Monthly Archives: February 2013

‘What shall I make?’ A fun book to read!

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I picked up a lovely book a couple of weeks ago. It’s called ‘What shall I make? (story by Nandini Nayar, illustrations by Proiti Roy). Somehow, when I first showed it to to my boys, they did not seem that interested in it…probably because i had also bought them tinkling anklets and a nesting doll at the same time. However, last evening we pulled it out as we were playing with some home-made play dough (you can check the recipe out in my earlier post).

The story is actually pretty simple and sweet…and imaginative. A little boy’s mum gives him a ball of dough while she is cooking and he plays with it, making all sorts of creatures…a snake, a mouse, a cat. Each page has lovely illustrations which not only complement the story but also show you how to make those animals yourself. Which is why i decided to read it while we played with dough ourselves.

This turned out to be loads of fun. For one, the twins related to it right away. They love hanging out in the kitchen and very often we give them a little ball of dough to play with when we are making chapatis/rotis.

They recognized all the animals in the book and were so excited when we made them with our dough as we read. The little dough mouse scurried all over their legs while loud miaos accompanied the cat. The lion chased me around the room with loud roars before being squeezed and rolled into a ball again….and again..and again! A little bit of dough, a little bit of imagination and we had such a blast!

Since we were using play dough, their ‘chapatis’ did not make it onto the pan, but i plan to have them roll out their own wheat flour chapatis this afternoon and read again with them. And hopefully that will get them excited about lunch too!

This is a lovely book that i relate to as well…because in addition to what it brings to the kids in the form of a story and illustrations, it also shows parents how easy and delightful it is to spend time with kids as we go through our daily chores. Kids love to imitate and mine also like to “help”. So we go to the market together (that again is a world of discoveries), sort veggies together, fold laundry too! And that is something the book brings for parents…this lovely realization that chores and family time need not be mundane or mutually exclusive…they can in fact be great opportunities to spend warm quality time together!

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Reading with my boys

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It’s never too early to start reading with kids. I read Ameya (my youngest boy) his first book last week, when he turned 3 months old. We read a lovely book called Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton. Siddhant picked this one out for Ameya because it used to be his favorite book for the longest time. I think my baby liked it…he stared at the pages and smiled as i read. Since then, we have been regularly looking at Moo Baa La La La as well as a couple of bath books.

By default, Ameya gets read to all the time. Right from when I was carrying him, he has been exposed to a range of kids’ books because my twins really enjoy reading. While Siddhant likes to sit with a book and have me read to him before bed, Nishant wants to read all day. I started reading to them when they were about 3 months old too and it is interesting to note how many of their pictures indoor are with books.

I started with a few Sandra Boynton books – Moo Baa La La La, What’s wrong little Pookie?, Belly Button Book. Till the boys were about 9 months old, Moo Baa was their absolute favorite. Boynton has a very fun and simple style of writing and the illustrations are adorable.

The boys also loved Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do you see? and Polar Bear Polar Bear What do you hear – by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr. These books went everywhere with us! They are again – simple, repetitive and therefore predictable with absolutely stunning illustrations. Also a great way to introduce kids to a lot of animals. In fact, I found them really useful because the kids were seeing some of the birds and animals around them and they would immediately make connections to the books!  My twins also loved books that provided a sensory experience – so, books with textures, sound, colors.

If you are planning to read with you kids, be prepared to read the same book over and over and over again, over days, weeks and sometimes even months. I found that my boys loved to read the same books till they had almost ‘mastered’ them. What is wonderful though, is that they continue to be excited, amused and fascinated by the story even though it may be the hundredth time we are reading it.

I don’t just read the story out to them. We spend a lot of time looking at images, meta-text, guessing, retelling. I did this because i enjoyed it but i realized how much the boys were getting when we saw an Eric Carle book at a friend’s place and the boys looked at the artwork and immediately said – “capertiller!!!” (referring to the Very Hungry Caterpillar). Nishant makes connections across books, connections between text and the real world and vice versa. It is fascinating to watch.

We have turned reading into almost a ritual…and it is funny to see how much the twins value this ritual. We have reading cushions in their room. So before we start, we prop the cushions up against the wall and sit down on the mattress leaning against our cushions. Then the boys get up and pick out what they want to read from the book tray. I usually sit in the middle and hold the book so both the boys can see. I started out with board books because i wanted my boys to be able to handle the books. So they would hold them, try to flip the pages, and sometimes drool on them and chew them. I never said NO to any of this because i wanted books to be something they found accessible, fun and theirs! I would (and still do) read and re-read and then re-read again as many times as they wanted me to. Soon they would finish my sentences for me. And then, when they were playing by themselves, they would pick out the book and ‘read it’ to themselves, often adding their own bits.

