There is something magical about mirrors and little kids. It’s not the vanity of a pouting lady putting on lipstick or a well buffed dude surveying his six pack. It is an innocent and curious discovery of self…a peek at oneself from the outside…a world of exploration that exists for preschoolers and little ones that is fascinating to watch.
Which is why it has always been important for me to have a full size mirror accessible to the boys.
Amu provides us with endless entertainment in front of the mirror on his book cupboard. If one were to peek into the room when he is busy at play, chances are you will spot him making faces at himself in the mirror, or turning himself this way and that to see if he can get a look at his own back.
Today was one such evening. I walked into the room to see him wearing tons and tons of glittering beads and posing away, checking himself out and even kissing his reflection. The expressions were classic!
After a while (thankfully) he moved away from himself and the mirror and spent the next half our decking up his trucks with the beads and having long imaginary conversations! The beads were cords, chains, treads, decoration as he wove his story around them and the trucks.
Mirrors are an important part of the environment for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. They help children develop a concept of self, a construction of one’s own image. They are a great tool for perception too and provide an array of exciting exploratory experiences for children. Mirrors can easily become a center for fantasy play, inquiry, discovery and experimentation! In fact mirrors are an important part of the Reggio environment!
We have a lot of beads at home..big chunky plastic ones, slender tube shaped paper ones, translucent beads that gleam magically in the light, beads with tiny beads, hand painted ones and salt dough beads. We started out with large platic ones and shoe laces because I thought the boys would enjoy those. However, after an initial couple of days, they were relegated to the back of the shelf and my three boys soon lost interest in them. Then, sometime last year (the twins were shy of 4 and the little fellow was 2 then) we were together in an art and craft store when we happened to come to the bead section. Nish’s eyes totally lit up. He ran his fingers through the gorgeous glittery beads and asked me what they were. When I told him they were beads he was confused – the only ones he knew were the chubby plastic ones. Then it clicked for him – “Can we make real necklaces with these?”
And that was the starting point for our exploration and fairly long relationship with beads. The boys amazed me with the amount of time they spent with the beads. They made necklaces, bracelets and earrings with them. They used beads of the same color, beads in random orders, beads in very clear recurring patterns.
They started counting as they created…12-15 beads for bracelets, two for the earrings, etc.
They separated the beads into big and small, bright and pastel colors, into shades of pink and purple, into color families (as one of my boys called it – colors he thought went well together). This was a wonderful way to talk about shades and patterns.
They also realized that big does not always mean heavy…that too many colors does not necessarily lead to pretty.
They learned patience because it takes time to bead and perseverance because ever so often you let the end slip from your fingers and lose a bunch of beads from your strand…and you need to start over.
We figured easy solutions like making a big knot for the bracelet to stop the beads from sliding off, or the trick of tying the string to your toe so it is easier to manage and frees up one hand.
I am now thinking of using the beads to do more math concepts…tens and ones, understanding concepts of more and less. Let’s see how that goes.
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’
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”.
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.
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.
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.
The summer is really and truly here. The afternoons are hot and the kids really don’t want to go down or outside. I don’t have any help at home and the kids are on vacation so I need to find ways to keep them busy without being super engaged as i need to get more mundane stuff like cooking and clearing up done.
After spending some time in Mumbai we finally got back to bangalore yesterday. The boys were happy to be home and pulled out all the toys they had missed. But today they wanted to do ‘something else’.
I had too much stuff to do, so i found an easy way out…and it really worked well. I put a mattress on the floor. on both sides i lined up the cushions and seats from our cane sofa set and also added dining chair foam cushions.
The boys could make what they wanted of it. Sid decided this was perfect for somersaults and he tried all sorts of things with that..running starts, trying to create and incline using 2 pillows and trying to somersault down that. Amu was most fascinated and a very willing learner…a quick study too. So both master and pupil practiced their gymnastics while Nish decided that the set up was great for his cars. So he had elaborate parking lots, cars going down slopes, etc. He experimented with what inclines would work for the car without it toppling, how fast a truck could go without its confetti cargo flying off, etc.
Intermittently, the gym mat/car course turned into some sort of obstacle course, with the boys hopping form cushion to cushion, crawling on the mat and more. Once their imaginations took over it was like being on auto pilot.
I got dinner cooked and sorted, put a bunch of things away, unpacked… all this with out a single instance of being called in to help or intervene.
We all cleaned up together before we went down for a swim. Cleanup was super simple – just involved putting the cushions all back in place and shoving the mattress back where it belonged.
