Saturday, June 29, 2013

Foundation for Art

Zilla is 5 years old
Mega is 2 years old

Lesson: It is tough to create the art you want but easier to create it if you know how to use your tools!
Mega and Zilla both love to art.
Mega has taken an interest in learning the skills which will help her to be able to create the things she wants. Zilla is a great big brother and will often lend a hand when she needs one. She also learns a lot by watching how he creates his art. It is a great reminder that kids need to learn the basics (cutting, pasting, coloring, painting) as well as have other kids around to inspire them.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Game Time! Memory

Lesson: Games are worth the stress :-)

Zilla is 5 years old and has a pretty good handle on taking turns and playing a game but still has times where his emotional involvement in the games makes playing together challenging. Mega is 2 years old and wants to play games but only by her rules. Little by little she is figuring out how to play with others and take turns.
Recently we played Memory together. This is a game I play well, especially when playing with young kids. ;-) However, I get very annoyed when the other players bump the cards/tiles so they are no longer in straight lines. So, it goes without saying that playing with a toddler is stressful for me! But it is still fun :-)
Playing games together is so much more than a way to pass time. Kids learn social skills, thinking skills and get to bond with each other. I love that they are truly excited for each other's successes when we play together.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - Traveling with Toddlers & Preschoolers

Lesson: Preparation is Key!

Since Zilla was born we've traveled overseas planes, within the country on trains and around the area in cars and buses.  We've also been on boats ranging in size from a row boat to a cruise ship.  We've camped, stayed in hotels, ryokans, pensions and visited family.  Despite the variety in destination and transportation there are a few basic guidelines I follow for packing.  Some of these I've learned about the hard way to I hope you won't have to!

For the time of transit:
☆ Good luggage is key!
Backpack for the adults (keep hands free for kids!) and mini-backpacks for the kids once they can walk.  A rolling carry-on with 4 caster wheels can be pushed by a toddler or pulled by an adult with a minimum amount of effort.  Trunki suitcases are great for toddlers/preschoolers who are perhaps too big for a stroller but too small yet to reliably walk through airports on their own.
In the kid's backpacks include a snack and small drink as well as a toy or two so they can access it when they with.

☆ Clothes - One change of clothes per person in the carry-ons.  Infants and messy toddlers may need two.   Even on train trips there can be spills that end up on mom and dad!

☆ Diapers - 1 for every 2 hours of travel door to door.  Knot-a-bag (or similar item) is handy to have for bagging up not only dirty diapers but also wet clothes and garbage.

☆ Food - Aim for healthy snacks and mini meals.  Plan to eat about once every three hours.  I could the night time travel hours as well and it usually evens out with snacking a bit more during the day, less at night.

☆ Towel/blanket - Take a quick-drying towel for each child.  We use them as travel blankets most of the time but they also double as towels in the case of a spill or accident.  These are really lightweight and take up a small amount out space.  They can also be easily washed out in a sink and dry in less time than a regular towel.

☆ Wet wipes - Never leave home without them!

☆ Friend to hug - Bringing along a stuffed animal or doll to hug while traveling through new places can help kids to feel comfortable in the midst of the transitions.  We have special, smaller travel friends who visit our house before a trip so the kids are familiar with them before they hop into the backpack to travel along.

☆ Travel Activities - One per hour of transit (or one per hour of the longest flight), each in it's own bag
I should let you know before you read further that I'm not a fan of packing electronics for kids, especially young kids, to use while traveling.  We do take our ipads/ipods etc. along but they are only brought out as a last resort.  The two main reasons for this are that kids don't need them to be entertained and watching a screen, any screen, for hours on end isn't good for them.

This system came about after receiving a lot of advice from experienced travel parents. It has been a lifesaver!
During the months leading up to a trip I put together little bags with items from the 100 yen shop / $1 store.  We now have a box in the closet full of these travel bags so when we have an unexpected trip (family funeral) or a long meeting to attend I can just grab a few activity bags to take along.  Keeping these things separate from the regular toys is key to keeping their sense of mystery!
Here are links to some of our past travel bags:
Travel Activities
Travel Bag Activities
Plane/Train Entertainment for Toddlers