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It’s not like all kids want to read. While Nishant absolutely loves books and can spend big chunks of time being read to, Siddhant gets easily distracted and prefers quicker, shorter reading sessions. He sometimes wanders off in the middle of a read aloud, or says “all done!” and shuts the book. I try to continue reading if he is within earshot or in the room and will try to engage him by asking questions.  I don’t want to force him because i would like to keep reading a fun activity that the boys enjoy.

I am putting down a list of some books my kids love. They are currently 23 months old so some of the books in this list may not work for very small babies:

  1. Moo Baa La La La           Sandra Boynton
  2. Barnyard Bath                 Sandra Boynton
  3. Hippos go berserk          Sandra Boyton
  4. Belly Button Book           Sandra Boyton
  5. Pookie books                  Sandra Boynton
  6. The Going to Bed Book   Sandra Boynton
  7. Polar Bear Polar Bear      Eric Carle
  8. Brown Bear Brown Bear  Eric Carle
  9. From Head to Toe           Eric Carle
  10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar    Carle
  11. Draw me a star               Eric Carle
  12. The very grouchy ladybug      Carle
  13. The Wheels on the Bus (raffi)
  14. Five little ducks (raffi)
  15. One fish Two fish                  Dr. Seuss
  16. The Foot book                      Dr. Seuss
  17. Hop on Pop                          Dr. Seuss
  18. Cave Baby                            Julia Donaldson
  19. Gruffalo                                 Julia Donaldson
  20. Goodnight Moon                   Margaret Wise Brown
  21. The Runaway Bunny             Margaret Wise Brown
  22. Peek-a boo I Love You
  23. Peek-a-boo Sleepy Baby
  24. Squishy Turtle and Friends   Roger Priddy (cloth book with textures)
  25. Fuzzy Bee and Friends         Roger Priddy (cloth books with textures)
  26. Little Blue Truck                   Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry
  27. Where the wild things are     Maurice Sendak
  28. Happy in my nappy
  29. My new baby                       Rachel Fuller
  30. Head, shoulder, knees and toes   Annie Kubler

This is just a list to get you started. I will also start doing book reviews with reading suggestions and activities for this list.

home made play dough …so they can have the cake and eat it too!

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One big issue (if i can call it that) that i had with Siddhant was his need to put everything into his mouth. So till the boys were about 15 months old i used to make both paint and play dough at home from flour. The play dough recipe i use is one that i got from another parenting blog:

http://www.naturalparentingtips.com/creative-play/no-cream-tartar-playdough-recipe/

I have copied it from their site and put it down for you anyway. You need:

  • 1 Cup Plain Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Salt
  • 3 tsp of vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons of oil
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Food Coloring

Method

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a saucepan
  2. Whisk in the water over low heat
  3. Mix in the vinegar
  4. Pour in the oil
  5. Continue to mix over low heat until it forms a playdough texture
  6. Split up the dough, and knead in the food color (when it’s cool enough to touch)

i find that this one works really well. The only change i have made is to the oil. So after i have made individual balls  to color separately, i add a few drops more oil as i knead in the color. Then i just put them into ziploc bags or small containers and put them into the fridge. The dough stays really well for several weeks. And there is no problem if Siddhant chooses to eat it either!

Treasures in my trash can

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Well….not as literally…but I am always amazed at how my boys can be so fascinated by stuff that one would usually think of as trash and not glance at a second time. When you think about it, it’s like your home is a really cool discovery center and learning lab!

I am putting down a list of a few such things that my kids seem to love and also what we do with them together:

1. Cartons – of all sizes…cardboard cartons are like a dream come true for the boys. The smaller ones they use to stuff with things like bags and paper and then they love to pull it out one by one and throw it in the air. I sometimes hide a few toys along with newspaper for them to find. The bigger cartons are great to climb into. They can be a house, a cave, a hiding place, a car or a bus..it depends on what you can imagine…and kids can imagine pretty much anything they want to! Small cartons are also good as percussion instruments – so spoons banged on them make fun noise-makers.

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2. Cardboard tubes from toilet paper rolls can be used to peer through and when we are looking for something or playing hide and go seek. They can also be used to make craft stuff with the kids..things like an owl or octopus, a train engine, etc.

