Doc McStuffins Babysat E While I Was Sick. And I’m Totally Cool With That

I haven’t been sick sick in a long time. I think the last time I had a fever I was teaching preschool, a job where hazmat suits should be issued but sadly aren’t. Then this weekend we got the head cold from Hell. Not a lot of snot, a minor sore throat, but a high fever that wouldn’t leave for three days. E came down with it on Thursday, meaning little sleep for me, and I got it Friday. This deployment has been wrought with sickness. Given our close timing, I can only assume we picked it up at dance class from the little love who was lethargic and coughing. Thanks awesome mom for bringing your sick kid. Hey dance mom, in the future let’s keep in mind that it’s a toddler dance class, not the New York City Ballet. Thanks.

Anyhoo. Given the whole three days of misery thing, she was 100% by Saturday evening. I was not. Sunday morning arrived along with a necessary trip to the store for dog food (my plan had been to go to the pet food store on Friday, and clearly that didn’t happen) as at this point Meatball had had whole wheat bread and yogurt (at least they were organic…) for two meals. One outing with a potty training toddler and a large bag of dog food and I wasn’t up to entertaining E. Enter the DVR and Doc McStuffins. Thank you Lord for DVRs. E had the time of her life watching every Doc we have, and I was able to lie like a dead thing on the couch running death prevention. We are both still alive so clearly I did a bang up job.

E watched pretty much a whole day of TV, and survived. As did I. I felt like a new person after a day of rest and a good night’s sleep. If you had told me when E was born that she would watch an entire day of TV, I would have said maybe when she’s in college. Or, 2 1/2.

This brings me to the larger point of sharing this weekend’s misery and my adoration of Doc. I’ve had one too many conversations with mom friends who feel stressed that they aren’t living up to the ideals of a parenting style. My philosophy: Parenting is pragmatic.

It’s comforting to hold a parenting philosophy close. Attachment Parenting, Free Range Parenting, The Child Centered Approach, etc etc. They can offer guidelines and answers to problems at all hours of the day, but only within the confines of their tenets. Life, however, does not always fit nicely into a particular parenting philosophy’s teachings. So many parents, especially moms, who already have one of the hardest jobs known to humankind, are left feeling like failures as they weren’t able to live up to the {Insert Parenting Philosophy Here}’s ideal of what a parent should be doing.

The tenets of Attachment Parenting were born in a laboratory setting.

Free Range Parenting was created by ONE MOM, based on her and family’s experiences.

And on, and on, and on.

This isn’t to say that many parenting philosophies don’t have value. Most do. But to hold so strongly to a parenting philosophy that you alter your life in ways that compromise your sanity, well that’s just insane. As for myself, I am indebted to dear Doc McStuffins and I don’t regret it one bit.

 

 

A Fourth of July Art Project for Your Little Ones, Along with Ideas on Talking About the Fourth with Little Ones

fourth of july art project collage final .jpg

What kind of Military Family would we be without a Fourth of July project?

For this project we made red, white and blue paper by painting a large sheet of white paper with red and blue paint, just like in our Spring Art Project. Since the weather has been gorgeous, and painting in and of itself is more fun when it’s messy (sensory fun!) we did our painting outside.

RWB Painting 2

After E completed her patriotic painting we moved onto blue handprints for the flags.

Look Ma, Blue Hands!

Look Ma, Blue Hands!

Blue Handprints

After E’s painting fun, I painted red stripes next to two of the best handprints to make the flags.

Handprint flag 1 .jpg

Once the red and blue painting dried I cut out stars for the wreath. I wanted a handmade feel so I drew stars on the back as opposed to using a star cookie cutter or star pattern.

To make the wreath frame I cut the middle out of a generic paper plate, along with the edge. I cut out the middle of two paper plates and kept both centers to mount the handprint flags.

After E woke up from her nap, I showed her the stars and told her how they were made out of the painting she had made. I modeled how to glue the stars on and then let her create her wreath (with a lille help from me now and then).

