Monthly Archives: March 2015

Word Bingo

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The twins have started reading a little and I decided to have a fun bingo game to get them excited about it. It is super simple to set up. I took 2 sheets of paper and put their name on top of one each. Then on the paper I drew a 3 x 3 grid. In each cell i put a CVC / CCVC word (hut, bug, stop, plot, etc). So each of them had a sheet with 9 words on it. Most of the words were the same – but put a few different ones on their grids too. Then i made of list of the words on my paper, put in a few that were not on their list too. I gave the boys their papers and asked them to called Bingo each time they got a word. (Since this was their first time at the game figuring words out in a game too – i made the bingo part fairly non-challenging).

i was actually fun and the boys enjoyed searching for their words and calling Bingo with great gusto. It took some time to get started because Sid’s first response was to simply state that he did not have the word without really checking…but once he got the hang of it it was fun! Next time will make it more challenging and ask them to call Bingo when they find 3 words or something.

Will try it with number too one of these days. And I guess you can spiral it to meet your needs – math problems, countries and capitals, opposites, history dates…anything you may want to prep kids for or practice in a fun manner. I am sure this would make for a fun class quiz too!

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The Process…

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We love art..at least all of us at home enjoy playing with paints and paper. It is always about the process for us…we often don’t have a fancy product to show for our explorations with paint and other art media. I have very few paintings framed on the wall…a lot of our art is cut up for other craft type activities. And yet…the exploration…the experience lead to interesting outcomes, perhaps not visible on paper but very much in the discussions and conversations that accompany and follow the activity.

Day before the boys were sitting and painting – excited about a new art set they got for their birthday. Since Amu had taken half the colors, nish and sid were left with blue, black and white. Nish played around, mixing white and blue to make lighter and lighter shades of blue. He was pretty excited to discover that the more white he added, the lighter it got. He knew he would get a lighter shade by adding white, but now he was able to explore degrees of light blue!

And then his little Eureka moment was when he added some black to the blue paint and discovered that he got a darker shade of blue. It was so cool to see that little light bulb moment!

So, once again…so much learning in the process…and the product? Well, here is all we really have to show for it:

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A fun and simple birthday party

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I like small birthday parties…simple ones that focus on the birthday child and his friends and the things he likes. I am not big on party entertainers and fancy decorations…it’s not about being frugal..it’s about looking at what one really needs ..and in our case simple works just fine.

The boys turned 4 this weekend and we did a small celebration at home. About 10 kids (and our 3 boys)…al the kids at the party were neighbors – children the boys see and play with everyday. The set up was simple. We had a sort of theme – superheroes because all three boys and into super heroes. So, I basically cut up adult tshirts to make capes and used felt to make masks for all the kids. I put these into a tub at on a chair at the door so each kid could pick one up as he/she entered. We had red, blue and yellow balloons all over the room and a spiderman bunting that I picked up in a party shop.

I put out our tractor mat, car mat and a lot of vehicles to go with those in addition to a kitchen set and some yummy scented playdough (a ball of chocolate playdough and another one that was orange colored and scented – https://myfourboysandme.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/delicious-scented-playdough/ , https://myfourboysandme.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/all-that-glitters/ – two playdough recipes) and we were set.

Food was again – simple…mac and cheese, raagi crisps, carrot and cucumber sticks and hummus, fresh popcorn, juice, potato chips, jello…and of course, cake! Everything (except the potato chips and juice) was made at home. We used the children’s everyday plastic ikea plates and glasses instead of disposable ones to minimize wastage.

The cake was easy to make and great fun to decorate. Made an enormous chocolate cake (round), made icing with butter and icing sugar and drew a spider web in white on the cake. Then, using marzipan, i colored the marzipan red, rolled it into a ball and then flattened it to make a spiderman face which again i decorated with white and deep blue icing. Placed the spidey face in the center of the web and then wrote happy birthday Sid and Nish across the web in blue.

Very tragically I have no pictures…because (ok i kicked myself enough already) i had taken the memory card out of my cam earlier that day and forgot to put it back in. So we took tons of pictures…but did not actually take them!