3. Empty yoghurt containers (small ones): These are great for playing with water. My boys also pretend that they are tea-cups. I like to use the empty containers to hold crayons

4. old soda / cold drink bottles (plastic). My little fellows love to play with these. They can spend so much time just twisting and untwisting the bottle tops. They also like to fill them up with water in the tub and listen to the sounds that makes..then the next part is emptying it out and imitating the sound it makes! When my kids are doing water play i usually just put them in the bathroom. That way they can make as much of a mess as they like and i am not worried about the floor being wet and slippery.

5. Old newspapers (or sometimes new ones too) – great for crumpling, shredding, tearing! Siddhant loves holding long torn strips of newspaper in his hand and then running around like crazy with a loud shrieks and a loopy grin on his face. Don’t have a pic of that but will try and post one later

6. Old socks – Just stick googly eyes on and these make fun puppets

7. Old sponges or wiping cloths: I think kids in general love to clean…sweeping, mopping, dusting, wiping. A sopping wet sponge is like Siddhant’s dream come true. He gets busy scrubbing ad wiping just about anything.

8. kitchen utensils: I give them different sizes to stack into each other. they are also great noisemakers if you can deal with the noise. I usually give them a spoon to bang on the utensils.

9. Leftover paints from an art activity: i just add lots of water and make colored water in different little containers. The boys can pour this, mix it…whatever rocks their boat!

10. old scarves, clothes…My kids are enjoying pretend play and dress up. They love to wear my stuff and walk around.

Image11. Old squirty ketchup bottles, old shampoo bottles, lotion or soap dispensers. These are fun to fill up with water and play. Or you can fill them up with some colored water or paint.

My boys also love being in the kitchen, helping shell peas, sort vegetables from the shopping bag, etc.

These are jut a few ideas. I am sure there will be tons of other stuff that you will find around the house that you would never think of as a play possibility!  Would love to hear about some of this stuff from you.

Not a bad mommy!!!

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I got pretty evil glares and stares at the park a couple of days ago. And a couple of moms even came up and asked me if i wasn’t worried that my child may fall off the ladder he was going up. One more concerned parent tried to help Siddhant put his shoe back on while i just stood back ‘lazily’ and watched.

Of course i am worried. Every little muscle in my body is pulling me to the ladder telling me to hold Nishant by the waist or legs to support him. But I also know that this is a park for kids his age and most of the stuff there is stuff that he can do if he tries. There is astroturf and grass and i am not so worried about scrapes. And i am close enough that i can grab him if required.

But i feel that my children need to learn.

If they don’t feel confident enough to run across the little moving wooden bridge, they can play on something else and come back to it when they feel ready…or not come back to it at all.  If they follow another kid over the bridge and make it to the other side on their own, i feel it will really do wonders for their self confidence and sense of self. If they are scared of the swing going too high, I don’t want to stand behind them and convince them it’s safe. They can see the other kids playing on it and will take that step when they want to.

A play ground is not just a play ground. It is a space where kids learn and grow by watching and doing. They gain confidence, develop gross and fine motor skills, practice balance, learn observation. They can repeat something as many times as they feel like without it turning into a tedious chore. They can help each other out and learn about cooperation and collaboration. They learn to take turns and make friends.  And i am not absent…just not unnecessarily involved.

My sons wear crocs or shoes that they can slip on and off as they like. I want them to be able to do that. Every time i do it for them, i am not allowing them to learn. It’s not like i am asking a two year old to tie shoe-laces!

So, I am going to ignore the glares and stares because i don’t mind being called a ‘bad mommy’. I would much rather my children enjoy the park and learn at their own pace and interest when they are here!

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No toys needed!

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We spend so much time and money getting fancy toys for kids, checking specifications, ensuring high quality, etc. But I have come to realize that there is just so much around us, at home, in the garden or yard that works much better in developing curiosity, allowing for experimentation and providing hours of endless fun for my toddler boys. I am posting a video of a recent holiday where the boys discovered the garden hose! In spite of the cool morning weather and icy cold water, the two had a blast! And we got the lawn watered too!

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YES you can scribble

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When my boys discovered crayons I discovered how many times i wanted to yell NO! They just did not care for paper. There was crayoning everywhere! On the table top, on couches, on pillow covers on clothes, on all their picture books, on walls, on cupboards…you name it and it was there.  shaky lines, bold lines, squiggles and dots and dashes. In bold blacks and blues and reds and pinks.

