Thursday, December 24, 2009

Unto Us, This Holy Night by The Wiggles

Here is one of our favorite Christmas songs. It may have been written for kids but it touches the hearts of Moms and Dads as well.
Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays from Signing Time

Merry Christmas aand Happy New Year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas on DVD

During the month before Christmas the Little Guy and I share many Christmas customs.  One that I have made a special effort on is getting good DVDs to help expose him to some of the things we aren't surrounded with here in Japan at Christmas time.
Right now he's watching The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky.  I love the DVD we have becuse there is just enough narration and movie-style filiming to help a child understand what is going on yet the wonderful ballet abilities are also showcased.  It is adapted by Peter Martins and preformed by dancers from New York City Ballet and the American School of Ballet.  I just noticed in the Amazon that it says Macaulay Caulkin (the kid in the Home Alone movies) is in there too.  Funny that I never noticed!
Another favorite is A Charlie Brown Christmas スヌーピーのメリークリスマス. Even though the story of the nativity doesn't get a huge focus the Little Guy still picked it out.
A few years ago I picked up the Original Television Christmas Classics DVD set. It has the Frosty and Rudolf that we grew up watching on TV in the U.S. It also includes "The Little Drummer Boy" which I would never expect to see on TV in Japan.
We also have The Wiggles Christmas DVDS as well as the Cedarmont Kids Christmas Carols sing-along DVD.
I'm thinking that it might be time to add some VeggieTales Christmas DVDs to the collection. Right now we just borrow the one that is in the little library at church.
The other one I want to get eventually is Rick Steves Europen Christmas.  I miss watching his shows on PBS!

The question of the day then is... What are your favorite Christmas DVDs adn movies?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Baby Center on Benefits of Signing

This great acticle was just pointed out to me:
I'll copy it below for those of you who can't get the link to work.

Signing with your baby or toddler: How to communicate before your child can talk

Last updated: September 2005

How it works

It's not surprising that babies can learn how to sign. Both their understanding of language and their motor skills develop much faster than their ability to speak. And they love to mimic: Most babies, for example, discover how to wave and point long before they can say "bye bye" or "look at that!"

The idea of taking this one step further and teaching babies a vocabulary of signs was inspired by child development expert Joseph Garcia. Having discovered how easily hearing babies of deaf parents learned sign language, he also noticed that these babies appeared less demanding than babies who didn't know sign language because they could express their thoughts and needs more easily. So why shouldn't hearing parents of hearing babies enjoy the benefits of signing, too? After all, Garcia figured, if a baby can sign for what she wants instead of screaming, everyone — Mom, Dad, and their baby — will be happier. While baby signing doesn't promise to cut out tears or tantrums, babies as young as 6 months old have been taught to "sign" successfully, and a number of organizations run baby-signing classes in the United States and in other countries.

Benefit: Less frustration

Teaching your baby to sign isn't hard, although it takes patience. And even just a few easy signs — like "drink" (thumb to mouth, tilting up) — can make all the difference, as one mom, Emma Finlay-Smith, discovered: "The first sign we tried, when Isabella was about 11 months old, was the sign for 'drink.' At first I thought she wasn't paying any attention. But about a week or so after we started, she was sitting playing with her toys when she looked up and signed to me. I thought she was waving hello, then my husband spotted that she was signing 'drink.' It was like when she took her first step — she was delighted and so were we! As she learned more words, her frustration levels dropped dramatically."

Benefit: A closer bond

Mom Sharon Mason says signing gives her an extra-special bond with her son Morgan, 16 months: "Morgan has a vocabulary of about 30 words and he's starting to string signs together. He comes and tells me if our dog is asleep (first fingers and forefingers of both hands pointing downward) or if he can hear an airplane (swooping his hand). It's wonderful knowing what's going on inside his head. I also love being able to talk to him even when he's on the other side of the room. At playgroup the other day I noticed he was looking a bit panicky — I couldn't reach him easily so I signed 'I love you' (hugging myself, looking at him), instead."

