Monday, May 20, 2013

the easiest outdoor fine motor activity.

Building and strengthening those little fine motor muscles are crucial in the early childhood years. Strong fine motor skills will come in handy as children learn self-help skills (for example, getting dressed, especially buttoning and zipping) and they take center stage with skills like drawing and writing. Because of that, I'm always looking for ways to help Lil' CB develop those little muscles in his hands and fingers.

Enter the Easiest Outdoor Fine Motor Activity. Ever.

This is an activity that I often suggest to parents and something I started with Lil' CB when he was about 18 months old. Here's what you need:
  • a cup of water
  • a paintbrush
And here's what you do: take the paintbrush, dip it in some water, and paint on the sidewalk (or the side of the house; or the deck; or the bench; or garage door; or the chalkboard, etc.). That's it!

As simple as this activity is, it has always proven to be a hit. It's just like painting, but there's no mess (holla!!!), and what's really cool is that the water quickly disappears, so it adds another element of fun.

When I first started doing this with Choi Boy, I just let him go to town and he had a ton of fun just painting the ground and exploring how to use the paintbrush. Plus, dipping the brush in the water cup was a great way to help him with his hand-eye coordination. Now that he's 3 and a half, he still enjoys freely painting, but we also use the opportunity to practice letters:

And do some pre-writing activities, like practicing lines,


and squiggles!

We also use the evaporating water to add a few twists...we'll try to see how many letters we can write before the first one disappears or CB will call out a word and I'll say the letters out loud as I write them to see if we can finish the word before the first letter is gone.

This is an activity we'll pull out several times a week and I'm always happy to do so because again, there is little to no mess! Hopefully your little one will enjoy this just as much as Lil' CB did and still does!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Non-Uniform Uniform

(Originally posted on Hellobee!)

I tend to be a creature of habit. At the same time, I will admit that I love clothes and accessories (sometimes a little too much) and enjoy putting together daily outfits. Blend those two together and I often find myself wearing different versions of essentially the same ensemble!

Our dress code at school is somewhere between business casual and casual (blue jeans only on Fridays), and since I'm often sitting on the floor or dancing with my students or just being altogether unladylike at school, I also need to think about being my work clothes being comfortable and functional. Because of that, and because of my habits mentioned above, I've discovered that a mix of a loosely fitted top, skinny pants, statement jewelry, and flats tends to be my just-right outfit for work and often on weekends, too.

See Exhibits A, B, and C:

Here are some other pieces that I either own or would love to own that would fit right in with my "uniform":

Tops: I prefer to wear tops that are fitted, but loosely so, so that they don't cling all over my momma muffin top but aren't too boxy and still show some shape.

1) J Crew Boy Shirt in Dots | 2) J Crew Factory Crochet Eyelet Tee | 3) Old Navy Slub Knit Tee | 4) J Crew Featherweight French Terry Sweatshirt | 5) J Crew Stripe Boatneck Top

Bottoms: When skinny pants first came back on the scene in a big way several years ago, I resisted for a while because I don't love the shape of my legs (they're a bit bowed on the bottom). But, I soon discovered the awesomeness of skinny pants and they're about all I wear now. My favorite thing about them is that the bottom hems stay in tact because they don't drag on the floor!

1) J Crew Cafe Capri in bright poppy | 2) Target Skinny Denim in black | 3) AE Cropped Moto Pant in olive | 4) Target Skinny Pant in Mint Polka Dot | 5) J Crew Toothpick Jean in Fresh Purple

Shoes: I cannot wear heels. In fact, the last time I wore them, I fell down a flight of stairs (and I was completely sober!). I hope flats are around forever because they're my favorite and I love the variety of flats that are available.

1) TOMS Classic Slip on | 2) Target Mossimo Ballet Flat | 3) TOMS Linen Ballet Flat | 4) Target Mossimo Flat Strappy Sandal | 5) Maria Sharapova by Cole Haan Air Bacara Flat

Jewelry: I love big, bold and fun statement necklaces that accent my otherwise plain shirts. I don't like to spend a ton of money on costume jewelry, though, and have been very happy with my inexpensive pieces!