And yet there was no point starting out on this creative journey with a restraining, constraining NO was there? I mean, this was so beautiful to watch. They would scribble and talk about what they were drawing and here i was, worried about a silly couch.  As they played with their crayons they were learning about colors and sizes and breakages..they were learning to appreciate their work and to share space and materials with each other.  They were developing a better grip and working on their fine motor skills. They were experimenting with things like pressing hard with a crayon and getting darker lines. It was fascinating to watch once i put my worries for the walls and upholstery aside.

So i just decided to go about it a little differently. In stead of saying NO everytime they picked up a crayon and moved towards the living room couch, i started suggesting spots for them to paint on.

I sing this silly rhyme to them…it makes them laugh but it seems to work. “You can scribble…”

On the walls, on the floor

On plastic cupboard door

In your book, on your chair

On the paper lying there.

Siddhant teases me by walking with a crayon up to the living room couch and asks me “here? ok?” and I will then ask him, “is that the wall? Is that the floor? Is that your plastic cupboard door??” And he laughs and runs off.

Things like painting and crayoning is so much fun for the kids and such a wonderful learning process too that i have to learn to deal with the mess. And actually if it is wax crayons, they are no so hard to clean off. I have a washable emulsion paint on the walls so it is easy to clean. It wipes off really easily from the floor tiles too as it does from plastic surfaces. And my boys love to scrub the floor and wipe after they are done with their artwork. So we all clean up together!

(I still have managed to get crayons on the couches and sheets, but i just have to deal with that)

Using signs with babies

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I had heard about baby signs and often wondered about them, slightly skeptical and slightly curious. I knew a couple of friends who had used signs with their babies in the US – a friend and a cousin, but i had not really seen this in action. So when a pediatrician friend suggested that i try it with my boys i decided to give it a shot. This was when the boys were about 7 months old. One of my twins was babbling a lot less than the other and i had a feeling he may start speaking a little late too. However, he was a very social and independent boy with a mind of his own and i knew that although he may start talking a little late, he would definitely want to start communicating sooner.

I ordered my copy of Baby Signs by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn and spent the first couple of days just going through the book.  One of the comments on the back of the book caught my eye : “Babies are a lot smarter about language than we thought, and long before they can talk they can speak in symbols and gestures” – Jane Pauley.

The approach looked rather simple. I had to start gradually introducing signs and consistently using them with the babies. The signs did not replace speech but accompanied it.  And so we embarked on a new journey of signs.

I started with simple everyday words. Milk, food, bath….hot, cold…light, fan….hello, bye-bye…sun, moon and stars. These words were introduced over the first month and half. The boys would look at me and smile and the nanny found it pretty funny but went along with me. I made sure that Dad used the signs too…as did the grandparents when we saw them…which of course meant that i was teaching the signs to a lot more people than i had anticipated. I had no response from the twins in terms of them signing. But hey, i decided to keep at it a little longer. The,n one evening, when the twins were around 9 months old, we were sitting at my mum’s place reading a book. It was getting a little dark so mum walked into the room and turned on the light. Nishant suddenly looked up and then looked at me excitedly and signed the word light. just like that…out of the blue, with no prompting and when i least expected it. “Yup! that is the light, baby!” i said. And there you go …he did it again and again and again!! Within a week his brother picked it up too and then we were on a roll. It was as if they had been waiting and watching till they felt ready to start. Their fist few words were light, fan, bath, star and bubble. Then came the “more and all done”. The boys were soon pretty comfortable signing a lot of the basic every day stuff. My big wow moment came a few months later, a little before their first birthday.  My older twin Siddhant actually came up with his own sign words for grandma and grandpa (my parents who in marathi – my mother tongue are called ajji and ajoba) They picked a sign my mom used to sing a little rhyme with them to call out to her and they would tap their forehead like my dad to indicate they were referring to him. That gave me such a high!!! Because they had realized what language was and were trying to create their own. Once Siddhant started with these two signs, Nishant picked them up too…just like everything else they keep picking up from each other.

Even when they started talking in one and two word sentences around 17 months, they continued to use the signs along with speech. Today at 23 months, they are more or less using only speech, though for some words like ‘more’ they use both.

i followed the book as much as i could but i also made up some signs of my own where i found them coming naturally to me. I guess that will depend on each parent or caregiver. Since i am the primary caregiver and my kids did not go to day care or play school it worked well for me to create my own signs where i felt the need to.

I feel that this is a book every parent should look at because i feel it empowers the child and gets the child and parent to communicate even before the baby can talk…and definitely cuts down on frustration for both the parents and the baby!

Cave Baby…a story and some painting!

