This week’s featured book is Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. I love Jan Brett’s detailed and intricate illustrations. In contrast, her stories are typically fairly straightforward and simple. My kids have always been delighted with her books and tend to ask for them to be read again and again.
So, we need a few activities to go along with Gingerbread Baby. For the real moms among us, who want to do something fun, but feel a little pressed for time or energy this is the activity for you:
Storytime with Grandma
One of our grandmas doesn’t live very close, but she can still read stories to my kids. Jan Brett’s books are popular enough that grandma or grandpa or another special person could easily check this book out from the library. Then arrange a convenient time with Grandma and make a phone call. Put her on speaker phone, hand your child his copy of the book and let Grandma read the story to your child. You may need to remind Grandma to tell your child when to turn the page. Maybe Grandma is tech-savvy enough to make a recording of the book on a CD or as a sound file on the computer. You might be able to get a digital video recording or even do a teleconference on Skype. However you manage to connect across the miles, this is definitely a book worth sharing with a special family member, no matter what the distance.
More real mom activities can be found by visiting Jan Brett’s homepage. There you can can design and print your own Gingerbread Baby and your own Gingerbread Baby House. I should let you know that I had problems using this website on a Mac with both Safari and Firefox. It works if you’re on a PC with Internet Explorer.
For the super moms among us, you can find instructions, recipes and patterns for gingerbread houses online in many places. If you need to simplify this activity a little bit, you might consider using graham crackers to build the house.
Also, you might find that simply making gingerbread babies is plenty of fun for most kids. For this you don’t need to do the cutting the pattern and building the house stages. Arm yourself with a person-shaped cookie-cutter and move right on to the icing and candy decorating parts!
So often as moms we get down on ourselves for what we “should” do with our kids. We think about all the creative moms who have great make-up, a clean house, crafty kids, and paper mache pumpkins lining their entry ways.
Nota bene: I can’t help you much with the clean house or the great make-up. Sorry.
But, I have learned that with some preparation on my part, my kids end up doing a whole lot of creative things they wouldn’t otherwise do. So, I came up with the project box. My preparation for project time is handily contained in one box that stores easily and keeps everything ready for that moment we need it. I did forget to mention one thing in the video. I also like to keep on hand a plastic tablecloth. They are often on sale at Wal-Mart as the seasons or holidays change, so that’s a good time to stock up on a couple.
If you want to work on doing creative projects with your kids more frequently, I have two other ideas. First, set aside some time. Maybe it’s only once a week or twice a month, but decide that you’ll play together creatively for a period of time and schedule it. Tell the kids. They’ll hold you to it, and the anticipation and planning can be fun with older kids.
Second, learn to recognize that the time spent cleaning up is usually shorter than the time spent playing. Generally, if you do a little cost-benefit analysis, you’ll realize that it’s going to be worth it. It’s worth it for the time the kids are busy, the learning, growing, and exploring that happens, and often the time you get to yourself to do something like read. This often helps me to be more willing to allow spontaneous project play. If I’ve got at least an hour, it’s always worth the mess to play with the project box.
Finally, although my children are willing to play independently with the project box (especially as they get older), I have never regretted taking some time and playing with them. I love the conversations we have and the insights I get into their lives and minds. You can’t beat an afternoon playing with the kids!
Having said all this, I can still use any ideas you may have on fostering creative project work with kids. Please leave a comment and share what has worked for you.
How do you fit crafty kinds of things into your busy mom days?
Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
First off, my apologies for posting so late today (tonight). Our kids are on a fall break, and we’ve been trying to spend some time as a family. And most unfortunately, I have some scheduling issues with my podcasting host. So here we finally are…
I will be stunned and shocked if you are not able to find this book at your library–both your town library and your school library. Rainbow Fish is extremely popular with teachers and parents. If you want to buy it, as usual you can add pennies to our tip jar and purchase through Amazon. But truly, you should find it with out any problem in a book order.