1) Forever 21 Rhinestone Wreath Necklace | 2) Target Stone Shower Necklace | 3) Francescas Champs-Elysees Necklace | 4) Bauble Bar Green Ariel Necklace | 5) Forever 21 Opaque Rhinestone Chain Necklace

What about you? What's your go-to non-uniform uniform?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why I Hate Thomas the Tank Engine

I've shared in a few previous blog posts about my disdain for a certain little blue tank engine. But, I've never shared exactly why I dislike him so much. So, indulge me for a moment while I dive into the incredible annoyingness that is Thomas the Tank Engine.

First off, he and his buddies are freaky. In fact, it took Choi Boy a while to actually warm up to Thomas and his friends and he called them scary for a long time (while I not-so-silently-cheered and happily directed him towards other toys and characters). The exaggerated facial expressions scared CB and I was happy to keep him away from them. However, once CB became super interested in the trains, the exaggerated faces became hilarious to him and I'm sad to say that he often imitates them. Especially the angry faces. Grrr. Literally. (On the other hand, check out this fascinating study about children with autism and their connection with Thomas and Friends' exaggerated expressions!)

Secondly, Thomas and his friends are often whiny and pouty and boastful and mean to each other. They make fun of each other; play tricks on one another; and everything is always a competition between the trains. And they're always getting into trouble with Sir Topham Hatt! Their behavior is just not what I want my 3 year-old to watch and absorb.

Finally, he's eeeeeeverywhere. I'm not kidding. EVERYWHERE. When we were in Korea in 2010 he was everywhere there, too! You're probably wondering why on earth I would expose my child to Thomas when I dislike him so much. The thing is, I don't. Not really. But, if we walk into the book store or library, the Thomas books are prominently displayed. And when we go to friends' houses, and all the kids want to watch Thomas, I'm not going to be *that* mom and not let my child watch. And, of course, when Choi Boy doting aunts, uncles, grandparents, great uncles and great aunts find out he likes Thomas, Thomas he gets. What's worse is that, as Mrs. Yo-Yo once said, Thomas is the gateway train and only sets some major train-lovin' in motion. Sigh.

Since that darn tank engine is everywhere, we do try to limit his exposure to him when we can, esepecially when it comes to watching the Thomas and Friends show. At home, I don't let CB watch Thomas. We don't get the channels that show it on our TV, so the only way CB can watch is online or on DVD. We once borrowed a couple Thomas DVDs from the library and quickly decided we would not be borrowing anymore. I do let CB borrow one Thomas book from the library on each visit, because as silly as it sounds, I do want to respect his literary choices.

We've really cut back on CB's screen time, but when he does watch something on the tube (maybe a total of 1-2 hours on the weekends only), here are the shows that are momma approved for Choi Boy (and while I still have almost full control of what he does and doesn't watch, we'll be sticking to this list!):

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: People, I love this show. LOVE it. (Confession: sometimes I watch it on my own. On purpose.) It is so developmentally appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers and the songs are so catchy and fun. I love the connection to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (an old favorite of mine) and the lessons are simple, yet powerful. Plus, the characters are so darn cute!

Curious George: Yes, it's true, George is a mischievious little monkey. But he's never malicious, and I always play up the fact that George is a monkey and not a child which can be used to explain some of his crazy antics. I also love that there is a Math or Science lesson embedded within each 12 minute episode.

Super Why: I feel that some shows that try to integrate letter learning and early reading skills can often feel forced, but I don't feel that with Super Why. Also, the methods the characters use to boost phonological awareness are actually pretty sound.

Chuggington: Chuggington has become our great train compromise. While there is a little more silliness and poking fun in this show versus the ones listed above, it is still presented in an age-appropriate way with much more easy-to-read redemption in those situations. Plus, this show has many more positive female characters, which is something that is seriously lacking in the Thomas stories. I really love the fact that the fastest chugger is a girl!

While I can't keep Choi Boy totally and completely away from Thomas the Tank Engine, I am not ashamed to admit that I will excitedly tout the awesomeness of of the characters on my "approved" list in order to downplay Thomas...I'm so bad. ;)

Tell me I can't be the only one...what children's characters do you hate? Which do you love?