Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cookie Time!

On Thursday it was snowing and I just didn't feel like going into town for our playdate at the Children's Museum. I'm so tired of the snow at this point in the year, and I just wasn't in the mood to drive in it. I was just plain in a bad mood. Instead, Ellie and I stayed home, and while she was down for her nap I decided we should do an activity together, since I deprived her of playtime with her friends, just because I was in a foul mood. So I decided that we would make cookies together, for the first time ever.

I started by measuring and setting out all of the ingredients while she was still napping. That way they were ready to go when she woke up, and she could help me dump them into the mixer.

When she woke up from her nap, I went into her room and asked if she wanted to make cookies with me. She seemed to like that idea, so I put an apron on her (it was one of mine, so a little big, but it worked nonetheless. I need to make her one of her own now!) and she was SO HAPPY to be wearing an apron! She stood in front of the mirror and said, "Cuuute!" so many times. Then we headed out to the kitchen for some baking.

Ellie had a great time dumping all of the ingredients into the mixer, and she did a good job with it, too. Very little got spilled, though she did snitch a little of the sugar! Silly girl!

Once everything was mixed, I scooped the dough up with my little cookie dough dropper (which is a lot like a mini ice cream scoop) and Ellie would hold onto the handle and say, "SQUEEZE!" and squeeze it as hard as she could. Of course, she couldn't actually squeeze the dough out because her hands are too little, but I was also holding on and could do the squeezing in such a way that she thought she was doing it. She didn't try to interrupt me while I was reloading, or get in the way, she just seemed happy to know that the reloading was my job and the squeezing was hers. And she was delighted to have a job.

Once the dough was on the cookie sheets, I put them into the oven and turned on the light, and she stood there and watched them bake. I was shocked that she stayed focused on the project from start to finish, but she did! This was her project and she was very excited about it.

Of course, once the cookies were out of the oven and cooled, we sat at the table and each had one. What a great time to spend together!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stranger Danger!

Keeping my child safe is not something I enjoy thinking about. It reminds me that there are people out there who would hurt my daughter given the chance. Right now she is with me pretty much 24/7, but as she gets older, she is becoming more independent. She is allowed more freedom, such as walking next to me on her own instead of riding in the stroller. She is generally obedient when given these freedoms, but she doesn't understand how the world works yet, who is friend and who is foe.

At 21 months, we are working on teaching her immediate obedience. She must learn the foundation of obedience before the lessons about strangers will take full effect. But I read an interesting blog post this morning from Handprints on the Wall, and it's something I do want to remember in a year or so, when I do begin teaching Ellie how to act with strangers. The complete blog post is here, but I want to reproduce some of what she says below:
Your children need to know how to protect themselves from those who are out to harm them. Don’t be afraid that you might scare your child, or worry him. It is time that you arm him/her with life saving knowledge using these practical tips.
  • Have a heart-to-heart. This needs to be a sit down, face-to-face, serious conversation. A casual mentioning of strangers will not suffice. Your child’s age will determine the tone of the conversation, and how deep you get with it. I would suggest starting at age 2 ½-3 yrs. old, depending on their maturity level. This is how I would go about it:

“Baby, I want to talk to you about strangers. Do you know what a stranger is? A stranger is somebody who you do not know well. Now, there are lots of people in this world who are strangers to us, we do not know them, and some are good, and some are bad.

Most people are good, but there are some people out there who are bad. Bad strangers will try to hurt you. Sometimes bad strangers try to take children away, and keep them and do bad things to them. I want to tell you about bad strangers to teach you to be careful around people who you do not know.

Bad strangers don’t always look mean. Sometimes they act very nice. You can’t tell if they are good or bad just by looking at them. Bad strangers are tricky! They will act nice to you, but they are really mean. Sometimes they will try to trick you to get you to go with them. It is very important that you stay close to Mommy or Daddy while we are out, so that you don’t get lost from us. If you do get lost, you need to find a store worker, or a police officer right away and ask for help.

  • Role Play. This is where you give your child some scenarios of what a “bad” stranger might try to do to get your child to go with them. It is really important to equip your child with the right responses for certain situations, and there is no better way to teach them than through practice and role playing. It’s just pretend now, but if it ever happened in real life, they would be able to recall their practiced responses. Do this often to keep it fresh in their minds.