Benefit: Helping language develop

Parents may worry that teaching their baby to sign will interfere with normal speech development. In fact, according to recent research, the opposite is true: Signing may actually improve language and vocabulary. Signing, as Garcia points out, is about enhancing, not replacing language. It has to be used alongside normal speech so your baby can make the link between the gesture and the word. And because you need to make sure your baby is looking at you, she's concentrating hard on what you're saying as well as on what you're doing. When your baby can sign back, communication becomes two-way. If, for example, she tells you she can hear a plane, you can respond, "You heard an airplane? Yes, I can see it. Look, it's over there. Isn't it loud?" In this way, you probably spend more time talking to your child, which is one of the best ways of helping speech develop.

How to do it

• As with any new skill, it's important to go at your baby's pace and keep it fun. The best time to start is when your baby begins to develop a real desire to communicate. This is usually around 9 or 10 months — you'll notice your baby is more sociable, starts to babble, and uses noises and facial expressions to get your attention.

• Start with a sign for something she's interested in. Lots of babies quickly pick up the sign for "more" in relation to food!

• Every time you use the word, show your baby the sign, too. Always use the same sign, use lots of repetition, and emphasize the key word along with the sign, so your baby can clearly see and hear the connection: "Do you want some more? You'd like some more would you? Okay, let's get you some more!"

• Your baby may try the sign herself after a few days, or it may take several weeks — be patient. Make it as fun as you can. Babies are much more likely to learn from something they enjoy doing.

• If you want to go to baby-signing classes, you'll see resources listed at the end of this article. Many of the companies that offer classes produce books and DVDs that you might find helpful — look for details on their Web sites.

Some signs to try

Different experts recommend different signs — Garcia's "Sign With Your Baby" program is based on American Sign Language, while the "Baby Signs" program created by psychologists Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn uses a set of simple signs designed for babies. Either of these systems will do the trick, but there's no reason why you can't make up your own signs instead. Any gesture that obviously mimics the meaning of the word works well, for example:

• "food" — put your finger tips to your lips
• "all gone" — move your hand, palm up, backward and forward
• "scared" — tap your chest again and again
• "hot" — put your hand out and withdraw it quickly
• "where?" — shrug your shoulders, with your palms held out
• "rabbit" — wrinkle up your nose or hold up two fingers
• "car" — steer an imaginary wheel
• "book" — hold hands flat with palms up

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hand Print Gift Ideas

For the last Baby Signing Time class before Christmas I wanted to do something special. One of the best ornaments on our tree is the paper dough hand and foot prints that we made with the Little Guy for his first Christmas. We also sent prints as presents to the grandparents and Godparents that year. I wanted to find a project we could easily do during class time but that could also become a great gift like these ornaments were.
The paper dough for the hand prints is just the regular かみねんどfrom the 100 yen shop. After they dried I used a watered down glitter glue and paint mix to add a bit of sparkle. On the back we wrote the Little Guy's name a birthdate with a felt tipped pen.
The project we ended up doing for the signing classes was painted hand prints. I know my mom did this with us when we were kids because Grandma our prints hung on her wall for years and years! (they may actually still be up... haven't checked recently)
Each mom and baby lightly painted their hands and then pressed them on a piece of white paper. The paint is of course washable and it's a good thing we did this at the start of class because they took about an hour to dry.
Some of the mothers were really impressed and asking about other hand print ideas that could be turned into gifts. I told them about this one Embroidered Hand Prints. I have yet to try it but we may give it a shot next year.

Cookie Decorating

In English class on Monday we frosted cookies. It was the first time for the students (the mothers) and their kids to experience this wonderful Christmas custom. Of course cookie decorating with 2 yr olds isn't relaxing (or clean!) but we had fun!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Desk

The Little Guy watches all we do and copies probably 80% of it. Recently he's taken a real interest in Daddy's office. Since most of the things in the office aren't able to be played with he's set up his own office at home.
This is the end table in the living room. It's the perfect height and size for a 2 yr. old to get some work done. He uses the electric dictionary for a computer, my old cell phone for taking calls, takes notes on the notepad and even uses the key (a christmas tree ornament) to open and close the genkan door before/after "work".
I must admit that since the office was created I don't have as many problems with the Little Guy taking pens/paper from my "work"!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gym Class

One of the thigns I looked forward to doing with my kids long before I had a kid was playing "Gym Class" with them!
When weather permits it is fun to step outside for a half hour or so. Today I got out the cones (Target - 4 of 1$), balls and hula hoop. The Little Guy kept trying to knock the cones over as if they were bowling pins.
The best part of gym class though was hide-n-seek --> 2 yr old style!
One person covers their eyes with their hands and counts to 5 while the other person "hides". In the mind of a 2 year old it doesn't matter if you can see the body as long as the face is hidden! A very helpful thing indeed considering that we have so few places to hide.
The other important point is that you both scream and laugh when the seeker "finds" the hide-er!
How simple life can be when you're two!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Tree!

