Friday, July 31, 2009

Physical Friday:

The GNO Party this week on Twitter was fantastic. I love living in Eastern time because the girls are sound asleep by the time the party starts. Mom It Forward knows how to throw a party! The topic was Affordable Fun 101: Kids Crafts and Ideas. This was right up my alley so I was honored to be a part of the panel.

A few ideas that received a lot of attention are things we do around here so I thought I'd share. Today's idea involves butcher paper, your child's body and crayons/markers/colored pencils. Easy peasy, right?

Now to get down to business. Have your child lie down on the butcher paper. Then trace around your child with a crayon/marker/colored pencil. After you've traced the whole body, have the child color in clothes, hair, facial features, or Sammi's favorite, finger and toe nails.

Several party-goers offered great ideas on how they adapted this concept with their little ones.
  • The original idea was brought up by Workingmomma247: "I have had my 5yr old lay down on butcher paper to outline his body and he colored the rest."
  • From Momof3boys3702 comes this extension: "We are doing Biology this year and I was thinking of doing that and having him draw his organs in correctly."
  • And Brunette01 came up with this variation with her daughter: "I helped my DD do cut-outs of everyone in the family to add to her bedroom wall. All her idea. It's awesome :)"
  • We had Sammi trace around Elli and around Daddy. Daddy was a lot more cooperative :)
As you can see, Sammi is turning into a lefty! This fun idea also gives little ones time to practice fine motor skills. Sammi is learning to control her hand better and the pencil as she traces around body parts. Going in between fingers is still hard for her, but when she's done, you can tell which body part she traced! She now loves to trace her own hand. And then "paint" the fingernails.
And to continue, from yesterday, with things to remember about three year olds (and probably all children): Never attempt to do a project, even if it's fun, between bath time and bedtime. Especially if you want pictures that are halfway cute. It's not a pretty picture. I don't recommend doing it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thinking Thursday: Repetition

"How many times do I have to tell you? Don't pour sand on your sister's head!" I feel like I'm repeating myself ALL the time. I know she's smart. I know she hears me. I even know she's listening because she can tell me all the rules. But, the bottom line is she's three. Three! Now that we've entered a new stage of development, it's back to the books for me. (In case you're wondering, this is a picture of Elli with baby powder on her head from cleaing up all the sand Sammi dumped on her. Yes, baby powder works to make the sand fall right off!)

Last night I picked up Sixty Second Parent's book The Triumphant Child and turned to the section on three year olds. I found this wise counsel on implementing rules: "Remain calm and Repeat: Expect the worst rebellion from the beginning and learn to perfect the robot response. Consistently replying with the same simple explanation over and over equips parents to control any situation by deflecting their own anger or exasperation when faced with a screaming three year old." I definitely need to perfect the robot response because my anger and exasperation usually get in the way of responding lovingly to Sammi.

It was good to be reminded that repetition is a natural part of the learning process. Children learn everything through repetition: language, routines, rules, even riding a bike. While its frustration to repeat things I know she already knows, it helps when I remember that it's a necessary part of her development.

I'll leave you with this last reminder from The Triumphant Child: "Don't have the expectation that your child should always behave nicely. We all have our bad days!"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Miss Kathy and Pine Lake Pool

Welcome to a new segment on Because Babies Grow Up that I'm calling Tuesdays in Tennessee. We are having so much fun discovering this beautiful part of the country and I want to share some of the charming experiences we're having. First up is a look at Sammi's swimming lessons.

Close to our house are signs for Pine Lake Pool with a phone number for more info on swimming lessons. Brent and I were intrigued and thought that would be fun for Sammi next year. We happened to be talking with a neighbor who said Miss Kathy teaches all ages, especially little ones. Brent wandered up to her house to get more info but she was busy with a class and had more students congregating for the next class. Brent asked a parent a few questions and came back home. Just a couple days later Miss Kathy stopped by our house and dropped off some info about swim lessons. I love living in a small, close-knit community! That parent mentioned to Miss Kathy that someone had come to find out about swim lessons and said he rented a house just down the road and of course, Miss Kathy knew exactly which house that was!

As it turned out, she had a class started that Monday that was a perfect fit for Sammi. The classes were Mon-Thur for an hour each day. We prepped Sammi for the adventure and she could hardly wait for Monday to come! She was so excited all Monday morning and tried to get me to take her three hours early! Her enthusiasm didn't stop once we got there, either.

