Sunday, November 25, 2012

Learning to Read

Well hello there folks! It's good to be back. Lately, I have been doing a lot of work with my eldest daughter Miss Eden, following a general curriculum (see here for more on the curriculum) and supplementing with plenty of activities and experiences of our own. This has certainly kept her and I very busy - and Ava too, who does her own 18 month old versions of our 'work'. Until this week, it seemed that Eden had settled into a comfortable learning rhythm.
Until this week.

Spring sight Words
Where it all began... the first of Classified: Mom's packs,
which Eden decided was the best thing IN THE WORLD!!!
On Monday, Eden informed me in her very grown-up voice, that she wanted to learn to read.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Attack of the (Eden shaped) Cookie Monster!

Over here at Casa Happy Little Munchkins, the eldest Miss Munchkin decided that we were lacking in the baked good department, so we tackled some super-easy, super-tasty cookies!
Mumma Munchkin is SO proud! All I did was instruct Eden on what needed to be done, and put the baking trays (ie: cookie sheets) in and out of the oven. She did the rest herself, and the results were delicious! Actually, the results quickly became nothing more than crumbs on plates and full tummies.
Try this recipe, you won't be sorry you did. Although, your waistline may not thank you for it...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Piggy Bank Practice

For whatever reason, little ones seem to LOVE putting coins in money boxes, taking them out, putting them in again. It's been a favourite game of Ava's for a while now, and of course requires supervision, especially if your child is into mouthing everything (which she is). So, I set out to make a tot-friendly version sans the choking hazard.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Lil' Extra Stimulation for Miss 3

We have a new addition to our home - not the new baby, I've still got 22 weeks to go 'til then! - but a Pre-school curriculum. Yep. You heard (read) me. Curriculum for the under 5's. 
Why? Simply put, Eden loves learning and has been begging me to learn how to read and write and do maths (except she calls it playing with numbers), and I have been doing my best to keep up with her sometimes insatiable appetite to learn new things. I love this about Eden and I am constantly amazed at how quickly she picks things up, but whilst she leaves me gaping at her capability she also leaves me at a total loss for how to keep up with her! 
Maybe it's because my mum and my aunt (who I'm close to) are both primary school teachers, but I felt that I needed a curriculum to help me plan what to teach and when. I need plans, people! Mum was going to help me craft one for Eden, but being time poor, I went to the web for inspiration and found a slew of resources - some free, some available for purchase - most of which have been created by some incredible homeschooling mums. No, I am not homeschooling Eden, nor am I 'pushing' her because I want her to be an academic genius! I just wanted some structure to how I introduced new concepts to her. 
I had been using the free resources over at one of my fave sites, 1+1+1+1=1 for Eden for a while now, especially the tot packs and lapbooks which are always a big hit. The site has printable activities for young children with heaps of themes, so your child's interest is sure to be engaged. Eden's current fave is her Ballerina Pack, but also on her top list are the Dora Lapbook, the Princess Lapbook, and the Peter Pan Tot Pack. When I put a new pack/lapbook together, I wrap it up in a ribbon with a bow and leave it on the kitchen bench for her to find. She gets so excited! She has been known to refuse to move from her stool until we had done each and every activity at least once!

Matching numbered pegs to corresponding pictures

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mess-Less Toddler Paint Bag

Ava (16 months) LOVES to paint. Man oh man, that girl is into all things arty; the messier, the better. Only one small hitch. I hate the clean up. With Eden (3 1/2 years), no problem! She's super neat, so clean up is always minimal. On the other hand, you could give Ava a thimble-full of paint and five minutes later she would have it all over herself, the couch, your clothes, your keys, the fridge and the curtains - that is, if she didn't eat it straight away. 
Solution? A Paint Bag! 
Simply squeeze some non-toxic paint into a ziplock bag, seal with masking tape/duct tape and you're ready to go!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Science Play the 3 1/2 Year Old Way

One of the my daughter's fave concepts to explore in her play is that of Cause and Effect. Most kids love it; think of the tots turning lights on and off, playing with the TV remote, and pressing buttons on the dishwasher, - all are great examples of kiddies testing out cause and effect!
This can also be easily demonstrated with a simple experiment. Mixing bicarb soda and vinegar! As we know, the vinegar makes the soda fizz and bubble. This is because the bicarbonate in the soda and the acid in the vinegar react to create carbonic acid which is unstable and causes the bubbles. Sounds complex and of course, you don't have to go into this explanation with your little ones (I surely didn't!). 

