Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Sensory Bin and Crafts for Toddlers

Snowman craft/ beading for toddlers.
Christmas story craft
Winter Sensory Bin

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Sensory Bin for Toddlers

Christmas Sensory Bin for Toddlers

Fine motor skills, sensory play, matching and sorting... It's also super quick and fun to make! For the base, I used rice, shredded a golden tinsel, and added some sparkling confetti. The colors are red, green, and yellow, and so are the pegs and the peg boards. I didn't buy anything for it. There is more then enough Christmas-y stuff on hand - I suspect I had more fun making it then Camilla will while playing in it.
Fine Motor Skills for Toddlers

Fine Motor Skills

I added different size and shape containers and cups, jingle bells, stickers, craft sticks. I hope our peg boards will gain the new appeal with this bin.
Fine Motor Skills for Toddlers
There is a hidden forest behind the bottles. These are left over stickers.
Fine Motor Skills for Toddlers
The houses are actually the gift bags. One is filled with craft sticks and buttons, the other is filled with the pegs. They were found and greatly appreciated by the kids as building materials.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Quick and Easy Elf On the Shelf Ideas For Toddlers

Our Elf story

Elf On the Shelf became very popular and very controversial. Some people argue that Elf is not of an educational value, that his travelling around the house is not related to Christmas, that he is keeping mothers too busy and overtired for nothing, and more along these lines.

Let me just say that I am willing to spend as much time as needed to keep my family happy. Our elf is more for fun family time together, which is of the greatest value: he offers family an extra opportunity to be engaged and laugh together.

It happened that our elf doesn't look like usual elves. We went to the store and there they were: happy pretty elves filled several shelves. Camilla fell in love with them. The only problem was to choose our own from a crowd. If you'd decide to buy an elf, look for the one with the wired arms and legs (they are so much better for posing for all the different scenes).  Our elf is bigger, has strong wires, and can sit on his own.

Elf On the Shelf arrived.
Elf On the Shelf is making tricks in the bathroom
Elf On the Shelf is dancing and playing snowballs
Elf On the Shelf has a party with friends
Elf On the Shelf shares candies.
Elf On the Shelf is into mischief.
Elf On the Shelf got touched
Elf On the Shelf TPing the room.
Elf On the Shelf on the romantic vacation

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Cookies Inspired by the Book

The Mitten 

Christmas season in Ukraine.

Play fun with The Mitten
Mitten Sensory Bin
The Mitten activity - reenacting
Christmas in different lands.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Letter F Activities for Toddlers. Bambi.

Getting ready for Christmas. 24 months old.

This week we continued with our theme of baby animals. After all the discussions and reading books, she happily met the awesome rain dear with their bright red noses and jingle bells. We talked about letter F for fawn and foal.  There are so many related new words: dear, stag, doe, fawn, antlers...
The concept of change of the season and winter came naturally. We got up in the morning to see all the white scenery through the windows. It is always so sweet to see them getting excited about learning something new.
She wanted to use her markers on the picture of the fawn. She's recently learned the correct way of holding her markers and crayons, which immediately helped her with her strokes on the paper. Here she made her first circles and loved them.   

Bambi - a story time for toddler.

We read "Bambi" by Felix Salten, illustrated by Maja Dusikova, retold by K. Alves, translated by K. Koth. This beautiful book is easy to understand for toddlers. "Squeezing a 300-page novel classic into a mere 32 pages may sound impossible, but this new Swiss translation not only pulls it off, it never sacrifices heart for succinct storytelling... Dusikova taps into the emotional core of this tale, making it accessible to all but the youngest readers." - Kirkus Reviews.

We really enjoyed the beautiful illustrations of the seasons: all yellow pages for fall, all white for winter. The story continues through all the 4 seasons from Bambi's birth in spring till the next spring when he gets his antlers.

The game with letters F: I used "quick letter pads" to cover all the pictures of fawns with letters F. I asked Camilla to find all the fawns. Sometimes it was easy with the black letters, and sometimes not so easy (like this white on white on this picture).  She liked the little game and wanted to do it again.


F is for Fawn

At 24 months old, we concentrated on learning to use the glue. Camilla worked with glue and glue sticks before, but was always so destructed by the projects that she never really knew that she needed glue to fix something to something, and that object would stay there... funny - a philosophical concept.

We went slow this time. I put a cotton ball on paper, blew, and it would fly away. Then I put a drop of glue and a cotton ball, and it would stay when we blew. Why didn't I do it before? Well, we also practiced the sound "f" with this exercise.

All we did for this project is gluing cotton balls and cut outs onto the base. For the base I used a 12 by 12 printed paper from our new "The Photo Real Stack" bought in Michaels. We've got a 3-D winter image worth framing - nice!

 F is for Feather.

We continue playing with the letters. I put pieces of play-doh onto the letter and offered her to stick the feathers into the play-doh. This is very difficult! First you need to find the end with the stem. Then you need to hold the feather close to its end. Camilla managed to stick only a few of the feathers and didn't tolerate the whole process that easily.
 There is always a surprise when you are playing with the little one. She couldn't handle the feathers, but she's leaned how to trace a letter with play-doh: made her Mommy happy.


 F is for Flowers

We discussed that there are no flowers to be found outside any more. Flowers are there in spring and summer. Now it's cold and snow. Used flower stickers on F which were left over from our summer-fall sticker scene. Stickers are always very good for the fine motor skills!

 Our very first snowman - so tired and need a snack right now!

Monday, November 11, 2013

B is for Baby. 24 months old.

Letters for 2 year olds.

Color and shape recognition, sequencing and sorting skills, fine motor skills and imaginative play: our 2 year olds could not do these just several weeks ago. This is so amazing to watch them progress so fast and very visible! They are literally getting smart every day now!

We have started on "letter of the week" activities. I've been asking myself if Camilla is ready for her letters yet. Here are some points that helped me to realize that she is:
1. She is interested. She loves the Alphabet song and tries to repeat sounds from it. She would notice a single word written and start to point to one letter at a time and "name" it (nothing is correct, but she loves the process).
2. She recognizes and names the shapes: it helps to distinguish different shapes of letters.
3. She loves sorting and matching activities and is so into puzzles now. She can enjoy all of them while learning letters.

There are different approaches in learning letters: capital letters first, small letters first, or both letters at the same time. I think, for my 24 months old we'll do the capital letters. That way when we learn the small letters, we will be able to review all of them again (review is a key of learning ;) ). And she will be not ready for reading for some time anyhow.

We've decided not to follow the alphabet. We'll take a letter a week according to the theme of the week. This way it will be more flexible and according to our kids' interests. Also, Camilla is still behind in pronouncing the sounds. We will concentrate on pronouncing the sounds the most and will work with the sounds she can pronounce first.

According to the speech sound development chart I have:
1. p, m, h, n, w, b
2. k, g, d, t, ng
3. f, y (from 2,5 y.o.)
4. r, l, s (from 3 y.o.)
5. ch, sh, z
6. j, v, th
7. zh as in measure

B is for Baby

We are learning baby animals this week. It's not easy because they used to say "doggy", not "puppy"; "duck", but not "duckling". For Camilla, it seemed like using a foreign language: using a different word for an object you already know the word.

Our baby animals this week: duckling, chick, kitten, puppy, lamb, calf. Of course, puppy and kitten were the easiest ones. But saying "lamb and calf" instead of "sheep and cow" was difficult even for  some adults.

We sang songs, read books, played games using these words. Then, we've got to see our first letter. It went OK - great start!

This one is a matching game. The baby says, "Where is my Mommy. Please, help me find my Mommy". After his Mommy is found, he gives hugs and kisses to his Mommy, and then to a child who helped find her. That was such a pretty activity! All the pictures are laminated print outs.


B is for Beads

This beads are from the set we bought in Michaels. Look at this happy smile when Camilla saw them for the first time!  
And this is a delight of the new necklace! I love this picture! 

B is for Banana

Out of 5 two years olds, Camilla was the only one who didn't manage the tweezers. She says "squeeze", but can't squeeze them tight enough to hold the object. The activity was to grab the bananas from the bowl and put them onto the letter - the two extremely difficult tasks! LOL. We also transferred bananas from a tray into the egg carton: one banana in each space. Camilla enjoyed this a lot, but it was difficult for her to understand "one at a spot". She does some of the spots correct. (sorry, no picture yet: too busy with the task on hands :) )


B is for Butterfly

The butterflies are the clips. Great for fine motor skills and way too advanced for Camilla. She loved the butterflies and practice to say the word in relation to the letter.


We are just starting! I would appreciate any tips or things you do differently in the comment section! Also, which of your child's newly acquired skills make you proud now?

Share It Saturday

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Fall Fun in Pictures

I used to be a summer girl. I don't know what has happened recently, but now I love fall! All the great activities surrounded by the gorgeous nature. We are lucky this year with the weather: All the days were full of warmth and sun; flowers and pumpkins, farm animals and kids were enjoying their lives. And so did the mentioned above kids' Mommies.
Well, sometimes the said kids can be not so happy. Camilla here: "Let me think about this... maybe my new owl is a good company for me when I am in not so good of a mood; and my Mom decided to run around me with a camera. Hmmm..."
"Anyhow, I love my Halloween stuff. Especially these two. They are my new awesome friends. When I want a snack, I say "Monster". When I want my juice, I say "Ghost". My Mom understands. Fall life IS fun."

