Posts Tagged ‘raising preschoolers’

Mobile First Aid

We’ve been enjoying the nice weather this weekend by spending most of the day in the local park, biking. Actually I haven’t been biking, we’ve been getting the kids out on their bikes. My 8-year-old picked up biking right away. You know the saying ‘it’s like riding a bike’, what do you say when you’re talking about riding a bike? My 5-year-old is learning to ride a two-wheeler and he’s actually done really well in just 2 days.

My 3-year-old has a scooter bike, you know the kind without pedals that you just scooter along. She’s doing really well on her scooter bike but of course she doesn’t go nearly as fast as the other two peddlers. This started to discourage her and she didn’t want to bike anymore.

Than a solution…

Since she holds the Band-Aids in the little bag attached to the front of her bike, she became the Mobile First Aid unit. My oldest scraped her leg with her pedal, the Mobile First Aid unit scooted over to apply a Band-Aid. My 5-year-old got stuck in quicksand (don’t ask). The Mobile First Aid unit was there to pull him to safety. She now had a reason to scoot around the park and it didn’t matter that she wasn’t going fast, her older siblings were waiting for her.

That’s all she really wanted anyway.

Welcome to Kindergarten

You may already know my youngest daughter starts kindergarten this fall and how I’m a bag full of mixed emotions. This week our school, like many elementary schools across the province, held a kindergarten orientation for both the kids and the parents.

Most after school activities rotate around her older siblings (5 and 8-years old) so she was thrilled that this night was all about her; it was all she talked about the night before at bedtime, during the day, even during dinner time.

We arrived very early, almost the first ones there, due to my daughter’s uncharacteristically fast walking this evening. After an initial welcoming from the principal, the kindergarten teacher and the parent council representative, the kids (and parents) were divided into groups among four activity stations. Each station represented different aspects in the kindergarten room.

Reading Corner – There was a bookshelf containing a variety of different books, plus chairs and a carpet. The kids grabbed some book while the teacher explained how reading and language skills are dealt with in the classroom. She offered parents some tips on encouraging and building the child’s love and understanding of books too. My oldest daughter attended with us and relished in reading books to her sister.

Play dough – Next the group rotated to the play dough corner. Not surprisingly play dough activities seem to be the most popular in the classroom, according to the teacher. She talked about how beyond just playing with it, kids develop language and social skills, fine motor and creativity. Play dough is also great at exploring math concepts like more and less, big and little, numbering and so on. And here you thought it was just for grinding into the carpet. Arts and Crafts – This was my daughter’s favourite table, arts and crafts. The teacher talked about how using crayons and cutting help build fine motor skills important for writing. The arts and crafts area is use to explore a child’s creativity in pictures and stories. Even my 8-year-old loved this table and both girls didn’t want to leave for the next activity. Letters – The last activity area the kids explored was the letters section. Here the kids matched foam letters to a letter mat and played with letters on a magnet board. The teacher explained how to help kids at home with letter recognition with similar activities or getting them to point out letters they know in a story or on a cereal box, to talk about the letters used in their name and the names of their friends and families. Talking about the shape and sound of letters also helps in reading skills, word formation and spelling. She also said if parents are teaching kids to write their name at home, one of the first words kids learn to write, they should be taught that only the first letter in their name is upper case and all the other letters are lower case. Most kids are taught to write their whole name in upper case as these are easier letters to write, but it becomes a difficult habit to break in school. I know first hand about this with my son; it took us a long time to get him to write his name upper/lower. My youngest loved going to her kindergarten night with her big sister though I did have to remind my 8-year-old that the activities were meant for the kindergarten kids. Like a great older sister she wanted to help her younger sister roll the play dough flat or cut out shapes but that sort of defeats the purpose of learning on her own. It was hard for my oldest to stand back and observe, just like me. She’ll be a great mom one day. The last part of the evening was a bag of goodies for each kindergarten student. The bag contained information on local library programs and pre-screening tests, plus it included a whole bunch of supplies: crayons, paper, scissors, letters, even play dough with a play dough recipe. My daughter was so excited about her bag, she carried it all the way home on her own. And the next day she loaded her backpack and walked around the house pretending to go to school. The summer may go very slow for my eager daughter but it will zip by for me.

Review: LeapFrog Scribble and Write

I’ll admit it, I love gadgets and gizmos and fun tech devices but my love isn’t limited to items just for me. We’re big fans of LeapFrog in our house. They make great educational products that are a lot of fun for kids. And a company that can combine fun with educational is popular with my kids and me.

