Friday, May 14, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Week 2 Mama School

I'm posting another week of our Mama School curriculum!

This Week: Peter Pan

We had to do this one. Peter's default activity is pretending to be Peter Pan (or one of the Lost Boys, or John, or Tiger Lily, or a really nice Captain Hook....but 99% of the time, he is Peter Pan). He really loved delving deeper into the topics surrounding this book.

Read different versions of Peter Pan. I made another little toy set, using our playmobile guys, but there are so many different characters that it was a bit scattered.

We also checked out the original book on cd, which I took back to the library after about 15 minutes of listening. Call me overprotective, but I can't allow my three-year-old to listen to how each pirate prefers to kill other people. I do wish it wasn't so violent, because other parts of the story are so charming. I also cringed every time the narrator said "redskin." We are in a different age, I suppose. In retrospect, I would spend a day talking about Native Americans, and help try to bring some racial sensitivity about this group. Hopefully, I can do something like that soon.

Tuesday: Investigate Neverland's Sea Life
Read books about crocodiles and mermaids

Sang the alligator song "you can't catch me"--not sure of the actual title there
Talked about rough (crocodile skin) and smooth (fish scales), along with other rough and soft things
Planned a treasure hunt (treasure is in the water, right?); We did the treasure hunt twice and made one for Shane, which he did when he got home.

At the end, we played with this "treasure in a bottle"

I think this would be a perfect game for someone slightly older. Peter was pretty fixated on just opening the bottle up and getting the toys out, rather than enjoying the reveal/conceal aspect of the game.

Wednesday: Shadows
In the story, Wendy sews on Peter's shadow. I made this shadow lacing card for Peter, which was particularly difficult, since I had packed our single hole punch and was left trying to work the three-hole punch. Also, the cord I had for lacing was too thick, and turned out to be pretty frustrating for Peter. If I were to do it again, I would use yarn, I think. Peter did appreciate the effort, and has been playing with the shadow all week.

We also made hand shadows in the bathroom. Who knows where our flashlights are--New Haven? My parents' basement? Shane's parents' garage? In a box that we've packed? So, we improvised by shining a lamp on the bathroom wall and voila! He was SO INTO IT. We probably did hand shadows for 2 hours that day. And then again when Shane came home. Loved it.

Thursday: You can fly (but actually not)!
We talked about flying animals (insects, bats, and birds) and read books about how they do it.
We then read some books about why we can't fly and did some snazzy gravity experiments. My favorite book for these experiments is I Fall Down. It's was the only one that was geared toward really small kids, unlike the others, which Peter kept trying to slam shut while I was reading them. I get the hint, Pete.

First we dropped different things to see who wins (as predicted, it was a tie every time). We did a key vs. a penny, an orange vs. and orange, and the most popular, an orange vs. a grape. Our fruit was nice and juicy at lunchtime.

Racing a car down a ramp (flat packing box) and adding books to increase the grade and, consequently, the speed of the car. This was the favorite experiment, and by the end, Peter had stacked up all the books that are not yet packed.

Friday: Ships Ahoy!
[Sadly, we didn't get to the activities planned for this day. But, happily, my mom watched Peter while I had the morning to myself. But, sadly, I was just cleaning and working on a powerpoint presentation, and not at the spa or anything.]
Here's what we had planned for today:
Playing 'Sink or Float': dropping various objects in a sink full of water and noting the sinkers and floaters.
Making little rafts out of sticks and string or making paper boats ala Curious George.
We'll save these for later, I guess!

I mentioned this before, but I have been completely surprised by the good this little Mama School is doing for our relationship and Peter's behavior generally. The last two months were dreadful, but I have been shocked at the turn Pete has taken the last two weeks. I really look forward to our mornings together and Peter just begs for his Mama School! Yay!

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Setting the Table

In my recent efforts to get some chores going, I made some placemats to help guide Peter in his new table-setting responsibilities. I found this cute fabric at Joann's in the scrap bin and went with it. Amazingly enough, after I set the placemats and dishes on the table, Peter does a great job getting everything just so. And, in addition to helping Peter learn to set the table, this project helped me really get the hang of zigzag stitching (right before I had to give my mom's Bernina back :( I just finished packing up all my sewing stuff today.) On to knitting projects, I guess.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Good [Handmade] Stuff: Crib Bedding love, Mama

I finally finished Nathan's crib set. I used Amy Butler's Little Stitches for both the fitted sheet and crib skirt. I used scrap fabric from Peter's Duvet cover, which helped coordinate things in the brother's room. Also, I can't complain about paying nothing for a new crib set versus paying a lot for bedding that I don't like nearly so much.

