Monday, October 31, 2011

Flat Stanley ぺちゃんこスタンレー

We recently were visited by Flat Stanley!
This is the 3rd or 4th time since I moved to Japan that he has stopped by.  However, this is the first time that Zilla was old enough to read the book and understand the idea.

 If you aren't familiar with the book, it is work checking out from the library.  It is a quick read and for little kids it is a great imagination starter!  Zilla has asked to do his own Flat Stanley (perhaps after the holidays?) and even tried to put his fav. stuffed dog into an envelope to "mail" to visit his Aunt and Uncle's dog in AZ!
On this that this visit really made me realize though is that our lives have become very "normal".  Most days/weeks we only leave the neighborhood for my Baby Signing Time classes.
This time in the letter to the class who sent Stanley to visit I tried to point out some of the things that are the same, and different, in the way we live here as compared to what they probably live like.
When it was time to send him on his way Zilla and Mega were not too pleased.  They really enjoyed having an extra friend around to play with!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Unit On Food

Miss Mega is 1 year 2 months old
Zilla is 4 years 0 months old

As a segway between the growing food topic of the past few weeks and the upcoming pumpkin carving, pie making of this week, we have spent some time talking about food.  We've read books such as the B-Bears "Go out to Eat" and "Forget Their Manners."
Miss Mega enjoyed some cooking time while Zilla napped and Daddy made supper.

Zilla and I worked on his first collage!   We started with making 2 place mats with food pictures on the back.

We had so many pictures left over from the collage that we went large scale and made a poster of healthy foods for the kitchen/dining wall.  Zilla really enjoyed laying things out, cutting pieces to the right size to fill up spaces and especially using glue!
I really had a tough time letting go of the instinct to cover every inch of the paper with pictures.  He kept saying "But I like that white spot..."  If I'm not careful I could be one of those parents who takes over making the kid's science project for school some day!!!

 Here is something I learned/noticed while on vacation this summer:
It is much easier to feed a baby pasta with chopsticks than with a fork!  
I asked for chopsticks, out of habit, while on vacation in the US/Canada.  It wasn't until I saw the waiter's questioning look that I remembered most people don't eat spaghetti with chopsticks...

 As we were studying food we also talked about balancing our meals and eating enough veggies.
And last... a new favorite recipe!
Turkey Noodle Salad
(not sure what to call it... "Clean Out the Fridge" doesn't sound yummy)

1 small zucchini
1 carrot
1 cup of baked turkey cut into 1 cm cubes
2-3 cups of cooked pasta
A handful of cheese which melts easily
Cesar Salad dressing

In a big bowl:
Use peeler to peel carrot and zucchini strips about 3 inches long
Put in turkey and cheese
Boil noodles, drain
Dump hot noodles on top of other things in the bowl and mix
Add in the dressing to taste - since I was making this for the kids I used just a bit and then the adults added more at the table to their own serving

I was very surprised to see how quickly the kids ate this up!  Miss Mega love it.  Even the leftovers are good after being in the fridge for a day.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Celebrating Reformation

This coming Sunday we will be celebrating the Reformation at a joint church service with our sister churches here in Tokyo.  This is one of our favorite services of the year - great hymns, wonderful fellowship and a special chance to hear a different pastor preach (if my husband isn't the preacher that day!)
Since both kids are still pretty little they don't really have a concept of what was reformed and how that impacted the world.  However, they are old enough to know that reforming means changing something.  They also both know parts of the story of Martin Luther.
Katie and Martin dolls with barrel for her escape, Luther's Seal with detachable layers
and a Luther's Small Catechism Quiet Book 
This year, in order to help my kids understand more, I was able to pick up a few cute & useful things from the SuchAsThese Etsy shop. Rachel, who owns the shop, is married to a former missionary, now pastor, friend of ours.  The things she has made are exactly what I was hoping to make/buy to help the Bible be tangible for our kids.  Miss Mega in particular is at a stage when tactile learning (touching things) is key.

In Maria Montessori's book "The Child in the Church" she talks about faith development.  I love that she puts so much emphasis on faith and shares great ideas for getting kids involved in church.  One thing we have done at our house is include the Bible and its stories into our school time each day.  Around Reformation Day each year (Oct. 31st) we expand that to include a bit of church history.
This year the kids are learning about Katie and Luther, that they were a family and lived/worked at the church like we do.  Zilla is picking up on the meaning of Luther's seal (Mega likes to take it apart and put it together again...) as well as using the Small Catechism to learn about key points in the Bible.

