Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sensory Table 幼児の感覚のテーブル

There is a wonderful thing within the foreign community in Japan called the "Sayonara Sale".  It is the time before someone leaves the country, during which they sell off whatever they can.  While the reasons for leaving vary greatly, these sales can be a real opportunity to pick up some things you would not otherwise be able to get. 

A couple of months ago I bought a sensory table at a Sayonara Sale.  Even though we don't have a lot of room, making space for this table has been well worth it - especially since we've stayed inside through most of the summer.  

Here are some of the ways it has been put to use:
  Cars at a farm....
 I love that it keeps small & sharp toys like this off the kitchen floor and in a confined space.
Water and ice - a favorite on the hottest of days.  Moving the table outside is a good idea if you are planning to use more than an inch or two of water!

Blocks - Mega is serious about her blocks and is not a fan of my taking pictures while she works.  I like that the table puts the blocks at just the right height for her and again, keeps them contained.  While she plays with the blacks I am able to prepare dinner or get groceries put away.

There are so many ideas and options.  I look forward to arranging activities to go into the table as we work through various topics this year.
We have only had the table for a short time and already it is one of the most useful things in our home!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cutting and Time

Miss Mega is 1 year 1 month old
Zilla is 3 years 11 months old

Two of the things which Zilla has really enjoyed working on this week are his cutting activities and practicing with the clock to learn about time.

Each day there is one cutting activity from the Kumon Cutting book in his drawer.   I could print up and prepare my own things for him but this book has better variety and the order of progression is well thought out.  In this picture above Zilla is working on cutting out a mobile.  Mega of course does not want to be left out so with a play dough plastic scissors and origami paper she works quietly by his side.

Zilla's other main interest (and by association Mega's too) is working with the clocks.  We have a Sesame Street Flip-and-Learn chart which includes pages such as counting, seasons, days of the week and this particular page.  Here we see what happens at different times of the day.  Each picture includes a clock so Zilla is going from morning to night matching the times to his clock. On nice thing about this clock is that it winds like a real clock.  It also has a window beneath the dial where you can see the time in digital-style numbers.  This can be used to check and see if the hands have been moved to the correct place.
Hopefully in the next week or so we will be able to put together our own chart, complete with clocks, showing a "normal" day at our house!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Activities

Miss Mega is 1 year 1 month old
Putting together meaningful activities for a kid who just turned 1 can be a real challenge.  Mega's favorite thing to do is whatever her brother is doing.  This week during some of his work times she started to explore some of the activities on her shelves.
This is one thing I made for Zilla, a couple of years ago, and keep around because it was such a hit with him.  It is simply pop bottle lids to be placed in either a rectangular or round hole cut in the lid of a container.

The blue "mystery bag" has metal containers which happen to be magnetic and have lids that come off.

Would you like to see the girl in action?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Been Busy Learn'in!

Miss Mega is 1 year 1 month old
Zilla is 3 years 11 months old

This week was again busy... busy in the sense that a lot of learning and exploration has been going on.  Here are some of the things we did:

This is the Pop Bottle Science kit we're using for experiments a couple of times a week.

These are the 2 Kumon workbooks Zilla is currently working through.  He does 1 cutting page and 3 writing pages a day.  Those numbers were decided by him as he likes to work according to his age (3) and his sister's age (1).

We have shelved the Alaska related books.  We learned much about Alaska this summer but now it is time to move on to some new things.

 The sensory table (which has been a huge help since radiation concerns have kept us indoors this summer) became a workbench one day.

 Zilla is asking for tougher math tasks.  He's also still trying to figure out why 6 and 9 have to be so similar.  He asked me this week why we didn't just change the shape of one of them so they didn't look alike anymore.  Good question!!!!

Clocks are still a mystery to be solved.  He has figured out that the short hand moves slower, and that the different times of the day have different positions.  Here he is matching his clock to the ones on the pages in a Wiggles book.  He has also gone around the house matching it to the other clocks we have.

The other big lesson this week has been learning to share.  2 hammers, 1 place to pound...

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Miss Mega is 1 year 1 month old
Zilla is 3 years 11 months old

Zilla and Mega love to help in the kitchen.  It is actually easier to prepare a meal if they have a useful job to do rather than leaving them to play on their own.  Zilla, in particular, enjoys making desserts.  Here is a simple milkshake recipe that serves us well!
Take a cup, put in 1-2 scoops of ice cream, add flavoring (here we used frozen blueberries) and then mix with a small amount of milk.  Keep adding milk and mixing until you reach the texture you like.
Couldn't be easier, right?
Variations include: ice cream flavors, using chocolate of other flavored milk, mixing in yogurt, adding fruit or crushed cookies... you get the idea!
What a nice way to cool off on a hot day!

Learning to Share

Miss Mega is 1 year 1 month old
Zilla is 3 years 10 months old

 Perhaps one of the toughest things kids have to learn is how to share.  Complicating that in a family situation is the difference in ages/abilities.  While Zilla knows which things are his and which things belong to all of us, Mega thinks that everything is either hers or it is something that Zilla should share with her when she wants it.
During the past week I've seen some real steps towards sharing being made by both kids.  Zilla has figured out that if he wants to play with the Lego or a train track he should first make something for Mega to share with so she doesn't take his creation.
Mega has figured out that if she wants to use something that someone else is using then she should offer a trade.  She also likes to pass out food - sometimes even food she has already "tasted" for you!
When we have our school time we have run into a problem though... Mega wants to share everything her brother is using.  It is very difficult to put together a puzzle with her help!  We have a compromise which works about half the time - she can do a similar activity at the same time at the same table.

Earlier this evening I was uploading a video to the On Our Signing Way blog.  It has a great example of the use of the sign "more" and an attempt at the sign "airplane".  It wasn't until I was adding the word annotations that I noticed Mega signing "share".  How could I have missed it?  It was quick, it was right after another sign, but it is such a key word/concept!

On a side note - putting "more" and "share" together means she is able to "speak" in 2-word sentences at 13 months old.  Signing kids really do get a head start!!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lessons from B-Bears

For our little "School Time" each day we are using a set of lesson plans created by a homeschooling mom which she has shared on her blog.  It is "Year of Learning Our Lessons with The Berenstain Bears".  It is a very natural choice for us as Zilla loves the B-Bears books and I have a pretty large collection from my own childhood.
Last year I rediscovered the B-Bears when I noticed that some of the newer books included more faith/church life topics. It is great to see a series in which well known and loved characters also pray, read the Bible and use it as a guide for life.

For the first lesson we started out with "The Berenstain Bears Trouble At School".  We added B-Bears "Go To School" "Come Clean for School" "Go To Sunday School" and "How To Get Along at School".  Basically I took pulled all of the B-Bears books from my collection with the name "school" in the title!  Since Zilla is preschool age (and Mega is along for the ride) we focused more on "Go To School" in which Sister Bear goes to kindergarten for the first time.
To round out our lessons we learned about Jesus boyhood "school time" when he was at the temple talking with the teachers - and his parents didn' know where he was.  We also watched the Signing Time video "Welcome To School". During the activity times Zilla worked on worksheets from his Kumon writing and cutting workbooks. To suffice Zilla's nearly constant request for science experiments we have started using the "Pop Bottle Science" set.  You should see me try to explain things like molecules in a way a preschooler can comprehend!!!

 Mega is 1 year 1 month old
Zilla is 3 years 10 months old