Gluing stars on .jpg

We then moved onto the flags. We talked about her handprints and how I painted red stripes next to them to make a flag. I had a picture of an American flag for her to see and talked about how her hand was the stars and the red lines were the stripes.

To finish making the flags I mounted them on the paper plates and added the sticks. For preschoolers have kids help mount the cut out completed flags on the paper plate circles.

Handprint Flag with Stick .jpg

Talk about what parts of the circle you have to remove to make it fit the rectangle of the flag. Tape or glue the sticks for the flag on (I found tape worked best for this part) and let all pieces dry.

 

Once all pieces are dried, arrange as you’d like. Here’s what we came up with.

Completed Fourth of July Project Displayed .jpg

I put E’s project next to her Countdown plate, an appropriate place I think!

 

Why we celebrate the Fourth of July is a big concept for little ones. Different countries, fighting for freedom, American liberty, and so on. Taking large concepts like these and breaking them down to their simplest form, within a context children will understand, can be challenging. Here’s an idea for toddlers and preschoolers:

“We’re having a big party today because we live in a very special place, and we’re happy we live here. Today is like a birthday for the special place we live. It’s special here because we can make choices that lots of other kids, moms and dads can’t make, like what to wear, what we talk about, and what schools you can go to. Daddy works to help keep us and our special home safe. We’re very blessed to live where we do, and so today we’re celebrating, just like we celebrate your birthday!”

Happy Fourth of July to You and Your Family! Enjoy!

Homemade Foot and Handprint “Spring Flowers” Card for Easter or Mother’s Day

Final Ta Da.png

I can’t take full credit for this ridiculously cute art project. I originally saw a version of it on Sassydealz.com, one of my favorite blogs for getting ideas for kids arts and crafts. This brilliant woman uses wine corks for various art projects. Like I needed another excuse to drink wine, but I’ll take it!

Her version of this is polished and flawlessly executed. I myself am a sucker for the “I Made This” style of cards and gifts, so I combined the foot prints with some hand prints and a little collage for the flowers and grass. Projects like this are great for helping children learn to follow directions and for developing fine motor skills as they have to make the project in ordered steps and carefully place pieces in specific spots. Process art is wonderful and should be the main focus for art in early childhood, but don’t hesitate to add in projects every now and then with a specific outcome like this one.

Here’s how to make your own!

First Steps Toe and Hand Flowers .jpg

 

Then….

how To Second Steps Foot Flowers .jpg

I’m not sure which part was more fun for E, the painting or the cleanup. She loved the soapy water and exploring the bubbles. This kept her entertained for a good 10 minutes, followed by the fun job of sopping up the spilled water with paper towels. Also incredibly fun for E.

After the paint dried I measured the width of the “flowers” and made the flower bottoms, stems and leaves. E helped me carefully glue them in place, along with the “grass” at the bottom. I’m going to leave the front blank and put “Happy Easter” on the inside with a message for the grandparents and have E “sign” them.

I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a disaster or adorable, so I used a large sheet of regular craft paper. Next time I will use card stock for this project, as it definitely ended up on the adorable side of the art project spectrum.

Have fun crafting with your cuties!

-Olivia

 

 

 

We’re Going on a Letter Hunt!

E’s favorite first syllable in the entire world is “b”. If anything begins with a B she wants to know about it. Butterfly, bird, (“da bir”, apparently I refer to all birds as “the” bird), blue whale, you get the point.

Since putting an E in her arsenal of play dough cookie cutters, among other letters, E can now pick out an E! The letter has meaning to her, as I refer to it as “E” for Eloise. In similar fashion the letter B has earned a space among the play dough cookie cutters as she loves its sound, and is developing meaning for her. So with that in mind, I created a Treasure Hunt for the Letter B to help her learn to recognize a B.

Letter Treasure Hunt Collage.jpg

 

I’ve discussed in previous posts the importance of letting the child lead in regards to learning skill sets like letter recognition, counting, etc. If your little one is repeating a certain sound, is pointing to letters or words in books, or notices printed words in their environment, then this may be a great activity for them too! If you don’t have a sand table, a bucket with sand (or cornmeal) is a great alternative. If you can get outside to do this then all the better as it is a hands on and clearly sandy project.