Sammi listened so attentively to Miss Kathy and did everything she asked Sammi to do. She wore a bubble on her back (see pics) and poured water on her toes, knees, shoulders and head as Miss Kathy sang the "Sprinkle Song."

I thought that in 4 days Sammi would probably get used to being in the water and maybe figure out how to kick her feet. Boy was I wrong! Miss Kathy taught them how to kick, alright, but she also taught them how to move through the water indepdently with all kinds of floatation devices. By the last day she could swim the length of the pool and back with just her bubble on her back. Wow! And Sammi's kicking evolved from crazed, energetic flailings to measured, purposeful thrusts that propelled her where she wanted to go. What an amazing transformation. I'm hoping we can go swimming this week so she doesn't forget it all.

Sammi's class was small and so she had lots of attention from her teacher. But, Miss Kathy was also very good at setting Sammi to a task so she could work with another student who needed a little extra help. She was the most patient teacher I have ever seen in any teaching situation, ever.

I asked Sammi what Miss Kathy did and she said, "She taught me shopping carts and how to swim." When I asked Sammi her favorite part of swim lessons she said, "The favorite part of my swim lessons, I like to do shopping. I like the shopping part." They pretended a kick board was a shopping cart, extended their arms out straight and kicked their way to the end of the pool where they took pretned items from the side of the pool, put them on their shoping cart and swam back. Sammi LOVED it!

I'm already excited for next summer so that Sammi can have a few weeks' worth of lessons.

Are you on Twitter? I'll be at the #GNO party tonight (@ajpassey). We're talking about affordable kids crafts and ideas. We'll be joined by Crayola and there's a nifty giveaway, too! Come see what the fun's all about.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Friendly Friday

We had the sweetest experience on Friday. We went into Knoxville to run some errands. One of the errands was to get our military IDs. Brent was in his ABUs (Air Battle Uniform-camo) and looking rather adorable. Don't you think?

After a long day of driving, shopping and waiting in lines, we went to our favorite restaurant for dinner: Texas Roadhouse. As we were sitting there looking at the menu, our server came to us and told us there was a family that wanted to buy our dinner because Brent was in the service. Gratitude surged through my body, then a little bit of guilt since Brent hasn't actually "served" yet, other than Officer Training. They gave us this sweet note:

A friend of mine, whose husband enlisted in the Air Force earlier this year, had a similar experience buying her groceries at a Costco in Utah. I am pleasantly surprised that there are people who care enough about their country and those who serve it to go out of their way to show appreciation. I'm also grateful for the opportunity to show my love of and appreciation for the United States by supporting Brent as he serves. I look forward to what the years will bring.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Encouraging Baby's Growing Vocabulary

I just had to share this picture because 1) it's adorable! and 2) it demonstrates the reason babies learn words. Let me explain.

We found Elli and Sammi playing with a marker they had successfully dismantled on the hardwood floor. Elli had the ink stick in her mouth. The first thing out of a parent's mouth? "No, no, no!" Because of a series of such experiences, Elli now knows the word "no!" It was also the first word she produced after mama and dada. The cutest part, she always says it in threes, just like me. So if I try to take away something she shouldn't have, I am also chastised by Elli with her "no, no, no!"

Since, unknowingly, we got her to say "no" by constantly saying it to her, I thought I'd try a little experiment. We've been working on the word "up." Anytime I pick her up, I say the word, "up." I say it several times as I bend down, put my hands under arms and then stand back up. This has been going on for about a week. Yesterday after our usual "up" routine, I handed her to Brent and walked off to do something. As I turned away, I heard her little voice, "up, up, up." Success!

For children to learn new words, they must be exposed to those words over and over and over again. Then, they have to develop two different types of knowledge of the words they're learning: receptive and productive. First children develop an understanding of the word. They learn to recognize it every time it's said as the same word that was said before. Then they attach meaning to the word. Once they understand the word they have receptive knowledge of it. This means they understand it when it's said to them. The next step is to develop productive knowledge. Now the child must learn to produce the word. When they can say the word and use it correctly in context, they have productive knowledge. When both types of knowledge are acquired, the child has fully incorporated that word into their vocabulary. They "own it" so to speak and can start to experiment with it in various situations.

