Thursday, 24 July 2014

Rain Splatter Art

When it's the weekend, my daughter and I rejoice because we get to play messier and for longer periods of time compared to our after-work routine on weekdays.

Now that the rainy season has come again to Manila, it's time to try this fun art play again:

Pop out a few chosen water-colour shades from the el cheapo set, a "crusher", and mess-keeper bag.

Let the little one whack to her heart's content.  Her patience lasted less than a minute.  So typical.

I think an adult and a rolling pin should finish the job - you'll see why later

Now arrange the crushed colours in a tray:

This should be ground into finer pieces - maybe with a mortar and pestle

Bring outside!  You can watch the rain make art, or you can leave it.  If you choose to leave it though, don't use trays!  We came back to a brown swimming pool.

You can't see it much in these photos, but the fine grains left the best colour

If you'd like to watch on fast forward, try this fun way:

Use food colouring!  This post from Mama.Papa.Bubba inspired our own version.

Making art in the rain?  Or letting the rain make art?

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Find more weekend play activities in the weekend-play gallery in the upper right of the blog or click over to here.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Make a Montessori Nature Corner

I was completely sold on the Montessori method as a working mom because of one of its main beliefs: a prepared environment.  If you haven't been inside a Montessori classroom yet, visit one!  You'll see for yourself how the children use their orderly surroundings to learn work, independence, kindness and respect.

I steal a lot of Montessori ideas to make my home more child-friendly.  Leaving behind a thoughtful environment for my little girl has been a huge priority for me as a working mom who has to have peace of mind while at work.  Here's the easiest way to make a Montessori-inspired space at home:

So it's basically indoor plants in a corner of her room.  But it's a good reminder of nature in the concrete jungle of Manila (and our house).  I also use it to model a respect for plants and for her to start learning responsibility in caring for them herself.  I keep all these out in the open:

You can read more about how we use the nature collection box here.

I allow her to take care of this spot all by herself.  Which, for the past year, meant this:
Miura plants from the mall never lasted
And most of these are no longer living.
(Luckily the set of plants you see on the topmost photo have been thriving for months.)

Expect a lot of experimentation even at the expense of some plants.   Part of her responsibilities are removing yellowing leaves, and she tends to get overzealous (and once killed a poor money tree that way -- I came home to a plant with leaves scotch-taped on!).  

Having a nature corner as a reminder inside does spark some more nature play:
An experiment learning how plants grow from seeds
Using the story of Planty from My Milk Toof to feel sorry for plants if they are neglected
At some point, we took care of turtles in this corner for a month, before I gave them to my team at the office for a marketing insight project.

I also encourage her to take care of the plants at home with the same activities in her Montessori school.  This one is polishing the leaves to help the pores take in oxygen.  The leaves really do get dusty:

Dip a cotton ball in some water and go to work

Not only does this encourage respect and responsibility for nature but I love it more for the fine motor skills she gets to practice:

Making a nature corner is super easy to do, and it's one of my favourite spots in her room.   If you'd like to see a gallery of other play spaces we have, click on "galleries" on the upper right page or head on over here.  

As for my own green thumb, that's another post coming.  No judgement please.  I'm also still a work-in-progress!

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Monday, 14 July 2014

The Last Month In Cartoons

Nearing the home stretch of business plan preparations for 2015.
Always the most painful time in corporate life because of this:

Source: Dilbert Comics

 But it's nothing compared to the deep shock and sadness at losing a teammate to an aneurysm after just a few days.  Dear Jesus, bless his journey to You and bless his young family left behind.

Source: Calvin and Hobbes Comics

I feel like I've aged so much in the last few weeks.
I've experienced the downside and upside of knowing and loving my husband for ten years.

Source: The Far Side Cartoon

The downside is you start to get cynical about each other's weaknesses.
The upside is that you've matured enough to let love be stronger.

I am going to feel the aftershocks of this month for months to come:

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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

DIY Montessori Movable Alphabet

Our version of Montessori's movable alphabet is still going strong in our playroom shelf!   It's one of my favourite leave-behind activities for Ladybug Girl to play with while I'm at the office.  

