Thursday, September 19, 2013

Child-Lead Chores

We started the day working on random chores throughout the house. Then my daughter wanted to play her favorite "game" Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Typically we dress up a little (swords, pixie dust, a map, bandanas, etc...) and pretend to be jumping the water or saving something from the mean Captain Hook. After playing for quite a while, I needed to get back to cleaning but she insisted that we continue to play. I really wanted to do both. But how?

She had a map that she had created which told us where we needed to go. My husband then came home and reminded us that it was "Talk Like a Pirate Day" so we went all out. We got dressed up in full Jake and the Neverland Pirates outfits and began our adventure! (See, here is the before... I didn't do my usual 'straighten the room before I take blog pictures' routine!)

Our first stop was the library, which needed to be tidied up a bit. So, that became our "pirate problem" to solve.

We straightened up the library, grabbed our imaginary gold doubloons and took a look at our map to see where to go next.

We made our way through the house cleaning, organizing and grabbing those gold doubloons. I tried to let her pick what needed to be cleaned in each room and let her "read" the map to tell us where to go next. I did have to take charge after a while when the baby was crying and needed to join the fun (he gets to be Skully when we play)

On a car ride we looked up how to talk like a pirate and learned words like "Arrr!" and "avast!" Plus we learned what a bilge rat is (they use that phrase in Peter Pan, another one of our pirate-ing favorites!) Just a bonus for you, here is the sign language for "pirate." How fun!

Besides the fun that Talk Like a Pirate Day can be, we used an opportunity (she scribbled and called it a map) to let her lead the way to cleaning the house. It was fun and she got to do child age-appropriate chores. Now, to be honest, we did not get as much done as I would have liked, but teaching her to be responsible and take charge (and clean her room), were better payoffs in the long run than having the sparkling clean kitchen I wanted! (notice no pics from the kitchen..ha!)

Oh! If I had seen this earlier I would have done this craft...maybe next year! Check out this great treasure chest. If I had prepared a little in advance, we could have actually collected gold doubloons as we cleaned and put them in our Team Treasure Chest.

Avast, me mateys! Go, smartly and do ye chores! Whether or not you talk like a pirate while you do those chores, have fun!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bringing the Classroom Home Week 2 - Writing to a Friend

Big Sister is loving school! She knows most of the other student's names and talks about playing with them. We have talked about what makes a good friend and how to be a good friend. She did lots of exciting projects in class to learn each new friend's name.

Here's what she brought home:

The second project (garden of friends) helps me know who she is talking about and I can ask specific questions. I love to be able to ask about each friend by name.

One thing that I am not so good at is keeping in touch with old friends (sorry!). I am trying to develop good patterns in my children that I do not have. So, we started penpal-ing -is that a word? -with some friends that we see frequently but not frequently enough. 

Almost every time she makes a project she names a friend she would like to give it to. So this time, we started with a friend in mind and created something just for them. She decided she wanted to paint them a picture (they are sisters).

After we painted and let it dry, she worked on letter formation while addressing the letter to her friends. She told me what she wanted to write and I told her the letters or we sounded it out together and she got through B (apparently that was enough for Bella) and L (which was enough for Lili) as well as "thank you" and I finished it off with "for being my friend."

Next we worked on addressing the envelope. We located my phone (by calling it) and found our friend's address. She read off the numbers and letters and I wrote them down. We were also able to practice memorizing our own address (later that evening as we were driving out of the drive way, she was like "hey! Those numbers are on our house!" Uh, yeah, that's why we practice it). We stamped it and we'll put it in the mail today.

This turned out to be a fun project and reinforced the idea of being a friend. What do you do to keep your children engaged with friends? Have you ever tried penpal-ing?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Signing with Baby W

The time has come to start formally introducing baby-signing to Baby W! He is 6 months old and very observant. Since he was born, we have been doing simple signs like "diaper" and "milk" and we know that it is early to expect signs back, but now we get to start introducing more and more signs :)

The picture above was the first time we started a signing movie with him - so that is his very first reaction. Precious! This is the same reaction I've gotten from multiple children when they first see these signing videos. The program that we will use is called Baby Signing Time by Two Little Hands Productions. I am currently not affiliated with them but I have thought about becoming a Baby Signing Time day, maybe. For right now, I am just a very satisfied mom and speech therapist who uses this program almost everyday.

We used Baby Signing Time (and later Signing Time) with Big Sister when she was young. I remember the first time she used a sign to communicate with us. My husband and I were cleaning out the garage and she was in a playpen with us. She started fussing and I finally asked "what's wrong" (probably more frustrated than actually interested in the answer...and totally not expecting her to answer me back). She looked up at me and with her little 8 month old hand lifted high in the air, she signed "milk." It was then I realized that we were more than an hour past when she was supposed to eat. It was a major breakthrough for all of us. I realized that she knew what she wanted and she realized that she could tell me what she wanted.

