Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Halloween Themed Snacks Kids Can Make

The boys and I love baking and making snacks together and I thought we would prepare a nice Halloween lunch. I picked snacks and food that the boys could either make with me or entirely on their own. I also tried to pick healthy foods but they are still very tasty (and quite a bit sweet too).
We spread the cooking over 2 days or it would have been too much even for my 2 big guys. Here is what we did:

Strawberries and cereal bars monsters

What you need:
- strawberries
- cereal bars (granola, for example)
candy melts
food coloring (optional but fun)
sugar eyes!
How we did it:
I melted the candy melts. This took some trial and error and I ended up adding water to help them melt. If you don't warm them up enough they don't melt and if you warm the up too much they harden. I ended up adding water to them to help mix them and it worked a lot better. Once they were melted I split them into 3 bowls.

The boys picked their own colors and added the food coloring themselves and mixed them up. Then they dipped the strawberries and the cereal bars in the candy, placed them on a grate on top of a plate and added the sugar eyes!

They really enjoyed this one as (once the chocolate was melted) it was easy, fun and just a bit messy to do. The candy eyes were the real highlight!

Cucumber Halloween shapes

What you need:
- cucumber
- wavy chopper or knife (we like these kids' knifes)
- small Halloween cookie cutters (less than the width of the cucumber), we got ours at Michael's a long time ago on Halloween day when all the Halloween items are 75% off!
How we did it:
Matisse loves cucumbers and he took ownership of this job. He sliced the cucumber and then cut the shapes in. The pumpkin size was perfect as it fit in perfectly with nearly no waste. Some of the other shapes were a bit big so I sliced the cucumber at an angle to make the slices wider. Matisse ate most of the cucumbers he cut so I had to make sure I saved some for the photo.

Mandarin Pumpkins

What you need:
- mandarins
- celery
- a knife (we like these kids' knives)
- a bowl for the peels
How we did it:
I did not know my kids could peel mandarins for 45 minutes straight! They peeled 14 of them and loved making little pumpkins. At first I helped them by cutting through the skin to start, however, after a few Matisse figured out how to do it himself (with his teeth!) and then they finished peeling them entirely. Then they would added a little piece of celery they had cut to make really cute little pumpkins. It's been 3 days and we are still eating mandarin pumpkins! It's a super easy one that is great for fine motor skills and they showed great concentration.

Jack-O-Lantern Bell Pepper

What you need:
- bell peppers
- carrots
- a sharp knife
- a spoon
How we did it:
I did this one while they were peeling the mandarins. I opened the peppers, cleaned the and cut the shapes in. They added the carrots to it. I should have let them have a try at carving the pepper as it is really easy. Next time for sure!


What you need:
- celery sticks
- peanut butter
- pitted olives
- a spreader knife
How we did it:
Matisse was only interested in eating the celery so Alex took the lead on this. He used one of our regular knife to spread the peanut butter on then sliced pitted olives and added them as eyes, lots of eyes! Matisse eventually gave it a try but got frustrated very fast when the peanut butter stuck to the knife.

Hot Dog Mummy

What you need:
- hot dogs
- dough (we used fillo dough Next time we will try another type of dough...)
- pitted olives
- a knife 
How we did it:
We did these last year with regular dough and it was easy and fun for the boys to make. However this year I could only find fillo dough that was very thin and nearly paper like and did not stick at all. So it was very hard to wrap around the hot dogs, and I do not recommend fillo dough.

Otherwise Alex sliced the dough with a knife and tried to wrap it around the sausages but it was going all over the place so I had to help a lot. Then he added olive eyes in the same way he did with the eyes-on-a-log.

