Monday, 29 June 2015

Goodbye, DIY Moveable Alphabet

It's time to say goodbye to our DIY Moveable Alphabet, which was a staple on our shelves for a good three years.  This was our very last activity last year - Ladybug Girl was five.  

Her answers to the question "what do you pack for a sleepover?"
She had her first sleepover guest then, and I cut out this picture from a workbook page as a prompt.
In case you're a new reader (*hey*) and wondering what the heck a moveable alphabet is, it's a classic Montessori material that helps kids write before the reading skills kick in.  Montessori believed that expressing oneself comes naturally before reading someone else's words.  Spelling is not even corrected until elementary years (I had to get used to that).

I haven't seen the real power of this because I work during the day and Ladybug Girl is a pretty early reader, but I did see that it built confidence in making words without the pressure of correct spelling.  I relaxed on spelling when she was in preschool, and it helped our playtime that I wasn't correcting her all the time. 

Take this journal entry last year:

When your parents work, you can't wait for the weekend.

A moveable alphabet helps kids get familiar with the phonics sounds of letters to make words.  So they're more empowered to just write their thoughts by sounding their way through making words.
I see some Montessori homes online that continue to use the movable alphabet beyond pre-school years, but I really want her to use her handwriting for practice.  

I downloaded these free guides from Handwriting Without Tears, put them in clear plastic sleeves and a clipboard and whip them out when I spot some trouble with a letter:

I also used a leave-behind tray with a cursive workbook opened to a letter-of-the-day for practice:

As for our Melissa and Doug letter magnets, I have lovingly packed them and thanked them; and they will be going to our garage sale soon.  It's so bittersweet parting with our wooden toys but I'm determined to KonMari my home from top to bottom!  

Watch the sidebar of this blog or drop me an email if you'd like first dibs on the good stuff we've used.  

I'd like to say I'm excited for what's next but the truth is I'm more anxious than anything. 
I'm doing my thing - tons of research - and testing things out at home.    
Wish me luck!

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See our moveable alphabet archive here.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Sensory Lessons from A Smurf Village

My six-year old has discovered Smurfs through a game app on her iPad (hello, new generation!).  She plans her little village and checks it everyday like a master planner.  Before she sleeps at night she has to have "one last check to collect resources, pleeeease mommy"  

 You know how the experts say to follow your child's interests, right?  In a sneaky #playforreal plan, I "suggested" she take a break from her iPad and make her own Smurf village.  

Her eyes lit up and we got planning!

I rolled out our trusty sensory drawer bin, and brought it to her room (my house has been a huge decluttering project mess in the other areas lately).  Looking around for materials and thinking aloud, I grabbed some tree stumps from her nature corner and asked her what we can use for the roofs.  

Nowadays I see that she's changing into a new stage of interests and just as I suspected when she turned two, I'm observing this changing person and am trying to follow her lead again. 

Playdoh was her answer to roofs.  These were materials gathered in a minute flat!

I suppose this foot in the rice was inevitable - she loves doing it - but I was still surprised that our sensory bin was still going strong even if she is a little past the pre-school age:

 I let her brainstorm with me how we would make the details of huts, and after rummaging through our always-accessible craft shelf she found some matchsticks:

And they became the doors:

Mixed some pink for Smurfette's hut:

And put the little village together: we don't even have Smurf toys and it was fine!  She enjoyed planning how to make Smurfs and a village square but we never got back to it.  This would keep happening:

  She just loved running her hands through the rice over and over in the middle of fixing the village.

Progress after half an hour - this is a really nice peaceful and easy wind-down activity after school days.

The village is all done with no Smurf figures but that didn't stop her from playing pretend and just enjoying her sense of sight and touch at the bin,  She would murmur stories quietly to herself while running her hands through the rice:

I caught her having quiet time like this even after our play time and dinner was done, just before our bedtime bath.  I thought she was over the sensory stage but its magic lives on in a different way this time.

In this case, our sensory bin was a calming moment that didn't have to resort to an iPad.  I think we need a lot of those after school nowadays.   Big school makes kids grow up so fast that sometimes simple sensory play can be the perfect therapy to just be a child.

  Before, she learned the about the world through sensory play.
Today, it's teaching her the peaceful joy of just being in the moment.

Don't grow up too fast, Ladybug Girl.

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See how our sensory bin was made and get play ideas here:

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Grab the Number Stick! Game

Continuing to share how we play with number sticks.  I try not to get too "teacher-y" with them since she already has Montessori beads at school and I haven't had success trying to be a serious teacher at home!  This one is perfect for after-work brain-tired play time.  It's so easy it's almost lazy.

