Ten things

February 21, 2009

Ten things that made me happy today:

Hearing my children’s laughter;

Hearing the silence as they work to figure out how to attach the crane to the dump truck, or a piece of yarn to the helicopter, or whatever else is needed for today’s play;

Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them, as I love to do;

Soothing Little Bear because he (accidentally) spilled his milk, because he gave up the sippy cup months ago;

Planting seeds, and checking on the hyacinth bulb that is growing roots(!) and green shoots already in our little vase;

Planting the seeds of inquiry in their little brains, asking them where the roots come from, and helping them figure it out;

Reading a new book to them at naptime (Magic Treehouse – book 11, I think);

Reading a new one for me (Annie’s Box) while they cuddle and fall asleep;

Hearing my boys negotiate over the Geotrax trains (both of them! talking!);

Hearing them say, “G’night, mom,” as they throw their big boy arms around my neck.

And a bonus one — my friend Jessica has told us “how to help” and take action in response to the news of baby Vivi’s loss, and baby Gwendolyn’s fight.  St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before.  Did you know that St. Jude provides free care for every child with cancer in America?  They work with insurance companies and fund the rest through donations.  I was blown away by that.  I mean, I remember the TV ads about it, but I’m ashamed to admit I’d never made a donation to help.  Until now.  Thanks, Jessica, for the reminder.  I’m so proud to be your friend.


Enjoying the newspaper

March 13, 2007

Love to read the morning paper?  Finding it difficult to find the time with a busy toddler climbing over you at breakfast?  Here’s a tip that buys me a little time to catch up on the news and enjoy the morning ritual with my toddler at the same time.

I read the paper *with* him.  When he was a little baby, I often read it *to* him, but he’s too big now to be interested much in the local news and too little for the op-ed page.  What we do now is a two-parter.  First, we browse the Metro and Style sections, looking for pictures of things that he recognizes.  When he spies a car ad, for example, he points and proudly pronounces, “car!”  Pictures of dogs and cats bring giggles of glee, and now that he’s a little older, I get all kinds of recognition and words for everything from moms and dads to airplanes and trains.  When all else fails, we skip to Sports and play find the balls.  “Reading” the paper, treating it like a treasure hunt, has been fun for us since Widget was about 18 months old.

Lately, we’ve been doing something new.  We flip to the back of the Metro section and do the weather report.  In our paper, the five day forecast is shown using little icons of sun, rain, clouds, and their combinations.  I point to the first picture and say, “Widget, what’s the weather going to be like today?”  He answers, “sun,” “clouds,” “rain,” or “sun and clouds,” (partly cloudy).  We repeat for each of the next four days, and he is so proud of himself!  Then we skip down to the weather map and talk about where we live, where Gramma and Grampa live, where Grandma and Grandpa live, and where the cousins live.  Next we’ll add in relating the colors to temperature. 

I would never have guessed that Widget would enjoy something as simple as reading the weather forecast, but he really does!  Fun for him, newspaper time for me (as I get a bit of extra time to skim the news while he scans the pictures), and best of all?  He learns how to interpret symbols and become familiar with reading maps.  We’ll add to his skills as he grows, but I would be happy if he simply retains an interest in reading the morning paper with me over toast or a nice waffle.  It’s such a nice moment of togetherness before we start the day.

Works for me!

Kids in the Kitchen

March 7, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday has a theme today, and it’s not a theme that was easy for me.  Y’all know that cooking is not my strong suit, and today’s theme is Works for Me Wednesday: Kitchen Edition.  Well, luckily, baking and cleaning and assembling sandwiches are ALSO done in the kitchen, so I’m still eligible to participate.  🙂

I have two hints to share for helping kids learn in the kitchen.  Yup, you didn’t think you’d get a recipe from me, now, did you? 

