Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Eve Activity

Here is a super fun and simple activity that you can do with your kids today!
Supplies you will need:

  • empty soda bottle
  • beans/rice
  • glue
  • paint brush and bowl
  • tissue paper (variety of colors)
  • ribbon
  • fuzzy balls
  • buttons/beads
  • any other fun craft things you might want to glue on
Pour a handful of the beans and/or rice into the empty bottle.  Put glue on the inside of the cap and twist on so that the cap stays secure.  

Make a mixture of 1/2 glue and 1/2 water in the bowl and mix together.  

Cut up the tissue paper into smaller square pieces (or any shape really).  

Pain the bottle with the glue/water mixture and then stick the tissue paper to the bottle.  Let it dry.

Then, glue on any other fun balls, beads, or buttons to the bottle. 

Take the ribbon and tie it to the neck of the bottle and curl the ribbon.  

Then shake, shake, shake til the little ones tucker out at midnight 10 o'clock.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review: Woof! Woof! by David A. Carter

School Age:  Preschool

Developmental Skill:  Cognitive and reasoning skills.  This helps children to think interdependently  increases vocabulary and builds self-confidence as they solve problems.

Review:  This book is a simple and energetic. It uses very simple words and has fun cut outs in the pages with shapes.  It has a guessing game throughout the book as you try to figure out what the shapes are making.  Little children will love this interactive book and it is a great way for them to practice shapes and work on problem solving skills.

Activity:  Practice shapes by cutting out different shapes and gluing them to popsicle sticks.  Then with the popsicle sticks play a game of "Hokey Pokey" (stick your circle in, stick your circle out, stick your circle in and you shake it all about).  It's a very fun way to get to know shapes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How To Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Child

Sometimes it can be hard to remember to show love to your child when they just drew a picture of a treasure map all over your hallway wall with permanent marker.  Or to be overly concerned when they start crying (again) because they want a purple straw and all that's left is orange ones.  So here are few ways that can help you step back and remember to nurture the relationship you have with your child:

Listen.  Let's face it.  Kids talk a lot.  They talk and talk and asks lots of questions over and over.  And as irritating as this can be at times there is a reason behind it.  They are learning and facing new experiences everyday.  They talk about it and ask questions to process those experiences.  So make sure to be a good listener to your child and not just tune them out (which you would never do I am sure). Turn off the technology that can so easily distract us. Then give them good eye contact, be ready to teach when the time is necessary, and validate their learning.
Have special time with them.  Everyday take a little bit of time to have one on one with your child.  This is especially important when you have multiple children.  They need to be given special attention and love and shown that they are important to you and your family.  Alternate between doing things with them that they want to do and are in charge of and things that you want to do and are in charge of.

Speak to them with respect.  Oftentimes, we demand respect from our children, because we are the adults, but do not reciprocate it in return.  We often lose our temper and are impatient with them.  Try to be aware of the way you are using your words towards them.  Be kind, loving, and grateful to them.  Be a model of the respect you want them to show to you and others.

Bedtime.  This can be a very special time with your child.  This is also a great way to connect with them and create a stronger bond.  Talk to them. Ask them about their worries, how their day at school went, how they are getting along with their siblings, etc.  Reassure them that you hear their concerns and will help them solve it the next day.  Also take this time to read to your children.  Reading is one of the best ways to help your child develop and a great way to spend extra time together.
Be interested in what they're interested in.  Talk to them and support them in their hobbies.  Be open about their interests and realize that they may be different then your own.  Be proud of who they are and who they and becoming.  Notice their interests, ask questions, and respect their opinions.

Hugs.  Multiple hugs a day.  Hug them when they first wake up, hug them when they accomplish something, hug them when they say something nice, hug them randomly all day long.  Their doesn't need to be a reason. Just hug them as a way to show them you love them.
There are many more ways to strengthen your relationship with your child.  Take the extra time to make your relationship a priority and show your child how much you appreciate and care about them.

