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!