Now, remember, bad strangers will try to trick children. They want to get you away from your Mommy and Daddy so they can take you. They might act really nice to you and say something like, “Hello little girl. What’s your name? Do you like candy? You do! Well, I have some in my car, you want to come and get some candy?” Let me tell you something… you should never talk to strangers unless you are with a grown up who you know. You should never take candy from a stranger, unless your Mommy or Daddy says it’s okay first. And you should never, EVER go to the car of a stranger! This is their trick! If they can get you to their car, they will put you in it and drive away. I would never see you again! Now, let’s practice what you should do if a stranger comes to you.

Here is where you roll play. Make up a few scenarios to lead your child through. Don’t act creepy. Don’t put on a mask or try to make yourself look mean or different. Strangers look like everybody else, your child needs to know that. Pretend to walk up to your child and begin a conversation:

You: “Hello. What’s your name?”

Child: “My name is Sarah.”

You: “Hi Sarah.” “How old are you?”

Child: “I’m three.”

You: “Oh! Wow, you’re a big girl!” “Well, Sarah, would you like some candy?”

Child: “Yes!”

Stop!! This is where you correct your child. Tell them again how they should never take candy from a stranger. Give them the correct response:

Child: “I have to ask my Mommy or Daddy first.”

Now begin another scenario.

You: “Hi little girl. Do you like puppies?”

Child: “Yeah!”

You: “Well, I have the cutest little puppy in my car. Would you like to see him?”

Child: “Sure!”

Obviously this is another big stopping point! Tell your child that if somebody invites them to his/her car, they should never go alone. Give your child the correct response:

Child: “I have to ask my Mommy or Daddy first.”

Become a little more aggressive in your approach as a stranger.

You: “Oh, come on! He’s really cute! I’m sure your Mommy wouldn’t mind. We’ll be right back!”

Child: “No thank you. I have to ask my Mommy first.”

Now, without acting it out (you don’t want to scare your child), talk to them about the possibility of a stranger trying to grab them and forcibly take them away. Tell them that sometimes bad strangers will pick a child up and try to take them.

Sometimes a bad stranger will try to take you away by picking you up, or grabbing your arm and forcing you to go with them. Do you know what you should do if that happens? If somebody tries to take you away from me, I want you to fight them with all of your strength! Do you understand me? You kick, you scream, you yell “Mommy!!”, you hit, bite, and fight as hard as you can to get away. Do not let them get you to their car. If they get you into their car, I will never see you again. And baby, if I lost you my heart would break! I would cry and cry. I don’t want to lose you, so I need to teach you what to do if a bad stranger tries to get you, okay?”

Now remember, most strangers are good. But there are some bad people out there who want to do harm. The best way to keep safe is to stay close to me always, never run off or get too far from me. If you aren’t close, a bad stranger could grab you and run away with you. And if you get lost in the store, you find a worker to help you. Never, ever go with somebody out of the store. Okay?”

Go read the rest of the post on her blog. We do need to train and equip our children to know how to be safe with strangers. As soon as your children are old enough, please talk to them.

Here is another link to a site with activities and lesson plans for teaching children about strangers.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It's Bloggy Carnival Giveaway Time!


Thanks to Random.org, our winner is...

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2008-04-27 00:25:59 UTC


Congratulations! Send me your mailing address and I'll get the CD in the mail to you! Thanks for playing, everyone!

Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button

It's Bloggy Carnival Giveaway Time!

Here's what I'm offering...

The CD Dismiss the Mystery by the group Salvador.

Here's how you get it...

1. Leave a comment sharing your favorite tip for children (organizing toys, activities, discipline, etc.) on this blog post. Please leave your email address or blog address so I can contact you if you win.
2. For an extra entry, subscribe to this blog and let me know how in your comment. If you're already a subscriber, just let me know how you read it (bloglines, google reader, feedblitz, etc.)