Want to see how we're continuing to use it?

When she was three, I discovered by trial-and-error that a home version of the Montessori movable alphabet worked best for learning letter sounds in starting to make words.  If you're new to this blog (*hello*) please see this post last year on super simple ways to get started at early preschool stage.  

We're using the same DIY set I made more than a year ago: alphabet magnets in drawer organizers.  And a cooking tray from the kitchen.

In hindsight I would have used the cheaper plastic alphabet magnets available everywhere.
These Melissa and Doug magnets went from 550 pesos to 795 pesos in a single year - crazy profit!

We still use them as Montessori intended - to enable kids to practice the sounds of the letters to make words without three hang-ups: correct spelling, legible writing and the pressure of reading aloud.  Those three things are a different set of skills that come later - otherwise they can easily discourage kids from starting to read and communicate.  I've seen all these happen with Ladybug Girl!  

Can you tell I've been reading up on this?  (*nerd cough*)   Well, we're still doing basic word-making:

I put out a simple flashcard prompt at night and sometime during the next days she chooses the letters to make the word.
Remember: don't correct the spelling unless asked!  In Montessori they start correcting spelling at Grade 2.
This one was for Halloween last October
A quick learning opportunity on the "SH" sound

Here's another way to make word-making more sensorial while working on fine motor hand strength at the same time: use moon dough as a stamping pad.  Moon dough doesn't dry up unlike play dough.

I used PlayDoh letters and numbers set and set out a stamping 'pad' made out of moon dough over a small lid.
Extra mommy credit for painstaking letter labels for my left-handed daughter, yes?  Haha

Now that Ladybug Girl is a little older at five, I can see the genius of the movable alphabet in encouraging her to write (the creative kind) even without mastering how to write (the handwriting kind).  Ladybug Girl and fine motor skills were not early friends, you see.  Massive understatement.  

I came across the idea of preschool journaling here and here, but I still need to test how it can be working-mom friendly on top of Ladybug Girl's reluctance to do handwriting.  Using our DIY movable alphabet is a start!

I leave out prompts like this:

"My favourite toys are:" invitation to make a list.
Adapt your words and handwriting to your child's skill level - example "I (heart) my toys:"

Notice the use of a big D instead of the small letter d?  She keeps doing this because that's how she learned to write the D in her name and it's gone uncorrected.  This made me realise that it's time to correct that one in her name, at least.

To make marks on the cooking tray, I used these dry-erase crayons:

Now in Toys R Us in Manila!  No more hoarding these things in Singapore!

Our last one before school started.  I'm looking forward to coming home to more stories and conversations through our movable alphabet play:

"My summer vacation story"

"Boracay, Tagaytay, Play, Write, Buy Toys" made for an interesting conversation after I got home from work.
She says "write" as "writ-uh!" with a very strong T sound in the end : hence the spelling.

For more DIY movable alphabet versions see Montessori Printshop's paper version here and Living Montessori Now's round-up of ideas here.

One hundred years old - and a year into using this at home - it's still shiny and new.  
And now it's working-mom friendly too!

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Sunday, 15 June 2014

Play to Teach Our Culture

With Ladybug Girl going into grade one this school year, I've become very conscious about modelling a love of the Philippines for her.  I find it hard because public resources for children her age are few and well, boring.

Much as I love her Montessori preschool, it is painfully Western.  They don't celebrate Linggo ng Wika or teach Filipino.   When I compare myself with how homeschooling moms abroad teach their children their culture and history, I feel pathetic.  As a working mom, I can't go through the lengths that they do, but I can try to find simple ways of my own.  

One of the nicer areas of Museo Pambata.  The rest are in pretty sad shape.

Geography.  Montessori is big on geography because of a pretty awesome philosophy: children need to know that everything in the world has a name and everything has a place in it.  In this way children become eager to learn about the world and respect their place among others in it.   

I plunked down a big amount for this poster-sized world map with magnetic pieces (not shown) because the Philippines is clearly distinguishable in the lower right corner.  We even have our own wooden magnetic piece.