Our tree is finally decorated!!!
Though I doubt Baby Jesus and his family will be spending much time at the base of the tree this year. They're currently serving as station workers or something for the train!
This is the Little Guy's boat. He pulled it over for a front row seat once the tree went up. We've added the window decals at his height since he enjoys looking at them.
Getting in and out of the boat can be a bit tricky when your arms are full!
These are some of my favorite ornaments. We made hand and footprint ornaments to give to relatives for the Little Guy's first Christmas. At the time we thought his hands were big! They've doubled in the past 2 years!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Signing Time Sale

There's going to be a HUGE sale on Signing Time things this Friday - everything is 50% off! You can use my URL to get to the store and do a bit of Christmas shopping!

Turkey with Daddy

The little guy decided today to teach Daddy how to put together the turkey. He did a pretty good job of explaining it too!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Felt Turkey

I finally got this put together!!!
This activity has been in the back of my mind since I saw it here on the ChasingCheerios blog last year. I think I did a pretty good job of recreating it!

The backdrop is felt glued onto a piece of cardboard. To limit the number of small pieces the turkey is glued together but removeable from the board. The feathers are cut from 4 different colors of felt.
To start the activity I put the turkey on the big board and the feathers on the small one. The little guy has the picture as a guide. I moved one feather from the small board to the turkey. Obviously he had the idea because he quickly said it was his turn and pushed my hand away!
After decorating the turkey twice he told me it was time to clean up.
This activity is really easy to make and will lend itself well to many variations over the next couple of years!

I am so tempted to use the "Felt Food" lable for this post!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

In my classes (both signing and English) we've been using the Sign and Singalong book "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear!".
Yesterday I heard the little guy trying his best to sing it to his teddy bear. It was so cute! Of course once the camera came out his shy side came out. We had a grand old time singing and making up new verses for Teddy Bear to follow!
Ok, I have to add one more video...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

H1N1 Vaccination 新型インフルエンザワクチン

The little guy received his first H1N1 (swine flu) vaccination today.  今日、息子が新型インフルエンザワクチンを受けました。We've all been on the waiting list for over a month but with the shortage of vaccine and priority list for who gets vaccinated we've had to wait our turn.
On the good side though, our local clinic accepts the Suginami-ku Child Rearing Coupons to help cover the cost of both the new and the regular flu shots. 杉並区子育て応援券で払った。Parents will have to pay the regular price in cash though.

What's in Your Diaper Bag? ママバッグ

For the Mommies English class this week we talked about what is in your diaper bag. With a bit of show and tell we discovered more about each person's personality. We also talked about how the contents (and in some cases the size) have changed as the baby grows.
It was also fun to think back to the first time we packed the bag to go out. We packed for every possible situation! Now, 1 or 2 years later, we are more likely to err on the side of not being prepared!!!
Here are some of our favorite things to keep in the diaper bag:

Knot-a-Bag ノット・ア・バッグ by Smart Start - By far the most used item in the diaper bag besides the diapers! There appears to be a new eco version out too.
Chair Belt チェアベルト- It can turn most any chair into a high chair. (Of course the baby needs to be able to sit on his/her own first)
Teether/Feeder トレーニングマンマ- Great for babies from 5 months to a year old. It can help them to work on chewing and enjoy new foods without worrying about choking. It's good to buy a few extra nets right away. The only caution I have is that bananas will turn the nets brown.
MagMag Cup Set マグマグ- The tops can be changed to grow with your baby. We've been using the same set since the start. A carrying case and replacement straw parts also come in handy!
Pampers Bibsters ビブスター - Disposable bids are great for when you're out and about or the little one will indulge in something that stains like berries!
Snack Trap スナックカップ - A great way to keep little treats from spilling all over!
Paper Carton Holder パックホルダー - Another way to help save on stains. Holding a juice or milk pack without squeezing the drink all over yourself is really a fine art. I never leave home without it!
Pocket Sling ベビーホルダー - Folds up small so it's easy to take when you aren't sure if you'll need it or not. Comes in handy when baby no longer wants to ride in the stoller or toddler is tired of walking.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gift Ideas for a 2 Year Old from Ikea イケアで2歳のためのギフトアイデア

