Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Functional-ish Toddler Kitchen / Snack Station

Have you seen those cool toddler kitchens with running water? Well…this is not one of them. We decided not to put a tap because we want to be able to transform it into a play kitchen again, when she will get bored of this (we’ve already done this once before) and because we needed to keep an extra eye on her. She can climb to the sink using her stool, so she is free to get water anytime she wants. But it’s easier for us to keep a closer eye on her there, because she doesn’t do it all the time.

This is what she currently has in her kitchen:
- Her apron, for when she is cooking – she gets it herself, but needs a bit of help putting it on
- A cutting board
- Some snacks – I usually put a porridge pouch, cereal (without sugar), toddler fruit bars, fruit (banana, mandarins, pear, etc.), or muffins, homemade crackers, etc. (things that don’t need to be in the fridge)
- Bib and placemat (we love the ones from @khadinedeco)
- A jar with cutlery
- An egg slicer, for fruit (bananas, soft kiwi, strawberries)
- A bowl or plate
- Pitcher and mug
- A hand towel
- Trash can (her old diaper bin)
- A broom

She has a different area for cleaning supplies: a tiny broom and dustpan, cloths and a spray bottle with water for wiping tables.

Does your toddler enjoy being independent at mealtimes? How do you support them? 

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

How we Incorporate Music into Our Daily Routine

E. loves everything about music! I can truly say that songs and music in general have helped build at least 70% of her vocabulary. Ever since she was a baby, she paid more attention to me when I was singing to her than when I was talking. I used to sing about what we were doing together (I still do sometimes) and whenever we went on walks, we sang about what we saw. She quickly understood the meaning of the words that she heard in songs, because they were used in context. Nowadays, she creates her own silly songs and sings all the time.

I thought about sharing a few ways we’ve incorporated songs in our daily routine:

We made a Song Bag for when we’re on the go – I took screen shots of pictures from songs that we know (most of them are from Super Simple Learning), then made laminated flashcards and placed them all in a bag. I wrote about it in a previous post, but if you have any questions just ask.

We have musical instruments – she can play our piano anytime, but we’ve also started a collection of smaller real instruments for her. She used to have wooden toy instruments, but I thought that real instruments could be so much better – and they are! She has wooden shakers, a recorder, a ukulele, and a harmonica. 

She has music class at daycare – and she really enjoys it. I’m lucky that I teach at her kindergarten, because I can ask her teacher what songs she’s been singing at home.

She has lots of books about music – her favourite are The Story Orchestra (Swan Lake) and a book with 50 Finnish songs that has buttons that play every song. Check the photo for more of her favourite books about music. 

I sometimes set up trays related to certain songs – the one in the picture is just with some farm animals and DIY matching cards. When she plays with them, she usually sings Old MacDonald.

We use stick puppets (laminated pictures of characters in songs, stuck on some popsicle sticks), hand puppets, finger puppets, and any toys to act out the lyrics of songs.

And her favourite thing when she was little was to listen to me sing while changing her. I had printed pictures for some of her favourite songs and put them omn the wall, so that I could point to them while singing. Before I introduced those, I focused more on songs about body parts, clothes, daily routines, so I could sing them and give her an idea of what the words mean.

My all time favourite kids songs are those from Super Simple Songs. The lyrics are easy to remember and to translate, so we sing them in all three languages (or two, if I get very lazy about Finnish).

There are so many fun ways to incorporate music in everyday life! Does your child like music or singing?

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Encouraging a Toddler to Dress Independently

 I wrote this post for Instagram, and that's why it's mostly photos. But I thought it'd be nice to share it here, because this is an aspect that a lot of parents (and teachers) struggle with. 

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer.

And remember, we all have our bad days. Sometimes we just need to take it slow and focus on less things. :)


Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Pumpkin Hunt

 Tomorrow we will have our Halloween party at kindergarten - E's first Halloween party! She is excited about wearing her monster outfit and about singing Halloween songs. 

For my group (3-6 year-olds) I've prepared a pumpkin hunt: I've made some cards with clues about places where pumpkins will be hidden. Everybody will try to look for them, but they will bring all pumpkins to me, then we will give one to each. That way, nobody will be left out and it will feel like a team effort.

These are the cards. Some of them are pretty easy to figure out, others a bit trickier. Most of them have to do with toys (vroom - in the box where the cars are, babysitting - in the box where the baby dolls are, etc.).

Sunday, 11 October 2020

How to Choose Toys for Your Children

I got asked this question often recently: what toys should I buy for my baby/toddler? And it's difficult to give an exact list, because children are so different from one another, some might like gross motor activities, while others prefer fine motor activities, others like destroying towers, others making them. In addition, some might like all of these, but in different periods of their lives (think of play schemas). So it's tough to recommend a specific list of toys.

I also feel like toys are overrated. We've bought expensive toys that E. barely looked at, but then we found leaves in a park that she played with for hours.