The secret is to get someone else who doesn't know number sticks.  In our case, it's our Daddy.   
Ladybug loves beating her daddy and he loves heckling along. 

We dumped all our number sticks in a bin and got ready to play.

I yell out an "equation" and whoever grabs the right answer stick wins the point.

"What is black plus gray!"

That's number stick language for "7+3".  And whoever grabs a 10 (orange) first wins.

"What color is red plus green?"
"If orange gives away a red what will it become?"
"What is two times of a yellow?"
"Show me a twenty-five!"

You get the idea.  Since number sticks work with pretty much any level of math, from building basic number sense of how many things are to basic equations to fractions and so on, you can yell out questions that match your child's math level.  If you have two children of different levels you can yell out different equations for each to answer separately.  

After every question is yelled, chaos ensues.

And cheating and heckling, of course, whenever Daddy is her playmate:

The playing field is even because Daddy doesn't know his stick colors!

Sometimes we switch referee duties, and Ladybug Girl gets to make up her own equations.

Fine family fun on a weeknight.  
Who would've thought math would be so useful?! Ha ha

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New to number sticks?  Check out our archive here.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Japanese Toys I Wish I Had

This summer we joined the mass excursion to Japan for the cherry blossoms.  I ended up bringing home a camera-full of my weakness : children's toys and books of the really cute, well-designed kind.  

Beautiful wooden legos which would probably get dirty in my house

These cute hand-drawn stamps which won't get any use.
Her favourite snack in an adorable wooden version.  
If this wasn't a set, I'd add this to our collection of pantry food that she never plays with anymore.
The safest, cutest stepstool you ever did see.
Those two wooden knights were almost irresistable.  They were large for smaller kids to play with.
And these retro plastic Kewpie dolls!  Just too cute.
Speaking of dolls, these are THE BEST  Star Wars versions I've seen anywhere.  I might just pretend to be a fan for these!
You might have seen the little Yoda on my desk on Instagram - he's my enneagram symbol.

But my heart belongs to wooden toys (Ladybug Girl couldn't care less).

A purple mini cooper?  Why didn't I buy you, little guy?
An advent calendar!  If only I had more disposable income for you beautiful, horrendously expensive thing!
I honestly would have started with these blocks if they were in Manila.
This is a tower reminiscent of a famous building in Harajuku.  I watched an old man make it in five minutes flat.

Look how they display toys at Isetan -- the Japanese use leave-behind trays too!  Haha!

I would be willing to buy a lot of these cute wooden trays to display toys at our Montessori-inspired playroom.

May I share my little slice of Japanese heaven with you?   

A nook of curated children's toys and books inside a Starbucks cafe in Roppongi Hills.  Browsing heaven.

I bought this!  For our DIY geography study at home.

This was Ladybug's Girl only purchase on this trip:

A wooden camera with a fisheye lens -- I want it for myself!
And so does her adorable cousin. 

Ah Japan, you were a different world.

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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Instructions for Giving Kids Instructions?

I notice a pattern when I'm giving Ladybug Girl instructions - that I kind of suck at it.  For someone who considers myself a pretty clear communicator, it's embarrassing to keep unlearning the same lesson in hindsight over and over again.

It's so laughingly simple, I need to pass this on so I can remember it.

You know how good corporate communication rules say instructions are like a K.I.S.S. = Keep it Simple, Stupid. Short and Sweet?  I thought I did that every time.

For example, this activity I asked her to help me with  - tearing parsley for cooking.  I hand her a bowl and ask her to break off some parsley leaves.  In my head, I was a fun empowering mama.  

Until I watched her tear stalks (photo above) and I stepped in to correct her.  "No, not like that...".  

I could literally see her wilt in disappointment.  On bad days, moan "awwwww" in frustration with herself.   In an instant I had taken away the independence and confidence I was hoping to create.  By correcting her.

Because I didn't give the right instructions in the first place!

She grudgingly went back to work.  But she didn't enjoy it anymore.

So for kids, the simple rule is to K.I.S.S. - Keep It Short & Show [me].  

If I had started with less talk, more actions and literally showed her how to break off the leaves without the stalks then I imagine the process and the result would be much more pleasant.  

After all, in Montessori teacher-presentations-to-students, sometimes no words are used!  It's all action so that the child can concentrate on understanding one thing at the start.

Whenever I remember to show her an example, it always works out best.  Without fail.

Such a simple thing to remember, right?

Damn epidural.

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