For his last birthday we got the little guy some of the things I’ve had my eye on for a while at Ikea.
As you've probably guessed byy now I love Ikea. Their products are simple, classic and the toys lend themselves well to imaginary play.
On top of all that the price is great (especially compared to similar products in Japan) and I know the things I buy there will last a while!
Except for the food which disappears rather quickly around here...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Preparing for Thanksgiving

In a couple of weeks we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving. Here are a few of the things we're doing to prepare:
The matching cards are printed from Montessori For Everyone. I laminated the cards so we can use them for years to come. You can find them here.

The big book is "Don't Know Much About the Pilgrims" by Kenneth C Davis. This book is more for my own information at this point but I think in a year or two it will come in helpful when the little guy starts asking more questions.

"The First Thanksgiving" by Dana Stewart is a cute and easy book that tells a simplified version of the Thanksgiving story. It is easy enough to use in English classes too so this book gets loaned out a lot!

The animal book is one from when I was a kid. It matches the color scheme of the other books so I thought this might be a good time to introduce it.

I also feel that Thanksgiving is a good time to talk about the Native Americans. "Hawiwatha" by Longfellow is a classic in every sense of the word. I love to expand on the book with pictures of places we've been that Hawiwatha could have visited. Reading it can easily make you long for the shinning big sea waters of Gitche Gumee (Lake Superior).

For a treat we'll also watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving スヌーピーの感謝祭 特別版.

Our first Autumn/Thanksgiving art project is an oldie but a goodie!
We traced the little guy's hand onto a piece of paper to serve as the tree trunk, cut it out and then glued on some leaves.
Next time I'll make the leaves a bit bigger so they are easier to handle. Also, a few less leaves probably would have worked better.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday Classes

Last week in the baby signing class we learned "Here I Go" from "Baby Signing Time". It is one of our favorite songs!

In the Mommies class we've been talking about daily routines. I found a great site where you can print picture cards depicting the parts of a daily routine. The pictures are so clear and simple.
There are also cards for objects, emotions and hoidays.
I plan to make some basic routine posters to help us stick to our bedtime and other routines.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Little arms so full of Love

Friday, October 30, 2009

Reformation Day

For Reformation Day this year I'm planning a few simple activities. The little guy is a bit young yet to capture the importance of the day so this year we're going to keep it simple.
Luther's Rose - We will talk about the meaning and then color one.
For lunch or supper or both we'll eat some German food.
Our music for the day: A Mighty Fortress.
We'll also take a look at a Luther book.
606265Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World
By Paul L. Maier, illustrated by Greg Copeland /
Concordia Publishing House

Bilingual Books J/E バイリンガル本 日/英

One thing I'm always searching for is bilingual children's books. In our case Japanese/English is the most common but we do read German/English ones too.
Finding them can be a real challenge. I've learned that when I find one I better get it right away becasue it may not be avalible for long!
So, to start off this new label group here are a few of our favorites:
くまさんくまさんなにみてるの? Brown Beear, Brown Bear, What do you See? by Eric Carle
はらぺこあおむし The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
メイシーちゃん おたのしみひろばへゆきます Maisy Goes to the Playground by Lucy Cousins
A favorite in our house right now is the bilingual picture dictionaries from this series: こどもずかん 英語つき. This one is perhaps the little guy's favorite - at least for this week... 0さい~4さいこどもずかん 英語つき We are ALL learning new words in both languages!

If you ever come across a great bilingual book please share!

Leaf Matching

I recently discovered a wonderful site called While navagating the site can be a bit tricky due to all the advertising, it is possible to find some fun and easy to prepare activities. The whole concept is that the games and activities are played on a file folder so they are easy to store and take along. I'm adapting them to the Japanese-style clear file and to a the level of my toddler.
Here we have a fall leaves color matching activity. I printed two copies of each of the page: page 1, page 2, page 3. One copy of each is as printed and the other copy has the leaves/helicopters cut out. Since I love to laminate the whole set got laminated.
With a 2 year old it is good to start with one leaf page and the 5 corresponding leaves. You can work your way up to all 10.
Another potential activity is matching the helicopters to the loose leaves by color.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fine Motor Skills 細かい運動のスキル

Recently the little guy has been showing interest in refining his fine motor skills. Here are a couple of activities that he's been working on.
This is actually a peg game that I've had sitting around. On the activity shelf the pegs are in the green dish with the triangle board next to it.
The point is to place all of the pegs in the holes on the board. Once the board is filled the pegs should go back into the green dish.
Another favorite activity is the wooden ring stacking "light house" from Ikea. In addition to stacking, the pieces can be rolled on their sides or spun in circles.
The little guy has found so many new ways to play with this toy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Matching Caps

The little guy and I discovered a new activity today - matching pop bottle caps!
It started with practicing putting caps in the can which we haven't done in ages. When we took the caps out it seemed natural to line them up. We practiced counting and placed the caps in the can according to color.
While looking at the designs I noticed that we have a lot of pairs (and way too many Pepsi NEX caps!) so we tried lining them up. The truck was brought in the aid in the "delivery" of the caps to their "home"
It helps that our kotatsu has a grid which matches the cap size.
I also noticed that the newer caps tend to be white with simpler designs. Perhaps a reflection of the state of the economy?

Some of the caps were clearly different, They were different colors or had different designs. Others were harder to tell apart. The two green caps with faces pictured here were a bit of a challenge.
I think this is a good activity to encourage a child to look at the details of an object. Now that I've noticed the details I'll probably start shopping for drinks based on the cap designs! :-)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Photo Shoot 思い出フレームとアルバム

At Studio Pure in Nishiogikubo you can use the Suginami-ku Kossodate (child rearing) Coupons to pay for a photo shoot and album decorationg session. 西荻窪にあるスタジオピュアでは、杉並区の子育て応援券を使って「親子で作る『思い出フレーム・アルバム』」ができますよ。
We took advantage of this good deal to get a few nice pictures of the little guy. Even though he really wasn't in the mood to work with us the studio staff did a great job of trying to draw out his smiles.
The basic set includes just one photo but you can pay extra to include an aditional photo or to get extra prints, etc. Anythign beyond the basic set though cannot be paid with the Kosodate Coupons.
About 2 weeks after the photos are taken you go back to the studio for the album/frame decorating. You choose a set of 3 colors of paper and a set of scrapbooking stickers to start with. There are aditional supplies to use in decorating as well as a number of expample albums to provide inspiration.

THis is just one great way to use your Kosodate Coupons!

Activity Books

One of my biggest quests once the little guy started crawling was to find a book of activities that he could enjoy over the enxt few years.
I asked friends in Early Childhood professions, talked to sempai (older, more experienced) moms, searched the net adn browsed through Amazon. In the end I came across two books that I'm very happy with. The first is Gymboree 365 Activities You and Your Toddler Will Love: Fun Ideas for Your Toddler's Growing Mind! It happens to be out of stock on at the moment but you can still find it on Highlights include the variety of traditional nursery rhymes and games being mixed with various ideas for parents. I was hesitant to get the book because it is so colorful - which often makes me feel like the publisher is making up for a lack of content - but it has plenty of ideas and information.

The other book, Unplugged Play, which I came across in a used bookstore, is a real gem! It has tons of ideas for toddlers through grade school children. Again, many classic rhymes, games and songs are included. Each activity also has a detailed explanation with suggestions for variations.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bremen Town Musicians ブレーメンの音楽隊

For my son's birthday this year I wanted to have a theme. My hope was to find something fun and interesting yet meaningful. Right now he loves animals and music so when I came across a file folder in a store with the Bremen Town Musicians pictured on the front inspiration hit!
We have a version of the famous old story in English and a German DVD animation. While looking around for party ideas I found some really cool things!
One suggestion for a classroom setting is to make masks of the various characters and then have the kids act out the story. There is a page with various lesson plan ideas based on the story.