I perfectly agree with this quote from Simplicity Parenting: "Nothing in the middle of a heap can be truly valued. The attention that a child could and would devote to a toy is shortened, and eclipsed by having too many. Instead of expanding their attention, we keep it shallow and unexercised by our compulsive desire to provide more and more and more. Ironically, this glut of goods may deprive a child of a genuine creativity builder: the gift of their own boredom." What kids really need is a decluttered space to play in, lots of time to play, and a calm state of mind.

One piece of advice when thinking of buying a toy (fellow montessorians have heard this over and over) is to follow your child. This means that you shouldn't buy toys ahead of time ("Oh, this looks cool and I think that my daughter will like it when she grows and can use it"), but just see what your child in interested in doing and start from there.

It's perfectly ok to buy (some) toys, because not everyone has time for DIY projects in the evenings, when they should be resting after a long day at work, with the kids, etc.. But if you take a few minutes each day to observe your child, you will notice patterns in her play, see what interests her, and you can then provide materials to suit these needs. If your child likes transporting things, then provide her with empty baskets, bags, buckets, a wheelbarrow, and toys that she can move from one place to another. If your child likes arts and crafts, make an art station with crayons, paints, painting tools, stickers, stamps, etc. You get my point.

That's why I can't come up with a list that will definitely be helpful for all of you. I will try, however, to explain how we choose toys and what sort of toys E. has enjoyed in her first (almost) two years of life. I usually ask myself the following questions:

1. Can she use the toy now (based on interests, age, skill)? I've made this mistake SO MANY TIMES I'm ashamed to admit - I see a cute toy and can't help myself!

2. Can she use this toy for a longer time (is it meant for babies, or can she use it in a different way later?, Once she has mastered it, can she use it again, without getting bored?)

3. Is this toy open-ended? (If she can use a toy over and over again, and pour creativity into her play, then I will choose that over something else)

4. Is it durable and made from quality materials? (not every wooden toy falls automatically into this category!)

5. Can I make it myself and using better/safer ingredients/materials? (Playdough, slime, DIY projects from recycled materials)

6. Does it overstimulate my child? There are so many toys on the market that do too many things: the child presses a button and it pops a car out, the car makes sounds, has a remote control and lights, etc. But in the end, the child doesn't get to use her imagination and create a different scenario than the one it was intended for.

"The toys that strive to re-create a video arcade experience—complete with flashing lights, mechanical voices, speed, and sound effects—set the “stimulation bar” very high for your child. [...] So many things children experience today come with a rush of adrenaline. [...]Frequent bursts of adrenaline will also increase the cortisol levels in your child’s system, which are slower to build but also much slower to decrease. These hormones don’t differentiate between real and simulated stress. And the physiological effects of consistently elevated hormone levels are the same regardless of what triggers their release: so-called “entertainment,” or real danger." (Simplicity Parenting - Kim John Payne)

With these questions in mind, here's a list of toys that might fit more kids' interests:

- balls (big, small, textured, heavy/light, made of wood, plastic, wool, etc.)
- toy animals (figurines, that can be used in so many ways: with blocks, with playdough, with sand, in the bathtub, for counting, stacking, stamping, etc.)
- musical instruments (DIY or bought) (even when you have a baby, you can play for him and draw his attention to different sounds, kids can use them freely, or in musical activities
- scarves (the perfect open ended toy - I wrote a blog post about how your child can use them)
- child-sized cooking utensils - not used as toys, but they'll keep your child busy and learning through practical life activities (you can find a list on my blog, grumpydumpling.com)
- open ended tools and science toys: telescope, scoopers, tweezers, scissors, magnifying glass, pipettes, etc.

- building blocks and Lego
- resources for crafts: glue, paint, paper, paintbrushes, markers, crayons, stickers, stamps, etc.
- a few soft toys and dolls
- food and kitchen utensils (maybe real ones instead of toys?)
- outdoor toys (shovel, bucket, sand shapes)
- books, books, and more books (for babies, touchy feely books, #indestructibles, and Lift-the-flap books)

Don't forget to keep baskets, cardboard boxes and cardboard, gather things on nature walks (twigs, branches, pine cones, shells, leaves, acorns - but let your child use them under close supervision!).
You can also give your child a flashlight, blankets, boxes, and see what they come up with.

Even in a household with not too many toys, I recommend toy rotation - you can read in one of my previous posts about it.

Would you be interested in reading about where to start if you want to de-clutter toys? Or how we keep the toys that are out of rotation?

Friday, 9 October 2020

Activities with Pumpkins

 It's that time of the year again. I always get excited about autumn, its colours, flavours, and smell. Pumpkins are great in cafe late, but how can your kids use them? Here are some ideas.

You can also find a freebie in my TPT store with cute pumpkin puzzles (click on the images below):

And some fun hands-on resources that kids can use to learn about pumpkins: