foam pieces, tessellatations and a discovery

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We have been playing with cut up foam pieces for a long time now. But recently I came across a few sets of foam created by JodoGyan called Rangometry (www.jogogyan.org).

The foam is thick and sturdy and the pieces lend themselves to endless tessellations and combinations. Initially I let the boys simply explore the sets. They made all kinds of things using the pieces. The set has squares, triangles of two different types, diamonds, and hexagons.

Finally this morning as we were enjoying a chilled out morning in the balcony, I thought of pulling out the rangometry kit. This time we first played a game (an activity I learned about at the JodoGyan workshop called Sajaana). I drew an outline of a bus using a marker on the plexiglass sheet along our balcony railing. Then using a large dice each child rolled, identified the number rolled and picked out the matching number of pieces of rangometry foam which they placed along the outline. (Note: we had poured the foam pieces into a bowl of water. The made them wet and they adhered easily to the plastic sheet we were playing on) Since the twins are comfortable with numbers upto 10 we used a 12 sided dice (dodecahedron) which has numbers from 0-10 (5 is repeated once). It was great because here is what was happening as we played:

  1. the kids had to identify the number on the dice face correctly
  2. They had to then pick out the corresponding number of foam bits from the bowl
  3. They had to then put those pieces in continuation on the outline of the bus (fine motor skills)
  4. They quickly figured out bigger and smaller numbers, getting most excited when they got high numbers like 8 or 9 or 10 and a little sad when they got 3, 2 or 1
  5. They – especially the 3 yr old got the meaning of zero – it means nothing!! as he exclaimed when he rolled it and could not put anything on the outline. (It is useful to follow JodoGyan advice here – when a kid rolls a zero, do not give him another turn because not giving him another turn allows him to understand and appreciate the value of zero)
  6. We got quite a pretty outline with the kids trying to make patterns as they went along.

After we were done with this, I started playing with the pieces and started out a tessellation type design. I found Nish (5 yrs next month) was most interested. He observed carefully while I made pattern and then asked if he could help. With a tiny bit of guidance he started out and then was so fascinated that he went on and on…quickly inspiring his twin to join in too! I had not thought they would get it so easily but it was a pleasant surprise and they totally enjoyed it too!

And, since I have mentioned JodoGyan a few times here – you must check out their website. They have developed a math teaching and learning program preschool up that is pretty incredible. With a strong focus on the child, developmental appropriateness and simplicity, the program is actually very interesting and I would strongly recommend educators – especially in the preschool space to look at it. In stead of trying to cram the preschooler with endless numbers to read, identify and write repeatedly, moving into tens and hundreds and place value and complex operations, the program focuses on making math a concrete and enjoyable fun learning experience where comprehension is key. Given the general experiences in math learning across age groups it is indeed time to stop and look at math learning differently. For schools that are interested – they actually do detailed and very practice based training for teachers who plan top use their materials.

Note – I am not a representative of JodoGyan nor have I been asked to talk about it. However, I have recently come across their material and have been quite impressed – hence sharing this here with you!

Cardboard carton carpenters!

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Cardboard carton carpenters!

Sid felt like doing some carpentry last evening after school. He wanted to use my toolkit, but given that Amu was keen on joining in the action, I decided against pulling out the hammer because I was a little tired and not feeling ready for random accidents. So we decided to do something different (we have not really done any carpentry at home before…this was a first of sorts). I found an old cardboard carton, some nails and screws and then got their tool set out. (we have a gorgeous one I had picked on Amazon by Hape toys a while back). Their kit has a solid wooden hammer, screws, a screw driver, nits and bolts among other tools…however, in addition to the screws from their set, we used real nails and screws as well.

Surprisingly the toy saw was tough enough to cut through the carton and the boys totally enjoyed that. They also hammered real nails into the top of the carton and then pulled them out and used the plastic screws and wooden screw driver to put the screws into those holes too.

Unfortunately Sid fell asleep while we were setting up, but Nish and Amu had a wonderful time and spent close to an hour doing ‘carpentry’

 

The magic of gorgeous art supplies!

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We love art…ok that is probably an understatement..but my boys and I enjoy painting and crayons and coloring and glitter! A few months ago a family friend gifted the boys the most gorgeous coloring materials…we had fancy artists’ water soluble pastels, oil pastels, color pencils, watercolor pencils…a whole lot of shiny new art supplies! Needless to say we were over the moon.

Initially, the boys explored the color pencils..and then last week they moved on to the water soluble pastels (they have not yet played with the water soluble aspect of the pastels but have simply been dabbling with the pastels as they are).

The smooth almost delicious colors produced many oohs and aahs…but a better reflection of how much they appreciated the colors came through the amount of time they have been spending coloring everyday. Over the past few days they have spent close to an hour each day with their pastels..till we finally ran out of paper day before yesterday. For the first time since I can remember, we had nothing more to color on..no art paper, no one sided sheets, no used envelopes…So i sent and got them a sketch book each.

Nish sat for a good twenty minutes working away at something. When he was done he stretched, looked at me and said “look! I have made a sail boat in a storm”.

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It was stunning! Sid looked at it and literally clapped! he asked Nish to help him make his own sailboat in the storm and the two of them got busy as nish advised sid on how to proceed.

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Not to be left out, Amu wanted his sailboat too which nish obligingly drew an outline for. Amu of course wanted to do somethingh a little different so he called his art a fire boat.

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Today we have planned to take a wet brush and explore how it interacts with the pastels. should be fun and am looking forward to some more gorgeous art.

 

Santa’s helpers

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Elves??…no! Reindeer?? No….Christmas trees! Yup according to Amu my 3 yr old, those are Santa’s helpers!

To put that epiphany into context…last night Amu was busy making Christmas trees using felt traingles and popsicle sticks. He was busy decorating his felt triangle with lots of sequins and glitter and foam bits and other stuff from our craft box. I was generally chatting with him as he worked. I noticed that he was sticking thin long triangular scraps of felt on his trees along with googly eyes. Surprised at this interesting choice of decoration given the many buttons and sequins we had, I asked him what the extra triangles were for.

Amu: Oh – that is a nose (isn’t that obvious???)…and these are eyes (in case i did not get that either)

Me: ok…that’s different! How come you chose to put those on the tree?

Amu: Because Christmas trees have eyes and a nose! (very matter of factly)

Me: Oh really?

Amu: Yeah..they have to tell Santa who is being naughty and nice. How is Santa going to know otherwise?

Duh…silly me..asking such basic questions! Floored once again by his incredible imagination!!!

Photo on 23-12-15 at 10.26 PM

 

 

 

What is a ‘virgin’?

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Yeah..that’s right..that is the title of this post. (and it is the third post of the day…have not blogged in a while so decided to go the whole hog)
Anyway, Nish came to me yesterday and asked me this very innocently: Aai, what’s a virgin?”
I was not expected to field these questions at 4…

Me: Why do you ask?
Nish: S (his friend) was telling me that he knows another virgin
Me: What do you mean another virgin?
Nish: I know one too…but he know another one
Me: Which virgin do you know love?
Nish: I don’t know what virgin is Aai! But when I was singing “When the Saints go marching in” S said that he knows another virgin. The tune is a little different.
Me (whew): Yeah…that song has many versions (i said the word slowly and clearly). It means that there are different ways that the same song has been sung. You have versions of games, of cars, of many things.

And then then 4 yr old tripped off happily to his room singing his ‘virgin’ of ob la di ob la da …yeah and life goes on!

looking at the world through my almost 3 year old’s lens

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Amu is a few days shy of 3…the terrible twos seem to using these last few moments of his twos to manifest themselves and make up for lost time. From a cheerful kid with a fairly sunny disposition, Amu has turned into the king of tantrums. He wants his brothers to share (you have to learn to share nish” he preaches) But try asking him to let someone else dip into the (common) tin of cookies and we have a total melt down. “he cant take a biscuit…it’s my tin” “No” i reason, “it’s our tin”. “Ok…but the biscuits are still all mine”

Last evening as he rapidly dismantled a complicated lego car that his brother had made, I intervened saying “Don’t think that is such a great idea Amu. Sid and Nish made that car. check with them first”
Egocentric boy replies “No I want to break it. They want me to break it Aai” (yeah sure they do love!)

Here’s what a trip down to the play area looks like….we get to the ground floor, I help him wheel his rather unwieldy bike to the door. I prop the door open. “Why did you do that???? I wanted to open the door!!!!” (loud scream)
I figure the simplest thing to do is to close the door
Me: Sorry about that Amu. I did not know you wanted to open the door. You don’t  need to yell. You can just ask me to close it
Amu: No! You can’t just close it. Now we have to go back up again and come down and I will open it
Me: Why dont we just open it again from here?
Amu: No that’s not fair. I wanted to do it own my OWN! We have to go up again.
The other two boys are waiting with their bikes and looking at us. I ask them to go on ahead and start playing.
Amu: Come back up!
Fortunately at this point he was distracted by some friends who had also come out to play. However,  half an hour later he remembered and came back to me with the same ridiculous request.

He sometimes even asks me to return his snot, to unwipe the water from his body, to give his pee back to him (how could I flush it without checking?)

I am struggling with the balance (and my sanity). Do i give in to some of it, stay firm and not give in at all and deal with the loud raucous tantrums (it is IMPOSSIBLE to rationalize at that point), fortunately my 4 yr old twins recognize the madness and are fairly decent in dealing with it…though the broken lego constructions and jigsaw puzzles leave them hopping mad too!

Oh, and the negotiations!!! Boy can he negotiate …and he is super persistent too! I am truly hoping that this is just another phase that will pass (soooooon). It is teaching me patience (much more than I ever thought I would need), helping me with skillful use of vocabulary (cause I certainly can’t start cursing) and definitely highlighting the need for meditation.

But then, on a different note, the tight hugs he gives me so generously, the big fat juicy kisses, head massages and cuddles, general advice on life (finish all your tea ok..it’s good in cold weather) and his loud proclamations of “best mama in the whooooole world!” put the sunshine back into my day, help me see what a precious little bundle of joy he is and helps me get through the next few tantrums!

Of course, any advice on this stage and phase would be much appreciated!

Time for some gingerbread

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IMG_8896Diwali has gone by and the cool weather is arriving in Bangalore. The rains have been regular daily visitors and the boys have moved from shorts to track pants and light sweatshirts. They are a lot more excited by the smell of baking and are generally super snacky when they are at home.

Yesterday i decided to make some gingerbread cookies. I got the recipe from Martha Stewart’s site (http://www.marthastewart.com/343445/gingerbread-cookies)

Anyway, long story short..a little tedious but turned out absolutely delish! The boys woke up from their afternoon nap like puppies with their noses in the air sniffing around in the kitchen. We pulled them out, I  let them cool and did a simple icing on top. Then before i knew it, the kids had taken them off the cooling rack and made off with a gingerbread man each.

Sid looked at Amu who was admiring his cookie in general and said “eat it up quickly before the gingerbread man runs away!”

Nish my ever musical boy immediately broke into the gingerbread man refrain “run run as fast as you can….”

Amu of course had us all in splits a minute later. He promptly chomped at his cookie and then held it up saying “no worries, i have eaten up his legs…now he cant run!

A school full of laughter

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Everyday when I go to pick up the kids from their preschool, the first sound that hits my ears as i as get out of the car is the sound of laughter…lots of laughter…giggles, gentle laughs, loud and boisterous laughs…and happy voices engaged in all kinds of conversations. I love to take a peek over the corner of the compound wall. It’s like a 30 second power packed entertainment video clip. There are children on swing-sets, children on slides, some wearing dress up clothes, others busy with some paper and colors. A few kids whiz around on trikes while others are occupied coloring on the paved area with chalks. Paper rockets zoom around but not half as fast as the excited bodies that fling and chase them. Sometimes there are kids arguing about something, the occasional tumble and scrape (i would be surprised if that did not happen!) but in general the place is alive with curious, engaged and really happy souls! I see kids chatting with each other, children chatting with an adult, some with fresh guavas off their guava tree, others observing the pet school rabbit. I sometimes worry that there may be some pressure for things like writing which for the younger kids is definitely developmentally inappropriate…but conversations with the team have helped and then when I see the myriad of other things happening – especially the interactions and time for free play I know I can relax…my boys are in the right place! For a setting that allows kids to be…to explore, play and discover is one where I know my boys will become the more rounded human beings that I would hope they will be….they get to experiment, practice, develop at their own pace…they negotiate, fight and make up, resolve conflicts or deal with them. I have been thinking about this for quite a few days…had to put it down and share.

A meltdown…quite literally!!!

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My almost 3 yr old is having serious tantrums…over the craziest stuff. sometimes it is easy to talk to him through them sometimes it is plain crazy and I have to keep reminding myself of how this is to be expected so that I don’t burst a vessel.

Here is what happened as we were getting ready for bed last night…

Me: Ok guys, it’s time for bed. Each one of you pick a book and settle down. I am going to read to you if you like

Boys all run and get a book of their choice. Twins get one each. Amu gets 3.

Mine are all small he announces. Possibly valid rationalization and I am in no mood to split hairs at this point.

First we read amu’s book …something about a brave caveman…he wants an encore and the twins oblige.

Next Nish picks out his book on dinosaurs. Amu gets upset…he wants to read his second book first. Twins oblige again and we read his second book. Then back to the one on dinosaurs. As we are reading it Amu puts his hand on the dino picture on the cover and yells loudly “OUCH!!!! he bit me! the T-Rex just bit me”

We smile at him and continue reading while he proceeds to let out the most realistic cries of pain.

Amu: I need ice!!! ice!!! ice!!!! quick give me ice!

In the interest over getting the book read, i give him the ice.

He come back into the room with his bowl of ice (which he has ‘selected’ from the ice tray)

As we are reading the story there is another yell from him.

Amu: it’s gone!!! it is all gone and now i only have water!!!! i want it back

The meltdown he had after that was crazy and i really was about to lose it too. As I raised my voice and firmly told him to stop yelling, Nish reminded me that “he is just tired and being a baby aai. Don’t get angry!” I needed that little reminder. We tried to find him a solution – more ice? Nope he wanted the same ice back. Maybe we could refreeze the water? Nope – he wanted the same ice back JUST NOW. I told him to stop being ridiculous, i asked him to sit in another room so we could read and then realized how mean that sounded. I don’t think it made any sense to rty and rationalize with him at that point in any case. So i picked him up and hoped that some cuddling would help. Not too sure that worked!
Finally he cried and fell asleep and I felt hassled, tired and a little miserable about getting angry.

This morning I came across this article on FB…it came at a time when i certainly needed to read it!
http://www.pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2015/10/said-want-red-bowl-responding-toddlers-irrational-behavior/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=pbsofficial&utm_campaign=parents_expert

Splashes of color on a rainy day…literally!

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I have not blogged in a while…it’s been busy…but I wanted to share a couple of art related things we did last week when the sun wasn’t shining and the skies were quite grey.

First of all, we had a blast with all our broken crayons. We took old some crayons and using cello-tape we attached them to the top of a plain sheet of paper. Then we clipped the paper onto our balcony railing and got started. Using a hairdryer we melted the crayons and watched them drip down in blobs and streaks. They melted faster when we turned the heat to the highest mark. depending on how and where we held the dryer we could make the streaks change direction. We could either let them flow down as individual colors or have them mix as they came down. At one point, one of the crayon bits got detached and slid down the paper leaving as really bold trail. This brought lots of oohs and aahs and the boys took turns trying to dislodge another chunk.

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It was amazing because not only was it art but it was a lot of observation, experimentation and science too. And we got a cool piece of art at the end!

Another thing we did was to grate the bits of crayon onto butter paper. We folded the butter paper and then I used a hot iron on it. The crayon shavings melted and we used that paper to cut up pretty shapes that are now decorating the children’s bedroom window!

We also did some fun art with wax crayons and water colors. While we had done this before the boys enjoyed it a lot more this time as their art looked more defined. They drew with bolder firmer strokes and made actual forms – a tiger and a leopard (inspired by our visit to the zoo i guess).

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They first drew on the blank paper with wax crayons and then painted over it with watercolors.

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The results were stunning (so says the very biased mother) because the crayon work really popped out from under the water colors. We had a bit of a discussion on why the water colors kept ‘disappearing’ from the wax crayon colored parts and I guess one could take that discussion further if wanted. All in all it was a lot of fun with a bit of science thrown in too!