The best "find" for me is a mini threater set 英語日本語紙芝居 ミニシアター ブレーメンの音楽隊 on It also comes in a larger, table top size. Each set includes kamishibai 紙芝居 (story board posters), a CD with the story told in English/Japanese and English only, 2 sets of question cards in English at different levels to test comprehension, a set of picture cards and a set of sight word cards.
For $10 - $15 dollars these mini theater sets are a real deal! What started out as a birthday party theme idea will easily be turned into an ongoing learning resource.

As you can see a 2 year old can enjoy the story as much as the adults did!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Play Dough 手作りプレイドー

Last week while cleaning out a closet I came across a bunch of clay that I have been saving for a rainy day. While the little guy was very excited and wanted to give it a try he had a tough time due to the hard consistency of the clay. We have solved the problem with homemade play dough.
Here is a simple recipe that I found online:
Easy Peasy No Cook Play Dough!
2 cups of plain flour 2カップ フラワー 
4 tablespoons of ‘cream of tartar’ 4大さじ クリームオブタータ 
2 tablespoons of cooking oil 2大さじ サラダ油
1 cup of salt 1カップ 塩
2 cups of boiling water 2カップ お湯
Food coloring 食品着色料

Just pop it all in a mixing bowl and mix!
It might not come together at first, but keep on mixing, it will eventually take on that nice play doughey texture.
Try adding bits and pieces like glitter and sand to make it even more fun!


We added food coloring and extract/essence to make a variety of colors and scents. After playing keep the play dough in an air tight container for next time!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Teaching Colors

I've been looking forward to doing this activity for some time. The Montessori Color Tablets caught my attention right away when I was looking for activities to do at home. The ability to see color and differentiate shades of colors is a very special gift. Could you imagine a sunset in shades of gray? Or a theater production lit only with white lights? Color is such a huge part of our world!
Since I'm only working with one child and in a home enviroment buying all the nice sets for montessori activities is not an option for us. In this case we have opted for a well-known substitute for the color tablets - paint samples.
I have to admit here that I don't know where in Tokyo to get similar samples so I picked them up while in the US last summer. I'm sure they can be found here too - I just don't know where.
These are paint examples from a homestore that I laminated to make a bit more durable.

I started by introducing the red, yellow and blue colors first. The little guy grasped the idea so quickly that I didn't even get a picture of it!

This is the "basic" set that I made. It was too easy in that the little guy barely had to think to do it and lined up all the colors correctly on the first try. Next time I'll introduce shades of color to him.

Margaret Homfray showing how to use the color tablets:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baby Signing Time and Signing Time

Did you know that Signing Time has a youtube site?
Take a look here:
We are using the Baby Signing Time series in the new baby sign language class that I started teaching recently. The videos are great, the music catchy and flashcards very useful!
Here is a sneak peek at a couple of the upcoming songs for class:
Here I Go

Diaper Dance

If you live int he US check your local library for the DVDs. Once you're hooked you can buy them on the Signing Time homepage or from Amazon, etc. For those of us outside the US it is well worth the price of shipping to order from the Signing Time homepage!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

1st Birthday

Are you looking for some gift ideas for a 1 year old?
Here are a few pictures of things that the litte guy really enjoyed nad made good use of over the past year.

With 1 year olds anything that can be freely explored works well. It is true that they often get more enjoyment from the box that a present comes in than from the present itself!
Some other things that make great gifts are simple musical instruments, wooden cars, soft blocks and stacking toys.

New Baby Gift

In the US it is common to have a baby shower before a baby is born and in Japan it is common to give gifts after the birth. In either situation I like to give something a bit more personal than money and more helpful that clothes that the baby will soon outgrow.
When I have time I like to make a bag for the gift that can be reused. This is a simple rectangle shape with a ribbon drawstring sewn in at the top.
Here is a peek at one newborn gift. Included are some of my favorite baby prooducts.
- Set of Roll-a-Rounds (each ball makes a different sound)
- Homemade cloth with various bits of ribbon for the baby to explore
- Pack of gauze handkerchiefs - a great multipurpose item
- American baby wipes - these are bigger, stronger and softer than the commonly avalible Japanese counterparts.