"My favorite color is yellow. But these orange pumpkins are pretty too. I want them all!"

"I visited my girl friend Cassy. There I had to play with this great home made play-doh. It smells yummy. We made pumpkins, and scarecrows, and balls. Then we had a pumpkin pie - my first one that I graciously agreed to eat. Good times!"

"My Mom took me to the farm. Again, and again, and again... It's just too much stuff to explore and understand. I am looking through this window, and people around are laughing at me. Why?"

"My parents are taking pictures in such random places. It's not even fun to stand here. I'd prefer
to stand in that corn box instead."

"Leaves are falling. Slowly floating. Tumbling to the ground. - This is our favorite song this months. I love playing with leaves."

"Straw barns: there is never enough of them. Maaaan, was I scared of the giant straw walls at first."

"I am finally is very interested in heavy machinery. This one I had to drive! No, no driver's license. Just yet."

"They look OK to me. I'll take them all. No, I don't need any help, thanks!"

"Awww, these goats were so nice, soft, and clean, and cuddly. Kiss, and kiss, and hug."

"Banana ride! Watch out, people, I am driving again!"

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bilingual Is Better

Bilingual Is Better

This post is a part of the book club discussions for "Bilingual Is Better" by Roxana Soto and Ana Flores. You can find other posts here:
The New Face of America
Why Bilingual Is Better
Raising a Spanglish Baby
Bilingual Education
Between Two Worlds : Identity vs. Assimilation
Q&A with the author. Coming Nov. 14
Summary. Coming Nov. 21

Ties and Tensions

Do you have to travel to Australia to see a kangaroo? Or travel to Niagra Falls to see a waterfall? Or take a trip to Bahamas to swim with a dolphin? Maybe go to Alaska for a nice skiing experience? The answer is "No"; you don't have to... There is a good chance you can find all these activities in the city nearby.

"Globalization is a process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture", - from Wikipedia. Does this mean that all the countries, all the cities will look like each other? What will our children see during their lives?

Globalization  made the term "World Citizen" important! It used to be seen as a description of Albert Einstein. Now it might mean that the diversity of cultures and languages in any given group of people is so huge that we have to know and learn about different cultures and different languages to be comfortable and feel secure. I think, what is the most important, it means that we have to know WHO WE ARE, what are our cultural backgrounds, our family traditions and languages.


Our family backgrounds are German, Irish, and Russian. What are yours? Do you keep up any family traditions? I am debating if I should start Camilla on any second language. As of our family traditions, hmmmm...

Hence, the book I've read: "Bilingual Is Better (TWO LATINA MOMS ON HOW THE BILINGUAL PARENTING REVOUTION IS CHANGING THE FACE OF AMERICA)" by Roxana Soto and Ana Flores.

I've seen it as my responsibility to pass to my kids our cultural  heritage and languages to the best of my ability. It's not an easy task especially because we only have one grandmother who lives far away.  Am I successful yet? Well, my oldest doesn't have a dream to visit Germany, Ireland, or Russia. He has recently told me how cool it is to see Spain.

The little Irish girl:

Raising Bicultural Children in the United States

In her book, Roxana Soto said, "...I can confidently attest to the fact that one of the main reasons why our blog [] has been so successful is because so many Latino parents feel the same way we do: It is absolutely imperative for us to pass on our heritage to the next generation" (p. 191). These Moms patiently pass the love of their culture and heritage to their children. They share their experiences and tips with their readers. Here are some points from only one chapter of the book. It is a chapter about just that: how to pass it all on to our kids.

The culture of food is the first subject considered in this chapter. "I would say food is an extremely important way to make sure we all stay connected to our roots" (p. 195). From our experience, food is a way to connect, of course :), but on the long run food is food, and a great topic to start a conversation about a culture. Do you use your old family recipes? How important are they in your family life?

In my opinion, the next point of discussion is the huge one: "Family First". In our busy lives, it is so easy to forget... to keep in touch with the extended family on a regular basis. Thanks to Skype, communication to the family members that live far away is so much better, exciting and very visual for the little ones. I try to make sure my kids are there with me when I am talking on Skype to the family members. As for visiting, the travelling is much easier nowadays, and can be expensive and dangerous at the same time.