Oh, and before I forget... Here is a link to another blog I came across while looking online for ideas.  Maybe in a few years we'll be dressing up to reenact things from the Reformation story too?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Signing Time On Demand サイニング・タイム・オン・デマンド・プレイヤー

Signing Time Academy on Demand is a free software system that that gives you instant access to our award‐winning library of instructional sign language videos for children of all ages. サイニング・タイム・オン・デマンドは、すべての年齢の子どもたちのための米国手話と英語の指導ビデオのライブラリーに簡単にアクセスできる無料ソフトウェアです。
サイニング・タイム・オン・デマンド・プレイヤーの日本語の節目は言葉&サインのページにあります。”heidiemoto" のクーポン(Referral Code)を使うと毎回5%オーフ!

To download your own player and get the free introductory video go to my instructor page and click on the purple "Get A Free Signing Video" button.  
☆ Use the Referral Code heidiemoto every time you make a purchase to receive a 5% discount! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Miss Mega is 1 year 2 months old
Zilla is 4 years 0 months old

 There is a saying... "If you build it they will come."
With kids you could say: "If you build it they will do."

If you make a way for the kids to reach the sink, if you have aprons, sponges and a water faucet within reach, the kids will be free to do what they want to do.
Kids want to be independent.  Kids want to be helpful.  Many times the adults in their lives limit their potential by not providing an environment in which they can move around freely.
At 1 year old a walking toddler can carry her dishes to the sink.  By 18 months she can do a basic wash/rinse.  From 2 years old on the ability to wash the dishes properly continues to increase.
When we have our morning snack Zilla and Mega are in charge of washing the dishes.  Ok, Zilla does the watching and Mega gives him admiring looks and encourages him with giggles.  At meal times the kids help set and clear the table but due to the small size of our kitchen the washing up is limited to one adult.

Here is another example of being able to help themselves.  A box left out can easily become a car of boat for a morning adventure!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Plants and Other Work

Miss Mega is 1 year 2 months old
Zilla is 4 years 0 months old
For our second study theme in the Year of Learning Lessons with the B-Bears I chose to jump to Grow-it which is actually timed to be read in the spring. We have both a spring and a fall growing season here.  The reading of the book timed perfectly with the fall garden preparations.  Zilla and I even managed to make a trip to the garden shop to pick out a few new plants to grow indoors.  With the radiation issues continuing I have decided to have indoor herbs this year.
After reading Grow-It we tried to grow roots from the top of a daikon and a carrot. 

 The daikon only lasted a couple of weeks but the carrot is still going well a month later.  Soon we will probably more it to a pot with soil.  

 Zilla enjoyed making the picture journal as they grew.  Since he can't write yet I added 2 extra picture places on the back for the 1 week and 2 week updates.
Miss Mega has enjoyed checking on the plants daily.  She now makes a surprised face when she sees them as if they all magically grew over night!

Since we are starting to see pumpkins around town we also read the B-Bears Prize Pumpkin.

Zilla's questions about how plants grow and how seeds work lead us to this book - The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds. Zilla really enjoys the Magic School Bus series because it shares so much detail.

 On the activity shelf Zilla found this math exercise.  It was really too easy for him.  I had been waiting until he had a better grasp of numbers, as the last time he tried it it was too difficult.  My timing was a bit off!

Zilla's newest workbook challenge includes the lowercase letters. He is in a sensitive time for writing right now and it is so much fun to watch!  When his workbook pages are done for the day (minimum 1 letter, limit of 4) he often goes in search of other writing activities such as our names or pointing out/tracing letters around the house.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

NEW: Potty Time!

From the people who make Signing Time we will soon have another great resource - Potty Time!

Over on the Signing Way blog you can read a bit more about using signing to help with potty training. There is also an older post which touches on how Zilla was potty trained.
If your baby can sit by his/her self and can sign "more", "done" and "potty" you have a window of opportunity for getting the babe out of diapers!

Getting ALong Isn't Always Good...