Banana Ghosts

What you need:
- bananas
- chocolate chips
- a knife
How we did it:
This was the last one we did and Matisse was done by then. Alex did this one on his own. He cut the bananas in half and added the chocolate chips as eyes. This is a very easy and fun one to wrap it all up!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Montessori Shelves at 1 year old

Theo turned one last week (it seems like with each child time goes faster) and I finally set up shelves only for him. Until now he shared the play shelves with the big boys in the living room however the big guys love using his toys, mostly for transporting, and then it can be hard finding all the pieces again.
So we added shelves, only for him, right next to his bed. Although this is not ideal, as typically you want to separate sleep and play spaces, it is the only spot that works. It has not been an issue with his sleep and the big guys have been better at not taking his toys away (plus it is easier to enforce).

As a newly 1-year-old, here is what is on his shelves and why.
Craft stick drop in the box
This is his favorite at the moment. It is a great fine motor work. I made it for him when I observed him trying to get sticks and spoons through the air vents in the house (they are on the ground). Another way for him to practice this is when I load or unload the dishwasher, he loves working on the utensils and getting them in and out of the slots.
Object permanence box
He really enjoys placing the ball in the hole and waiting for it to come out. This is the only permanence box I have and it is the one with the drawer. However he is not yet ready for the drawer (I tried) so I removed the drawer and placed the box in a tray so it can be used without the drawer.
He loves banging so this is perfect for him! I use this drum (similar drum here) a lot to redirect from banging things he shouldn't, such as a steel statue on the just refinished hardwood floor.
Basket of Animals
I always like to have a basket of animals for my little ones. The current animals are: horse, dog, cat and squirrel, these are all animals he has seen or sees a lot. We use this more for language and I describe each animals and call them by their name. As the baby grows the animals will be used in different plays and imaginative play.
Egg and cup
The egg and cup is a great work for developing hand eye coordination. At this point, he can place the egg in the cup however he does not yet place it on the floor so this will stay on his shelf a while longer.
First Puzzle
This simple puzzle came in a set of 4 shapes. This one is a large circle is great as a first puzzle (another hand eye coordination work). Once he will have mastered the circle we will move one to the square, then the triangle. Once they are all mastered separably then I will put 2 together at a time and so on.
Nesting Bowls
These are part of the Grimm's Nesting and Stacking bowls. They were not originally meant for Theo but Matisse was playing with the full set and Theo grabbed the 2 little ones (they are perfect size for him) and started fitting them in and out, over and over again. So I added these 2 to his shelf. 
Ring stacker with one ring
This is the traditional ring stacker and something he has not mastered just yet. I only have one ring out so it is easier for him but once he has figured out this one I will add the other ones.
Rainbow sensory bottles
I made these for him just for fun. Each bottle is a different color and materials. He likes to shake them, listen to them and look at them while he moves them.
Wood car
Because every child needs a car! He loves crawling while rolling it on the ground. We have many more cars in the house but this one is a good size for him and rolls well.
Sensory blocks
We got these sensory blocks a long time ago. They come with 4 colors and each colors has 3 different bead sizes. Right now he likes shaking them, and I have observed him listening carefully to the different sounds they make. Also he likes to knock them down if big brothers or I build a tower.
Transfer work
I observed him transferring dirt into a bucket once in the backyard (he loves paying with dirt!) so I figured I would prepare him an easy, full-hand transferring job. However at this point this is not something he is interested in! He does love to pour them all out though and make them roll everywhere!

We have the Enchanted Playsilk and it is stunning! It hangs on the side of his shelf from a 3M hook. He likes shaking it and mouthing it a lot, but it is great when playing with his big brothers for peek-a-boo and parachute.

In addition to the work on his shelf he has some toys in the living room, mixed in with the big guys toys:
- the Galt pop-up toy (a huge favorite!)
- a basket of balls
- music instruments (enough for all 3 of them to form a band!)
- a car ramp
- a Skwish ball
- a pounding bench
And he loves eating his big brothers' duplos!

These are the works we have that are out for him however we also spend a lot of time outside in the backyard or the park. He is still very much into gross motor work as he has started taking steps and he loves climbing stairs, the step stools and our bed!

