Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Letter of the Week

Let's talk about ACTIVITY TIME. I think it's the best thing I've ever done, but I also know it can sound overwhelming. Here's some answers to common questions:

I almost never prepare the night before. I do keep an "art cabinet" filled with basic supplies (funny, it started out as a "Fancy Nancy bucket," but now its a cabinet). I always do activity time in the morning, with the kids that are at home. We do activity time every day, but it does NOT always include a crafty craft. We count library trips, our local museum, walks, etc. as activity time together. Sometimes the days I plan the most are the days that fall apart immediately and I've learned to LET GO and follow what my kids want to do, even if it's just jumping on the trampoline with me until I pee my pants. I go through the alphabet, focusing on one letter a week, but sometimes we go two or three weeks on the same letter, depending on how many fun things we want to do with that letter. I introduce the letter on Monday, we go to the library on Tuesday and find books that are about that letter, and go from there. It totally works for me, and hopefully you can find some helpful tips here that will work for you.

Starting a Letter of the Week schedule was one of the best things I ever did for activity time with my kids. It's simple, easy to track, and gives a nice backbone to the limitless things I want to teach my kids. We just finished our second time through the alphabet the week before Charlotte started Kindergarten and it felt so good to celebrate her big step into school with that much anticipated letter Z. The whole thing was bittersweet to me, but the best part was knowing that I had been the one to introduce all 26 letters in fun, interactive ways. And it really felt good when she would randomly say, "H-H-Horse! That starts with an H!" and I knew I taught her that.

Even if you have your child enrolled in a preschool, doing Letter of the Week activities is a great way to play with them and teach them all kinds of new things, all the while reinforcing those basic building blocks of our language.

With that said, we are starting over now with my three (almost four) year old, Eloise, and my two year old, Edison. I will be posting weekly about our Letter of the Week activities, so come check it out if you need ideas and want to follow along. My greatest resources for our activities are Alison McDonald's No Time for Flashcards, Pinterest, and my local library. I will post our activities on my Instagram as well.

Tomorrow I'll be posting what we've done this week for the Letter A. Has a little to do with ants and a LOT to do with alligators...

Meanwhile, here's a funny video of Edison today (best part is at the end):


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Best of the #likeaninja posts

Hellooooo ladies. How was your summer? I tend to take a few months off at a time, but I'm ready to dive back into the blogging world this fall. I love having the chance to connect with all of you. Are you following me on Instagram? Not to sound pushy, but you SHOULD. Because it's in the day to day stuff that we can relate to each other and I try to post the REAL LIFE stuff on my feed, just in case you also have dried spit up on your shirt and can't remember the last time you took a "shave your legs" kind of shower. We're in this together. In fact, a few weeks ago, I started a #likeaninja tag and asked some of my followers to share the "little things" that they did that day that probably went unnoticed, but merited an applause. Here was my post:

I've just had one of those weeks that humbled me to the dirt. I know there is no woman out there who has a clean house, happy kids, and balanced hormones all at the same time, but it's easy to think there is. We all make daily efforts in our homes that often get little or no credit. So, to bring light to those efforts, I want to see if you'll share something you did today, #likeaninja. For example, today I scheduled 15 minutes of clean-up WITH my kids before we dove into the fun stuff. Cleaning with my kids is hard for me, but I did it anyway #likeaninja.

Okay, so my ninja moment that day was kinda lame, but you get the idea. Here were some of my favorite responses:

Eserenity7: "Today I cut both of my older kids hair for the new school year, #likeaninja. I've never done that before but I feel accomplished that I did a great job and saved us some money at the same time!"

dmjones5: "It may not seem like much but I got two loads of laundry done and was able to get the two year old to take a nap without being in the car, #likeaninja."

jennavela: "Oh sister. Husband is out of town and I rallied the troops and took them to a state park. At one point, I had one kid in the stroller, another in the underneath of the stroller, and another on my shoulders. I was sweating and pushing uphill. It was #likeaninja status. Then I successfully bathed all three, fed them a hearty delicious dinner, and only had one freak out moment. We can do this."

lisadegraff: "I took both kids to three different quilt stores looking for some fabric AND I didn't yell once. I usually avoid running errands with them because I am a wimp, but today I did it #likeaninja.

aballard: "I had Cheetos and a Coke for breakfast. #nailedit"

juliannlaw: "Today started with an email saying I didn't get a job I wanted. After moping for a while, I got up and cleaned under my desk (can you guess where I had my pity party?). There are still piles on and around my desk, but beneath it is clean. Then I went outside and directed my anger at a wasp nest #likeaninja because one of them got my four year old yesterday. #vengeancefeelsgood #mamagrizzly

kelseytay: "I had a babysitter coming in two hours and my house was a disaster (I'm weird; I like my house semi dent before I have a babysitter over). Instead of cleaning I played with my kids in the backyard for an hour and a half and then turbo cleaned #likeaninja for the half hour before my babysitter got there. Swinging with my kids and jumping of the tramp was my favorite part of the day and I'm glad I chose to let go of the cleaning and enjoy my kids!

And the WINNER is....

karaspringsmith: "Today I braved taking all three children to the pool for the first time on my own. Jumped in the water with my clothes on to save my three year old that couldn't touch, and I managed to put away the laundry that has been sitting in the basket for four days, #likeaninja."