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My boys love books…and a very close second favorite is painting…and crayoning. The crayons invaded our house when they boys were about 14 months old and they seem to be here for the long haul. We have crayon art on cupboards, walls and floors…pretty much everywhere other than on paper. In fact i stopped giving them paper to scribble on. In stead we work directly on the floor. The wax crayons are very easy to wipe off the floors – we have light colored ceramic tiles that make an excellent canvas for the boys – and once the boys are done, i give them a wet cloth or wipes to help me clean up!  But i think crayons deserve a post of their own and i will get to that in a bit. Right now i want to share a really fun reading – painting day that i had with the boys.

Last month i picked up a lovely book called Cave Baby by Julia Donaldson

I loved the story and the illustrations are absolutely stunning! Anyway, the boys were a little bored and did not feel like playing with their toys or puzzles, so I decided to show them the book. The book is about a cave baby who likes to paint and his adventures with a wooly mammoth, a hyena, a saber toothed tiger and more. The baby scribbles on the wall and that is where the story begins and ends.

We started out by looking at the cover. “What do you see boys?” i asked. “Elephant! Baby! color color painting!” were some of the more understandable replies. Yup – there was definitely all of that in the book. With their curiosity now aroused, we started reading. The boys identified with the story immediately! Especially with the painting on the wall. My best friend and i often paint on the walls in the kids room, adding every now and the to the existing wall art. And the boys crayon on the wall and sometimes run a brush of washable paint too, so the pictures got them super excited.

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We looked at each page and searched for all the fun elements in it. One of the boys wandered off and would join us whenever i resumed reading. each kid is different and one of my boys loves detail while the other is easily distracted. Anyway – this book is great for either type…it has a lovely, simple yet imaginative story and the illustrations make for great discussions and conversations.

We read the book together about three or four times and soon enough one of the twins was pretend reading along with me and finishing all the sentences. Then it was time for some action! I taped one sided paper on the walls and gave the boys brushes. I used old take home chinese carton lids as palettes and gave them a few blobs of ELC washable paint to use. The boys painted imaginary animals with spots and stripes and had a blast (this lasted all of 7 minutes). They still managed to get paint on the wall, which was fine because then i gave them wet wipes and they pretended to be the Cave Baby’s mum singing out “no more spots, no more stripes” as they cleaned. Of course, i Had to do a more thorough cleaning job after.

Our art activity ended with a nice soak in the tub. I used the paint left over on the plastic lids to make colored water. the boys had fun pouring the colored water from one container into another, watching the colors mix and then just generally splashing around.

I totally recommend this book and a follow up painting activity. It’s also a great way to introduce some prehistoric animals!

Painting the town red…er green

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It’s never too early to start painting with kids. My first painting activity with my twins was when they were 8 months old. I wanted them to make palm prints on a tshirt. The first part of this activity was guided while i got them to make the palm prints, but then after that i just let the boys explore the paints. They loved the texture and soon moved from sticking the tips of their fingers into the paint to pretty much painting themselves and the floor. I had spread a plastic sheet on the floor but they crawled off it in a bit smearing paint in tell tale streaks on the floor. They had a blast. I decided to sit back and let them finish with the mess. There was no point worrying about the paint – i knew it would wash off later.

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Once i realized how much the boys enjoyed “painting” i experimented with different textured paint.  I usually would make them paint at home because one of the twins loves putting everything into his mouth and i did not want him licking regular paint.  Here’s a recipe i found that works well:

Mix equal quantities of flour, salt and water. Pour into plastic cups and add food coloring. You can pour this mixture onto a plate/tray or plastic table top for kids to mess around with. I use newspapers spread on the floor for them to make designs on with their fingers, hands, feet (or the whole body!). If you like you could put the paint into squirt bottles for them to squeeze out onto a paper. Adding salt gives a nice texture to the paint.

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You can also make some delicious smelling (and tasting) paint with jello. You can buy different colored jello packets and all you need to do is add boiling water to the jello to make a paste that you can spread with your fingers. Allow it to cool and use it like you would use finger paint!  It looks glossy and pretty when it dries and smells lovely too!

My boys love painting with their fingers, but it is also fun to use cut up pieces of kitchen sponge, rollers, vegetables like okra or cut potatoes for printing. Then of course, you also have brushes and stamps 🙂

We also enjoy cleaning up after we are done. The boys help me put away the paints now singing “clean up, clean up”. Image

And then finally, when we are all done, it is time for a much needed bath and some fun time in the tub!

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