If you want to see how he is currently using the works, check out my latest IGTV video.

Montessori shelves at 1 year old, what is on the shelves and why?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Multicultural Books

Multiculturalism makes children more tolerant of differences and helps them to appreciate differences and diverse people. Most of all, it makes them more open-minded to the people and world around them.

While I was pregnant with my oldest (and still had time to read books!) I read NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children and one of the chapters that struck me the most was the one about race. It mentioned how there is a strong belief in our Western society that we should be colorblind and not talk about race. However the new thought, which makes sense to me, is that race should be explained to our children. Here is a great article from Psychology Today as to why and another one as to why and how.

One of the easiest ways is via multicultural books and I thought I would highlight our favorites here.

Global Babies by the Global Fund for Children 

Most babies love other babies so this book has always been a favorite. It shows babies from around the world and as they grow it is a great way to start pointing out differences in hair color, skin color, how they are carried, their clothes.

All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

All are Welcome is another great book for preschoolers. It shares the message of a school where everyone's differences are loved and celebrated. Each page introduces different types of race, religions, ethnicities, and body types and all are celebrated with the message, “All are Welcome Here.”

Shades of People by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly

This book is a good introduction for young preschoolers to explain that the world is full of different cultures and different looking people. The only thing that is the same around the world is that there are differences everywhere you look. The book is full of beautiful photographs of people of all skin tones and culture. The words are simple and this book makes a great conversation starter. 

People by Peter Spier (French)

This is a beautiful book with intricate drawings. My oldest loves looking at the drawings and pointing out all the details. It teaches that the world is a wonderful, diverse place but that people everywhere seek the same things: love, security, creativity, and the freedom to express their unique place in the universe.

Children Just Like Me and Children Just Like Me: Celebrations by DK

These books are great for 6 and up. They are very informative with beautiful photos, good descriptions, and a lot of information about children around the world, their culture, their lives and their holidays, and celebrations. The children in the books are easy to relate to and share their interests and we can see their similarities and differences.

At the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin (French)

This is a beautiful book in an accordion format (so pretty long). The book gives children a basic and fun introduction to time across the world, various cultures, and how other children live. There is a map at the end of the story, and the interesting illustrations can spark many conversations and curiosities.

Martin's Big Words: The Life Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr by Doreen Rappaport 

We bought this book at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which is located in the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. Alex, then 5, had a very hard time understanding why someone would murder somebody else and why a woman was arrested for sitting in the "wrong" place on the bus. This book helped him ask us more questions every time we read it. The book helped him to process why this happened and also who Martin Luther King, Jr was. It is an amazing book that gives a great snapshot of his entire life and the importance of what he did.

Maya Angelou, Little People, Big Dreams by Lisbeth Kaiser

This is a great book about a strong woman. Great for children 6 and up. 

Les Maisons du Monde by Catherine Destephen

This book introduces the reader to a few different types of houses throughout the world and how people live in these houses. It has a lot flaps to open and close which makes it very interesting even to the younger preschoolers.

Mes Animaux du Monde and Mes Monuments du Monde by Clementine Sourdais

You could probably consider these more geography books but they introduce the culture of different countries in subtle ways, such as with the Blue Mosque in Turkey. Each page opens up wide on 3 sides and the last page is made of a beautiful pop up.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats 

The Snowy Day is a classic. It shows children that people from all ethnic background experience joy, wonder, disappointment, and excitement. The story and art are simple and fun but the message is very important. 

The First Bear in Africa by Satomi Ichikawa (French)

The story is told from the perspective of an African child, whose family lives on the Savannah plains. A few tourists come for a visit, and a young girl forgets her teddy bear. Meto, the young boy, then runs across the savannah, trying to catch up to the girl and return her animal to her. No one has ever seen a bear in Africa before. Swahili words for "Goodbye" and for various savannah animals are used throughout the book.
Best multicultural books for babies and preschoolers

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