Aha! Parenting
Chicago Parent

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Playgroup

Here is our weekly playgroup idea.  The theme this week is Christmas Time (surprise).  You can have so much fun with your playgroup during the holidays and we wanted to share some things we did during our playgroup this week.

We have a really fun batch of gingerbread playdough that the kids absolutely LOVED.  They played with it and used cookie cut outs to make their own "gingerbread cookies". Here is a simple recipe that you can use:

Gingerbread Playdough

Stored properly this dough should stay supple for a couple of months.
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup water
Mix together flour, salt, cream of tartar, and spices in a medium-sized pot. Stir in the oil and water until evenly mixed (will be thick). Place pot over medium-low heat, cook and beat with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is playdough consistency. Remove from pot (Careful, it’s hot!) and knead with your hands until smooth. Store in an airtight container.
Then we played a game with a gingerbread man puppet. Everyone sits in a circle and then we had one child be the "gingerbread man" and wear the puppet.  They went out of the room and while they were gone we had a single jingle bell that we gave to one of the other children in the circle.  Everyone puts their hands behind their back and the "gingerbread man" comes back in the room and they stand in the middle of the circle.  The child with the bell jingles it and the "gingerbread man" tries to figure out which person has the bell.  When they find who it is then that person becomes the next "gingerbread man".    It was a very fun game and the kids couldn't wait for their turn to be the "gingerbread man".
After the game we read a Christmas book.  There are so many out there for you to choose from.  Then we had an arts and craft activity where we had a gingerbread man cutout of sandpaper and the kids could color them.  We also had them rub cinnamon sticks on the sand paper and then the cutout smelt like cookies.  Next they hole punched the top and tied a string so that they had their own gingerbread man Christmas ornament to put on their tree at home.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Traditions

Holiday traditions can come to be in a lot of different ways.  Some are ones that your great-great grandmother started and have been passed down from generation to generation (putting an orange in the bottom of our stocking).  Other traditions your own parents started themselves (getting a new pair of pajamas on Christmas eve).  And others you don't really know how they started or why you do them...you just do (putting peanut brittle out for Santa instead of cookies).  
Traditions can be a wonderful way to bring your family even closer together as you continue old ones and create new ones.  They create an environment that is familiar and comfortable.  They are fun, exciting, and sentimental.  Here are some ideas for Christmas traditions that may be fun to try with your family this year:

  • Drive around and look at all the holiday lights in your area.
  • Go sledding or ice skating as a family.
  • Have a cookie exchange with friends and neighbors.
  • Make the same entree for Christmas eve (such as stew) or Christmas morning (such as sweet rolls) each year.
  • Read holiday Christmas books (Polar Express, Santa Mouse, etc) every night during the month of December.
  • Purchase an ornament for each child every year that will help them remember that year.
  • Volunteer at a local food bank or help a child from the Angel Tree as a family each year.
  • Deliver cookies or a special treat to your local police department, fire station, or hospital staff on Christmas Day.
  • Draw names as a family to do a gift exchange.
  • Open one gift on Christmas Eve.
  • Call or have a video chat with loved ones on Christmas Day.

Add your own to the list and share your holiday memories other readers. 
Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review: Rabbit's Pajama Party

"At Rabbit's pajama party everyone is eating pizza, telling scary stories, and curling up in their sleeping bags. And what these friends do first, next,and last demonstrates the math concepts of sequencing -- the logical order of events."
This fun book written by Stuart J. Murphy and filled with delightful illustrations by Frank Remkiewicz will be both educational and fun for your child to read.
School age: Preschool to second grade
Developmental skill: Sequencing is a math-emergent skill, putting things together in a natural order, helping with foundational math and science skills.
Activity: Help your child understand sequencing by practicing placing things in their natural order. Using the picture listed on the link (or whatever pictures you come up with yourself), put the cards in order. What happens first? What happens last?

Visit: kbyutv.org/kidsandfamily/readytolearn. Click on "Benefits of Media" and go to pages 14 and 15.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Infant Playgroup

Usually the playgroup ideas we show you are geared mostly towards toddlers and pre-school age children.  However, we know it is important to play with your infants as well and that kind of playgroup will be a little different because of their development level.  Here are some ideas that you could incorporate into an infant playgroup.