Learning other languages has so many benefits if you start early. And it seems fancy throughout the world to start your baby on the second language as early as possible. Maybe not in USA? But seriously, it does have many benefits and easier said than done :)

It was very interesting to read about families travelling to other countries to learn a foreign language. Not as a semester at college, as a preschool immersion experience, or as a family vacation over the summer (so that parents and kids can learn a new language). 

The topic for this post is definitely not an easy one. I would appreciate and respect any comments you leave here (and looking forward to read anything and everything on this topic).

Curious George Says Thank You

French - Merci
Spanish - Gracias
Swedish -  Tack
German - Danke
Arabic - Shoe-krahn
Russian - Spah-see-boh
Hebrew - Toh-dah
Japanese - Ah-ree-gah-toh
Italian - Grazie
Swahili - Asante

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Born to Fly

Exploring the World Through Soccer and Music

Walk on through the wind.
Walk on through the rain.
Though your dreams be tossed and blown,
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart.
And you'll never walk alone.

I find it as a great message to pass to the kids. Keep walking, no matter what happens; and find the strength to keep going from the love you have from your parents and friends. I think, it can't get any better than that! This lyrics are from "You'll never walk alone", the ultimate soccer anthem of the Liverpool soccer team.

Soccer is one of the most exciting and probably the most popular sports. Since World Cup is coming summer 2014, it is also an excellent opportunity to discover different cultures of the world and to get proud of who you are and of your country.

The pressure's on... You feel it.
But you've got it all... Believe it.
When you fall, get up.
"Listen to your God," this is our motto.
Your time to shine. Don't wait in line.
You can sing this inspirational song with Shakira and great African rhythms while learning about African cultures. This is "Waka Waka", the official World Cup 2010 song.

Who doesn't enjoy the Brazilian rhythms? Samba, and its flow of energy and positivity, for sure can help to feel the culture of Brazil. Coca-Cola, in its 2014 World Cup campaign song, provides this lyrics for us:
Run like you born to fly.
Live like you never die.
Dare what you dare to dream
And everything in between.
We are drawn by the rythms
that beat through our heart.
When we all come together,
we are seven billion stars. The world is ours.

I can't wait to travel through the countries and explore the cultures of the world with Multicultural Kids Blogs. They are announcing a new series, "World Cup for Kids", which "will focus on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as a way to teach kids about the world and global cooperation". Here is a link: World Cup for Kids

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Play-Doh for Under 2

We had a box of play-doh for a couple of months now. I would give it to Camilla at times. She would poke a piece with her little finger, loved to tear it in smaller pieces, then would ask for another color, or tried to get it into her mouth. The whole experience is fun for her (and good for fine motor skills), but stressful for me.

And today is a day! :) :) :) Thanks for rainy weather and for curious little fingers. We didn't have anything better to do. So, I pulled out our play-doh, pieces of drinking straws, and a chenille stem. We started with threading straw pieces.

That was easy since we made bracelets with beads about a month ago. This time she was so much better at threading even though the wholes in straws are narrower then in the beads we used before. She still had a difficulty with holding the stem close to the edge when finding a whole and holding it in the middle for threading the straw through the stem. Despite that, she finished threading a stem very quickly which made me happy.

Then I spread play-doh on the table and offered her to poke it with straws. That went well, but she enjoyed taking the straws out of play-doh much more. I love her facial expression here: very business-like, "do not disturb, I am busy" type of a face.

This activity kept her occupied for quite some time. When she was done, we collected all the straws into a bucket (fine motor skills again, I love this). I left her a piece of play-doh for her usual: molding and tearing. She also likes to watch me making balls and rolling them around on the table.

While she did that, I quickly draw a pig on a piece of paper (since we had a pink play-doh on the table). The idea was to give her small balls of play-doh, a ball at a time, to fill the piggy with the pink color. That didn't go as well because Camilla enjoyed getting play-doh off the paper instead of sticking it onto the pig. Here is a picture that looks nice - it seems like she is attaching the pig's leg. In reality, she was pulling the leg from a poor piggy (which is OK, got to love anything that helps with fine motor skills, teaching patience, and developing confidence).
After getting the piggy off the paper, we thought we were done. But it came to the playing balls again. That's when she discovered that she can stick the ball onto the table and stick a straw into it. She's got pretty "upside down flowers" out of it.

Secret Reveled
This activity was not planned at all. Spontaneous things that pop up at a right time are the best! You would never guess what started it: yogurt smoothie. I had bought small bottles of yogurt thinking they are just the right size for supplementing the meal, or a snack on the go. It turned out they were not helpful at all: very messy and expensive things that went to the trash half full. Until a friend of mine gave me an excellent idea of spiking the closed bottle with the straw - Camilla's new favorite snack! The only thing is the regular-sized straw is a little bit too long for a bottle. So I had to cut a piece off it. :)

Can you share your happy unplanned moment of the past? :)

I'd love to read that!!!


Friday, October 4, 2013

Curious George Goes to School

We've read great books - our new favorite. They are actually the favorites for several generations now, and never out of style. Camilla, 23 months old now, fell in love with the cute and smart little monkey, and her big friend with the yellow hat at first sight. She even woke up two mornings in a row with the name "George" - the first word out of her mouth before her eyes opened up.

We've read "Curious George's first day of school" first since we had started with the Toddler Homeschool. George is helping kids at school, mixing paints to create new colors, and as a result creates "a big mess".

Activities related to Curious George
  • We mixed the finger paints to make purple, orange, and green. Of course, we've got brown in a process and used it to color and review animal names and sounds.
  • Made monkey's face from pancakes, peanut butter, banana, and blueberries. This is always fun and bonding experience to play with food together. And yes, the pancakes came out very nice: I made them with butternut squash.
  • Sang and danced "5 little monkeys". Counted the monkeys along the way. The song is great for introductory counting.

Learning opposites with Curious George

The first book was all about "big mess". So we had to discuss "big" and "mess". The best way to learn this is by learning opposites. I looked around for a good book on opposites, and found the perfect match! "Curious George. Bigger and smaller". The book has fold out pages which gives the best visual explanation of just the opposites we needed, and more.
Small - big - bigger - biggest - the man with the yellow hat is the biggest.
Big - small - smaller - smallest - the butterfly is the smallest.
High - higher - highest - the red balloon is the highest.
Low - lower - lowest - the crab is the lowest.
Messy - clean.

Camilla loves this fold out pages. She really had fun with the new words.

What's your favorite Curious George book?

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Halloween Book for Toddlers

Halloween shopping

This will be Camilla's third Halloween. The first one - she was 2 days old. The second one she doesn't remember at all. Probably it was a huge blur of colors and lights for her. And now she is all ready to jump into the fun.

We went to a little Halloween shopping with her and I hadn't expected that we would have THAT much fun, both of us. I picked medium-sized, toy-looking decorations to show her. She loved Elmo with a pumpkin as his belly. We watched a not so scary skeleton dancing. Camilla got a little bit scared and fascinated by a black raven who moved his head and wings. She loves owls; and that one in the store had its eyes lit up.

I realized that it could be a good idea to prepare her for the holiday so that she would notice and understand more and hopefully wouldn't be scared.

Halloween Book of Halloween symbols.

The idea of the book came from one of our favorites. "Brown Bear" by Bill Martin Jr. I've seen several different versions of playing with this book. They are all awesome!!!<3

That was a huge hit with Camilla - making our own Halloween Book. I didn't have time to go too fancy with it (we are in the middle of the soccer season). So I used a small 4 by 6 photo book.

The first page is a picture of last year's Pink Poodle, her favorite since she just realized that SHE is a doggy here. We also used it to reinforce the knowledge of color pink. We did one page a day. That day we finger painted with pink paint and called it "Pink doggy" - LOL.

What do you see?
I see flying bats
looking at me.

Flying bats coloring pages were painted with different brushes and fingers. I cut them out after painting. They are not black since I let her to choose colors. We discussed that bats are not birds, they have wings and fly at night, hence, the moon and stars. We counted two bats and one Camilla.

Flying Bats,
Flying Bats,
What do you see?
We see pumpkins
looking at us.

On day three we made fingerprints on pumpkins. I offered yellow paint first. Then, we added a little red to yellow and observed the orange paint forming. She was not interested in paint at that point. So we used her favorite - Do-A-Dot for orange. She actually had no idea what the pumpkins are. So much for playing with pumpkins for so long a year ago.

What do you see?
We see a black spider
looking at us.

The spider is colored with crayons. Camilla looooves crayons so much that she is craving to eat them even if you only mention them to her. That's why we don't use them much.

I introduced her first letter: S is for spider - just to see if she would be interested. She didn't appear to be interested or paying attention at all. But remembered it several days after that!

Black Spider,
Black Spider,
What do you see?
I see a black cat
looking at me.

The black cat is all about learning shapes and body parts. It also was the first time we used the glue. We talked about "sticky" and had fun sticking the circles to the fingers - she loved that. I made 2 sets of shapes. The first page is the shapes glued by Camilla with my assistance. The second page - she assembled the cat, and I glued the pieces in place.

Black Cat,
Black Cat,
What do you see?
I see a yellow bee
looking at me.

The last page is a picture of Camilla in her new Halloween outfit. She will be a bee.

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