My five-year-old son has been reading with his Tag Reading System and my three-year-old loves exploring books with her Tag Junior. I’ve developed a comparison chart if you’re not really sure about the difference between the two.

Along with reading we’ve been working on my son’s writing or fine-motor skills. He’s more of an active guy so it’s hard to get him to sit still very long, unless it’s building with Lego. With this in mind, Leapfrog sent along to us their Scribble and Write to try.

Designed for a Little Hands

The Scribble and Write is compact and light so kids can carry and hold it easily. The writing pen is stubby and has groves at the tip making it easy for small hands to hold. The grips and the curved design help young kids who are learning to hold a writing instrument correctly for the first time. The pen is also tethered to the Scribble and Write so you don’t have to worry about it getting misplaced and when it’s not being used there’s a handy storage area for it on the back.

The alphabet buttons are raised to make sure little fingers find and press the letter they want without frustration. The write on/whip off writing tablet is big too, ideal for practicing those letters and shapes in a nice large size. Kids don’t actually write on the Scribble and Write but instead the pen tracing on the tablet brings up the marks that can be wiped off by the slider at the bottom (like a modernised Etcha-Sketch).

The four learning options are accessible by an easily moveable slider at the top and each option is indicated by an image; no reading required. There is a power off on the slider but like most LeapFrog items, it will turn off on its own if your child walks away and forgets about it.

Learning Games

The Scribble and Write is designed to progress with your child’s interest and abilities. There are four different areas: Shapes, Uppercase Letters, Lowercase Letters, and Game.

Each activity is guides by a voice giving them instructions to follow the flashing dots on tablet. The dots move, illustrating the steps the child has to take whether drawing a shape or a letter. And Scout is always there (in voice) to encourage and cheer the kids at each step.

With Shapes kids learn to draw basic shapes like lines and circles and then move into complicated zigzags. The shapes are based on moves kids will need when drawing letters. My three-year-old loves doing the shapes. Some she already knows how to draw and some are new. This tracing activity also helps reinforce shape recognition.

With Letters (both Uppercase and Lowercase) the principle is the same as with the shapes: the letter is drawn on-screen with instructions and then the child traces over it. Both Shapes and Letters wait for your child to finish their turn so there’s no need to rush to complete the letter. Once done (kids tell the machine when they’re finished by pressing a button) the dots disappear and kids can see clearly the letter they drew. My five-year-old son loved this; he loved seeing his letter and how close it looked to the letter that he traced.

If your child is looking for more of a challenge, there is also the Game. Here the lighted dots appear randomly on the tablet and the kids try to guess what the letter is before it’s revealed. After that they trace it for reinforcement. Then they’re rewarded with a fun activity: follow Scout. Kids follow the moving dot on the tablet with their pen and don’t know what they are drawing until the end (though they will probably guess as they go).

What the Kids Think

As a parent I love the idea of learning games; kids love to play them and because they’re fun they don’t really think they’re learning anything. It’s reassuring to see that kids agree. My three-year-old and five-year-old both enjoy using the Scribble and Write, and for very different reasons:

Beyond Scribble and Write

The best part of this toy is when my kids aren’t using it. And what I mean by that is my son actually loves writing on paper now too. Before it was a chore to get him to write anything; he’d get frustrated with his abilities. Now with his fun practice he actually has started labeling his pictures and doing other writing projects on paper. And my three-year-old? I’ve caught her practicing to do her shapes on paper too.

LeapFrog Scribble and Write
Age: 3+
MSRP: $24.00 Cdn

Toddler versus Toilet

There are many stages kids go through that are memorable: when they become mobile by rolling or crawling or walking, when they start to eat solids and feed themselves, even learning to talk with loud screeches and constant questions is a special time. Of all the memorable childhood stages there is one I don’t look forward to at all. You know the one.

Toilet Training.

I dread this. At first the idea of transitioning from diapers and pull-ups into underwear is exciting, but after months of cajoling and laundry the excitement begins to wear off.

I remember with my first-born the discussion among moms would be about how early their child was toilet trained. As a first time mom I fell into the trap. I stressed about my daughter being toilet trained by 18 months and she was, for a few months anyway. I quickly discovered that my daughter had her own goal. We were off and on pull-ups for the next year. It wasn’t until just before her third birthday that I could confidently say she was toilet trained.