The fine print...
  • Only one comment per person, please.
  • Open to US entrants only
  • Open to bloggers and non-bloggers alike
  • Winner will be chosen by random.org
  • Winner will be chosen on Saturday, April 26th and announced here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Activities for Toddlers

As summer is approaching (at least in the rest of the northern hemisphere... I have my doubts here in Montana!) it's time to start thinking about outdoor activities that will both encourage curiosity and learning and delight the senses. I found this article on the Family Fun website with ideas for outdoor toddler activities. A lot of them look really neat and I'm hoping to give them a try! There are a few that stand out right away as things that appeal to Ellie's interests right now, like the colored salt shaker art. She loves to shake out the parmesan cheese at the pizza place! So I'll give them a try and report back. If any of you try them out, too, I'd love to hear how it went!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What a cool idea!

As I was perusing the Bloggy Carnival Giveaways, I came across this lady who makes "Mommy Calling Cards" and I thought they were SO cute! I don't know how many times I want to give someone my phone number or email address and I can't find something to write on or write with. These are a great solution! Just toss a few in the diaper bag, in your purse, and in your car, and you'd be good to go! I love it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Solution: Fridge Magnets

I love fridge magnets. I think they're a great tool for helping kids learn the alphabet and it gives them something to play with in the kitchen so they're not so underfoot. Unfortunately, my daughter preferred to spread them all over the floor when she was finished playing with them, and thus my kitchen looked like this all too often:

Please tell me it looks familiar to someone else out there, too! It drove me CRAZY. Always stepping on those little magnets. Ellie running into the kitchen and slipping on them. I tried to make her pick them up, but it was just a long, tedious, tiring process every time.

So one day I was at Target and I found this little pouch to go on a fridge or filing cabinet. I bought it as a place for us to put our receipts instead of having them pile up on the counter. It was a hot spot reduction purchase, so I was okay with the price. It was around $5.

I got home and really liked how it looked on the fridge, and then I realized it would probably work well as a place to store those pesky fridge magnets, too. Sure enough, they fit nicely inside. My fridge front was a whole lot less cluttered now! But the real test was whether or not Ellie would still play with them, and what she would do with them once she was done playing. You know what? She recognized that they have a home now and she puts them away when she's done using them! The few times they do end up all scattered on the floor (usually when one of her little friends is playing with them, too) I just ask her to pick them up and she puts them all back in the pouch! It's pretty amazing. She's happy, I'm happy.... it's a win-win for us.

I'm sure you could make something like this yourself. It's just a fabric pouch with four heavy duty magnets sewn into the back. But I don't have the time right now to make one, and I really like how the brown looks on my white fridge. So while I think $5 is sort of pricey for a little bin to keep magnets in, it's a small price to pay for a little bit of order and sanity in my day.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Filling the Activity Tote

I made Ellie an activity tote to help give me ideas and diversity in the activities we do each day. So often I want to do something with her other than just letting her watch a Baby Einstein or Blue's Clues, but I just can't think of any ideas. When I reach that point now, I reach for the activity tote. It has helped so much! Inside the little pink tote we have...

Little popsicle stick puppets. When Erika and I were at Hobby Lobby in Billings we found these cute little felted wood shapes. They were around 50 cents each, so I bought a bunch and glued them to tongue depressors for Ellie to play with. She really likes them. She usually puts one in each hand and plays with them, making them "walk" (aka hop) around on the table. I ask her things like what each of the animals say and stuff like that. I have a set of jungle animals and a set of farm stuff. Someday I hope to be able to make a felt board backdrop for puppet plays, but I haven't gotten around to that yet.

But I have made her a felt board and a few felt shapes to play with, and that's the next thing in our activity tote. It folds up, but then can stand up or lay down on the table for her to play on. She hasn't played too much with it yet, but I hope to get a few more shapes made that are a little more up her alley. Probably more animals, and perhaps a head she can put eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair, etc. on.

You've already heard me talk about the wonders of Color Wonder markers, paper, and paints, so you shouldn't be surprised to see those in here.

And of course we have to have the traditional coloring books, crayons, and colored pencils, too.

I also have some foam stamps and stamp pads in the activity tote, for those days I'm feeling particularly brave. =D It occurs to me that I don't have any paper in here for her to stamp on, though, so I might have to remedy that. I think I was planning to have her stamp on cardstock so I could make cards with her creations, sort of like I was planning with the Color Wonder creations. I want to foster a spirit of giving and thankfulness in her, so having her make pictures FOR other people, and then using them as a way to say thank you for gifts, etc. is, I think, a good way to emphasize that, even as young as she is.