She knows where we are in the Earth, but she doesn't know our regions and islands yet.  I wish we had puzzle maps of the Philippines instead of boring maps at the bookstore.  Find ways to make fun play like this:

Draw a map on the bathroom wall with bath crayons or washable markers,
then break out some washable paint

A giant Philippines map!  I pointed out places where we've been and where people we know live.

Thankfully our local publishers are catching on to this need for early Filipino learning.  I found this great beginner map as part of a freebie from this Tahanan book.

This was a made-up game of "follow the leader" as we sang the names of the three regions and stepped on each one.
And then we took out some clay and made a raised relief map of the Philippines right on top.  This was an opportunity to talk about land forms, like the fact that Mindanao is very mountainous unlike Luzon.

Language Play.  The ideal way to teach the language is by having one parent be the "native Tagalog speaker" at home - that was always the plan but never the reality.    So far we're pretty basic.  We often read one Filipino book at night before the usual English ones.  

And we have these: 

Flashcards found at Fully Booked (we're just learning our first batch on the whiteboard in her room).
This becomes a source of q&a games we like to play before bedtime at night.

I also sneak in some handwriting practice on this theme:

Scratch-off Paper from toy store as a leave-behind play tray for her to do while mommy is at the office.

Play with Art and Culture.  This should be more deliberate than it has been, but any chance to get some hands-on play with Filipino culture is great.

Palayok Play.

We cooked real rice in her clay palayok from the palengke.  Do this outside - the house reeked of smoke but we had a good laugh!

She poured in the rice and water and lit the fire with a stick.  All the while we chattered about where rice came from and how life is like this in the provinces.  She watched, wide-eyed, as I ate the rice afterwards (she didn't want to)!

Book resources we used.  The rice book is a little too advanced, so we just leafed through it.
"Araw sa Palengke" is a charming little story about how a little girl got a play clay pot just like the one we have.
I recently discovered The Learning Basket and they are a fantastic resource for Filipino literature and play.

Sungka Play.

Great counting and fine motor practice!

Bahay Kubo Play.

Just washable paint on the bathroom walls.
This was her guide from Filipino Friends book on her toilet seat!
I asked her who this guy she added was - was it a farmer?  It was the first Philippine president, "Ag-na-low"

I'm thrilled that our three museum trips have paid off!  It was only when she turned five that she began asking questions about Independence Day and so a trip to the Ayala Museum was called for.  

Third time's a charm!

Our absolute favourites at Ayala Museum.  
We love feeding the fish outside after every visit.  The koi fish are so much bigger now.

Music Play Attempt.

Awesome Guy played Francis M but it was too loud for the little girl.  Haha!  Any suggestions for music sources?

Flag Play.  Of course no play is complete without making our flag!  The single best way to spend the Independence Day holiday.

Make a flag with bubble wrap, paint, glue and glitter (see here)
I came home to this simple unplanned flag that Ladybug Girl made with her yaya

And there should always, always be leave-behind play to do while the parentals are at work.  At least in this house!  Luckily, flag crafts are the simplest to put together and we've barely scratched the surface at ideas to do.  Here's one:

We had a bundle of paper straws that were put to new use in this tray.  Ladybug Girl is an early reader so I put out signs to practice cursive reading, but I think this tray is intuitive enough even for kids who are still learning to read.

P.S.  I also hate paper straws so good riddance to these.

The secret is contact paper.  I love contact paper.

Cut a slanted shape on the paper flag (National Bookstore, 7 pesos).  Make pointed ends by taping the back.  Attach contact paper sticky side out.
Funky Flag

Model the Love for Country.  I'm realising I take learning to be a Filipino for granted, thinking my daughter will just learn a love of country on her own.  

But if I don't model it myself, I know it'll never happen.  My parents did the same for me - they were ordinary citizens who marched on Edsa in 1986.  

That's why I marched last year.

But why so serious!  Modelling a love for country can be fun.  Here's my version of geography play.

DIY Patriotism!  Made from Pantone postcards bought at Heima.

But when I asked Ladybug Girl if it looked familiar, she said "North America".
I still have some work play to do!

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