Eden simply found out that mixing the soda and vinegar was FUN!
I put a fair bit of bicarb soda into a brownie tin, and portioned out vingear into some egg cups. I dyed it with food dye ('cause it just looks prettier that way!), gave her some spoons and a medicine dropper, and stood back.

She began by adding drops of the coloured vinegar to the tray and watching the little bubbles burble and pop, quickly progressing to putting whole eggcups in the tray and adding pinches of soda to the eggcups, watching delightedly as they fizzed over!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sorting and Transferring

My little Miss E. is becoming very interested in money lately. I thought I had a few more years at least before she helped herself to my purse... Just kidding! She is fascinated in the different value of coins ("paper money is so boring, Mummy!") and the images on them, and she loves to count and stack any loose change she can get her hands on.

As it happens, we have a vase where we keep all our silver coins - 50 cents and under, for the non-Aussies, - so I hauled it out and gave Eden three containers for her to sort the different denominations into; one each for 5 cents, 10 cents and 20 cents. Eden felt that the dodecagon shape (12-sided) of the fifty cent piece made it special because it wasn't round like the other coins, so she put them in her music box. Ahem. Nice try, honey.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Winter Chalk Art


Oh, the limitations of wintry weather! Although my daughters love playing in the rainy weather all geared up in their raincoats and gumboots (Ava would sit in muddy puddles all day if we let her) the parks aren't too much fun with rain-covered slides and swings, and going to playcentres becomes pricey. So, desperate Mumma that I am, I decided to break out the sidewalk chalk and invite my girls to go nuts redecorating our garage door with it. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Invitation to Paint

Sometimes, it's all in the approach. I have found that if I present an activity to my kids in a visually appealing way, they are on board! This is especially effective if I set it up as a surprise - they go to bed for a nap, wake up and ... oh, look! It's a painting station!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Foam Collage

Quite a while ago, I made these foam shapes for my kids and let them stick the shapes to the window with water. Big success! At the time, my youngest daughter Ava was only six months old, and therefore had no interest in participating. Since then, she has showed great interest in sucking the water out of the brushes but not so much in the foam shapes. So, I thought of another way of using the same shapes that might entice her into playing with them. Make collages!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Calming Basket

As with many parents, I am all for alternative approaches to 'discipline' when it comes to those rough days with my kids. I'm pretty sure that at times, Eden's 'misbehaviour' is due to those great big fluctuations of emotions which many toddlers/pre-schoolers (and let's face it, teenagers and adults!) experience. In which case, my Mummy role here is to teach her how to handle those emotions. One of the ways in which hubby and I are trying to do this, is by using a Calm Basket. 
When our little Princess has 'yucky feelings' (especially when she feels irritable or angry), she can get out her Calm Basket. Inside we have put her Calm Jar (read on, and I'll tell you all about it!), a special colouring in book with special crayons and stickers, a less-messy kid-friendly version of a Zen garden in a wooden box along with some odds and sods, and some natural items like shells, feathers, gumnuts, etc. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bits N' Pieces Post

Here's a quick look at three simple, quick and cheap activities you can do with your munchkins when time, money and mess are not on the table!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Playdough Station

Yay for playdough! I have yet to meet a parent who hasn't had some of this stuff stashed away for rainy days. Even though we don't play with it often, my kids tend to be either completely absorbed in playdough or completely disinterested. To try and curb their recent lack of interest, I set up a Playdough Station whilst they were napping/having quiet time. I loved the expressions on their sweet faces when they woke up to see what was waiting for them - pure excitement!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Apology, Announcement, Activity