So there you have it. Our activity tote. It really has been helpful when she is restless in the afternoon and I am trying to get dinner going and we just need a little activity. She usually sits at the kitchen table so I can interact with her and still get dinner made. And it isn't TV.

(I should add that these are all INSIDE activities. I have a different solution for OUTSIDE activities that I'll share later.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Review: Cookie Magazine

I have magically been receiving Cookie magazine for the past few months. I'm not sure why it started ending up in my mailbox, with my name on it, but it did. Maybe it's a mistake. Maybe it's a gift subscription. Either way, I've been getting it, and I've been trying to read it.

But I have yet to see any real articles, any really good ideas, any fun mom-kid crafts, despite the front cover's announcement of such. Really, all I see are lots (and lots) of ads. In fact, every other page (and more!) is a full page ad. There are snippets of articles interspersed, but rarely do these "articles" give any more than a single page worth of material. Perhaps the magazine is geared toward moms who have little more than a minute or two to read it, but I for one don't have the time to scour each of the pages in search of the article amidst the ads. Even from the pictures I cannot draw inspiration for my family time. Most of the pictures are not of happy families doing activities together, but of products I simply cannot afford. I am a stay at home mom. I don't wear Tiffany's jewelry, or $220 perfume, or use $30 soap.

So I'm not impressed. I'm frankly underwhelmed. The cover is deceiving in it's allure to the average mom. Cookie claims to be "All the best for your family" but I just don't see it. This is one magazine I will be happy to let the subscription run out on, whether I paid for it or not.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tips and Tricks: Flashcards

A while back I bought Ellie some flashcards at the Target $pot (can you tell I love that place?). They just have pictures and words on them, and are very general. But she loves going through them with Leif. Unfortunately, they were not meant to withstand the rigors of toddlerhood, so they are all bent and crumpled, and I'm always finding them scattered about on the floor. Then last week I got an idea...

I laminated the flash cards with clear contact paper and trimmed around the edges, rounded the corners and all that jazz. Then I used my Cropadile (a heavy duty hole punch for those of you who aren't crafters) to punch a hole in the corner of each of the flashcards. I put them on a ring so they can be removed if needed, but stay together otherwise. And once again, Ellie loves them! Plus they are getting crumpled less and will last longer because they're laminated! And I don't have to find them all over my house...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Songs with Hand Motions

I can never remember which songs have good hand motions when I want to sing with Ellie. So I am compiling a list. Feel free to leave comments sharing others so the list can grow! Click on the links to see the songs. Some include both the lyrics and hand motions, others just have the lyrics.

Product Review: Color Wonder Markers

Crayola makes Color Wonder markers that only color on their special Color Wonder paper. I was slightly skeptical as to how they would work when I first bought them, but I also didn't want Ellie to color on herself, her clothes, the furniture, etc. The markers and paper are a little more expensive than regular markers and paper but, in my opinion, are worth the extra for the time it takes to train your kids how to color with markers appropriately.

Color Wonder markers really do color only on the special paper. It takes a few seconds for the color to appear on the paper, but that didn't seem to deter Ellie any. The color is not archival, so it fades with time, especially in direct sunlight.

If you have a toddler who is likely to make a mess while coloring, I recommend Color Wonder markers and a paper. The markers are regularly sized, so they are easy to hold and help kids get ready for coloring with "real" markers. The Color Wonder markers we bought came in a little mesh zipper pouch, so we folded up a sheet of color wonder paper and put it in the zipper pouch to take to restaurants with us. The paper tears along folds easily, so there's no need to pre-cut the paper into smaller sections.

These have been beneficial for us while we have worked on teaching Ellie the "rules" of coloring. Only color on the paper, not your skin, clothes, or the table; keep the markers and caps out of your mouth at all times; never throw markers or caps onto the floor; etc. She is learning more and more about proper marker etiquette, and we have been able to train her without being frustrated or fearful that she would ruin her clothes, the furniture, or the carpet with marker ink. We will definitely keep using the Color Wonder markers for a while until she is old enough to color with "real" markers responsibly.