Miss Mega is 1 year 2 months old
Zilla is 4 years 0 months old
A few posts back I wrote about how the kids are getting along better and starting to play together.  As Mega's ability to communicate (mostly through signs) grows so does the complexity of their games.  This week they came up with a surprisingly entertaining activity...

Mega throws the plastic square pieces on the floor.  Zilla picks them up while trying not to fall off the couch.  Mega started aiming after a while - under the kotatsu, over the back - so I've been finding pieces everywhere since Zilla was unable to keep up with her flinging speed!
While I like that they get along, this is one of those activities I'm not a huge fan of.  However, they were laughing so hard and having so much fun I just didn't have the heart to put a stop to it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Few Favorite Toys

As we move toward the end of the year I know many parents are trying to figure out what to do about Christmas gifts.  It can be tough to know what will be played with for more than a day or two!  Here are some of hte current favorites in our house:
 A wooden train set from Ikea.  I've discovered that trains from some other sets also fit on  the tracks so rather than buying a whole new set I'll give an engine or similar car as a new gift.  Both Zilla and Mega love to play with the trains almost every day!

 We originally got this planning to take it on vacation this summer but the kids love it too much so they often start fighting over it.  This is a car ramp play set which folds up into a briefcase size and can store about 20 little cars.  It seems like we keep gaining cars so I have only bought a few.  Again, both Mega and Zilla love this.  Mega enjoys seeing the cars go down the ramp and Zilla likes making them go up on the elevator.

The marble tower... I bought this last year for Zilla mainly because I wanted one.  We had a set when I was a kid so it is partially so I can relive my childhood! ;-)
For Zilla's birthday he received an expansion set to go with the original set.  Sure, you save money and space that way, but the kids love it.  It is like getting a whole new set.  Mega is still little so we have to keep careful track of the marbles - they each get two, and in different colors - so that I can tell at a glance if a marble is missing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gift Wrapping - Cloth Bags

When Zilla was born one of the gifts we received was wrapped in a homemade cloth bag. That bag inspired me to make more bags for our family gifts.  It has always seemed wasteful to have piles of wrapping paper left over after a birthday or Christmas.  Here are a few of the bags we currently use:
The blue own on the bottom left was the original inspiration.  The green one up top a pocket to put a CD in, with a flap which folds over the top and is held down my a ribbon across the front.  In the back is a big blue bag made to hold most any toy.  The white one on the right is actually store bought.  Using cloth bags does not mean you have to make them all yourself!
Some day when I have time/space to sew I'd love to make a basic gift bag set for each member of our family.  For example, Zilla would have green and blue bags of various materials and designs.  This would simplify wrapping!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Potty Training That Works For Us

When Zilla was little I tried infant potty training with him. For the most part it worked but I was more relaxed about it than I could have been. We should have moved him out of diapers before he turned two. I learned with him that it is much easier before kids become super active toddlers!
During the past few months some of the kids in my Baby Signing Time class have learned
to use the potty. They are just a few months older than Mega so it was a good reminder for me to get serious about having her use the potty too.

Today we reached a milestone! Mega, 14 months old, came tonight to tell us that she needed to go potty. She did the sign, pointed to the bathroom and then then went down the hall. I followed her, helped her get undressed and she pointed to the big toilet. After helping her up she went pee in the toilet! This is the first time she has told us she needed to do and actually gone. All she needs is 3 simple signs - potty, more, and all done!
I hope that this will soon mean the end of dirty diapers for us!

If you have yet to potty train a child you may be wondering about when to start and how to go about it. You can start from the day the baby is born with Elimination Communication or Infant Potty Training. Basically, you watch carefully for signals that the babe needs to go and then give the babe a chance to go on/over a potty of some kind. Over time the babe will learn his/her signals as well as yours. Some parents make a "psss" sound when the baby goes pee so that the babe will learn to go when he/she hears that sound.

I didn't have the energy to start so early. With both kids I waited until they could sit on their own. By that point I could pretty much tell when they were going to poop. They both would freeze and get an uncomfortable look on their faces. When the signs were noticed I sat them on the toilet as soon as I could.
We started out with a kiddie toilet in the living room and another in the kitchen. As the babe caught onto the idea of the toilet it was moved closer the bathroom. After a month or two they ended up near the big toilet.
Around 1 year old the kids were placed on the toilet a few times a day and asked to go. Good times for this include first thing in the morning, before and after meals, before and after going out, and last thing before bed at night. Mega has an older brother whom she loves to imitate so that has helped a lot. Any time he goes potty she sits on the potty near him. She has also started doing the same with us, the parents.