Apology: We're baaaaack!!! So sorry to all for my long absence, I have been very unwell for the past few weeks and just could not do basics, let along stuff that requires... the thinking... stuff.... hmm. A HUGE thank you to all our friends and family who pulled together to help us get through, and an especially warm, heartfelt thank you to my wonderful parents for their selfless help during the past few weeks - we couldn't have gotten by without you. Dad, thank you for all the 1 1/2 hour round trips back and forth to help us out, the trips to the chemist to get my medication, the grocery stops and lunch pick-ups. Mum, thank you for the sleep overs (which let me sleep in), caring for the girls, driving me to and from the doctor and the hospital, and for all round being the kind of mother to me that I hope to be to my daughters. Love you both ridiculously.

Announcement: All of which leads me to the 'announcement' portion of this post... my husband and I are delighted to announce that we are expecting our third Happy Little Munchkin early next year! We are so excited, and are eagerly anticipating our little bubba's birth - even more than we're anticipating the end of the horrible, horrible morning sickness. All you lovely mums out there, please shoot some advice my way about coping with the nausea. I've (finally) managed to keep down fluids and some foods but it's still touch and go at times, and if you've been there yourself I would love to hear from you. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Weekly Co-Op #1 (for HLM) and Climbing Critters

The Weekly Kid's Co-op

YAY! I am so excited to be a part of the Weekly Co-Op Link Party for the very first time! Each week you're invited to contribute your fave ideas, and they will be visible on all participating hosting blogs (at the moment, there are over 20)!
No long list of rules, just link up any family friendly, child centred activity from your blog, and don't forget to stop by some of the other blogs and spread some comment lovin'! I have never come across a blogger who doesn't love to find comments on their blog, so why not brighten up someone's day?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here's what I am linking up this week:

Last week, I finally got to tick another activity off my seemingly endless list of 'Things I Want To Do With My Kids'... making climbing critters! The aim of this craft is to make cardboard animals that use friction to move up and down some yarn pulleys (for want of a better word). I started to explain the 'craft' to Eden, I told her that at the end we would see if our cardboard animals could climb. Without missing a beat, she said "Of course they'll climb Mum, I'll teach them how". Naturally.
We began with some basic animal shapes which I drew onto paper at Eden's instruction which she coloured in. We then stuck our animals to thin cardboard (from a biscuit box), and cut out the outlines. Of course, you could always do yours directly onto cardboard, but make sure to use a fairly lightweight thickness.

Our animals were laid face-down and Eden cut and taped two segments of straw to the back of each animal. The two segments should be placed vertically on either side of your shape, and should be proportional to your animal (ie: big shape, big straw segments). We learnt this the hard way, as ours were only just sufficient, but it would have worked better if they were a tad longer. Also, make sure that your tot doesn't tape over the straw's openings (like mine wanted to!).

Next, take a bit of yarn/wool - we used about 1.5 metres - and thread upwards through one straw piece, and back downwards through the other. Tightly tape the ends of the yarn/wool to look just like shoelaces to make it easier for little hands to control when threading, especially if your straw segment is long. Bear in mind that your critter will need to hang from something (a hook, a doorknob, a handle) and so the yarn/wool you use will have to be long enough for your child to be able to hold on to the ends easily.

Once the ends are threaded through the straws, attach hair beads or macaroni to the ends of the yarn/wool to prevent it from slipping through the straws again. Tape a small coin to the back of your critter at the bottom, in the centre. The added weight will help it 'climb' better.
Hang your critter up, and away you go! Tug on the yarn/wool ends alternately to make your critter climb, and slacken the tension on the yarn/wool to watch it fall. If your child is interested, you could explain about how friction works to make the animal move, and demonstrate by experimenting with them. Play around with what works best to make your critter move fastest - alternating the yarn, pulling it apart quickly, etc. What happens if you only pull on one end of yarn? Do critters with/without the coin on the back move faster?

