That’s Not a Rocket Ship!

Little Miss and I went to the pool today! We had a blast splashing around. We went to Agincourt Pool, which is a lovely, free pool in Scarborough. As we were playing around, a little boy, probably around 3, confidently commanded everyone around him to “get on the rocket ship!!!” No one really followed his directions, so he yelled it a couple more times, each time more convincing than before. A woman beside him (not his mom), said “that’s not a rocket ship, that’s a snake,” while giving me that knowing look.

Agincourt Pool

And yes, technically it was a snake. But to this child, it was his rocket ship, that was his to commandeer. To another child, it might have been a bus, that was taking them to school. He looked at me, and I told him “I like your rocket ship! I think it’s really cool!” And he went back to being his assertive self, trying to get everyone onto his ship before take off.

Let’s encourage imaginative play. As adults, sometimes it’s hard for us to get into the mood, or even to understand why they may create crazy stories. However, it is an integral part of play and development, one which needs to be nurtured, and not squelched.

Let’s “dive in” to imaginative play! (I’m so puny!)

Blessings,

Liz

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The Grocery List – Early Literacy

Little Miss has recently turned 4. Naturally, some have started to wonder when will this child start to read? We’ve taken the approach that she will start to read when she’s ready. We’re not doing sight word flash cards, and we don’t quiz her on various letters of the alphabet (well, most of us don’t…).

However, we read a lot. We generally read about 5 books a day, sometimes significantly more, and sometimes less. We really want to encourage a love of reading, and studies have shown that forcing a child to read before they are ready can lead to a dislike of reading. In Finland, they don’t start to formally teach reading until 6 or 7, and they are no farther behind their peers within 2-3 years, and often excel later on.

We read books about the various letters of the alphabet, we point out letters when we’re walking and driving, and we talk about which names start with which letters (Grandma and Grandpa both start with “G”).

As we’re setting the groundwork for reading, one tool we’ve starting using is the Grocery List. I used to have our grocery list on the side of our fridge, so that I could add to it as we ran out of items. However, I often forgot it, so I starting using my phone to log our household needs. This is a screenshot of our grocery list using the app ColorNote:

Grocery List

It’s pretty handy, as the checklist mode will allow you to tap a line, and it strikes it out for you (Little Miss likes that part). As I was adding to our list a few weeks ago, I realized that when I entered “honey” my phone offered a cute little emoji option (see above). Although I like to think that we’ve moved past hieroglyphics as a form of communication, this generation seems to gravitate right back to them. All kidding aside, this has been a great tool to get Little Miss engaged in language, in a practical, experiential way. As we pick up the items on our list, I ask her to cross them out. “Do you see sugar on our list?”, and I emphasize the “s” sound for her. She’s gotten quite good at finding them, and the emoji items are also a confidence booster.

What type of casual learning do you experience in your day to day life?

Blessings,

Liz

P.S. Speaking of experiential (practical) learning, I learned how to take a screenshot for this blog post! I know, how could someone not know that in 2018? Well, that was me until this morning. Yay for continuing education!

Art Is Not My Forte – A Nature Journal

I love to look at art. I think it’s beautiful, and I marvel at how people can create such magnificent pieces. I enjoy looking at the children’s books we take out at the library, and I examine the various techniques the illustrators use. That being said, I suck at drawing, and most things related to the visual arts.

No, seriously. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating, nor am I fishing for compliments (what? No! You’re fantastic! – Liar). I’ve simply come to the realization that art (drawing, painting, etc.) is not something I’m good at. I’m OK with that. I have other strong points, and frankly, I’ve never had the patience or determination to work at it in order to get better at it. I would try to draw here and there, but I never put any true effort into it. I expected it to come naturally to me. If you’ve ever seen my drawing of Peppa Pig’s father, you would wholeheartedly agree.

But, because we are choosing to homeschool, I so desperately want to give our daughters a well rounded experience, which includes art. So, I’m giving it the good old college try – I’ve started a Nature Journal.

A nature journal is where you record your experiences and discoveries in nature. I recently read I Love Dirt, and one of the suggestions for a winter activity was to sketch a slumbering tree. Here is the view from our backyard:

Winter Window

And here is my rendition:

Winter Window Sketch

On the left is one type of tree (which, after a quick Google search, would appear to be a Corkscrew Willow Tree) and on the right we have a Maple tree.

It was frigidly cold here in Toronto today (-18 Celcius, with a windchill somewhere around the -37 Celcius mark), so we opted to hunker down inside today.

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone by doing art in the first place. I’m also working on my Wreck This Journal. I got it shortly after having Little Miss. I wanted to stretch myself in terms of my creativity, and this has been an interesting outlet. I’m also demonstrating creating with Little Miss, in hopes that she will take an interest and enjoy partaking in the creating experience. Thankfully, Grandma loves art, and has significantly more talent, so she’ll likely be covering many of these art areas.

What do you feel is not your forte?

Blessings,

Liz

I Love Dirt! A New Year’s Resolution

Happy 2018 friends! I love New year’s. A time of review, and fresh beginnings. Up until just a few of years ago, we would celebrate with my grandparents, and my extended family, by having a family dinner on New Year’s day. I loved it – even the silly tinsel necklaces. My grandparents would go out dancing New Year’s Eve, with my Great Aunt (my Grandma’s sister) and her husband,  until 2 in the morning! I was always pleasantly surprised that they could out-party me. As with all good things, those too have come to an end, but I savour those memories.

With this time of reflection, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend more time outside. I like to think that we spend more time outside than the average family, but with a new baby in 2017, I have certainly come up with my fair share of excuses to dodge excursions, particularly in this frosty weather. This book, I Love Dirt by Jennifer Ward, is a great quick read to get you in the mood to get outside.

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With 52 simple suggestions for the varying seasons, this book inspires you to take your children outside, and connect with nature. I also really loved the science applications that are recommended to incorporate into your explorations.

What are your New Year resolutions?

Blessings,

Liz

Forget the Flashcards

To be completely honest, I’m not a fan of flashcards. Interestingly enough, this video came up on my Facebook newsfeed today, because I shared it a year ago (thank you Facebook memories). I find them an inauthentic way to learn, as they aren’t contextual. I truly feel that the best way to learn anything, is in a hands on situation, with real life examples.

We’ve got colour and sight words flashcards because I thought they’d be useful at some point. I was also concerned, at the time, that Little Miss didn’t yet know her colours (or at least many of them). I think she was about two and a half at the time. But you know what? She’s got them down pat now. And it wasn’t because I showed her cards with colours on them, but because we talked about the colours we saw around us on our daily walks. The trees, leaves, flowers, signs – everything. Don’t you think that’s more fun than sitting at the dinner table, discussing what colour the strawberry is that Scooby Doo is holding? (Yes, they were Scooby Doo flashcards…)

I tend to worry, from time to time, that Little Miss doesn’t know this or that. Yet, I tend to forget that she has a remarkable knowledge of animals (she knows what an ostrich is), flowers, and My Little Pony characters. They will learn. We want to learn. Our job to not squelch that curiosity, but to feed it and encourage it. Today, we discussed magnetization, and the difference between The North Pole and the pole firefighters slide down at their stations. Conversations will naturally ensue, as long as you’re open to them.

So, currently I’m watching Little Miss as she learns her letters and numbers. She’s just started learning to play Dutch Blitz with my mom, which I hear has been quite fun. Now, in order to play, she needs to recognize her numbers. She’s been able to count to 10 for a while, and can pretty much get to 20, except for that pesky 15 which doesn’t always make it in there. But, it will come. I just don’t think I need to show her a card with the number 5 on it, versus going to a friend’s house, and finding the 5th floor button. Context has meaning, and dare I say, longevity for learning.

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. Have you ever played Dutch Blitz? It’s a Vonderful Goot game.

Dutch Blitz

Go Big or Go Gnome

Here’s a little secret you may not know about me: I Love Gnomes. I think they are cute, and fun, and all around fantastic! So, when we were at the library this week, and I happened upon this book, I had to pick it up:

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It is a cute story about Al, the gnome who could not grow a beard, and how he was recognized for what he could do, instead of what he couldn’t.

The illustrations are fantastic, and we’ve read it every night since we picked it up – at her request, to boot! We highly recommend you check it out.

Blessings,

Liz

From Pinterest to Plain – A Birthday Party

Little Miss is turning 4 in a little bit, so we decided to have her first “party”. When I asked her what she would like to do, she said she wanted to go to the playground. Nice! Easy, and right within my budget. However, I must confess I was nervous. In today’s day and age of Pinterest worthy parties (you go, parents!), play places, and video game parties (that can run into the thousands), I felt like it simply wasn’t enough. I felt the need to do more.

Then I read, The Happiest Kids in the World, and I regained some perspective, and drew comfort that I didn’t have to “go big or go home”. We simply stayed home. (Actually, we went to another birthday party earlier on in the year, and my friend similarly kept it simple, and we had a great time, so that was also encouraging).

As I’ve mentioned before, we love reading The Berenstain Bears. We had been reading Too Much Birthday, and we drew some ideas from it.