The sheet is a dream--I made it in one night and it is a better fit than our other store-bought versions. I can't wait to make some more!
I think the bedding looks the best this way. Nighty night, little one!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Life After Preschool

We are currently in week one of no preschool. A girl can get used to certain things very quickly, and I got used to waving goodbye to Peter and enjoying some quiet time those three mornings during the week. I love this kid to bits, but without some real structure, mothering this child diminishes into a long discussion about why we can't eat more crackers and cheese or watch another show. As a side note: I have started letting Peter watch a half-hour show while I prepare dinner, because I have found that his interference with my cooking (and the accompanied frustration from the mama) is more dangerous than whatever the effects a half-hour of tv has on a child. Anyway, I had to come up with a plan. I'll share what I'm doing, with the recognition that it may come across a bit intense, but Peter is intense and so I'm just trying to come up with something that will suit his personality. Here is our daily plan:

I had this flannel board handy, which hadn't seen much action lately, and decided that it would do the job. It looks super structured, but we have yet to actually do everything on the board. Just having a destination does a lot of good for Peter. He struggles so much with transitions (all of you who have been around Peter lately have witnessed his dramatic exits), but when the board tells us what the next step is, he accepts it much more readily. I like having the day mapped out, too.

The 'jobs' portion of our day is mostly Peter helping me around the house, but I am hoping to start Peter on a few chores this summer that are only his. What jobs do you assign to your very young kids? Right now, I'm thinking he can put away the silverware from the dishwasher, dust, make his bed. I'm looking for good chore chart ideas!

The 'preschool' element has now shifted to 'Mama School'. In our last conference with Peter's preschool teacher, she described him as a huge question mark. Isn't that a terrific description?! Peter's appetite for learning is insatiable and that is maybe my favorite thing about him. This week I have started doing some simple activities while Nathan is having his morning nap, and now, the second Peter wakes up, he asks me what we're doing at Mama School. To my happy surprise, he has been overjoyed by each humble effort I have prepared for him. I am finding that this small two hour stretch has exponentially improved my relationship with Peter and let me mother in a way that I have always wanted to but haven't found the right way to do it. And this is just the first week! My mom encouraged me to write down what we did this week, so I can refer to it later with younger children, so here goes:

Mama School: Week One
This week, we are studying the story and accompanying topics surrounding the fascinating tale of the THREE LITTLE PIGS:

Monday: Read various versions of the Three Little Pigs; play with the three little pig toy set I put together. The toys set included three pigs, a toy wolf, building materials for the houses (straw: pipe cleaners, sticks: popsicle sticks, bricks: legos). This kept Peter busy for hours, as he kept recreating the story (Mama, what if the wolf was nice and was actually friends with the pigs?!)

Tuesday: Pig Appreciation Day. We talked about pigs and boars and the gentle art of truffle hunting. We read a few stories I had checked out on pigs and then did some finger painting in 'mud' or, really, chocolate pudding. Did you do this as a kid? I loved it.

You paint a little...

and then eat the rest.
Here is mine:I had also planned on making pigs-in-a-blanket for lunch, but forgot to buy hot dogs for it. Another time!

Wednesday: Wolf Appreciation Day. We talked about wolves, read a few wolfy books and even watched an educational kid's show about wolves. Then, we went to the wildly overgrown small area between our house and the house next door and made a wolf den.

night, night, Wolfy.

Thursday: House Building Workshop. We sketched out plans for what a super-duper cool house might be like. I kind of regret this, because Peter is so young and has no aspirations for anything more than our small apartment in New Haven. But, his face lit up when I added a huge slide and ice cream shop to the playroom. We also perused these favorite books of mine. They are still too old for Peter, but the illustrations are so incredible, I just can't wait to show him! David MacCaulay, thank you for these books!

I had also intended on making butter with Peter (since there is a butter churn in the version we read), but we ran out of time. Hooray! Too much to do!

Friday: A play of the Three Little Pigs. Peter has never seen a play and so I'm excited to help him star in his first production tomorrow. I think he'll get a big kick out of it. Shane and Nathan will be a gracious audience, no doubt.

Week one done! We'll see what I come up with next week!