I knew Eden would be pretty engrossed in the Climbing Critters once they were made, but it is an interest which has lasted for days. Same critters, same spot. Days of enjoyment. That gets a big tick in my book!

Thanks for reading! ~ L.

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And now, on to the Link Party...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Small World Play: Dinosaurs!

Eden (3) LOVES small world play of every description. Not a single day passes without her playing with Tinkerbell figurines, or Strawberry Shortcake figurines, or Barbies, or Polly Pockets, and it's hard to explain how excited she gets when she enters a room to find a playscene waiting for her. Put it this way: she vibrates with excitement. No joke.
Most of our playscenes centre on characters such as Fairy Land, little Dolls at home, or an Arctic sensory tub, so a prehistoric dinosaur playscene was something of a departure from the norm for us. Eden had just 'won' a packet of dinosaurs (from our reward system) and she did not know what to do with them. Her first impulse was to make them 'doggies' for her Barbies! So, I created this Prehistoric playscene for her as an introduction to the world of dinosaurs.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Does Your Tot Need a Smock? Improvise!

Our eldest daughter, Eden (3) is super-super neat and clean. Our youngest daughter, Ava (1) is super-super messy. Each and every bib of every description ends up on the floor in 0.02 seconds; honestly, Ava won't even start eating until the bib is off!
Most of the time, I just grit my teeth, and clean the porridge up from her face, hands, feet, tummy, hair, ears, clothes, the couch (yep!)... but there are times when containing the mess would be really good for Mummy's sanity!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Positive Parenting

The Road to Positive Parenting
This blog is dedicated to sharing fun and stimulating ideas and activities for pre-school aged children and babies, as the header states, but today I would like to digress from the norm and share something with you about my parenting journey.

Our daughters, Eden and Ava, are happy, thriving, sweet and funny children, but sometimes also headstrong, disobedient and demanding. Even so, they are wholly loved and adored by my husband and I who feel mind-blowingly blessed to have these amazing little people in our care. Any time they have had a 'bad day' behaviour-wise, they have had a fantastic week to balance it out.
Until Eden approached her third birthday.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tonnes - sorry - TINS of Fun!

What to do to engage and stimulate your baby when you draw a mental blank? Raid your pantry! That's what I did anyway, and discovered that Ava (1) rather likes it when I do.
I lay out a stainless steel bread box, a small tub, some utensils, a handful of magnets and an armful of tinned food. Who knew that such ordinary items would be such irresistible playthings to my daughter? Ava dove in straight away, first exploring all the items...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Small World Play: Doll's House

My eldest darling daughter has been a tad on the sick side this week and although she's borne up like a trooper, I wanted to do something a bit special for her. This little project only took an hour total (with plenty of interruptions in there, too) and was made from bits and pieces I had on hand.
Eden loves dolls, doll houses, doll accessories... anything that could be considered 'small world play' and she's all over it! I knew she would appreciate it if I made a house for some of her little dolls (I purchased a pack while ago for $1).

My supplies
I began by turning the shoebox on it's side, with the attached lid lying open and towards me. I stuck some patterned scrapbook paper on three of the inside sides of the box bit to look like wallpaper and added some pictures cut from a home living magazine to be background furniture. To the fourth interior side I glued some felt, for the carpet.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Baby Play: Pouring Station

Coming up with creative play prompts for your baby or young toddler can be challenging at times. You have to be mindful of what they're likely to put in their mouths, make sure it is stimulating but not so challenging that they lose interest, and at that age they develop so fast that it can be tricky for play opportunities to keep pace.
With that in mind, I thought a sensory tub centred on pouring would be appropriate for my little Ava. She enjoys pouring and drizzling water when she is in the bath (that is, the water left in the tub that miraculously didn't end up on the blinds, the floor or me), and I thought this new interest may translate well into her playtime.
I was wrong; she had a better idea.
I had pulled out an underbed storage container, and supplied coloured rice (see here for the how-to), pearl barley and chickpeas to pour, and play teapots and cups, eggcups, a plastic jug, a sieve, a play saucepan, a coffee pot and funnels to pour with.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Free Printables: Looking For Things To Do With Your Kids?

