Sunday, August 30, 2009

Big Concept - Time!

Recently the little guy has been showing some understanding of time. It's a big thing when kids figure out yesterday/today/tomorrow or even just earlier/now/later.
Daddy had to go on a business trip so little guy and I made a picture calendar to help him understand when Daddy left and when he's coming back. So far it's really helping. It gives me a way to answer the inevitable "Dada doko?" (where's Daddy) questions.

The top line of stickers is for Daddy's activities while he's away. He has meetings most days so it really isn't interesting to look at. The bottom line is our plans for each day. The little guy seems to like knowing what will happen that day so maybe we'll extend this into a regular calendar activity?
Sometimes the little guy will go and get the calendar from the fridge and bring it to me to talk about it. He keeps telling me "Daddy, plane" and then signs the plane flying away. It will be interesting to see if he understands when Daddy walks in the door after being away for a week!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fruit and Veggie Work

This morning the little guy watched me make meat loaf for lunch. He tried to help out with the mixing of ingredients and taking things from the fridge.
About a half hour after we put the meat loaf in the oven he asked for his "cutting". He loves to play with toy food. These pieces are made of wood and connect with magnets so I keep them in a special place for special times.
Once he got his hands on them he set up a little place to do his cutting He even tried various chopping techniques.

The food, knife and trays are kept in the little bag so nothing gets lost.

After playing for he crawled into his boat with the food pieces. He was "washing" the fruits and veggies so they would be clean enough to eat!

Little kids really watch EVERYTHINg we do!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fish Puzzle

Puzzles are good for the mind in so many ways!
We've been working on learning colors recently with the fish puzzle.

Budding Guitarist?

This is from when he was 16 months old. His love of the guitar continues today.

Cloth Blocks

One of the first toys I wanted for the little guy was a set of cloth blocks. I hunted all over the internet and in stores for a set that I liked and could afford. When he was about 6 months old I gave up the search to start making my own.
I found 30cm x 30cm x 10cm foam pieces at the 100 yen shop. The covers are made from fabric in my scrap basket. Over a year later I'm still working on piecing together the last few blocks. When I'm done there will be about 18 total.
The first blocks have ribbon "taggies" for small hands to grasp. The later blocks have more thoughtful design/pattern combos. There are also a few double-sized blocks for making the roof on a tunnel or house.
Originally I wanted to have the letters of the alphabet and related pictures on each block but I realized I just don't have that much time!

Little Drummer Boy

Little guy has many musical interests. One particularly loud one is drumming.
I'm thinking of getting him bongos or something for his birthday. I'd much prefer the sound of bongos to that of metal!

Animal Finger Puppets

This is one of the wonderful, unplanned activities that took me by surprise. I was putting away a few stray animal finger puppets when my little helper came over to see what I was doing.
He makes a few mistakes in identifying the puppets. Part of that is due to seeing some of them for the first time and part is due to his developing abilities in the area of classification. We had the same issues when we visited Sea World. He would look at an animal and want to name it but he didn't have a name for it yet and couldn't classify many of them. He was really thrown off by seals which barked like dogs but swam like fish!

17 months old
Signs: penguin, crab, bug, frog, horse, pig, elephant, turtle, bear, giraffe

Pringles and Pencils

This is an activity made from a Pringles can with holes in the lid and a bunch of unsharpened pencils. The basic idea is to take them out and put them back in again. Easy, right? It actually takes a a lot of coordination and concentration. The little guy loves to work on it.
An addition to the activity is using pencils of various designs. We can talk about the colors or pictures as he plays. He also uses the sign for "open" and "more" often as he needs help getting the lid on and off.
Making toys has really changed the way I look at food containers!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cleaning Tools

Here is something that has been really helpful - a set of magnetic hooks on the side of the fridge where the little guy can hang his cleaning things. Since the picture was taken we've added space for his tote bag and wallet too. Eventually he will be able to take his cleaning tools and clean up after his own messes. Right now he sticks to cleaning up ours!

Activity Shelf

Here is our activity shelf where I put out things for Zilla to play with. It is in the living/dining/kitchen room. We don't have a lot of space for toys (go figure!) and most of the things I've read suggest that a few well chosen toys are better than a large random selection of toys.

The bottom shelf holds a box of balls, a basket with hand puppets and a wooden triangle multi activity toy. On the 2nd shelf there are board books and a sorting can. Not pictured is the soft play set (I switch between a church, farm and Noah's Ark) which can also be found on the 2nd shelf most of the time.
As Zilla "masters" or "tires" of an activity I can switch it with others that are waiting to be played with. Switching out the toys has been especially helpful on rainy days when we can't go outside.

