Wednesday, March 19, 2008

DIY dollhouses

I don't have girls but if you do, check this out

I would have totally loved that as a young girl. A great way to use old catalogs and mags.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Muffin Tins

So the animals got a totally luxurious private bath at the Muffin Tin Day Spa the other morning.

The muffin tin in the above picture actually rusted that day because the animals soaked for too long.


I set the muffin tin out on our deck with the intent of re-storing it somewhere besides my kitchen (like for a future mud pie kitchen) because it is pretty much un-usable now. While it was out there, Schmeese found it and started gathering rocks to put in each cup. Totally on his own with no prompting. He did that for like 15 minutes.

Muffin pans are wonderful. I can remember my mother using them with my little sister. She went to the local "teachers lab" where they had an Ellison press and she cut and laminated tiny paper hearts (maybe like an inch by an inch) and she would have my little sister sort them into the muffin tins by color. She has also used colored buttons for sorting. You could use little shapes or letters or numbers.

Cost: Pretty much free unless you wanted to go and laminate the little paper hearts

Friday, March 14, 2008

Takin' it back to the old school

'cause I'm an old fool who's so cool.

When I taught sixth grade before becoming a mother I realized that my students didn't know JACK-SQUAT about geography. They could possibly name and locate half of the states, but a small percentage of them would be able to find the U.S. on a world map.

Because our area of study was world history I took geography to heart and had a goal to have my students label on a map EVERY country of the world. Lofty goal eh? I had parents tell me, "Really, you think they can do that? Memorize EVERY country of the world and be able to label them on a map?" I would say back to them, "At different points in the year, they will have experienced labeling the entire world. I do not expect them to remember it all at the end of the year but they will at least have been exposed to every continent and every country so that when they hear War in Iraq on the news they have a vague idea, if not know exactly, where Iraq and the Middle East are."

At the beginning of the school year I gave them a large blank world map and asked them to fill out as many countries as they could. I think the most countries correctly labeled averaged between 3-5 or so.
If that.
The US, Canada, Mexico, and then a sampling of China, Great Britain, Brazil, France, Japan. Hardly any variation from those.

It was sad.

By the end of the year when we did the same exercise again they labeled dozens upon dozens - some nearing 100. They were floored at their own knowledge and they felt empowered.

We would do monthly quizzes on different regions. I owe much of their success to this website.

Warning - the site is addictive. After I made that goal for my class I decided that I couldn't have a goal for my class that I hadn't conquered myself. I spent a good solid week on that site a couple weeks before school started and I felt like I had a good handle on the world.

Because of school mandated curriculum and testing, many very worthwhile subjects have been thrown out the window. If your child's teacher is not keen on teaching geography, take matters into your own hands and get your family a little more world-savvy. Buy a world map and display it prominently somewhere in your home. Use that site with your older ones. World map place mats or US states place mats? Puzzles? games?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Going on a Lion Hunt

Swabby wakes up between 6:00-6:30 and this mama is usually not keen on getting up just yet. I usually sweep him up out of his crib and bring into me for a morning snuggle. Schmeese wakes up around 7:00 and is rarin' to go. He finds us under the covers and joins the party.

It reminds me of fond memories I have of my siblings and I finding mom (and dad on the weekends) in the morning and joining her, one by one until there are five of us snuggled in the queen sized four poster bed; elbows in faces, knees in tummies, like a family puzzle.

I've been trying to stretch out our days a bit. Enjoy each part of it. Because I don't have school aged children and no particular place to be in the morning I lay in bed a bit longer with them.

And we play bed-games.

The favorite one lately is Lion Hunt (although Schmeese just calls it "Yie-eee"). We all, four month old Swabby included, throw the sheets up and hide underneath quietly and patiently. I turn to Schmeese wide-eyed and asks him what he sees.

Answers I have been given:
"Ummmmm.... Yie-eee????" (Lion)
"Ummmmm... ooh ooh?" (monkey)
"Ummm....... wee-oh weeoh?" (whale)
"Ummmm...goggie?" (doggy)

As soon as he spies the beast we just go crazy. Kick the legs, flail the arms, pretend we are running like mad to get away from the whatever it is. The baby LOVES it (I sort of protect him during the craziness part)

Then we throw off the sheet in relief and pretend that we barely made it.

And then the sheet gets thrown up again and it starts all over.

Variations: This doesn't have to be on a bed. You could play on the couch or the floor with a blanket if you wish. You could also pretend that one of the people playing was the actual animal and the other person had to guess what they saw in the sheet jungle.

Cost: FREE assuming you have a sheet and a bed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

animal wash

Not just a dog wash, my friends.
We got out our jar o' animals and they got a good washing.
You can get tube-fuls of little plastic animals many places. I happened to find them at Ross (dress for less) for around $3 a tube. farm animals, jungle animals, sea animals. Between my mother and I hitting the Rosses here in MD and there in CA we pretty much have the whole collection.
Since water playing time isn't an option outside now, The Schmeese loves nothing more than standing on a chair in front of the sink for a good half hour.
dipping animals in and out of bubbly water, making them swim,
filling up cups and containers and dumping them into each other,
washing the baby's bottles :)

above is another day with just containers and no animals.

Variations: a Barbie bubble bath, a car wash, an army man underwater excursion- maybe the army men can be pirate men??

Cost: Free - just use the toys you have.