The kids had a blast. Since the majorty were boys, they were super happy with the tractor mat and cars which they played with for a long time. Then it was onto the play dough and I am so glad that I had kept the play dough out in the balcony because boy did we have a play doughy mess at the end of the party! But the kids kept busy and the adults could sit down and have a sane conversation without having to bother at all with the children!

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We also had made a spiderman pinata and I gave the boys plastic raquets to try and break it. Lots of jumps and whacks later one of the mums punched the pinata and it exploded confetti and candy all over the kids…of course there was a scramble to collect as many as possible! I loved how one little girl ignored the cansy and chased after the flying confetti instead.

After the pinata was broken

After the pinata was broken

The boys were so happy and excited all evening – i am glad we kept it simple and focused on them! I enjoyed every minute of it too!

I am asking my friends for pics…some of them were taking photos on their pones…so hopefully i will have a few to put here in a day or so!

Stealing childhood? A rant

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I was in a bookstore the other day when I came across flash cards for 1 month old and 3 month olds. That was not a typo…I did not mean to say years…i wanted to say months…as ludicrous as it sounds, we need flash cards for newborns and infants. So they can identify 58 pictures by the time they are 5 months old and read a hundred sight words by the time they are 2…or whatever. Why on earth? Is there any research that shows that a baby who can identify pictures at 5 months is likely to be more successful than one who doesn’t even start trying to do this till much later?
Apps on the Ipad, television shows, early tutoring classes, flashcards and workbooks, special help for preschoolers…what are we trying to achieve? Our kids have so little time outside of the world of formal school and then structured living by societal rules and norms, why can’t we let them have their few years of free play and exploration? Their time to discover the world by lying on their backs and watching the sun and the moon and the stars…the birds on the trees and flowers and plants? Why can’t we allow them to be who they are, to discover themselves through the experiences with all that is around them..why define them to fit into the boxes we want them to fit into?
As we rush between school and tutoring and classes, between a zillion camps and flashcard piles and competitive exams..are we forgetting what and who they are? children! Can we plesae step back a little bit and give them their childhood back? Please?

What makes a superhero???

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The boys are big time into super heroes…spiderman, superman, batman and a bunch of other ones. It’s more because of their peers I guess – they have not watched a single super hero cartoon or anything and we don’t have any books with them either. yet, the boys love these men of steel with their incredible powers and cool outfits. They dominate so many of their conversations and often creep into their imaginary play.
Sid loved the batman costume our friends gave him and sometimes even wears it downstairs to play. This year for their birthday they wanted a party that had superheroes as a sort of theme. I decided to go with it and have tried to work the theme into their little party tomorrow with all their friends from our building complex.
Since Sid was so keen on Superheroes, I tried having a conversation with him about them. Here is how it went.

Me: So you like superheroes
Sid: Oh yes I love them!
Me: What is a super hero?
Sid: He is like spiderman or batman..he can fly even
Me: So, what makes him a superhero?
Sid (with absolutely no lead time): His clothes…he has a cape and a mask
Me: That’s it? Just his clothes?
Sid: Yes i think so
Me: So anyone can be a superhero if they wear the superhero outfits?
Sid: Yes anyone can be a superhero
Me: If you wore a superhero costume you think you could fly?
Sid: Yeah…i think so…but i will be a super hero then
Me: What do superheroes do?
Sid: They fight bad people…they catch them and then shoot them sometimes or tie them up (sudden pause and deep thought) Then…does that make them bad people too? Because shooting is not a good thing right?
Me: Yeah i don’t think it is a good thing
Sid: So superheroes are actually BAD? (deep thought again) But they only catch the bad people so that we stay safe and don’t get hurt so they are not so bad.
Me: So you think they are not bad then?
Sid: Yeah … i can be a super hero too. If you push me high on the swing then i can fly.

And cut….end of the discussion as other conversations took over! However, it was interesting to see how simple it was to turn into a superhero…decided to take that and tie it into the plan for their birthday party…so have made superhero capes and masks for all the kids. Let’s see how many metamorphose into superheroes tomorrow!