Real Mom Activities: I am suggesting a conversation with your kids about what it means to be a good friend and how important sharing is. Ask your kids what kinds of things they can do to share with others. If it works for your family, you might decide to go through your toy box and share some toys with those who are less fortunate. I try to do this with my kids at least twice a year for two reasons. First, I really do want them to learn how blessed they are and how often others do without. I think it is critical to teach children about service to others concrete examples and experiences. And second, it seems that every year my kids accumulate WAY more toys and stuff than they can possibly love. So, this is also a great to to get some of the clutter out of my house in a positive manner.
Super Mom Activities: As I mentioned this book is really popular with teachers. As a result, you can hardly do a search on Google without bumping into a teacher with a project for Rainbow Fish. And, frankly, if you ask me, all these activities are for super moms. You can truly pick just about any one and have a great activity. We’d love to see pictures of your art. Leave us a comment with a link to your Super Mom Moment.
I was recently visiting with my next door neighbor as we watched the kids play. She has a two-year-old daughter and like many mothers of toddlers is on the look-out for activities that will keep her daughter busy. My friend knows I use containers filled with rice or beans to help keep my children busy. We got to talking about how to make this type of activity work for toddlers. The trick is to use sorting objects that are not going to be choking hazards. Frankly, I kind of avoided this activity until my kids’ compulsion to taste everything they touched subsided. It was later than you think.
Also, although this seems odd, I wouldn’t recommend using beans in the container if the activity is for toddlers. Maybe it’s just my toddlers, but beans can get lodged in orifices. Rice is a lot less likely to get stuck somewhere unpleasant. In any case, here’s some sorting objects that might work for your kids.
Good objects to start out with would be the large-sized Legos (like these Ultimate LEGO DUPLO Building Set). These Legos can be sorted by color or by size. This can also be a good way to support learning colors. Obviously, any other large-sized block will work. These Legos were just really popular with Dylan and Anya.
I would also suggest trying some silverware in the rice. Again, it’s big enough to not be a choking hazard. Also, the differences between forks, spoons, and butter knives are apparent enough that sorting will be relatively straightforward for a beginner. As your toddler gets better at sorting you can add in the two different sizes of spoons. My kids got experienced enough with this that by the time they were three, I had them unload the silverware from the dishwasher for me and put it away. I’d pull out all the unsafe utensils, set the silverware basket on the counter, scoot a chair up to the drawer, and let them be mommy’s helper. It was great! They are a lot less enthusiastic about it now, but it was good while it lasted.
Other things that may work depending on your toddler:
- Assortment of large, unshelled tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.)
- Barrettes or hair bows
- Straws (sort by color or cut up and then sort by length)
- Large pompom balls
- Other small toys like matchbox cars or action figures
Do you have any other suggestions on helping toddlers learn about sorting and practice fine motor skills? What’s working for your kids?
We just spent the evening at Grandma’s house putting together one of my favorite puzzles from my own childhood. My family had several of the 300-piece 2 by 3 foot sized Disney movie poster puzzles. We did the Jungle Book one on the kitchen table. It was fun to work together as a family on a project, visit with grandparents, hear about our great-grandparents, and share brownies when our work was done. It’s interesting to see how the two kids each participate in this kind of a project.
Anya is still too young for this big of a puzzle, so she helped me make brownies while everyone else started out. Once we got the brownies in the oven, Anya hovered around the table “helping” each of us in turn. She found pieces that seemed to match what we were working on. If we told her two pieces fit together, she would fiddle when them until she figured out how they fit. She lasted about 20 or 30 minutes this way, and then grandma brought out the crayons and markers and coloring books for her.
Dylan is much more persistent. He worked on the puzzle with us the entire time, but he definitely was getting bored at the end. The promise of a brownie kept him with it though. He was good at picking out all the pieces that went with Baloo and the bananas. He would stay with a piece, turning it and matching up colors until he found a place it fit. He understands the concepts of putting the edge pieces together first and using the picture on the box as a guide for the whole puzzle. And, using his dad’s iPhone, here’s his proud picture of our Sunday night project.
This is the sort of night that provides all kinds of educational benefits but no one even noticed. Lots of laughing, talking, and lovely brownies. A night well spent!