From the start we have always used signs (sign language - ASL) to communicate with Mega. Whenever we go to the bathroom we say and sign "potty". She has begun to do the same when she needs to go. Even if we don't make it to the toilet on time Mega still sits on the toilet and tries to go. At first there may be a lot of the toilet sitting after the fact but eventually kids catch on and try to get to the toilet before things start to come out. It also helps if they can see mom and dad or other kids using the toilet so they know what is supposed to happen.

Another helpful tip is to use cloth diapers. Disposable diapers have become too good at wicking away wetness. Feeling the uncomfortable wet diaper is helpful as babies and toddlers prefer to stay dry and therefore would prefer to go potty in a toilet rather than a diaper. Cloth diapers come in many easy to use forms, are economical and environmentally friendly as well as being a great option for babies with sensitive skin. I am not exclusively a cloth diaperer. I try to use cloth for at least the first 5-7 diapers of the day when we are home.

My one piece of advice to parents and students who haven't started potty training yet is to do it sooner rather than later. It is much easier with a 14 month old who will willingly try most anything than with a 24 month old who is too busy to care!

Something to think about...
Different cultures handle potty training in different ways but one recent trend is delaying it until kids are nearly preschoolers... This seems to be the trend in countries where disposable diapers are priced low enough for most families to afford them...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Playing Together

Miss Mega is 1 year 2 months old
Zilla is 4 years 0 months old

 Zilla and Mega have been playing together very nicely for up to 30 minutes at a time over the past week.  I think part of this is due to their ages and being able to understand what playing includes.  It is also part due to being able to use signs to communicate.  Mega now uses up to 30 signs on a regular day so it is becoming easier to communicate (and play!) with her!

Zilla asked one day to get out the doll house.  It has been months since the last time he played with it so I was surprised that he even remembered we had it!

During our school time one of the writing activities Zilla works on includes some simple mazes.  He has really enjoyed them so I brought out a maze book which is aimed at older kids.  He loves going through it and Mega loves trying to help!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Enabeling Little Helpers

Miss Mega is 1 year 2 months old
Zilla is 4 years 0 months old

Today I'm going to tell you all a secret... shh... 
remember, this is a big secret...
 Kids love their independence!!!
They don't like to rely on other people to do everything for them!!!
They want to move around and see things for themselves.  They want to touch, taste, feel and smell.
They also want to be able to take care of themselves.

This morning Mega spilled some water on the floor.  She went right away to grab a towel and clean it up.  I didn't point it out to her or anything.  At 14 months old she knows that when you make a mess you clean it up.  Zilla did the same thing at this age.
At supper Mega spilled again but this time she was unable to get out of her chair to reach the towel.  She made noise to call me over, pointed at the paper towels on top of the fridge and signed "more".  She knows that at mealtimes we use paper towels to clean up messes.  When I handed her the towel she cleaned up the mess without a fuss and again without me having to say anything.
 In order for little kids to be able to clean up their own messes they need to have access to the right materials.  In our house this means hanging towels on the cabinet at a height that they can both reach.  There is a general wipe-up towel (the blue one in the first picture), a dusting towel (the white one) and a super soaker-upper towel (the lights blue one).  They have learned by watching me which towel is used when.  When they aren't sure which one to use they ask.
Kids learn by watching us.  Every little thing - including which towel we use to wipe the table - is noticed and copied.  One way to make life easier is to let them help out by giving them the ability to take care of themselves!

Along those same lines... here is where we keep the aprons and smocks. Having smocks and aprons handy saves on laundry.  It also helps the kids to get into the right mindset for the current activity when they change/add a piece of clothing. They each have a cooking apron and a craft smock.
Mega is still too short to reach the higher row of hooks so I added a couple at her level.  These hooks are attached to the wall with stickers so they can be removed easily.  Since kids grow so quickly and their abilities change so fast I like using hooks which can be taken off and rearranged as needed.