Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Series - Fav. 5

If there is one thing we have a lot of at our house it is books.  Even with the large number I tend to come back to the same basic series when looking for something to add to our collection.  As I'm always on the lookout for more great books, what are your favorites?  Here are the 5 favorite series at our home right now...

Berenstain Bears - I love them all and own most.  Zilla is getting into the Bear family and really likes that he is a big brother, like Brother Bear.  For Easter the kids got Brother Bear and Sister Bear tote bags for going to church on Sundays.  I love the new Zonderkidz church-related books as they have helped Zilla to understand God and church better.  My wish at the moment though is to get my hands on The Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature as I think it could help in answering some of Zilla's zillions of questions!

The Beginner's Bible - We have books from this series in Japanese, German and English.  The favorite by far at our house though is the Japanese/English バイリンガルこどもバイブル edition.  One of the points which I really like is that the characters are consistent in the appearance.  Peter, for example, is dressed the same in all of the books that we have.  This style of illustration makes it easier for a pre-literate person to know who is being talked about in the story.  Some day I hope to have the whole flannel graph set to use in Sunday School.

Classic Books With Holes - I came across this series by chance a couple of years ago.  The books/songs include many which I enjoyed as a child.  The clever use of the holes in the book is very intriguing to young readers.  Down by the Station followed closely by Dry Bones win the popularity contest at our home.

Bright & Early Books - This is not so much a planned series as it is a collection of similar books by like-minded authors.  Many of Dr. Seuss's books are included here.  We have yet to find a Bright & Early book which can be read just once.

God Counts Series - We have all of these and I really hope they come out with more.  You can't really tell from the pictures but each page has a plastic piece embedded in the picture with a corresponding window on the opposite page.  This week Jesus and the 12 Dudes Who Did is the go-to book.  Zilla has been counting and recounting the disciples as he turns the pages. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Busy Bodies

Zilla is 3 yrs 7 months old, Mega is 9 months old
We've been busy outside the home recently but our times at home find the kids keeping themselves pretty busy too.
The milk carton blocks are still a favorite toy and they get more use than just about anything else.  These two sailors have set off on a journey with some fishing thrown in!

The car ramp tower was is a real treat to play with while brother is sleeping...

The Easter paint with water is a great after dinner activity.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Now that there is Signing...

Once a baby learns to sign the personality comes out in a new way. Our mealtimes have started to include a game of "Where's the water?" at the end.

If you want to learn more about teaching a baby to sign to ease stress and increase communication, check out the Signing Way blog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Easter Activities

As we approach Ascension Day and Pentecost our time for focusing on Easter is coming to an end for this year.  I've already started to round up some of the eggs and other things which seem to be hidden in the nooks and crannies at home. If you are looking for ideas for next here here are a few more of our favorites:
Each egg contains something related to the Easter story.  There is an explanatory pamphlet in the box as well as a great activities download on the company homepage.
Zilla loves to paint so I picked on the thing on the left to stick in his basket.  It is a paint with water plastic page from CTA.  They have similar items for various situations.  These are great for toddlers as there is no messy paint to clean up.  I think it could work for travel too.
On the right is an Easter countdown calendar.  It is the same basic idea as an Advent calendar.  Since this was in the Easter basket we didn't use it this year but I'm sure we'll enjoy it next year!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

5 Fav ママバッグのお出かけ物 Diaper/Mother's Bag Items

One thing I remember being frustrated by when preparing to have my first baby was trying to figure out what we need and how to get the things we need without spending extra money and using up space in our home.  Lists like this on other blogs really helped me to figure out what would work for us. So, without further ado, here are 5 favorite things I keep in the diaper bag for when we go out:

☆ The MagMag cup I posted about a couple of years ago is still a favorite in our house.  It is great to have one basic set that will be usable for the first few years.  Also, if you live in Japan it is easy to get replacement parts.  We're on the 4th year and 2nd baby using the set and I expect that it will continue to be used daily for the next few years.
☆ The teether/feeder is a favorite thing for eating at home as well as eating out. It allows baby to chew on food without having to worry about big pieces being a choking habit.  Putting something cool inside to much on can also be soothing for sore gums while teething.
This brand in particular is easy to find replacement nets for in our area.  I try to keep about 3 on hand so they can dry properly between uses.  One thing to keep in mind is that bananas and some other foods may stain the nets. 
When you go out to eat it can be tough to find things for babies/toddlers to eat. With this you can not only share your food but also give baby the freedom to feed him/her self.
Here is an apple slice "before" and "after" shot.  A soft apple can easily be turned to pulp!  The first time I gave Zilla strawberries in this thing he sucked out all the pieces - including the pulp!