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Tractors…farms and play mats

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While our boys have a lot of different things to play with…we have dolls, tea sets, cooking equipment, books, puzzles…they seem to very naturally gravitate towards CARS. These chaps LOVE their vehicles and they have been going through different phases. When the twins were a little over 2 they started asking us to name every car they saw till, in a few weeks they could name (and correctly identify) probably a lot more than I can. Living on the car corridor was a plus.

Then began the fascination with construction vehicles…diggers, dumpers, cement mixers. We had an ever growing collection of cars. At that point I saw a really nice car play mat with roads and stores and what not on it and decided to paint one for the boys. It was (and continues to be) a hit with my little fellows and they have spent many hours taking their cars all over the roads on the mat. They found it especially fun because it was an attempt to make it a map of the neighbourhood we lived in…all the parks and stores they knew…the police ground, the fire brigade, etc. (https://myfourboysandme.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/a-canvas-for-cars/)

Now that their dad works with a company that makes agricultural machines, it is only to be expected that tractors and harvesters are the new craze in our home. Indulgent dad picks up a die cast model for them on each trip and so over the last year they have accumulated a decent number of farm machines and last week Sid expressed that it would be a wonderful idea to do a ‘tractor mat’. The tractors are too big for our regular car mat and i guess it made sense. So we got to work. We decided what we wanted on it and then i painted a large canvas. We have fields roads, a pond, fields with some vegetables/crops, coconut fibre that we pretend is hay, a house/barn (work in progress) and we have put some animals on it too. (most props are movable and the canvas can get rolled up and put away. It’s not complete and we still need to do pens and barns, etc. but the boys are really enjoying it. They have detailed conversations, they are happy to play together or by themselves, they are using the right equipment for the right processes and it is really really fun to watch. I like how the vocab is getting integrated into their play as Nish lift ‘bales of hay’ and Sid correctly talks about what the harvester does. They even added a small toy plane into their box and have decided it is a Crop Duster.

Sure it took several hours to work on it and there is a lot more to be done…but it was well worth it to watch them use it and play with/on it. It is nearly 5 feet x 3.5 feet so it’s pretty large and so they can really move around on it! IMG_8014 IMG_8019

Sensory Tray

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I read about sensory trays on The Imagination Tree and decided to try it out with the boys. First, I colored some salt using Wilton food coloring (a lovely aqua shade). I kept a tray ready for the boys for when they got home from school. In the tray i kept a paint brush as well as a blunt pencil in case they wanted to use tools to write and not their fingers. I wrote S and N in the salt and kept a few alphabets there for reference. Keeping in ming that Amu (now a little over 2yrs) was probably going to wreck the tray in an instant, I also kept another small baking tin for him with some blue salt, pompoms, a tea strainer (tongs) and my pasta tongs. In addition I kept little plastic cups of different colors and sizes in case he felt like sorting the pompoms.

The boys reaction was great…they were super excited and got to the tray as soon as they walked in. However (and thank goodness I had my plastic sheet spread out under the trays and for them to sit on), they were so excited that they did not use the tray to write in at all…they played with the salt, enjoying the texture, drew a little in it, passed it through the strainer, poured it in and out of the different colored cups…added pompoms to the salt in the tray, tried picking the pompoms up with the pasta tongs as well as using clothes pegs. All in all they had a blast though they really did not use the sensory tray for writing like I had intended.

The next day, I set it up again for them (i had collected the salt and saved it in a jar so we can reuse it multiple times and it is not wasteful). This time round, the reaction was quite different. Amu got to work with his pompoms…but theis time round he was busy sorting the baby pompoms, the medium ones and the ‘giant’ pompoms. He did this using his hands, a spoon, chopsticks (one in each hand and very unsuccessfully) and the tongs.
Nish and Sid on the other hand actually tried their hand at writing in the salt tray. So i guess the second time round was a lot more in control and manageable. But i guess they needed that free exploration on the first day to really understand the different possibilities the tray offered.

Going to use this again in a few days because I think they seem to enjoy it…it is tied into various skills…fine motor, sensory exploration, sorting, sequencing, letter recognition, copying, etc.

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