When  it was time to train my son I tried to stay calm, remembering the stress of the toilet training process with my oldest. I expected he would be trained by around his third birthday so I didn’t worry too much, until his third birthday was around the corner. I wanted to book him  into summer camp but kids have to be toilet trained to attend. After a few failed attempts I decided I would book him in camp anyway. Worst case I would have to cancel. I guess that was enough incentive. My son was completely trained a few days after camp registration.

You would think with two kids having gone through this stage I would know what to expect and not get so obsessed. Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment. I did start well, not worry about toilet training or even broaching the subject with my now three-year-old. If she wanted to sit on the potty or the toilet I’d let her but I wouldn’t turn it into a bathroom training session.

I did buy my daughter motivational underwear and eventually she learned to go pee on the toilet. She has the occasional accident but I can usually trust her to tell me when she has to go pee. But bowl movements are a whole other story. Now perhaps I’ve given mixed messages in the beginning, like when we were out and wanted her to use a pull-up so I wouldn’t be in a mad panic to find a bathroom, but since she turned three we’ve only used pull-ups at night (night-time training is a whole other game). With her using the bathroom regularly to pee I thought the next stage would follow closely behind (no pun intended). No such luck.

My daughter has taken to hiding in a secret corner to go poop. I’ve tried all the tricks that worked with my other two: taking her to the bathroom at key times, getting her to sit with a book on the toilet. I’ve even tried incentives like sticker and treats. It’s been a real hit and miss with her. Now she only turned three in December so she does have time before summer camp and school begins. I guess I haven’t learned much from my past experiences, except for the fact that I’m a little obsessive.

I am trying to not stress over this and not stress my daughter but if you know any tricks that have worked for you, please share them. PLEASE.

It’s Dancey Dance time

My three-year old daughter is a lot like me, shy and reserved (unlike her older siblings). But when she comes out of her shell she’s very funny. Last Christmas my daughter received a dancing Brobee doll, from the show Yo Gabba Gabba (which even as an adult I love, though we don’t get in on our non-cable TV). Many days Brobee sits in my daughter’s room by her door, just hanging out. She’ll say ‘hi’ to him, pet him on the head, maybe give him the occasional hug. But the real fun begins when Brobee and my daughter start dancing.

Here’s something to get you in the mood for the fun weekend ahead. Happy Friday!

Review: Tickle Tap Apps, preschool fun for the iPhone

I must admit, after I set-up my iPhone, one of the first things I did was tap my way over to the Apple App Store to check out all the cool (and in some cases bizarre) apps I could now get on my phone. I was like a kid in a candy store.

Of course my kids were interested too, even my youngest at just two. When I heard about Tickle Tap Apps, iPhone fun designed for kids 3 to 5 specifically, I had to check them out.

There are currently three completed apps available: Sort Slider, Count Caddy, and Sound Shaker but there are plans for seven more.

Sort Slider ($1.99) is a shape matching game. The screen consists of two fun shapes, like say a flower pot and a tree branch, and a silhouette of one of the shapes. Your child needs to match the silhouette to the correct shape by either tilting the iPhone to slide the silhouette shape or touching and dragging the silhouette shape.  As your child completes matches successfully, Harvey the dog barks enthusiastically and does tricks to encourage them.

My daughter loved playing this; she especially loved when Harvey did tricks after so many correct matches. The movement, either sliding or touching, was easy for her to master. And there’s no negative feedback which is great; if a child slides a silhouette over the incorrect shape nothing happens. The game continues until the slide the shape correctly. The number of shapes is limited but the variety of combinations and placements always makes this game feel new, never repetitive.

Count Caddy ($1.99) helps children learn and practice counting. Jinja the cat encourages kids to drag the balls of yarn into a circle. They start with one, then two and so on up to eight. After accomplishing counting by ones, Robin the bird has them count feathers by twos and Harvey the dog has the kids count bones by threes (and the number count goes higher, to almost twenty). Along with the repetitive audio, the numbers are reinforced visually with the balls of yarn (or features or bones) and the actual number. There are three levels overall and once they are all completed they can be played over again.

My daughter had a little bit of difficulty with the touch and drag, but she quickly figured it out with assistance. She loved the different animals, though she’s only made it half-way through counting by twos. As my daughter played, she became familiar with the numbers and would recite them along with the game.

Sound Shaker ($1.99) is a fun, interactive music making app. Kids can choose from six different sound categories, like chimes, drums or even barn animals. Once they have their sound chosen, they can add it to the screen. A simple tap and a sound ball appears. The longer they hold their finger on the screen a bigger sound ball appears with a different tone of the sound they choose. But that’s not the best part. Once your child has added all the sounds they want, tilt the phone to hear a new musical masterpiece as all the sound balls roll around the screen.