Music Circle:
Have all the parents sit in a circle with their infant on their lap.  Go around and sing different songs that are not only fun and exciting but interactive with your little one.  These are also known as finger play songs.  Try singing songs like "Itsy Bitsy Spider", "Pat-A-Cake", "Open Shut Them", and "Wheels On The Bus".  Make sure to do all the actions with your baby and get them moving.

Tummy Time:
This is such an important activity to be doing with your infant.  It helps them strengthen their back, neck, and head muscles.  It will also lead them right into crawling when the time is right.  To do this activity lay a blanket on the ground and put each infant on their tummy.  Help them as they learn to lift their head, reach for a toy, and eventually roll over.

Read a Book:
Reading is one the most important things you can do for your child.  It helps them to develop in every aspect as they are growing up.  And it is never to early to start.

Baby Massage:
Infant massage is a great way to get some bonding time in with your baby.  It has also been shown to improve sensory awareness, relieve discomfort (congestion, gas, etc), and help with language development as you speak to them while massaging.  When massaging your baby, use gentle, light strokes.  You'll want to move from the center of the body outward—go from upper leg to foot, or shoulder to hand for example.  

Go for a Walk:
This is a simple way to get out and get some fresh air.  It's wonderful to be outside and this will give you moms a chance to get some exercise and friendly chat time in.

Welcome Baby

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hide 'n' Eat

Hide 'n' Eat
All kinds of hide-and-seek games are fun for your baby at this age, as he continues to be thrilled with the discovery that something hidden from him is still there after all. This variation on peekaboo livens up mealtime with the thrill of the chase.

Appropriate for: 7 to 10 months
Skills developed: Fine motor, understanding of object permanence
What you'll need: A clean dish towel, finger foods, and some small opaque cups or containers

Show your baby a snack (anything that's not too wet or mushy), then cover it with a cloth dish towel or napkin. Let him lift the veil and discover that his treat is still there, even though he couldn't see it just a moment ago.

You can also inject a little sleight of hand: Put two small pieces of food in front of your baby, then cover them with opaque cups or other containers, adding at least one extra container that's not covering anything. Swirl the cups around so he can't tell which ones are hiding food, then let him lift off the cups and find his treats.

Monday, December 10, 2012

10 Ways to Keep a Toddler Busy While You Nurse the Baby

Trying to breastfeed and keep track of a crazy toddler who's getting into everything at the same time can be very difficult and incredibly stressful. Here are some ways to keep your toddler busy and entertained so you can breastfeed in peace, without having to worry about what your toddler is doing. These activities can be used while you are busy doing other things as well, such as making dinner or any time you need your toddler to play quietly and calmly, without simply parking them in front of the television unsupervised.

Make a video. Use your phone, iPod, or other device and record your toddler doing just about anything - singing, talking, dancing, and so forth. Toddlers love to watch themselves, so if you teach him how to press play and how to hold the phone (or whatever it is), you'll have some quiet and uninterrupted time to nurse.

Read. Ask him to bring you some books, and then let him turn the pages while you read them to him. After a few books, he might be content to just sit next to you and flip through them quietly on his own.
Quizzes. Ask him about anything at all - letters, colors, numbers, shapes, names of family members and friends, body parts, what he can see outside of the window.

Puzzles. Any kind of puzzle works, as long as it's not too difficult for him to manipulate the pieces and figure out how to fit them together.

Scavenger hunt. Ask him to find things, such as specific toys (Buzz & Woody) or other items (orange blanket).

Cups. Dump a bunch of plastic cups on the floor nearby. Ask him to help pick them up or tell him he can play with them. Soon he'll be focused on stacking them or nesting them or stepping on them to make them make noise or something completely different altogether.
Cotton balls. Make this one a little challenging. Don't let him pick them up with his hands, but have him use tongs or tweezers or something else, and stuff them inside a bottle or other container with a narrow opening, one at a time.