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We went to the playground, as requested; yes, in Canada in November. We just bundled up, and the weather held out for us. Then we came back and played a few traditional party games. First, we played Pass the Parcel:

Pass the Parcel

Pass the Parcel

Essentially, it’s Hot Potato. I changed it up a little bit by adding a few stickers as a “prize” between each layer, so that everyone got a little something. I wrapped it up in newspaper, because I like to be Earth (and pocketbook) friendly. Next we played Going to Jerusalem, which is the name they gave a variation of Musical Chairs in the Berenstain Bear book. You have a mat (or in our case, a reusable shopping bag) on the floor, and everyone goes around in a circle. If you’re standing on the mat when the music stops, you’re out. The last one standing wins. Lastly, we played Freeze Dance. Dance, and when the music stops, freeze! If you’re caught moving, you’re out. Again, the last person standing, wins. They were simple, and fun.

We also opted to make our own birthday cake, although I was quite tempted to buy an ice cream cake, when I saw that Dairy Queen had them on sale for half price the day before. But, we’d already bought the cake mix (no, we didn’t make it from scratch…), and Little Miss was looking forward to making it. So, although I don’t think I’ll be winning any cake decorating awards, ta da!

Cake

The characters are her toys, so we just utilized them as decorations for the cake (it’s in the shape of a heart). Also, if you plan on making your own cake, I suggest buying 2 containers of icing, or the big one, otherwise you’ll be using chocolate icing to finish it off on an otherwise vanilla cake. It tasted delicious.

Lastly, the favours. I found this part to be the most stressful. I was planning on getting everyone a book (from the Dollarstore) as a thank you. Actually, I liked the idea so much that I had recommended it to other moms whenever the topic came up in my Facebook groups. However, apparently that’s easier said than done. I wasn’t fond of the book choices when we went, so there went that idea. I’m not a fan of stuff just for the sake of stuff, so I wanted something practical. In the end, we had some leather keychains at our store (spoiler: in the clearance section), and a friend of ours put each child’s initial on them in fancy writing. I figured parents could put them on a backpack, or even give their child a house key when they’re a bit older.

So, all in all, we had a great time. If you’re feeling guilty about keeping it simple, don’t. We all have different styles, and one is not more valid than the other. For us, this was right up our alley. I wonder what we’ll do next year…

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. Do you have your child open their gifts during their party, or after once everyone has left?

 

Lest We Forget

This evening, my daughters and I had the privilege of planting Canadian flags on the property of Sunnybrook Hospital here in Toronto.

Remembrance Day 2017

Raise a Flag at Sunnybrook Hospital

This is our third year participating in this project. The goal is to plant 30,000 flags across the grounds, so that on November 11th, Remembrance Day, the veterans at the hospital will wake up to fields of Canadian flags and know that we will remember.

Although we’ve been doing this for a few years, this is the first year that Little Miss has had so many questions about war. Why do we have an army? Why do people fight? Why? Questions that really make you pause, and think.

I happened to have purchased A Poppy is to Remember, by Heather Patterson, way back in my teaching days, so we brought it out this evening to help explain.

poppyposter

Given that Little Miss will soon be turning 4, this was right on her level, and she wanted to read it twice! Although the topic of war is tough, I think it’s important, and possible, to address it on an age appropriate level. Do you have any other suggestions for books about, or related to, Remembrance Day?

Blessings,

Liz

Nests

Fall is upon us! Or, my preferred name – Autumn. I love just about everything about fall – the smell of decaying leaves, the cooler, sweater weather, Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (don’t try the M&M’s, they’re disgusting), and of course, the leaves changing colours. Fall gives us a wonderful opportunity to see the hidden homes of our neighbourhood animals.

Here is a tree that housed both paper wasps (I’ve got an exciting post about them coming up soon!) and a squirrel, right around the corner of our home.

Nest 3

I don’t think it was only me who noticed the numerable wasps in Southern Ontario this year. It felt like they were everywhere! In fact, here’s another nest that’s clearly visible with the changing colours. I know this looks like a photoshopped image, but I assure you, I have no such skill to trick you.

Nest2

And here is a bird’s nest we found on one of our walks, again right in our immediate neighbourhood. It used to look much more pristine, but I think Little Miss has been exploring its components, hence its more disheveled look.

