Tuesday, March 3, 2015

a little tour: our calendar routine

March marks our sixth month of incorporating calendar activities into our daily routine, so I thought it was high time I shared a little about it with all of you here on itty bitty love!  

A calendar can be useful for...
  • supporting an understanding of the passage of time; 
  • introducing vocabulary like days of the week, phases of the moon, etc;
  • encouraging an appreciation of seasons;
  • making scientific observations of things like moon cycles and weather patterns;
  • providing the opportunity to count, everyday!  

Nuts & bolts:
  • I found a lot of inspiration for our calendar on the Counting Coconuts blog - please check out Mari-Ann's calender post if you haven't already. She also shares several free date card sets to download and print.
  • Our calendar is attached to a cork board with push pins.  The background for the date cards and days of the week is a piece of poster board.  I used a black marker to draw a grid of 2" x 2" squares, leaving a little room at the top for the days of the week.
  • The month, days of the week, year, and season cards are color coded by season - winter is blue, spring is green, summer is yellow, and fall is red.  When the season changes, I change these cards.
  • Each month, Elise and I make a new set of date cards.  Since our squares are small, I've found that a lot of the downloadable cards are too big.  Instead, I cut them from card stock, write the number in the corner with a marker, and give Elise a sheet of seasonal stickers for decorating.  This month, she adorned them with dabs of paint!
  • We mark the date by hanging a little necklace charm (a bird on one side, a bee on the other - my good luck charm while pregnant with Elise!) on that day's push pin.  
  • The phases of the moon cards are from Montessori Print Shop.*
  • The weather cards are from learn create love.*
  • The cards that aren't in use are held together with metal rings, and hang from hooks attached to the bottom of the cork board.  They're almost like little books, and I love that they're available for Elise to look at whenever she wants!
*  In case you're wondering, I don't have a color printer.  Instead, I uploaded the phases of the moon and weather cards to a local print shop, and then picked them up the next day - easy peasy!

Our routine:

We generally do our calendar routine around breakfast time, when we're talking about our day and the upcoming week.  If we miss doing the calendar together for some reason, I don't sweat it, but instead try to keep it up-to-date on my own since it's part of our environment.

  • First, we point and sing to the days of the week - in Spanish or in English - to the tune of "Oh, My Darling Clementine."  When we get to whatever day of the week it is, we pause, then jump up and down, waving our arms around, saying the name of the day.  ~ Sunday, Monday, Tuesday - Tuesday?  Today is Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday!, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday (repeat 2x) 
  • Next, we point and count the date cards - in Spanish or in English - moving the charm over one space to the new day.  At this point, I say the whole date, pointing to the calendar, and Elise chimes in here and there.  ~ Today is Tuesday, the third day of March, and the year is 2015. ~ 
  • Then, we chitchat about the season, the weather, and the moon.  We change the weather cards throughout the day.  For example, we might hang the sunny card in the morning, and then later add the windy card after returning home from a breezy walk.  We also change the moon cards as we observe the current phase of the moon - we try to check at night before bedtime.  The first quarter moon is easy to spot because it rises at noon!  Another little trick we've learned is that if you can "hold" the moon in your right hand, it's getting bigger (waxing); if you can "hold" it in your left hand, it's getting smaller (waning).

Elise participates in all calendar duties, including taking down the old date cards and hanging up the new ones.  I really enjoy watching her concept of the passage of time develop.  Last month we had a birthday party to look forward to, and Elise eagerly ran to her calendar each morning to count down the days.  

In the beginning, I wasn't sure about incorporating the phases of the moon and the weather, but Elise enjoys these two calendar features immensely - and they have really sharpened her observational skills.  One of my favorite moments was on a family bike ride last fall.  We were cruising along when suddenly Elise exclaimed, "Look!  A waxing gibbous!"  Hubs turned to me and said, "Did she just say waxing gibbous?"  As we watched Elise reach up to cup the outline of the moon in her right hand, I replied, "Yes, and it looks like she knows what she's talking about!"   

Friday, February 27, 2015

our favorite winter reads

We'd been waiting for a really big snow, saving good stuff in a sack.  Finally it was a perfect snowball day.  

- Lois Ehlert (from Snowballs)

Here are a few of our favorite books to snuggle up with on a snowy afternoon.  With the exception of the talking animals in Stranger in the Woods, all of these books are based in reality.  Which is just right for 2.5 year-old Elise - too much fantasy leaves her confused and concerned!

  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
  • In the Snow: Who's Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George
  • Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II & Jean Stoick
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • What Can You Do in the Snow? by Anna Grossnickle Hines

What do you plan on reading this weekend?  

Monday, December 8, 2014

the gift of play dough

Homemade play dough has become our 
go-to gift for friends.

It's inexpensive and easy to make.

The recipient will have a ball 
while strengthening his or her fine motor skills.
(Sorry - once a Montessori teacher, always a Montessori teacher!)

Ultimately, it can be composted or thrown away, the container recycled.

Plus, nothing beats giving a gift that 
you made with your very own hands, right?!!
(Just ask Elise - she was nearly bursting with pride 
watching her friend unwrap the snowman on the left 
- she made the one on the right for herself, of course!)

To make the snowman play dough,
and kneaded in some silver glitter and a splash of peppermint extract at the end.

In addition to the sparkly dough, we put together a few snowman supplies:

googly eyes,
twig arms,
felt scarves,
and carrot noses (cut golf tees and toothpicks).

Of course, we had to put the snowman play dough in snowman jars
- thank you Eltern vom Mars!

In the photo at the top of the post, the jars are wearing knitted hats,
but if you're not a knitter - or you just don't want to spend your precious time knitting hats for jars -
try cutting off the toe of a single sock and gluing a pom pom to the top.
(The sock hat pictured above came off an extremely cute, child-made sock snowman 
we purchased at a craft fair this weekend.)

Happy gifting!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

looking back at summer: the pea fort

 ^^ The Pea Fort - July 2014 ^^

I took a little blogging break over the summer, 
and I know there are A LOT of readers wondering 
What ever happened with The Pea Fort?  

For those of you who just started reading itty bitty love, 
The Pea Fort is a trellis-like structure we built 
and planted pea and bean seeds around 
- in hopes of creating an edible playhouse for Elise.  

You can read more about it here and here.

^^ Elise feasted on peas and beans all summer! ^^

I had plans of picking some to freeze and enjoy over the winter, 
but all were consumed immediately upon being picked, 
either inside or just outside of The Pea Fort.  :)

That makes more sense anyway,
don't you think?

^^ The Pea Fort The Snow Cave - November 2014 ^^

What will we plant next year?

Maybe more beans and a few less peas.
(The pea plants died-back once the weather got hot,
and it was tricky pulling them out from around the bean plants.)

I'd also like to try a climbing flower or two.
Morning glories?  Sweet peas?  Hmmmm...

We have all winter to dream!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

favorite veggie reads

Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.
                                                                 - Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) 

A few books that have inspired our growing love of vegetables!

  • Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
  • Vegetables, Vegetables!  by Fay Robinson
  • Vegetables in the Garden by Pascale De Bourgoing
  • The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons
  • Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop
  • Food For Thought by Saxton Freymann
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