Beach ball or balloon. Kids love them. Hand him one and let him go nuts trying to keep it up in the air and off of the floor.
Bean bags. Tell him to balance the bean bag on his head. Then his foot. Then the dog's head. Then the doorknob. You get the idea.

Clothes pins. Stretch a piece of yarn from one side of the room to the other, such as from the crib to the changing table. Give him a small bowl of clothespins and any piece of paper or other item he can hang up - old magazine pages, pictures he's colored, and so forth. Show him how to hang things from the yarn and he'll go to town with it.

Information taken from: http://thedizzymom.blogspot.com/2012/09/10-ways-to-keep-your-toddler-busy-while.html

Friday, December 7, 2012

Book Review: Clap Your Hands

"Reach for the sky, wiggle your toes
Stick out your tongue and touch your nose.

"Significantly, author Lorinda Bryan Cauley pays close attention to detail as well as mood, and the clothing choices of her characters are as much fun to note as their happy faces. Unique motions and interactions make an important statement about the value of individual interpretation, giving children the go-ahead to find the different aspects of each action — a good alternative to "follow the leader."

"Most of all, however, Clap Your Hands is a wonderful celebration of imagination and the joy of movement. Children will be hard-pressed to resist the many invitations of this delightful, rhyming romp, which gains momentum as it encourages kids to tickle, purr, fly, roar, somersault, kiss, spin, and more.

"Using an inventive mix of pastels, paints, and colored pencils, Cauley has created pictures that fairly jump off the page to join in the fun, and the energetic children and animals in her illustrations seem to pick up speed as they cavort jubilantly across each colorful spread."
School age: Preschool
Developmental Skill: Gross motor skills target the large muscle groups such as arms, legs, and torso. Develop these skills by jumping, throwing, running, and kicking.
Activity: Simply have your child follow along with the actions while you read the book. Then have a dance party! Sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes", "Hokey Poke", or just turn on some music and free dance. this is a great way to help your child strengthen his or her muscles and enjoy being active.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Celebrating the Months of the Year

Each month is filled with so many fun things to do!  We have our national holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween to celebrate as well as the birthdays and anniversaries in between.  Today’s Playgroup was all about celebrating the months of the year and the birthdays we all have. 

Our story time told the tale of a birthday cake made by many different fairy tale characters.  During the story the kids were able to identify the different characters and tell us what their story was.  It was amazing how many characters the kids could recognize! 

For our playgroup craft we made our own birthday Party hats!
Here’s what you’ll need:

-Paper Plates
-Anything you want to decorate or color your hat!

Take a paper plate and make a cut from one end to the middle of the plate.  This will allow you to bend the plate into a cone for your basic hat shape.  Adjust your hat to make it wider to smaller depending on the size of your head.  Then tape the plate together so it will hold its shape. 

Punch or cut two holes at the bottom, on either side of the hat and thread some string through both sides. That way you’ll be able to tie the hat under your chin to keep if from falling off your head. 

Now you’re ready to decorate!  To decorate our hats we used feathers, pipe cleaners, stickers, crayons, markers and anything else we could find in our craft box.  Get creative and decorate your hat however you want! 

As our snack we made mini cupcakes with whipped topping for frosting.  The kids used some pretzel sticks as candles and could put in multiple candles to reflect their age!  Have fun celebrating the months and the birthdays we all have!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pass the Hat

Pass the Hat
At this age, your baby is thrilled to be able to hold things in her hand. A game of pass the hat – or rather, grab the hat (or the nose) – will send her into smiles of surprised delight.