I think this was my daughter’s favourite app out of the three (mine too actually). I love how creative this is. My daughter especially loved the surprise of the bird when she held her finger on screen for a long time. On the streetcar ride home my daughter would play and passengers all around were craning their necks to watch her. The sound is wonderful too, not tinny and annoying to your ears (which is good because your kids will be playing this for a long time).

All three apps, Sort Slider, Count Caddy and Sound Shaker have fun colourful graphics. The layout is very clean, no cluttered background images, which makes it easy for young kids to concentrate on the task at hand, having fun.

I can’t wait to see what’s instore for the next seven Tickle Tap Apps. If they’re anything like these three, I’ll have to own them, ALL.

I have to thank Limelite PR and zinc Roe Design for giving me access to these three apps for my review.

A Parent’s job is a sleepless job

Nothing like a nap

When my kids were little I expected to get up at night. But waking at night wasn’t just reserved for when my kids were babies. It seemed that every time my kids were learning a new skill they’re sleep patterns would suffer.

But the sleepless nights do pass; I think knowing that is what has kept me sane. My oldest daughter and my son sleep soundly through the night, sometimes to the point that it’s next to impossible to get them up the next day. I was even starting to think that my youngest daughter was giving up her night waking too.

All that changed a few nights ago. I was awoken by my youngest daughters sobbing cries. These cries were different, they were full of fear and distress. Usually my daughter doesn’t think twice about padding down the hall to my room when she wants something, but that night she wouldn’t leave her bed. Through her cries she told me she was scared; she told me she was scared of the monsters in her room.

I’ve heard kids can go through a stage of monster fear, but we’ve never encountered it, not with either of my two older kids, so this is new to me. I tried to calm her and turned on the light a little to show her nothing was there. I sprayed a little Anti-Monster Spray in the corners. I held her until she calmed down. When she was settled in her bed I said good night and prepared to leave the room but she asked if I could stay and hold her hand. Lights off, I laid down on the hard floor beside her bed and held her hand while she drifted off to sleep. By the time I worked myself back to my bed it was almost time for the alarm to go off. I was tired, but my daughter was able to sleep for the rest of the night.

The monsters haven’t visited since but I’m sure that won’t be the last time they show up. Some parents may not agree with how I handled it; some may not be so indulgent in their child’s nighttime habits when they’ve moved beyond the baby stage, but that’s why I’m responsible for my kids and they are responsible for theirs.

I’m counting on a few more years of sleepless nights (let’s not forget when my kids are teens and are out late at night or when they’ve moved out of the house and are on their own or when they’re waiting to hear on a job interview or the night before they get married or when they are expecting a child…) I guess sleepless nights are just one of those things we endure in our role as being a parent.

Now it’s time for my nap.

Write a Review Wednesday: Meeow and the Big Box

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week I ventured into the realm of non-fiction with Enslow Publishers’ Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends At the Circus (age 6 to 9), written by Jill Anderson and illustrated by Amy Huntington. This week is about the younger set. Meeow and the Big Box (age 2-4 ) is a fun book from Sterling Children’s Books and written/illustrated by Sebastien Braun. Thank you Derry from Sterling Publishing for my review copy.

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Meeow is a black cat. Meeow likes the colour red. Meeow likes to make things. What will Meeow make with red paint, a big box, an orange chair and a blue mug. Clever Meeow!

My kids love cats so they fell in love with Meeow even before we opened the book. My youngest loved the velvety feel of Meeow on the front cover of the book also; to her Meeow felt fuzzy like a real cat. The story of Meeow taking simple household elements like a brown box, a blue mug and an orange chair and using imagination to convert them into something fun, is something all kids do and can relate to. The type is big, clear and uncluttered making it easy to read. The dialog is like the a conversation the parent may have with a child, simple yet descriptive. Each step Meeow takes is described. Primary colours are used in the simple illustrations and in describing the elements Meeow uses; instead of just a chair it’s an orange chair.

I could see my two-year old trying to figure out what Meeow was trying to build. With each page turn a little more was revealed. The way the pages are layed out, the dialog encourages kids to think and guess what Meeow could be making before it’s revealed at the very end. And I love how the last page illustrates what Meeow sees the actual creation to be.

