Saturday, 21 March 2015

For The Love of Splash Pads

As a parent in the third-world, I tend to be overly protective of my little girl.  Which usually means she can't get dirty, wet or sweaty for fear of getting sick.  A visit to Singapore as a first-time parent changed all that.  Thanks to public splash pads which are nearly everywhere.

It was liberating for both of us.

Gardens by the Bay
Singapore Zoo
Jurong Bird Park
Jacob Ballas Children's Garden
Vivo City Mall 
KLCC Park in Malaysia
Hong Kong Disneyland
Shangrila Mactan in Cebu (or any Shangrila Hotel in Manila) - not public anymore though!

Public splash pads are sorely missing in Manila,  but I've been desensitised now so I don't mind this:

SM Aura
At Market, Market fountain.  This time I left her spare clothes in the car so I had to wrap her in my cardigan afterwards!
If you've found other splash pads or fountains I'd love to know!

Here's our DIY version.  We've had it for three years now:

I felt ridiculous for buying it because all it is is a plastic tube with holes.  But how fun.

Just hook up a hose and you're good to go.

At her lolo and lola's house in Tagaytay
With her cousin's baby pool last year
With a cheap tin foil-made river when we had no plastic pool

And with another cousin who couldn't resist it either!

I don't have a garden or backyard space either, but maybe the garage this summer if we're desperate.   

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Sunday, 15 March 2015

What We Do With Book Jackets

If you're anal about keeping your books good-as-new, look away right now.  
You won't like seeing what I do with them.

I've been cutting up the dust jackets on Ladybug Girl's books ever since we started buying them. 

Like a ritual, she always removed the dust covers because they got in the way of reading.  I soon got tired of being book-anal myself so I began to think of ways to squeeze some use from the covers rather than keeping them in storage or throwing them in the trash.

We have this box in her art shelf for making collages or artwork:
A few books into this, I've delegated the cutting to Yaya  

I lost the pictures of some of the artwork from this box, but you get the idea.  Sometimes we take the box to bed at night, and I choose a random cut-out and ask if she remembers the book and what happened in the story.  Just fun.

If you're really serious about squeezing more use out of the covers, cut out the words.  I left this invitation to make her own silly phrases which is really sneaky practice in early creative writing.  This one was inspired by the Montessori movable alphabet.

All it is my favorite contact paper stuck down to her easel, sticky-side out:

We had a good laugh after I got home to see what phrases she made.

Last one to share is my favourite.  You know how the dust jackets print a preview of what the book is about?  I have that cut up too along with the title.  Like an answer sheet, she has to stick the correct title to match the preview.  This one was inspired by the hands-on Montessori nomenclature work where a child matches cards.  Something like this:

And this:

That's still contact paper stuck down to the tray, sticky-side up

I once used a box-lid and washi-tape instead of the whole contact paper set-up.  Washi tape re-sticks easily so it's easy to move around the titles:

As an early reader it was one of her favourite activities to do. 

If you're wondering how our cover-less books are doing, I've never missed them.  Those hardcovers are pretty sturdy!  Sometimes you have to let go of the extras if you want to make shortcuts.  

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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A Shortcut to Art Appreciation

It's only through my daughter's Montessori education that art ever entered my consciousness.  I don't recall ever studying art or music appreciation at traditional school, do you?  Montessori places huge value in art as a form of expression, abstraction and imagination.  

The classrooms use nomenclature cards to build an awareness, vocabulary and interest in artists' works.  I've seen many great homeschool resources online for you to DIY your own art card sets.  Basically you download, print, laminate and cut  -- I've tried it.

My laminating machine is a grossly under-utilised capital expenditure ever since.

This is my working-mom solution:

That's our art-appreciation shelf up there.  Thankfully there are some wonderful art books nowadays that make art appreciation so interesting and easy.  Even I'm excited to get a little lesson in culture!

A few of our art books on rotation

In the last five months, it's been our practice to reach for one of these books and read a few pages as a bedtime story.  I posted this on Instagram some months back:

My fellow-student in art-appreciation, reading ahead of me.

The sad truth is that I didn't get these books in local bookstores.  The leftmost was from The Learning Basket and the rest I got in Kinokuniya during some business trips to Singapore.  Good-luck finding them amid the shelves and shelves of cartoon characters in Manila's stores.  Care to join a petition for bookstores to carry more literature, less commercial crap?   

I did find some great sticker art workbooks in Fully Booked which I happily deconstructed for some leave-behind activities:

Even I can cut out sticker shapes in three minutes!

Sometimes we do them together during our floor time at night, and sometimes I come home to this:

We talk casually about the art - just simple stuff we notice like shapes, colors, medium, style, and our feelings about it.

When she's gone through the entire workbook, I rip out the pages and use her art gallery wall to display them.  Yaya does the sticking!  

Andy Warhol Gallery

Paul Klee Gallery

Ladybug Girl was at a branch of Sonja's Cupcake for a gingerbread-decorating session last Christmas.  There were art prints around the cafe and she named Leonardo da Vinci and Andy Warhol.  It works!