Appropriate for: 4 months to 1 year
Skills developed: Sense of cause and effect
What you'll need: A hat with a brim

With your baby on your lap facing you, place a hat on your head, then lean in close. Let your baby reach up to the hat and grab it off your head. She may even manage to put it back on your head (with a bit of help from you). You can switch to another brimmed hat, but don't do it too often, which can confuse your baby. When she's done playing with the hat, give her nose a gentle pinch, then wrinkle your own nose and lean as close as you can. Once she reaches for your nose, she may be surprised to find that she can't remove it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

25 Ways to Stay Calm As a Parent

Sometimes, we see our children coloring quietly at the kitchen table, playing nicely with each other, or sleeping peacefully in their beds, and we wonder how we got so lucky as to have such perfect, adorable little angels for children. And other times, we see their Sharpie masterpieces on the living room wall, the peanut butter they've smeared into the family dog's fur, and the tug-o-war with the toys and their sister's hair, and wonder why on earth our children always seem to do the opposite of what we tell them to do. Exercising patience and self-control is difficult at times like these, despite our good intentions. Here are 25 things you can do to help you stay calm when you're dealing with your children.

Own your no's. Sometimes you say no to your child without even thinking about it, and then one no leads to another no, in a vicious cycle. Before responding out of reflex, think about your yes or no answer. Try not to rush into saying no to your child merely because of inconvenience.

Be open to saying YES. There is a lot of power in the word yes. Conscious, deliberate yes's are beautiful. They have the power to transform families. They are a cause for celebration.

Read. Read everything you can that reminds you to be calm or that simply makes you feel good. They can be great pick-me-ups or serve as reminders to stay calm and be patient as a parent. Read anything... parenting books, inspirational books, just-for-fun books.
Understand the importance of solitude. Many of the times that we are struggling to stay calm amidst the chaos is because we are surrounded by noise. Some people, like extroverts, are happy with a ton of noise, but many people are not. Silence may be just the medicine necessary to help you replenish and rejuvenate yourself, but it may be the hardest situation to achieve.

Take a deep breath. Never punish your kids when you are angry. Don't do this. This one piece of advice alone can work wonders in helping you be a calm parent. Separate the kids and then walk away. Step outside. Go to your room, close the door, and lay on your bed until you've calmed down. Hang out in the basement for awhile. Put some music on. Something, anything. Just breathe deeply and calm down before you even begin to think about reacting.

Get up early. Having some time to yourself, without the demands of your children and everyday life, is absolutely essential. End of story.

Go to bed early. You know the saying: "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." It also makes you a better parent. Being well-rested is essential. You can't be a good parent if you are too tired to think, too tired to come up with creative responses, and too tired to simply ignore the small and inconsequential things.

Get a hobby. This might be writing, sewing, cooking, quilting, or crocheting. It might be baking, blogging, gardening, or photography. We all have that one thing that fills us up, gives us a purpose in life, adds bounce to our step. Whatever it is, find it and devote yourself to it.

Energize yourself. Choose the things that you love to do and that make you happy and do them every day.

Ignore the small stuff. It may not all be small stuff, but a lot of it is, especially the things we get worked up over on most days. We can get very wrapped up in micro-managing our children and dictating their every move. Delegate some of that worry and stress to the Universe. This includes not always arguing back with your child.

Keep the "big picture" in mind. Will the tiny infraction of drinking the bathtub water and spitting it out matter in the long run? Nope. Will it delay bedtime a little bit. Sure. So what! Move on, nothing to see here, these aren't the droids you're looking for.

Clean. When your children are frustrating the heck out of you, clean something. Do those things that you need to get done anyway and work of your frustrations by cleaning. Two birds with one stone, right? Cleaning gives you something productive to do instead of micro-managing your children. While you're at it, come up with some chores they might have to do as a consequence for their bad behavior.

Repeat your mantra. Each of us has phrases that give us comfort, that we repeat over and over again in our heads until the difficult moment passes. Some might include things like "I am the adult", "Breathe", "Have a moment, not a meltdown", "This too shall pass", and so on. Have a mantra or two, and use them!

Exercise. Walk. Jog. Run. Do yoga. Go to the gym. Whatever you can do to feel good on the inside and the outside will make parenting from the heart a whole lot easier.