Knot-a-Bag is on just about every list I make of baby goods. I never intentionally leave home without it.  With the way it is designed you can make control how big you make the bag - a huge help when dealing with messy clean-ups! 
☆ Snack Trap スナックトラップ is a container for holding snacks. We have one right now but with Mega eating solid foods we'll be getting one for her soon too.  There is also an accessory pack which has a spill proof lid for when you m\put the snacks away.  Not only great for travel, using one at home can help keep down the mess snacks can make.
☆ Solby Baby Chair Belt ベビーチェアベルト A seat "belt" to use on a chair when you don't have a high chair.
This is a must-have which is usually in our diaper bag. Even though many places have high chairs for little kids, I've found that often these chairs come without a belt. My little one squirms too much to sit on her own without a belt to prevent falling. With this belt even a regular chair can also be used as a chair for baby.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spontaneous Counting

Zilla has been very interested in numbers for some time now.  Thanks to Handy Manny he often prefers to count from 1-10 in Spanish.  Counting and numbers is a concept that it seems you need to experience rather than to be taught.  In our regular conversations we not only use descriptive words to describe color and size but also the number of items.
The other night though I was thrown for a loop... while my husband and I were hanging out at the table after eating supper Zilla headed for his activity shelf and got to work on the fridge.  Before long he lined up the numbers 1-10.  Ok, so it is right to left and a few of the numbers are upside down, but the point is that at 3yrs. 6 mo. he can do it on his own - unprompted.  Once again he jumped ahead of where I thought he was!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

5 Fav. Books 5つの大好きな本

From time to time I like to take note of our favorite things.  I've also been asked a few times recently for suggestions of English books which toddlers might like.  I can't speak for all toddlers but I can tell you the current 5 favorite in our home!
 Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle 英語でもよめる くまさんくまさんなにみてるの?  エリック カール
This book is easy to read with ASL signs (animals and colors) as well as being a bilingual J/E edition.  The kids love the simplicity of the story.
Noah's Ark cloth pop-up book 
I bought this back when Zilla was a baby and he still enjoys reading it.  Unlike many pop-up books this is very durable.  It is often in our "church bag" to take along on Sunday.
Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins
The picture below is of us reading this book.  It has a nice beat and enough repetition that even non-native speakers can enjoy it.  My 3yr old English class years ago requested it at almost every lesson!
Sesame Street Look and Find Picture Puzzles
Here are a whole book of pictures for searching and comparing activities.  Zilla loves to go through a few pages at a time either by himself or with someone else.  In true Sesame style each page can also be a conversation starter, creating teachable moments.
Chika Chika Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.John Archambault and Lois Ehlert
A newer classic, this CD/Book set is great. The story line is simple yet interesting and when read out loud you automatically slip into a rhythm.  It is also a great way to "meet" the letters in the alphabet.

Mega drumming along as we read Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Easter Activities

One of my favorite things to do with the kids is prepare them for an upcoming church celebration.  The past couple of months we had the time of Lent, Holy Week and now the season of Easter.  As the Easter season starts on Easter Sunday and continues for a few weeks we have plenty of time to play, discuss, read and learn.
 A yearly activity at church is Easter egg dying where we talk about the Easter story and explain that the egg is one of many Easter symbols.
With much thoughtfulness a bunch of white eggs turn into this:

One tradition we keep is hunting of a basket full of goodies.  Of course there is candy from the US (Japan hasn''t caught on to Easter...) as well as books, activities and even a VeggieTales DVD which help the kids to learn more about why we celebrate Easter.  This year we also put together little bags for their cousins and a couple of friends at church. I think Zilla had as much fun preparing and handing those out as he did searching for his own basket!

We've been doing many things at home and I hope to get posts going with some of those too.  Below is a favorite activity. Five eggs are filled with various noise making items.  There are two different kinds of coins, rice, salt and seeds.
These have been on Mega's shelf and she plays with them at least a couple of times each day.  Yesterday we added to shaking to some music and she just lit up!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Screamer to Swimmer

We signed the Zilla (Little Guy) up for a 2-day swimming class last week.  He was "that kid". The one who didn't want to go into the building, started screaming when it was time to get ready, fought the teacher when he was carried off to the pool, didn't want to participate in the lesson (but did stop crying after the first 15 min) and would only do things that he wanted, if the teacher was holding him.  
However, at the end when he came to me he gave his sister a big kiss, told me he had fun and asked to go back to the pool.  WHAT THE HECK!!!! Oh, and he said he was mad because the teacher wouldn't listen to him.  
Anyway, I must enjoy torture because we are still took him to class the next morning.  I feel so bad for the teacher though.  I always dreaded teaching new class of 3 yr olds because there is always one of "those kids" in the group... and I promised myself years ago that my kids wouldn't be like that.
Zilla refused to go for a ride so the teacher had to carry him.

At the very end the teacher finally was able to take him for a turn in the water.

One thing I know very well is that Zilla needs time to warm up to new things.  He will sit back and observe a situation before joining in.  However, once he does join in you have to watch out because he will go at it full force once he's decided to do something!
Day 2 - jumping right in
Not only willing to go for a little boat ride, he's now trying to be the captian

Finally, the smiles I knew would come...
And the open mouth taking in water all the time!  (hmm, I have the same problem...)

The lifeguard and swim teacher were both a bit impressed by the turn-around which was made in just two lessons.  Before the 1st lesson we actually took some time to visit the pool, watch what was going on from the observation area and talk about the lessons.  All of this helped, I'm sure.  However, Zilla's objection was that I would not be swimming too. It wasn't that he couldn't leave me but more that he wanted me not to miss out.  I appreciate the consideration!

At the end of the 2nd class another group was using a little slide to enter the water.  Zilla went and lined right up with the class.  From what the parents were saying it sounds like kids int he very beginner class usually don't use the slide.  Obviously there is no fear of the water here! 

Since we ended on such a good note we signed Zilla up for 2 more lessons next week, during the vacation.  Hopefully those will go as well as the last one!