Montessori-ing at Home
Here is a link to another blog that I like to read. It has some good ideas for preparing your home to be an optimal learning environment.

Pouring Rice

Little Guy is working up to helping scoop the rice from the bag to put in the rice maker. The first attempt didn't go well. The green thing was too difficult to pour from so I switched to a smaller bowl and less rice.

Here we have a very successful attempt. Next time we'll do this someplace without a rug. Vacuuming up the rice was a pain!


The little guy loves watermelon. He's signing yummy!

Casa Dei Bambini (Montessori)

In the Montessori classroom, the space is divided into several logical areas by low open shelves: one for practical Life exercises, one for Sensorial, one for Language, another for Math and other areas for art, music, geography and science.
The Montessori Curriculum is an integrated thematic approach that ties the separate disciplines together into studies of the physical universe, the world of nature, and the human experience. In this way, one lesson leads to many others.
Each material isolates one concept or skill that has been specially designed in a way that children are naturally drawn to want to work with it with little or no nudging from adults. Each material has also been designed so that a child can normally check his own work; we cal this a built-in "control of error." The intention of the materials is not to keep the children dependent on these artificial learning aids forever; they are used as tools to help children work and learn at their own pace, to see abstract ideas presented in a very concrete, three-dimensional way, and to help them grasp and understand what they are working on.
Montessori students learn not to be afraid of making mistakes. They quickly find that few things in life come easily, and they can try again without fear of embarrassment.

Practical Life
This area of the curriculum is designed to invite the young learner to act and work on real life tasks that foster independence, coordination, order and concentration. It is in a sense the doorway to the Montessori curriculum. This is the area where the child may first choose independent work. The practical life area contains many attractively displayed object familiar to the child, including a variety of items commonly used in the tasks of daily living, like eating dressing and cleaning.
They offer the child meaningful, non-threatening modes of activity. The materials are also carefully designed and demonstrated to help teach skills involved with caring for the environment and the self, to encourage responsibility, autonomy and to promote high self-esteem.

Dr. Montessori saw the senses as the "doorway to the mind." She considered sensory and manipulation not only an aid to the development of maturing sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) but a starting point for the intellectual growth. she believed that by helping children to order, compare and classify sensory stimulation, their intellectual development would be greatly assisted and future learning would be more meaningful and useful. The basic sensorial exercise inspires careful observation and calls attention to specific qualities requiring identification of similarities and contrasts. The mind must judge, compare, classify and draw conclusions. These exercises tend to fascinate children because they are difficult enough to represent a real and meaningful challenge. They are then better prepared for future learning in math, language, and science and making sense of life's experiences and information in general.

The central purpose of the Math materials in the early years is to lay the foundation for later cognitive development and to prepare for the gradual transition to abstract thinking. The primary value of these earlier activities in mathematics are found in the way they transform ideas into actions on concrete materials. Students who learn math by rote method often have not real understanding or ability to put their skills to use in everyday life. Montessori students use hands-on learning materials that make abstract concepts clear and concrete.
The Montessori math curriculum is based on the European tradition of "Unified Math," which has only recently been recognized by leading American educators. Unified Math introduces elementary students to the study of the fundamentals of algebra, geometry, logic and statistics along with the principle of arithmetic. This study continues over the years, weaving together subjects that traditional schools normally ignore until the secondary grades.

Language development is a concern of the entire Montessori classroom. Many activities in other areas, as well as with a large group, foster vocabulary development, communication skills, writing and reading readiness.
In the language area we will find a large variety of reading readiness materials, including materials for phonetic analysis, word attack skills and reading, as well as materials for the refinement of motor control for writing.
In the Montessori Method, writing precedes reading, as the children explore with drawing and forming letters. The process of learning how to read should be as painless and simple as learning how to speak. The child begins by exploring the sounds that compose words and by relating them to the letters of the alphabet. He can soon produce words and sentences free of all other mechanical difficulties. In the meantime he trains his hand to become precise and sure for the writing movements. Reading is prepared indirectly from writing. The child starts from what he knows about the letters and the sounds.
Then we give him the key to read all the words he can encounter. Reading skills normally develop so smoothly in Montessori classrooms that students tend to exhibit a sudden "reading explosion" which leaves the children and their families beaming with pride.
Dr. Montessori's research confirmed what observant parents have always known: children learn best by touch and manipulation, not by repeating what they are told. Her manipulative approach to teaching children how to read phonetically is nothing short of brilliance and should have long ago become a basic element on every Early-childhood classroom around the world.