Slow down! Don't plan a ton of things in a small amount of time. Just when you want to get a long list of things done is when everything will blow up. Stress is what causes us to lose our heads, so the less stress we have the less we will lose our heads. Seems simple, right? It is, but that doesn't make it easy.

Don't be afraid to look a little silly. Doing something entirely out of the ordinary is a great way to quickly turn your mood around. Tell jokes, act nutty, sing, dance, laugh. Deal with the consequences later, when everyone's thinking a bit more clearly.

Talk it out. Establish a talk-it-out rule. "In this house, we talk out our problems with soft words, not our fists and not by yelling." Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Be a role model. If you want your children to grow up to be calm, cool, and collected themselves, you need to be that way yourself. The things you say to your children is what they will hear in their own heads. That's some powerful stuff to keep in mind.

Eat. If you are starving and not taking of yourself, problems will ensue.

Set your rules. Establish household rules from step one, and then keep them. Put them in an obvious place so you can easily and immediately point to them and say, "Look here, you've broken rule number two, these are the consequences." When you are confident about the rules in your house, you will be more confident in enforcing those rules.

Don't set too many rules. Seriously. We can't expect our children not to make mistakes. They are learning. Stay calm and try to stick to only about five rules at a time and make those the important ones. Let the minor infractions go, and use them as teachable moments instead of discipline ones.

Change up your routine. If you find yourself in a stressed-out rut, maybe it's time to change things around and do something exciting and different and FUN. A change in environment or a breath of fresh air can do amazing things. They can help you stay calm and peaceful a lot longer than just going through the motions and doing the same old thing all of the time.

Be grateful. Remind yourself of the things you do have, of how amazing your children are, and how lucky you are to be a parent. Savor the little moments.

Replenish your spirit. For some, this might mean prayer or meditation. For others it might be soaking in a hot bath at night. Taking care of your spirit is as important of taking care of your body. De-stress and center yourself often.

When all else fails... hug it out. Many times, what our children need (and what we need in return) is the close connection and touch of our loved ones. Instead of yelling or being upset, hug it out. Most of the time, this will solve a lot of problems and heal a lot of hurt feelings.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Press Here

Press the yellow dot on the cover of this book, follow the instructions within, and embark upon a magical journey! Each page of this surprising book instructs the reader to press the dots, shake the pages, tilt the book, and who knows what will happen next! Children and adults alike will giggle with delight as the dots multiply, change direction, and grow in size! Especially remarkable because the adventure occurs on the flat surface of the simple, printed page, this unique picture book about the power of imagination and interactivity will provide read-aloud fun for all ages!
Illustration Style: The only illustrations are colored dots of varying size. Little children can follow simple directions such as: "PRESS HERE AND TURN THE PAGE." Rubbing and tapping on different colored dots will help children learn colors. Shaking, tilting, and moving the book to the right moves the dots around the page. Children will enjoy following the different directions and seeing what happens. This is a great interactive book for children!
Activity: Experiment with colors! Talk about the color wheel and discuss that the primary colors are the foundation for all the other colors. By mixing paints, let your your child try combining colors and see what new colors the different combinations make. You can also show your child how to make a color darker or lighter by adding white or black.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shadow Puppets

Now that it's getting darker and colder outside it's important to have some fun indoor activities to keep your little ones entertained.  A fun playgroup activity you can try is a shadow puppet theater.  They're so easy to make!

Here's what you'll need:

-Black Construction Paper
-Popsicle sticks
-Tape or glue
-Large sheet of white paper

Draw some animals or fairy tale characters onto the black construction paper.  If you don't have black paper or want to cut your characters out on thicker material you can use card stock and paint it.  Tape or glue the figure onto a Popsicle stick and let it dry.  

Make a puppet show theater by hanging up a large white sheet of paper between two chairs or any tall pillars you have around the house.  You can also use a white sheet if you have one.
Want to incorporate a snack into your playgroup shadow puppet theme?  You can use animal crackers on toothpicks for some edible fun.  See if your kids can guess which animal it is by looking at the shadow.

Here's some fun fairy tale characters you can use, or just have fun drawing some of your own animals!