I had to share these. We are ninjas! And most of the time our amazingness goes unrecognized. So give yourself a pat on the back today for the big (and little) victories you achieved by doing your best as "mom." If you have any more ninja moments, please do share. I will personally applaud each one of you.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Setting Summer Goals with Your Kids

I've been inspired by Saren over at Power of Moms to help my kids set some summer goals. Since mine are still very young, I wanted to find a way to keep it simple. Here's what came to mind:

 Paper chains! 
They are easy to make and I think they help teach goal-setting very effectively.
(Aren't Charlotte's poses impressive? Don't worry, there's more coming.)

 I recently read the book The Power of Habit, where it talks about how habits are formed. It mentions two factors in forming a habit: 1) a prompt and 2) a reward. I've been thinking of this as I look over my own goals for the year and I've tried to incorporate a prompt, or reminder, for my goal as well as a reward for myself when I take action toward reaching that goal (always involves food).
 I think this same formula is effective with kids and that's why I'm testing out these paper chain goals to see if it actually works.
1) The prompt (or reminder): a bright and colorful paper chain hanging where they see it every day.
2) Reward: The satisfaction of tearing off a link in the chain as they work toward their goal. We are also rewarding them with ice cream when they reach their goal.

I think that's our reward for everything. 'Cause mom needs a reward just as much as they do.

 So tonight for our Family Home Evening, we talked about the importance of goals, using this awesome lesson plan as a guide. Then we gathered some markers, paper, scissors, and glue and went to work on our paper chains. (We also had our cute neighbor next door join us for the evening:)
 I had them write their end goal down on the first strip of paper. (We wrote on them before we made them into chain links). This one was Charlotte's goal: to learn to swim by herself, without floaties.
 On each subsequent link, I helped them think of specific steps they would take to reach their goal. That's another reason why I like these paper chains because it helps them to think of a goal as a sequence of smaller steps that lead them to their final desired outcome.

Some of Charlotte's specific steps to reach her goal to swim without help are:
1. Go to swim lessons! We added a link for the last four days of her lessons this week so she can tear one off when she gets home.
2. Practice with Dad in the pool.
3. Practice going under water in the bathtub (supervised by mom).
4. Practice "bobbing" underwater in the pool.
5. Practice jumping into the pool and swimming to mom or dad.

She thought of most of these herself, with a little encouragement from mom, and she wrote them all down herself, with LOTS of help from mom. I wanted her to have as much ownership as possible in this goal.
 And then we ate popsicles.
Hazel's goal is to get better at telling time and understanding the calendar. She thought of that one on her own, but needed a lot of help thinking of her specific steps to reach that goal.
And then Hazel was grumpy. But I took a picture anyway.

I'm excited to see how these work! Happy summer. So glad it's finally here.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Quick and Easy Father's Day Surprise

This year I really wanted to think of something original and new for Father's Day, but I kept coming back to tracing my kids' hands, because who doesn't love the chance to freeze those tiny fingers in time? 

 I also wanted something low key and quick since we've been busy jumping into summer with camping trips, swim lessons, and a family reunion coming up.
 We traced and cut out their hands and I asked the older kids to write down what they love about their dad onto their hands.
I interviewed the younger ones and wrote down some things they said about their dad (and improvised where needed). I literally stapled these onto a bright yellow string and had my oldest cut out the letters D-A-D for the middle. Voila!

Hope you all have a great Sunday, celebrating these awesome men in our lives.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day Poppy Craft

Yesterday we read a few books we found at the library on veterans (we are learning about the Letter V this week, so timing was perfect) and I told the kids about Memorial Day. I found this great book that helped explain this holiday in a simple way:
 In the book we read about veterans, it explained how poppies became the flower we use to remember those that died in a war. I wanted the kids to be able to bring something home-made to the cemetery this weekend, so we decided to make poppies.
 Since this activity was planned the morning of, I used what I had around the house! I gave everyone a paper plate and a squirt of black paint. I told them to use their fingers to paint the entire middle of the plate black.
 Even little Ed (2) did well with this one.
(Charlotte keeps cutting her hair herself. I'm learning to let it go.)
 Once they colored in the middle, we put them aside to dry and started cutting out our flower petals.
 I had a lot of red tissue paper left over from Christmas, so I kept it folded and drew the outline of petals so the kids could help me cut them out. Tissue paper is tough to keep together for little hands, but they just did their best.
 Once the paint was dry, we grabbed some Elmer's glue and went to work!

 I helped them put a line of glue on the plate and then they pressed the petal onto the glue. We made sure to overlap the petals to help them stay up.
It was easy enough for my three year old to do mostly by herself. She just needed help squeezing the glue. You can always put some glue onto a plate and give them a Q-tip to do it themselves.

Poor Edison had a tantrum after paint was put away, so I finished his petals for him:)
 Ta-Da! I think these will be nice to put on the graves we visit. Bright, beautiful, and home-made.

We also put our star-cutter to good use to make one of these stars, posted way back in the day here.

For more ideas on Memorial Day crafts, visit this post.

Also, this Memorial Day we are remembering our dear neighbors, the Hughes, who just lost their sweet baby boy, Miloh, to SIDS. If you are local, please take time to attend their fund-raiser car wash this Saturday at 10:30 am at the Ogden Animal Hospital (2nd and Washington).
We hope to show them our love and support as their grieve the loss of their little boy. 

Happy Memorial Day.

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