Science, Geography, the Arts and Other Areas of the Montessori Curriculum
Science is an integral element of the Montessori curriculum. Among other things, it represents a way of life: a clear thinking approach to gathering information and problem solving. The scope of the Montessori science curriculum includes a sound introduction to botany, zoology, chemistry, physics, geology and astronomy. The Montessori approach to science cultivates children's fascination with the universe and helps them develop a lifelong interest in observing nature and discovering more about the world in which we live.
Our teachers introduce history and geography as early as age three. The youngest students work with specially designed maps and begin to learn the names of the world's continents and countries. Later in elementary school the students see the world's cultures in greater depth. They learn to treasure the richness of their own cultural heritage and those of their friends.
Music and movement education will also be important parts of the curriculum as well as the Arts. They offer children ways to express themselves, their feelings, experiences and ideas. Montessori schools are very interested in helping children develop control of their fine and gross-motor movement.

Signing Review

As I am preparing to teach a new class of baby signing I've been looking back at the little signing moments we caught on video via the digital camera.
The quality is low, I'm a total amateur at this, but you might get inspired.
I just watched the video from beginning to end. Baby signs have saved us so much stress! The best example is the last clip where his foot is caught. He could have screamed and cried, instead he calmly signed "ouch/hurt" and pointed at his foot.
When he's hungry, thirsty, sleepy he can tell us without crying and frustration. He could also ask "Where's Daddy?" and tell me what he was thinking long before he could say the words.
It has been so much fun getting little glimpses of what is going on inside his brain!
I love baby signing!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reading a book with Signs

まて まて まて
This book was given to us by the ku (county?). It is easy enough for me to read in Japanese and for the little guy to read with signs.
The signs he used in this book are "baby" "bunny" "bird" "horse" "bear" "giraffe" "elephant" and "Mama/Mommy". The place where he should sign "sleep" we usually have him declaring "No!".
At 17 months his signing vocabulary grew daily and helped in so many different ways!

Putting Away Groceries

Enabling a little helper.
Letting the little guy assist with household work as much as possible has given him a real sense of responsibility. When he is given a job to do he is less likely to cause a problem.

Playing Church

Some people may think he's acting out a Charlie Brown character. What he's really doing is playing church.

Water Play

Here is an activity that we did.
The objective was simple: get the little guy to stop bugging me!
He was having a hard time on a cold and rainy Monday finding anything that could hold his attention. He's had another brain spurt - it's like a developmental growth spurt. Suddenly all the "old" activities are too easy of no longer hold a challenge. After a morning of trying different things I parked him at the sink with some water. Thankfully he was enthralled!

Signs: yummy, Daddy, water, bye

Caps in Can

Here's an easy to make toy which is great for little hands to practice coordination. Just make sure to supervise carefully becasue the lids could be a choking hazard.
This is an old formula can and pop bottle caps. The lid of the can has two openings - one for the caps to go in sideways and one for flat. This toy literally cost us nothing to make but is one of the most used. I've kept caps of various colors so we can work on learning colors in addition to shapes. Being a tin can it makes a great noise too!

Box and Balls

This is easily one of the most entertaining toys we had for at about 10 months. It is a shoes box with two round holes cut in the top and a set of balls. The balls were just the right size for little hands to manipulate.

Under the Table

9 months old playing under the table and in a box

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fan Play

Almost 8 months old - exploring a new object - fan.

Tummy Time - 7 Mo. Old

Tummy Time at 7 Mo. Old - followed days later by crawling

Tummy Time - 6 Mo. Old

Tummy Time at 6 months old

Tummy Time - 5 Mo. Old

Tummy time at 5 months old


Playing Peek-a-boo at 5 months old.

Tummy Time 4 Mo. old

Tummy time at 4 months old

Tummy Time

Tummy TIme - 3 months old
Tummy time is putting a baby on his/her tummy for a supervised time of play. It helps to avoid a misshapen head, develop neck muscles, and help the baby prepare for crawling. Tummy time also provides an opportunity to exercise muscles in a different way than when laying on the back.

Starting Point

In order to see growth it helps to have a starting point.
Here he is at 3 months old!
~ Houdini