E liked this so much that I kept the “treasure hunt” going for a few days. She loved digging and finding the buried items, especially since she could use “b” in some way to describe them all. I added some beans into the second section of her sand table (which was already housing some corn kernels) to bring another B word into the mix. She enjoyed mixing and then carefully separating the bean/corn mix from the sand. This was great as it not only afforded another opportunity for language but also for fine motor skills like the pincer grasp to pick up the beans as well as all of the digging.

As E adds new works to her repertoire and gains appreciation for different letter sounds I will most definitely be repeating this again. I hope your little ones enjoy it too!

Happy Hunting!

 

 

 

 

Q: You Have So Many Toys, How Are You Bored? A: Unorganized Play Spaces

How many times as a parent or caregiver have you looked in awe at a bored child surrounded by a sea of toys. How could they possibly not want to play with anything in front of them? Do they really need new toys? Quite simply, no.

It’s not a lack of choices leading to little ones becoming bored and then often displaying less than desirable behavior, rather it’s too many choices. To put it into an adult perspective, how much easier is it to decide what you’ll order at a restaurant with 10 entree choices than a restaurant with 50. Children need fewer choices, not more, in order to really engage in play throughout the day.

Engaging in play is vital for children. Learning how to start and stick with an activity for more than a minute is setting the foundation for future learning. The creative thinking, problem solving, and sensory experiences that happen when children play creates neurological pathways in the brain that if not formed in early childhood will never be formed.

This doesn’t mean you need to haul away half your kids’ toys to the attic or consignment shop. A well organized play space with play stations set up will do the trick. Though if you’ve really got a ton of toys, rotating the “stock” isn’t a bad idea. Take some of the toys and put them away. In a few weeks bring them out and put away the played with toys. Once you’ve got a manageable amount of toys:

  • Separate toys into easily accessible bins by their type.
Cars, airplanes and all things that "go" are in green bins.

Cars, airplanes and all things that “go” are in green bins.

  • Have a different color or type of bin for each toy group. A picture of what belongs in the bin on the outside is a great addition too.
Puzzles are in a basket with the pieces to each kept in a clear cosmetic bag with a zipper.

Puzzles are in a basket with the pieces to each one kept in  separate clear cosmetic bags with  zippers. 

  • Help children make play choices by setting up play stations with a few options, like building, music, books, cars and trucks, etc. Four or five set up at a time is a good number.
Keep a good amount of space between "areas" to help children make a choice, then watch as they combine play choices in imaginative ways! Musical cars anyone?

Keep a good amount of space between “areas” to help children make a choice, then watch as they combine play choices in imaginative ways! Musical cars anyone?

  • Put out toys and activities that you haven’t seem them play with in a day or two. Often it’s not that they don’t want to play with those particular toys, but rather that they’ve gotten lost in the mix. Help them rediscover them.
A favorite Peek A Boo scarf that E rediscovered with a music and movement area.

A favorite Peek A Boo scarf that E rediscovered with a music and movement area.

  • Keep the bins of other toys on the side but accessible. When lots of toys are out at once and things start to get cluttered (as they do) encourage and help your little ones to put away a few toys. Again, too many choices leads to no choice and less playing, more throwing.
  • Pre-Kindergarteners and school aged children can be expected to clean up an area, especially if there are obvious places where toys go, by themselves when asked. For toddlers and pre-schoolers, a little help may be needed. Model how to to pick up toys and put them away. Expect them to put some toys away, and you to do the remainder.
  • Songs are a great tool for signaling that it’s time to do something, and tend to make it more appealing. Our clean up song of choice: “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do their share.” E loves the word “share”, and I’m pretty sure she she learned it from this little ditty.

Throughout the day set up  new play stations with new choices. Watching children who are really into what they’re playing with is just awesome. Spend a few minutes observing what creative ideas they come up with.

With these tips you’ll be able to keep the play going all day, meaning occupied kids, less behavior issues, and a few more minutes to do what you need to do, or maybe even something nice for yourself! Like sitting down.