Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nugget's secret garden

It's finally finished! Nugget's garden playscape is done!

I've been working on this project for many weeks now. Nugget loves to garden -- both digging in actual dirt and pretending that she's gardening. I wanted to make her a little playscape where she could garden to her heart's content.

After a few nights of drifting-off-to-sleep planning and some wandering through Joanne's, I had a general idea for a magnetic garden using an old cookie sheet. I sewed some flowers first, then added fences, little mice, a hollow log for them to play in, a watering can, seeds to plant, and topped it all off with a previously-purchased fairy.

I'm quite proud of this little plaything. I'm going to keep it in reserve for her -- maybe it'll come out at her birthday in a few weeks.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Imagination explosion

Nugget hasn't been interested at all in the various Montessori-like activities that I've got around the house. She's suddenly very into open-ended, imaginative, independent play. It's great for me -- I've had enough free time to clean the guest bath and reorganize the pantry!

We have a lot of Little People toys and a set of Winnie the Pooh figures and buildings, but she doesn't go for any sort of organized pretend play. Instead, she crawls up onto the couch with blankets and various animal figures, builds herself a mountain and declares it an "elephant party". Or she pretends the couch is her bedroom. Or asks to have a large empty box put in her crib so that it can be her "worm house".

Any interference on my part in these journeys of imagination are going to ruin it, so my role has reduced greatly recently. The best thing I can do is to keep things uncluttered and organized, and to surround her with the most open-ended toys I can. Here's my and her favorites:
  • Finger puppets. I bought a pack of these at Ikea and put them in her Easter eggs. She doesn't use them as puppets past putting one on her finger and declaring, "Hi, I'm Monkey!". But they're a great, small size for her to be able to carry a bunch around at a time for various "parties", and they're nice and soft when they get left underfoot.
  • Gymnastic blocks and large balls. A friend got an AMAZING deal on a set of these blocks at a local resale store. Nugget has used them in different ways over the months -- as a step stool, obstacle course, and currently as pretend roller coasters.
  • Felt food. I made a few sets of felt picnic food a while back when I thought I was going to make and sell toys at local craft fairs. That failed, but Nugget uses her felt foods daily at her parties, to feed her rocking horse, and to make dinner.
  • Beans and rice. Yes, the small box of beans still gets daily use. In fact, 2 hours a day isn't unheard of. The sandbox full of rice gets less use, but still sees activity at least every other day.
The rest of her playtime is taken up with various things found around the house. Sometimes it's actual toys -- Little People figures or pom-poms -- but more likely it's random things she finds, like plastic Easter eggs, a deck of cards, or old greeting cards. We're pretty chill about her improvising with anything she can reach, which keeps her occupied and our stress level down.

Although there's not much news now, I've got a few things coming up. That magnetic garden I've been working on is almost done, just a few more evenings. And I've got a pile of Montessori books that I'm working my way though, including the original by Maria Montessori. I'm hoping I'll come out of my reading with a clearer understanding of the purpose behind many of the activities I've had a brief exposure to, and therefore a better idea of how to integrate them into our environment.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day in

More illnesses in the family have kept me quiet for a while, but I've still been pushing ahead with the activities, at Nugget's request. I'm still having very little luck finding things that keep her attention for very long, but she keeps asking for more. I'm taking that as an endorsement, and working even harder to try to hit her developmental sweet spot.

The pasta stringing was pretty easy for her, so I dug out a bead stringing set that I'd found at a resale store and tucked away. I used a divided appetizer tray (75 cents at the thrift store) to divide the beads up by shape.

It's definitely been trickier than the pasta, and she's gone back to it each day. Today I even pulled out the shoelaces for stringing, and that's a whole new level of difficulty. She worked on it a bit, then decided that the laces were her "clothes", draped them around her neck, and proceeded to wear them around most of the rest of the day. Unfortunately, one of the cats thought those strings dangling behind her were for playing, and the two of them ended up on not great terms...

Speaking of today, I decided to spend the day at the house with Nugget. It can be tricky, because my husband is an Emergency Department nurse who works weekend nights. That means he sleeps weekend days, and we have to try to be quiet in the house. We did the usual toddler activities -- the rice-filled sandbox, finger painting (still not a hit -- too messy for her), stickers, etc.

I decided to try a twist on something I'd seen on another blog -- contact paper collages. They taped clear contact paper, sticky side out, to a window. I only had white contact paper, so I taped it to the table. I got out my endless stash of felt scraps and cut them into smaller, random shapes.

Nugget got the idea right away and started sticking pieces down.

However, the concept got boring quickly. I stepped in with some pompoms to add texture -- no go. Then I made my own scene. It was pretty fun, I thought!

But what really got her attention was when I came back with a strip of toilet paper and encouraged her to tear it to bits and stick those on the contact paper. THAT was amusing to her. If only I'd had colored tissue paper....

A little teaser -- I've been working a lot of these evenings on a very Waldorf activity, a magnetic garden scene. It's not ready yet, but I'm close. Nugget saw some of the pieces laying on top of the bookcase as I was carrying her to the car for a grocery store run. "I want to do that!", she shouted. "I want to do THAT ACTIVITY!!!"

So, I'm crossing my fingers that the many hours I've put in will come back in how long she plays with it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Where's the Waldorf?

You may have noticed -- I definitely have -- that this blog has a lot more Montessori-like activities than Waldorf ones.

I've been trying to fix that. I've been searching for Waldorf homeschool blogs, but without luck. They've either stopped updating or are focused at the wrong age. I'm going to keep looking, and maybe start looking for books as well.

One thing I have realized, though, is that I'm not willing to pull the more mainstream parts of Nugget's day-to-day life, like her Little People and Winnie-the-Pooh books. I know I could go more Waldorf by replacing everything with a few simple, wooden toys. But what I really want to do is simply supplement her life with Waldorf and Montessori-inspired, not wipe it out.

To be sure, we've already made the decision to step outside the mainstream -- no TV, few branded characters, nearly all used toys. But I also feel that some carefully chosen, pre-owned, and battery-less plastic toys aren't going to hurt anything.

I think that some of this will resolve as Nugget gets older and her imagination grows, as well. Right now she's more manipulative than imaginative, so a set of simple wooden peg people means little to her.

But I do hope to start incorporating more Waldorf. I haven't forgotten about it!

First stringing and sponging activities

I finally got Nugget the new activities she's been asking for. Unfortunately, I introduced these activities the morning that she first started to suffer from a nasty stomach bug. So she hasn't had much patience for them yet, although she's tried them a few times.

One was a simple wooden puzzle of three pieces -- a leaf, a squirrel, and a nut -- that fit inside one another. I picked it and two others (a chicken and her hens and a pig and piglets) at a thrift store. These are a different type of puzzle than Nugget's used to, and she still hasn't quite worked it out.

The second is her first stringing activity. I used rigatoni pasta (dyed with food coloring) and pipe cleaners. To keep the pasta from sliding off, I twisted a wooden bead to one end.

She's gone back to this one a few times, even while sick, so I think it might be a keeper.

Another attempt to provide sick-toddler entertainment saw me bringing bowls of water onto our lanai. Nugget wanted to float her turtles, but I also introduced her to moving water with a sponge. She gave it a shot a few times...

... but it quickly devolved into squeezing the water onto the ground and eventually pouring out the bowls.

It's very un-Montessori to do it so messily, but when the kid is so sick and grumpy that even smiling at her wrong sends her into a tizzy, correcting her few minutes of fun is the last thing I'm going to do.
Site Meter