But Caroline had to wean suddenly this week from one of her top three favorite foods (those would be beans, apple bars, and booty.) Veggie Booty was recalled due to contamination with Salmonella. I buy the stuff in bulk in one-ounce bags from amazon.com, and Caroline eats about a bag a day. I heard the news Thursday afternoon, after she'd had her fix for the day. Friday, she had a few breakdowns asking for Booty and going to the laundry room where I store the box. Saturday was great -- she didn't ask for Booty once! But today I emptied the packages as instructed and addressed the envelope to send the packaging to the manufacturer for a refund. Caroline was outside with John but picked me a flower and came in the house to give it to me (how sweet!) just in time to see me putting the bags into an envelope. Now she's begging for Booty!