I am a bit excited.
I have been invited to share with some wonderful women at a MOPS group (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) in Skye tomorrow! In preparation for this, I have compiled lists of ideas of games and activities* you could do with your children - especially for those times when you draw a mental blank.
There are 50 ideas for indoor play, given that it is heading into Winter here in Australia, 50 ideas to do for free, and 20 ideas for baby play (under 18 months).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Baby Play: On and Off Bag

Ever since my littlest munchkin turned one, I have been run off my feet trying to keep up with her. She's getting into everything much faster and more persistently than ever before, and I'm left reeling! She's pulling washing off the indoor clothes line, changing the settings on my phone, climbing into drawers and then standing up and dancing in them the second I look elsewhere, and she somehow gets the remote control and has figured out how to get the batteries out!!! Don't fret, she's not unsupervised or anything, but she is a little whirlwind and sometimes I honestly cannot figure out how she gets the remote, or how she manages to reach shelves that should be too high for her! The only thing I have found which curbs Ava-mania for a while is open-ended activities which she can engage in, direct and explore.
Enter, the On-Off Bag.

Hmmm, now how do I get this...
....through there?
 Much like the Open-Close Baby basket I posted about here, this bag piggy-backed on another one of Ava's favourite concepts at the moment – On and Off. Not as in things that turn on and off like light switches (although she loves that too), but as in things which can be placed onto a pole and then taken off., almost like a homemade version of those stackable rings which little tots love.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Painting on a Grand Scale

I am hoping to make BIG paintings a regular part of my daughter's lives, partly for the memories they create, partly because they make for some great art, but mostly because they are so darn FUN!
As it is, painting is always encouraged in our home; Ava (1) is happy to paint with whatever on whatever at any time, but I think that Eden (3) was getting frustrated with painting on a small-ish scale, or otherwise painting on paper. We had done some canvas painting before, and painting on hardboards, but I thought it was time to change it up.

Buying pre-framed and primed canvas can be pricey, especially large ones, so I was super excited when I found ours at the Reject Shop for $18 for a 75cm x 100cm canvas. We got three (one for each set of grandparents and one to keep).
We used a bit of watered down poster paint/tempera paint in the three colours she chose: I only watered it down so that it was a more runny consistency which makes it easier for little artists to spread across big areas.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eden the Grocer

To my surprise, a little play scenario which I recently set out for my daughters to keep them busy during cooking-time, ended up being such a success that it was hard to tear them away to have dinner!
Take one kiddie desk and chair, add a cash register toy, calculator, and paper bags and you have a shop. Lay out a cloth with some play fruit and veggies, and you have a greengrocer! Add two little girls, and you have a tonne of fun!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Baby Play: Cotton Wool Balls

Ava (my one year old) is so much fun to watch when she plays. She's such a little explorer! Everything is new and exciting to her and she has no preconceived ideas about how to play. A simple stimulus - such as cotton wool balls and some supplies from around the house - and she's all set.

When I set out a few bowls, a mini sieve, a spoon and cotton wool balls for her, she got so excited! Her little face lit up, and I swear it was as if she was thinking "I know what to do here!"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stuffed Jacket Potatoes: yummy yummy!

We are in the throes of Autumn here in Australia, and the air is getting chill. It's the perfect time of year to make Stuffed Jacket Potatoes to keep you warm!


This recipe is a fave in our household 'cause it ticks all the right boxes: Tasty? Check. Simple? Check. Kids love it? Check!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nature Collages

We're loving the beautiful Autumnal weather around here! Where we live, there are lots of Oaks, Maples and Elm trees shedding their glorious golden leaves and we can't help but bring some home.
On a recent picnic with my girls to a local park...

... Miss Eden collected various bits and pieces: leaves, of course, but also clovers, flowers, tree bark, gumnuts and twigs. What to do with them? We made a collage!
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