When you can't make up your mind about what to give just remember that it's the thought that counts!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Margaret Homfray Lectures

I've been looking around online for more information abotu child development so that I can stay a few steps ahead of the little guy in his development. One interesting thing I came across is a series of lectures by Margaret Homfray who learned from and worked with Dr. Montessori. You can see them on Google Video here. Many of the lectures are long (45 minutes) but the depth of imformation is wonderful. It is easy to see how many or the objects and ideas that Dr. Montessori used have inspired toys and activities for kids around the world for the past century.
We won't be ably to buy all the supplies but the basic concepts are easily applied to things already in the home.
It is awesome to have access to this (for free) from home!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mommy's Secrets

I've started teaching an English class for Mommies and Babies on Mondays. In class today we had a good discussion which got me to thinking... we have information that can be shared and hopefully will be helpful to other moms (or dads) in the area.

Today's topic was "Mommy's Secrets". Our discussion questions included "Where do you like to go with your baby?" and "What is something you wish you would have known before having a baby?"
Here is a summary of what we came up with:
Where do you like to go with your baby?

0123 - a city-run place that resembles a jidokan (children's recreation center) for kids age 0-3 years old.
Kamiigusa Sports Center Kid's Room - The public sports center has a room that families can use for free. They just ask that you sign in at the desk so they know how many people are using the room. It's a great place to play on a rainy day! (There is a picture of the room at the bottom of the linked page)
Skip Kids - A cafe with a small American-style play space. There is also a separate ball are for babies under 1 yr. old so they don't get trampled. The food, staff and atmosphere is wonderful.
Local parks - we have many of them in Suginami-ku. It is great to get out and play on a sunny day!
What is something you wish you would have known before having a baby?

- That not all babies sleep a lot and some babies don't like to sleep at night.
- It is ok to go out of the house in the first month after the baby is born. Many women in Japan feel trapped at home with the baby until the 1 month check-up as they are told not to even go out for a walk or to the grocery store. In class we agreed that for the mental health of the mommy it's best to not feel trapped in a small apartment for a month!
- You don't need to get a complete wardrobe in every size. Babies grow quickly so you may not even be able to use all the baby clothes. One approach is to buy things in every other size - for example get things in 50cm, 70 cm, 90 cm and skip buying things that are 60 cm and 80 cm.
- Babies can be very expensive. It is not just buying things... the utility bills may go up, budgets for travel need to be increased to cover an additional person, child care/activities need to be taken into consideration.
During the baby (more like toddler) time today we read 2 books.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear (Sign and Sing Along)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Starting Points for Montessori at Home

Jojoebi, another "foreign" wife in Japan has a blog that I've enjoyed reading for quite a while. Her success with integrating Montessori ideas into family life here has inspired me more than once. Today she has a great post for those which can give guidance to those who are just starting out on a Montessori journey in their own homes.
It's a long post but so full of good information.
I love the way ideas, experiences and information can be shared online!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Milk Carton Bento Boxes

Another great idea inspired by Family Fun magazine.
I used 1 liter milk and juice cartons but any size would work.
The original idea is to cut off the top and then shape the sides into flaps. The flaps can be folded down to close the box. I use a rubber band then to secure it shut.
These boxes are great for holding food for picnics or messy things that are hard to clean up. They can also work as portion control for edamame, popcorn and other foods that are generally prepared in large quantities.
While cutting up a new set of boxes the little guy laid claim to some of them. He thinks they make great garages and tunnels for his cars.
We also discovered that they work well as marker holders while coloring!

There are so many great ways to reuse things like cartons!

Bubbles Galore!

Here is a bubble activity inspired by Family Fun magazine.
I saw it, thought "hmm..." and didn't get around to in until months later.
Take a "pet" bottle (cheaper, weaker plastic works best) and cut off the end.
Cut a a piece of an old towel to cover the newly opened end.
Use a rubber band to fasten the towel on the bottle.
Dip the towel end into water and then dip it into dish soap.
Blow into the drinking end of the bottle.
These bubbles can grow long, like a snake and at pretty strong so they are fun to touch and play with. While this is a great activity for outdoors we enjoy doing it in the bath on a rainy day.

I don't have any pictures of us playing with these bubbles because I'm too busy playing to take pictures! I'll try to remember to take some next time!