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Random Inspiration

Mega is 2 years old
Zilla is 5 years old
Lesson: Anything can inspire creativity.
Lesson 2; watch out when inspiration strikes!
I try to be understanding of the kid's need to try and do various things...
I try to have items available that can be easily turned into something else with a bit of inspiration...
I try to stay out of the way and be an observer when the creative juices flow...
I try not to stop the creative process...
But sometimes it is difficult!
They are riding down the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon, facing the rivers, mountains and plains with a sometimes unwilling team of horses.
Mega made up her own gross motor Montessori style activity which is worthy of going in an album!
She lined up our milk carton boxes and then went jumping from box to box down the line. Her two footed hoping improved greatly after doing this for a couple of days!
My heart returned to normal rhythm a few days after that... You can't tell from the picture but the end of her jumping course has some hard furniture and a class door - neither of which would be forgiving if is she didn't stop at the right place. Part of the fangs of a small house...
While this may look like a marble run to you and me it can be so many other things like a distribution machine for ice cream ;-)
Of course not all creative endeavors are as far stretched...
Here they are filling the time before Zilla heads to school for the day with math lessons. While it all looks rather normal, Zilla's way of explaining addition to a 2 year old who can count to 8 but only really understand the numbers 1 - 4 was rather interesting!
Perhaps he should consider education as a career?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

2 Favorite Monster Books

Here are two of our current favorite books:


Season for Outdoor Water Play

Zilla is 5 years old
Mega is 2 years old
Lesson: Kids are irresistibly drawn to water
It does not matter how early in the morning it is, how hungry the mosquitos are or how hot/humid it is outside... when there is water within reach kids want to play.
We picked up a multifaceted water and sand toy which adds some interesting aspects to the usual water experimentation. Mega is enjoying transferring water with various items (shovel, cup bucket) and Zilla is learning about water pressure, hoses and sprinklers. They are working on teamwork... sort of.
Even with new and I the resting toys, they spent the most time blowing leaves across the top of the water in a "boat race"!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pet Caterpillar

Zilla is 5 years old
Mega is 2 years old
As the weather warms up the kids feel the pull to be outside for I creasing lengths of time. With the coming of spring they have enjoyed seeing the "garden" come alive. We have a a small parking area outside our living room door which they call the backyard or garden.
They found this little "caterpillar" (I'm not sure if it is actually one but the term works for our purposes...) and put it in the bug box for observation.
They decided to take notes and draw pictures to record what they saw.
This kind of activity is something totally unplanned but because we had the tools in place (prepared environment) they were able to take the teachable moment and run with it.
They observed that Catapilly (the name they gave it) would curl up and stop moving when frightened, climbed on leaves and sticks in the box and it even stopped to munch on a leaf from time to time.
While Zilla was at school Mega was on observation duty and she takes her responsibility seriously!
At 6:30 this morning while I was just getting ready for the day I hear the kids outside talking about going for a walk. When I went to investigate I discovered they meant giving Catapilly a chance to take a walk!
Since they have been so engrossed with their new "pet" I gave them the book "From Caterpillar to Butterfly" to look at. We have an oversized edition which seemed to add to the reading fun!
One of the greatest thing about this whole Catapilly experience is at the kids have been able to do nearly everything on their own. They know where the supplies are, they worked together to figure out what would make Catapilly happy and to figure out the best way to make observations. I love that they are at this stage! It makes my job easy :-)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Only 1 day left! Two Little Hands $10 DVD Sale!

Biggest sale of the year on Two Little Hands DVDs On Mon-Wed. (US Time) this week! 
All DVDs and DVD/CD combos are $10. 
 Limit 2 of each kind... but with so many DVDs to choose from you can still end up buying over 60 DVDs!

Have some children's birthdays's coming and want to get a great gift? 

☆ For a preschooler try Rachel and the Treeschoolers

☆ Baby? How about Baby Signing Time

☆  Child headed for 1st grade? Look at the ABCs and Practice Time DVDs for a multisensory and fun start to phonics and sight words. 

☆  Potty Training while the summer is hot? Potty Time can help make it fun for everyone! 

☆  Stuck inside because of rainy season? Check out Move and Grove

With so many choices there is somethign for every kid! Don't be overwhelmed by the choices - ask (e-mail is ok!) and I'll share some suggestions! Here's your link to get to the sale!

While you're thinking of gifts why not pair a DVD with a board book or flashcards to keep the learning going?

Teachers, homeschoolers, parents, grandparents... there are plenty of other resources and ideas on the Two Little Hands homepage so why not take a look around?

Rachel even made a video to share about the sale!

Monday, June 3, 2013

When Inspiration Strikes...

When inspiration strikes... it makes a mess!