The one question that I get the most when I talk with parents about signing with infants, toddlers or preschoolers is: "will this make their speech (more) delayed?" The answer to that is overwhelmingly "NO!"  There has been a lot of research on the topic of signing with kiddos. Signing with young children is beneficial in so many ways. It allows children to communicate earlier than with spoken words. It helps build vocabulary. It encourages language development. It's fun and visual (and we know that many kiddos learn best when things are hands-on and visual!). It can reduce melt-downs and temper tantrums since they can tell you what is bothering them.

I could go on and on about the benefits we've enjoyed as part of Big Sister knowing signs. Recently, I couldn't determine from her speech (she said "pway") if she wanted to "play" or "pray." So I asked her and signed as I asked. She was able to answer my question - in sign - which cleared up the confusion.

I can't wait to share our baby-signing journey with you. Join us. Let me know how it's going for you and any questions you may have. I'll give you my best answer or whatever solution we came up with when we encountered a similar situation at our home :) Happy signing!

Bringing the Classroom Home Week 1 - Apples

This year is going to be so different than last year. My daughter did not like school last year. Maybe it was the transition from one teacher to a different teacher. Maybe it was the fact that I was pregnant (and very sick) and things were changing rapidly for her. Maybe there was a personality conflict with the teacher (although I thought she was great) or another student. I have no idea, but I do know that she was resistant to going to school from the first day when she crossed her little two year old arms and informed me "I'm not going back in there!" to which I replied, "yes you are - tomorrow." And that was how it was from August until March. The end of the year got better and now she tells me she loved school last year. Right.

Anyway, fast forward to the start of this year and she is the happiest kid I've seen! She loves school. She tells me she loves her teachers. She loves playing with her friends. It is so great! School should be a place where kids have fun and learn (academics and social skills). We've always enjoyed looking through her backpack at the end of the day and talking about what she learned at school that day. But I've been thinking, there's got to be more. I want to take what she is learning in school and expand on that.

So, we are bringing the classroom home. I hope to take what she is doing in school and doing extension activities at home that we can either do in the evenings or we can add to her quiet time boxes.

Here's what she brought home on the first day of school:

Ok, so she is talking about apples. I think that that is perfect - even though kids don't bring apples to their teachers anymore!

We haven't done a lacing project in a while, I thought this would be a great time to do another one. I got the apple shape from here.  It turned out to be a ton of fun while we worked on many skills including preparing for the activity, a math/counting activity, an art project using dot stampers, a fine motor cutting activity and a following directions activity.

Now, we have a new lacing activity to add to one of her quiet time boxes, plus it reinforces what we did at home and what she did at school. We enjoyed it and I know you and your child will too!

I am excited about all of the fun she will have at school and the extra projects we will do at home. I'm always looking for suggestions! What do you do to bring the classroom home?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Skill Focus - Writing a News Report - The Sleep Book by Dr. Suess

The news just came in ...

The Sleep Book is a cute little (but not short!) story about the world falling asleep. It is a news-report style story with each creature or situation a different report. So fun! After reading the sleep book, it's your turn and your child's turn to write your own news report about how each person in your family falls asleep.

Here's how mine looks:
Way out in the East, in the town of Orlandoread
 the Barnett Book Reading Club just went to bed.
Every book has been quietly placed on a shelf
For the night, in it's own private Billy-Bookshelf." (we love that our library is full of Billy Bookshelves from Ikea plus my husband's name is Billy... I know it's goofy but it's something that makes us smile!)

Baby Brother's looks like this:
The number of sleepers
is steadily growing.
The crib is where
the baby is going.

My husband's is:
A Mr. and Mrs. W Billy Barnetts
Have just gone to bed near the town of Fort Metts
And they by the way, have the finest of pets.

Big Sister's looks like this:
have lain down their heads
On sleeping pillows
they keep on their beds.

This took some work to pick the passages to model and figure out how we were going to make them fit our bedtime routines and situations, but it was a fun family project to try to think of cities around us that rhymed with our last name or how to make Orlando rhyme with "bed" (without calling it Orlanded which sounds like "dead" at the end...I wasn't ok with that!). Getting Big Sister to describe how she goes to sleep, what she needs and what her pillow is like was interesting. When you ask new questions, it is fun to see what kiddos think about!

Make up your own news reports because "this may not seem very important. I know. But is is." so make a family memory together!

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