When I don't have time to make a birthday gift, I have given Color Wonder markers or finger paints and paper (they also have Color Wonder coloring books) for 2nd birthday presents.

For more information on Color Wonder products, go to Crayola's website.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Great ambitions....

I had great ambitions of doing sidewalk chalk with Ellie today since it's been so nice outside the last few days. And wouldn't you know we woke up to a full-blown blizzard and a few inches of snow this morning. So Ellie is sitting at the table coloring with her Color Wonder markers instead.

I think I'm going to make cards with some of these pieces of artwork she colors. She's all about coloring right now and covers the entire paper with little colorful scribbles. We only give her a half sheet of paper each time, so I could get two cards out of each one. I love her artwork, and I will scan some of it for posterity, but I don't think the Color Wonder markers and paper will last forever (the color changes over time and in response to the sunlight, so whatever the chemical reaction is that makes the Color Wonder markers and paper work together fades with time), so I'd like to use her drawings for something instead of just throwing them away. I will keep some of the crayon drawings for sure, and scan in some of the Color Wonder drawings so I can see how her coloring has changed with time, but you just can't keep everything. If I think of how much artwork she creates now, how will I handle it when she goes to school?? We'd have to get a storage unit just for her creations! So I'll start the process now... keep some of the best drawings (I will probably scrapbook them), scan some of the others, and then use them to make birthday and thank you cards for her friends and family. This could be a good thing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Planting seeds...

On Friday I decided to plant a few seeds since it looks like Spring is finally here. A while back I picked up a few things at the Target $pot for such a day as this and these are one of the things I got:

I thought perhaps Ellie might be interested in the little pots and it was an activity we could do together. It was quick, easy, and we could watch them grow together before we transplant them in the garden for summer.

The little pots came with a soil pellet (which Ellie dropped into the water so it could rehydrate) and a packet of seeds. Once the soil was rehydrated, Ellie helped me scoop it into the little pots. We did it in the sink to minimize the mess, and it worked really well!

After the pots were full of soil, we counted out five seeds for each. She helped me squish the seeds down into the soil, though she didn't seem to like getting her fingers dirty. It didn't take long to plant the seeds, so it was the perfect activity for her short attention span. Now the little pots are in the window sill and we're waiting for them to grow. As soon as they sprout I'm planning on having her help me water them with her little bitty watering can. She helped me water the outside plants today, so I think it will be a good job for her. =D

Friday, April 11, 2008

A mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee

Erika sent me this and I just thought it was worth remembering...

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee:

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some itemsin front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very largeand empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes'.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. 'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions. And if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.'

'The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house and your car.'

'The sand is everything else---the small stuff'

If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.'

'Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with your grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.'

Take care of the golf balls first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked. The coffee just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'

The magic of food coloring

There's no end to the fun you can have with a little food coloring, some water, and a squirt bottle. This is what Ellie and I did the other morning for about an hour...

And no, there wasn't a massacre. Just a lot of food coloring mixed with a lot of snow. Ellie thought it was great. Until her water bottle ran out of squirt. Then...

"More please. Water empty."

And indeed, it was.

So I'd refill it with plain water and she'd go out and empty it on the deck again. We went through this about a dozen times. She thought it was great. So did I.

All in all we had a great time playing in the snow. It was a good way to use up some energy, and it got me to stop thinking about how much I wished the snow would just go away. I'm ready for Spring!

ACTIVITY: Snow Painting

food coloring
squirt bottle of water

Fill the squirt bottle with water and add a few drops of food coloring. Take it outside and squirt the snow to make colorful designs and patterns! When the bottle is empty, refill it with another color.

Work on:
Colors, shapes, gross motor skills

Training up my child...

The process of child rearing is a complicated one. As a stay-at-home-mom, I find that EVERYTHING I do shapes who my daughter becomes. The activities we do together, the moments we share, the way I react to her tantrums, what I do with my time while she's napping... all of these things teach her more about who I am and the model I am for her.

And so I start yet another blog, another place for me to record my thoughts, hold myself accountable, and keep track of the time I'm spending with my little girl. Here I share the journey as I train up my child...