This leads to the second reason the picture of Elli's blue tongue shows how babies learn new words. In order to get Elli to show her tongue, I asked her to "give me kisses." This is a phrase she has recently shown that she understands. She's also at that fantastic stage where kisses are open-mouthed and slobbery. The first time I saw that she understood this phrase was when she picked up a doll. As she was holding the doll I said, "Give the baby a kiss." And she did! Right on top of the baby's plastic head.

In order for babies to learn language, they need lots and lots of exposure. The more we talk to our babies, the more they are able to recognize specific words and attach meaning to them. To go the extra mile with language development, it's important to be extra observant of what words your baby responds to. Figure out what words your children know receptively and then build on that vocabulary to introduce new words or experiences. I have been able to explain complex ideas to Sammi because I can break them down into words she knows. But that's only because I'm paying attention to what she has proven she undertands!

What are some phrases or words you were surprised to discover your baby knew?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Physical Friday: Cake Decorating with USO Conversation Hearts from Sweethearts

I think I mentioned that Brent joined the Air Force and was at Officer Training for a month before we moved to TN. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I did: here, here and here. With that at the front of my thoughts and experiences, I jumped at the news that Sweethearts (my absolute FAVORITE conversation hearts) was releasing a new line called Red, White and You to honor the military and celebrate America's patriotism.

The hearts are red, white and blue with patriotic sayings such as "Miss You," "Proud of You," and "Home Safe." The blue ones are blueberry flavored, which I really enjoyed. We had lots of fun trying to decide what to do with our candy hearts. We shared some of them with friends at the 4th of July cookout. A few of the other medical school students here at LMU-DCOM are also in the Air Force and enjoyed the hearts.

In the end, Sammi and I decided to make and decorate a cake. We made two cakes, an "X" and an "O" to show hugs and kisses for Daddy. Placing the small candy hearts on the cake was good practice for her growing fine motor skills. She was able to place all of the hearts "correctly" the first time, meaning she was pleased with where they went and how it looked. It's fun to see her developing into such a capable child. I hardly had to oversee her in this project. When I get too involved, she's quick to remind me, "I can do it myself, Mommy!" Or if I'm really intruding, "I can do it myself, Amber!"

She was also very careful to place the hearts so the words were showing every single time. I didn't even ask her to make that distinction. She's definitely showing literacy awareness.

The United Service Organizations (USO) offers a great little packet of craft ideas using the Red, White and You candies. You can download the packet here. Also, through the rest of this month you can donate to the USO to sponsor a care package sent to a deployed service man or woman which will include the Red, White and You candies.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And We're Back!

We've been here in Tennessee for 2 weeks now and FINALLY have the Internet again. I have so missed blogging and socializing. It's good to be back! But, we have found a few ways to keep ourselves entertained during the interim!

First, we unpacked. Or rather, Brent's parent's unpacked for us while we tried to decide where things should be, entertained the girls, and figured out where things are. Brent and his dad put up a fence in the backyard so the girls have a safe place to play away from the train tracks. Brent's mom and I took care of the inside. She managed to do in three days what it would have taken me three years to do! We actually have pictures on the walls.

We checked out the local cuisine by dining at Heavy's BBQ on the river. It was a perfectly southern experience. It was delicious BBQ complete with baked beans and fried okra. While we waited for our food, Sammi and I went down to the river and she swung on the tire swing. We also met the dogs who hang around the place. They were very mild mannered and sweet, but Sammi still didn't want them too close.

We celebrated the Fourth of July and Sammi's birthday. We visited the Knoxville Zoo and hiked to the Tri-State Peak off the Daniel Boone trail. To entertain Sammi I sang Davy Crockett up and down the, uhm, mountain. (I think it'll take several years for me to view the rolling hills in these parts as mountains. Mountains don't grow trees at the peaks! At least not the Rocky Mountains I grew up with!!)

Sammi enjoyed her birthday. She wore her tiara and balloon everywhere we went. I think she was pleased with being three until I told her she couldn't get her ears pierced until she's 12. Now she's obsessed with turning 12. Why do we spend our childhood wishing we were grown up and adulthood longing for our childhood? We never seem to be satisfied, do we?

Hopefully posts will start to be more regular as we get settled and fall back into a routine. Brent starts school July 28 and we'll go through that "settling in" all over again! We hear he'll surface about Thanksgiving so we're enjoying every moment we have with him now!
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