We go to the Ayala Museum every time there's a new exhibit on the top floor, and even I'm building up some awareness and appreciation of Filipino artists.  It sounds weird, but being a mother has made me excited to know art with Ladybug Girl as if it were my first time.  

I guess because it is!  

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Give Your Bathroom a Montessori Makeover

Nearly every room in our home has a bit of Montessori inspiration in it.  Our bathroom is no exception!  With the amount of use and play it gets, the changes we've done are totally worth it.

(corporate lingo ahead)

Let's first "align-on-the-principles" : Montessori pays careful attention to creating an environment that encourages children to learn through exploration and independence.  If you think of these two things for a child in a bathroom, you'll find big and small ways to make a difference.

Here's our "before" picture when we moved in:
Goodbye 1970s tiles!

We made everything white to bring the bright sunshine in:

Notice that we kept that low wall separating the shower area?  We knew we would share this bathroom with kids someday, so that was going to be their makeshift bathtub in there.

The orange potty seat marks her official moving in to share the space when she turned two.  Little did I realise that we would soon happily turn the space over to her.  Why?  Because we wanted to sleep. 
At three years old, getting up in the middle of the night to help her pee was getting very old very fast.  When Awesome Guy found this at half-price off, he couldn't resist getting it installed:
A teeny toilet - independence down to flushing by herself!
Granted that we could only do this because we had a master's bathroom for ourselves, but this teeny toilet changed everything.  At six years old, her bladder still wakes her up at night - so far that toilet has paid for itself by giving me three years of full sleep.

 It was strangely fascinating to see this little person do everyday grown-up things.  I always love watching Montessori classrooms because of that.  So I guess we got hooked.  

A year later, when we needed to switch out the sink because cockroaches would hide under the pedestal, we found out that the pipe fixtures were low enough to transfer our old master's sink at kid-height.  So here's what happened next:

A lowered sink!
Since we used an adult-sized sink, the basin was large.  Even at its lowered height she needed a step stool until she grew tall enough to reach the mixer handle.

But an adult-sized sink means a wide basin for play!
She loves bringing her baby bath over to make a mini bubble bath

Here's a tour of the little DIY-touches that make our space constantly evolving as she grows.

First the sink area:

The sink area : entirely functional for independent hygiene
... Or a creative art idea
... Or a flashcard lesson.

The toilet area:

Within reach and easy to press down for little fingers
The area in front of the toilet has a towel to wipe after she uses the bidet;
plus extra hooks for storage all at kid-height 

The wall above the toilet converts adult towel racks into an open storage area.  I leave the green night light on for safety when she pees while we're asleep ; the yellow light is for my light fetish at night.

The shower area has these kid-height shelves and more hooks for toy storage.  You can tell we've got some usual bath time and play time rituals by the stuff we keep handy:

 Our bath and shampoo double as our play tools, and I like having them out handy to teach her to wash herself... and everything else.  It's part Montessori, part fun.  This is also the reason why I chose not to use a hugely expensive brand and turn into a control freak over dosage.

For obvious reasons today, I love Johnson's Baby with a passion.  Hahaha - call it fate!

I know it may seem like a lot of fuss over a bathroom, but for our home it's made such a difference.  I still smile when she announces, "I have to make pee!" and races off by herself.  I still love to see her exploring play in the shower area (here and here and here).  Her playmates love coming over and using the bathroom effortlessly.   

And... I 

That's the guided tour, folks.  Try a little (or a lot) of Montessori in your bathroom!

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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Leave a Valentine-Making Station

Ever since Ladybug Girl turned old enough to understand Valentines day, we've made cards.  Just cards.  You would think that with all the craze and craft ideas out there, I would cook up something fancy.  

Nope, I've stuck with cards.  Here's why.

Materials are cheap and plenty:  

paper, stickers and pens.  bam.

 It makes for great no-brainer floor time together after work:
Doing it together models the practice, and the value of thoughtfulness

And best of all - you've got an instant high-interest activity tray for leave-behind play!  If you didn't know this yet, I love a good activity that Ladybug Girl can have fun learning with while I'm at the office.  There's a whole gallery built on this here.

In our early years, I started leaving behind super-simple card-making prompts like this:

that started out as a blank card, pink and red pencils, and cool stickers

A year older, I began to leave a box for letter-making.  Which she later filled with her finished cards and marked for the occasion:

The "Val(entine's) Day Box" : so special, she wrote in real letters instead of her then-usual scribbles.

Growing collection inside the box.
You can tell she wasn't big on handwriting then, but she brought the box to school and handed valentines out to her classmates

This year, to encourage her to actually write words on the cards, our card-making station looks like this:
We had all these materials in her art shelf, just now repurposed for Valentines

The top reason I've stuck with card-making year after year?  I see how she's grown better at it.
First her handwriting:

But best of all, her thoughtfulness.
This year I'm amazed how she had personal insight into each person she chose.

Raj gets the minecraft card; Allie gets her favourite cookies all over hers; and so on.

Sometimes the simplest traditions are the best, don't you think?

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