While reading Meeow and the Big Box my kids made guesses like a rocket ship or a car or a house. I love the simplicity of this story and the warm, fun, child-like nature of Meeow, but the best part of the story to me was when we finished reading. The book done, my kids went away and started making their own in home creations out of chairs and pillows and blankets. A book that impresses upon kids beyond the reading experience has to be one worth adding to your own personal library.

What is Meeow making?

You can also read the review on Meeow and the Little Chairs.

To add Meeow and the Big Box to your own personal library, visit Amazon.ca For other book suggestions checkout the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Two year olds aren’t all bad

Look at me...I'm helping.

Look at me...I'm helping.

There are many things about two year olds that drive me nuts. The need to do everything themselves, especially when you’re trying to get out the door. The mimicking of conversations that probably shouldn’t have been heard the first time. The happy/sad/angry/shy/who cares mood swings that happen within the span of two minutes. I’ve recently read Character is the Key and I understand that some of these traits are things I’ll appreciate when my daughter is an adult (I just don’t know if I can last that long).

That said, two year olds aren’t all bad. My daughter reminds me of that every day, okay, maybe every other day. One thing I like or have grown to like about my two year old is that she loves to help. Sometimes this help doesn’t come at the most convenient times: helping to sort socks..one…sock…at…a…time isn’t always helpful when I’m trying to get the laundry put away before my mother-in-law comes over and discovers you’re not that great of a house keeper after all. Sometimes the help is counterproductive: dumping all the garbage out of the bathroom trashcan to find the piece of paper at the bottom that should have been put into the recycling container instead.

But once I got past these issues and embraced the little helper I have, I find things much easier. By letting my daughter help rake leaves or set the table or put things in the garbage, she feels like she’s doing her part. And I know that if I need an extra roll of toilet paper in the bathroom or a garbage bag downstairs, my youngest will get it and without any huffing or sighing.

And secretly I hope by involving her now she’ll continue to love helping when she’s older. Okay, maybe that’s unrealistic, but we all need to dream.

Literacy Curriculum week 1: bubbles, cows and car racing

I mentioned earlier this week that I was trying out Raising Itty-Bitty Bookworm’s preschool curriculum program, the Bo program specifically (for age 3 to 5). Well we just finished our first week and what a week. This week’s program evolved around the book Mrs. Wishy Washy Farm by Joy Cowly . My kids had a great time, they were excited each morning to find out what we were doing.

I love how the activities, whether reading or science or math, all revolve around the story we read that week. The kids loved working with numbers by counting animals to put in the wash tub (plastic animals in a basket) or counting bubbles in the tub (cotton balls in a bowl).

One bubble, two bubbles...

One bubble, two bubbles...

My son especially loved the task of predicting events. We took different sized or shaped cars and raced them down a ramp (we recreate fast moving cars like in the story and try to predict which car would be the fastest and why).

Hey, let's race the small car and the big truck

Hey, let's race the small car and the big truck

I also loved how the story was included every day, in different ways: reading, predicting, acting it out. My daughter really enjoyed the creative elements of the day, like painting spots on the cow or drawing lines to create animal jail, but she especially loved creating her Mrs. Wishy Washy puppet. And then we used it the following days to retell parts of the story (a big hit).

Wishy-washy, Wishy-washy

Wishy-washy, Wishy-washy

The curriculum also included suggestions for recipes like roast on toast and chicken feed, again bringing everything back to the story. We even created bubbles with soap, water and food colouring and printed the bubbles on their wash tub page.

Look how big I can make these bubbles

Look how big I can make these bubbles

Everything but the books was included in the extensive curriculum package (a pdf I downloaded), including a daily lesson plan, suggestions for introducing the week’s letter and number, plus all the printouts needed for the activities.

The program seems to be designed with group instruction in mind, like an in-home daycare, but with a few small adjustments it worked great for just teaching my two kids. There are some great suggestions to set-up your space based on the week’s topic, letters that can be printed and given to parents, as well as evaluation worksheets and daily record keeping pages.

The kids are already looking forward to next weeks lesson.

If you’re interested in this program for your own kids, you can purchase either a CD or electronic version from the Itty Bitty Bookworm site. And since it’s by the month, you can purchase one month to give it a try (but I think you’ll find you’ll be back the following month. That’s the way we’re leaning and it’s only been the first week).

I’ve also heard that Carisa at Totally Tots and 1+1+1=1 is offering a giveaway of a whole year of either the Bo or Bailey curriculum (plus she has a great review of the program also). Contest closes October 18, 2009.

Until next week.