Nest

Fall offers the exciting opportunity to more easily observe animal habitats. With the trees bare, we can observe various types of nests in our area. Squirrels tend to have larger nests (basketball sized, or larger) made of leaves, and are also often closer to the trunk of the tree, to provide additional protection from the elements. Wasps, on the other hand, tend to have their nests on the outer perimeter of the tree, making them easier to spot throughout the year. Perhaps they do that so they’re easier to find and access? Birds nests are harder to see, as they are usually smaller (of course, depending on the bird), and are also closer to the tree’s trunk.

It’s truly fascinating to observe the intricacies that go into how nests are made. One day, I would love to be able to differentiate the different birds’ nests based on the species of bird. One day…

Blessings,

Liz

What’s an “LOL”?

“EEEEE!!! LOLs!!!” screamed two young girls at Toys R Us this evening.

I turned to their mom and said “I have no idea what an LOL is.”

“It drinks and pees,” was the response.

“So, a doll?” I reply.

Yes, a doll. This is what these girls ran up to:LOL Display

I had no idea what they were. I still don’t think it’s particularly clear by their packaging either, but I digress…

So, with Little Miss asleep in the shopping cart (YAY!), I went on my merry way, wondering what the big deal was. However, I assure you that had she not been catching a few winks, she would have gone by these unassuming balls of dolls without so much as a peep. Why? Because she doesn’t know what they are, either.

We don’t watch much TV. We try our best to be a low media household. When we do watch one of her favourite programs (Paw Patrol, Berenstain Bears or My Little Pony), we watch it on Netflix or YouTube. We don’t have cable – we haven’t since we moved into our house 8 years ago. (Psst… We don’t miss it!)

We only watch TV on the laptop through Netflix (I’ll explain in another post why we did away with the iPad – and it’s probably not what you think), and because we don’t have cable, we’ve essentially eliminated advertising directed at her, thankfully.

But Liz, you said you also use YouTube, what about that advertising? When we used the iPad, we had the YouTube kids app, because the world of YouTube is so vast, and parts of it are quite dark. There are so many instances of videos that look like they are for children, but have very disturbing, disgusting context. I implore you to be vigilant when using it! However, since using the laptop, we only have access to the regular YouTube website.

Now, we very seldom use YouTube, and when we do, we sit with her. It’s so easy for the auto play to suck you in to the next video, so we do our best to avoid that black hole and quit while we’re ahead. Because the sea of videos aren’t at her finger taps (see what I did there), she hasn’t seen anything outside of the selected programs we watch together. Although there is some advertising, most of it isn’t necessarily directed towards children (car commercials or cereal), and I can’t think of a time I’ve seen an ad for a toy. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that most of the advertising on YouTube is done through… Those Darn Toy Reveal Videos!!! Dun Dun Duuuuun!!!

Oh my goodness. These are the most ridiculous videos I’ve ever seen. These, and those videos of children playing with toys. One mom commented that she bought her daughter a toy, and before she started playing with it, she went and watched a video of another child playing with it for half an hour first! Oy…

So, how did I research these LOL Dolls? I watched a toy reveal video, naturally (on my own). So, let me tell you a bit about this “hottest toy”. You get a ball (seen on the second shelf). It is wrapped in layers of plastic (garbage). As you peel back the layers, there are papers that reveal “clues” about what doll you have received. As you get closer to the centre, you get 4 bags (more garbage) with a 2 small accessories (think the size of your fingernail), an outfit, and finally, the doll (4 bags, after about 8 layers – plastic, plastic and more plastic). Seems wasteful, and silly, to me. And I’ll be darned if I want a whack of little doll pieces all over my house. Please see exhibit 1, the purpose of our voyage to Toys R Us in the first place:

Rarity

Did I mention we have a dog? Anyway, as I was saying, I have no desire to have little things all over the house, especially with a newly cruising 8 month old crawling around. (I’m SO thankful we missed that whole Shopkin craze). Now, go back up to the first picture for a second. See the big gold globe at the top of the display? That there is an LOL Doll with 50 layers. Five Zero. That’s a lot of garbage. And, 50 dolls and/or accessories! Yee… Haw… And $100. It costs $100. $100!!!

Anyway, if you have ever found yourself with a child who is begging you for an item that you have never heard of, ask yourself how they heard of it. Maybe it was from friends. But, many of these “new crazes” get their footholds through YouTube and cable advertising (Hatchimals!). How many ads are children exposed to? The American Psychological Association states, “it is estimated that advertisers spend more than $12 billion per year to reach the youth market and that children view more than 40,000 commercials each year.” Read the full article here.

Personally, I think it’s important that we limit our children’s exposure to advertising, and encourage them to be content with what they have. We often read The Berenstain Bears books, and one of our favourites is Count Their Blessings, which addresses just that.

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Blessings!

Liz