Definitely something i would do again in a few days!
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!
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!
It looks like a box of toys…it is actually a whole world of curious exploration and experimentation. I see a track laid out that is being adjusted and fixed for no apparent reason…three brothers arguing and rearranging the tracks and trains and props…If i look closer there is so much more going on. it’s not just a game. I see conversation and collaboration. The three of them are deciding the best way to lay out the tracks. They agree on some things and argue about some other things. It is a process of experimentation. The track can be long and open ended. It can be curved and looped, it can be an oval or a perfect circle. How many pieces make the circular track? Why are some pieces left over? How can we make a track using all the pieces?
Can two trains run on it simultaneously? Nish figures out how to make the trains chane tracks and then takes on that role very seriously, sending Thomas on one route and James on another. Sid experiments with the speed of trains…does it run faster going straight on on a circular track. Does the carriage attached at the back affect the speed. He notices that the engine with the carriage attached tended to derail at a sharp turn. He removed the carriage and noted with satisfaction that James was now chugging along without accidents. He then asked Nish to ensure that James and his carriage stayed on the straighter route with no sharp turns. Amu realized that if he stuck his toe out the train slowed as it touched it and made a loud whirring sound. He kept trying it every time the engines came near him. He also took upon himself to place bridges and tunnels along the way, replacing them every time they were knocked over. As they got into a sort of rhythm with their respective rules an elaborate conversation and imaginary play also started. The boys discussed passengers, freight the trains were carrying…transferring their understanding of trains from books and real life experiences to the conversation and play.
They practiced words that they otherwise did not get a chance to use…derailed (which Amu kept calling delayed much to the amusement of his brothers), caboose, siding and coupling. The words were consistently used correctly including by the youngest fellow who was not to be left behind.
So like i said…it looks like a box of toys…but is it??? It looked so much more like a collaborative experiment in physics!
(Thank you dear ‘maasis’ for the wonderful gift!!! And yes – i finally got batteries!)
Which kid (or adult) does not like bubbles??? And if those bubbles are super big even better!!! I recently came across a recipe for gigantic bubbles online (http://happyhooligans.ca/homemade-giant-bubbles/) and since we had a house full of kids (mine and 2 close friends kids who were visiting for the holidays) I thought it would be a good time to try this out. We had most of the ingredients the recipe required (only needed to pick up glycerine) so it was easy to put together. I followed the recipe pretty closely….only thing was that I did not have any wool or yarn so i used a stiffer twine type string instead. We got some pretty super bubbles and it was the highlight of our picnic to Cubbon Park! While the bubbles were certainly nowhere near the size that i saw in the pictures, they were definitely much much bigger than the ones we usually get and the boys had a wonderful time experimenting with different methods to get big bubbles. They blew hard, blew gently and slowly, ran forwards and backwards..constantly trying to get bigger and better bubbles. it was loads of fun and I am planning to try varying the proportions of liquid soap and glycerine to get bigger bubbles next time. Definitely something to try…I had a blast with it and the kids had a fab time too! What you need:
- 6 cups water
- 1/2 cup dish detergent
- 1/2 cup corn flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp glycerine
Dissolve the corn flour in the water. Then gently stir in the remaining ingredients. Allow your mixture to sit for at least an hour, stirring occasionally if you see the cornstarch settling to the bottom. (for exact details and images check out the link mentioned in the blog post)
My boys have read about snow..sung songs about snow..but they had never seen snow. Not till a couple of days ago at least. So after days of singing about Santa dashing through the snow and Frosty the snowman my little guys actually got their first experience of “snow”. Once again thank to my cousin jnt who was like Santa Claus 2 weeks early! She got the boys something called artificial snow….basically a white powder that you add water to and stir away till it forms first a slushy snow and then…yup you are correct – snow!!! SNOW!!!!
It looks like and feels like snow! I stuck it in the freezer for a bit and then it even was the right temperature. I made a bowlful for the boys (which involved 1 tsp of the powder and 2 cups water). The reactions were incredible. Nish stuck his hands in, shivered with delight and squished the snow between his fingers. Amu dropped some down his tshirt and squealed in surprise and joy. Sid, my little bundle of dynamite, took barely a minute to figure out that he could scoop fistfuls and fling them at his brothers…and therein lay a prize snowball fight!
I have unfortunately just a few bad images…did not want to risk my camera lens in that frenzied snow play….but i doubt i could have captured the moment in any case!