The first hint is to let the kids HELP you cook!  Food preparation time is a great time for even the littlest ones to help mom or dad identify ingredients (“Where is the bread?”), measure dry ingredients (“We need 1/2 cup of flour next.  How can we measure it?” or “Which one is the 1/2 cup measure?” or “How many 1/4 cups do we need to use to get 1/2 cup?” depending on their age), dump ingredients into a bowl, mix, and set the timer or watch the clock (“If it’s 5:00 now and we need to bake the cookies for 13 minutes, what time should we take them out?”).  Talking and asking questions like these can turn routine meal prep into a time of fun and learning.  Just using the example above, kids can practice verbal skills, counting, addition, fractions, and telling time, in addition to learning the basics of how to cook!  

My 2.5 year old loves to measure, mix, and dump dry ingredients into a bowl, and he’s also an ace already at cracking eggs.  That last one he just kind of picked up — it’s not a skill that I intended to teach a toddler at all!

The second hint is to move the toy kitchen, if you have one, into the kitchen itself.  It’s a simple hint, but having the kids kitchen right there creates all kinds of imitative play opportunities, and creative play ensues.  Often when I’m washing up, my toddler will busy himself at his little stove, cooking up some soup and bringing it over for me to taste.

Just another way for us to mix housework and early childhood learning.  Works for me!

P.S. Thanks to SeaBird, another WFMW participant, who featured my site on her new Five on the Fifth feature!  Click on over and check out the other four sites — very cool! 

Variety ….

November 16, 2006

If variety is the spice of life, then we’re all salt and pepper around here these days.  After 22 weeks on bedrest, I’m running out of new and different things to do with my toddler.  He’s a very active 2 year old who loves to build, pretend, run around, and go new places.  Running around, taking walks, and going to parks, the nature center, and museums — some of our favorite activities — have been (unfortunately) up to Daddy and visiting grandparents for months now as I rest and wait for the baby to come.  Widget is doing fine, but I miss the active life!

Instead of new activities and trips, I’m learning to take a new attitude towards the everyday.  For instance, on Monday we had a minor toddler disaster when Widget dropped the soda tab into the drink I was pouring.  He got upset (it was almost dinnertime) and I moved to fix it.  Then I stopped for a second and decided to use it as a learning experience. 

Me:  What’s wrong?

Widget, pointing:  dere.

Me:  How can we fix it?  Let’s find a tool. 

Widget, handing me a spoon:  Soon.

Me:  What do we do with it?

Widget, putting it in the glass:  Here.

Me:  That’s right!  Let’s use the spoon to get the tab out of the glass.

And we did.  Laughing and cuddling, we pulled the piece out of the glass and celebrated with a sip of orange soda.  It wasn’t exactly a trip to the Building Museum, but it was a learning moment, a fun moment, and another chance for us to learn to solve problems together.

Solving problems is the key to doing science.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was nearing the completion of my physics Ph.D. that I fully realized the reason why new science Ph.D.s are so in demand by industry.  For the most part, the appeal may not lie in our mastery of subject matter, or the ability to discourse for hours (or years) on the distribution of this or that particular isotope in a particular sample of matter, but in the very nature of the Ph.D. training experience.  By persevering through years of designing, building, and running experiments, analyzing data, and publishing the results, we learned to identify and solve problems.   

Thinking about toddler science in this context, I am now realizing that so much of it is not memorization of facts or utilization of polarizing materials or litmus paper, but facilitating little discoveries by these littlest ones, and helping them learn to solve problems.  So whether we’re confronted with a book lying across the tiny train tracks or a mess in the playroom, we now make a point of identifying the problem, coming up with a solution, and trying it.  If it works, we celebrate!  If it doesn’t work, we try something else. 

Just think, every time we help a small child learn to identify and solve a problem, we’re helping them grow into small scientists, engineers, and problem-solvers.  Talking about solving the problem increases verbal abilities; coloring a picture reinforces mastery and artistic inclinations — there is so much that we can do with our toddlers to help them learn and grow, and I’m finding it an incredibly exciting time.  Even from the couch.  🙂