Friday, October 15, 2010

Hammer + nails + insulation board = fun!

We found some stray pieces of insulation board at the church work site that had blown into the woods the other day. So last week when we were on a "vacation" week from school we hauled it out and spent the better part of a morning covering it with holes. The kids are all in their pajamas because I told them that, since it was the last "vacation" day, it could also be a pajama day. Hooray!

This activity has so many extensions and uses. It's one of my favorite things to do with all 3 kids. Just make sure you choose SHORT nails or you go right through your insulation board! Good thing we weren't hammering on the floor! We also like to use plastic toy hammers and golf tees for beginning construction workers.


When interest started to wane we came up with the brilliant idea of hammering nails and tees into a race course shape. So of course we had to plan out the course, nail everything in, make adjustments, drive a few races, make more adjustments, add some obstacles to jump over...and then take the nails all out again! Actually, before we completely cleaned up we hammered all the nails and tees into the board as far as they could go so that taking them out again was more of a challenge for little fingers.

Little Sweetie growing up

The boots are a lovely complement to the princess dress
Checking out the new church property with Dad

Mud bog boy

We were visiting the new church the other day. After all the rain we've had, there was a beautiful big mud bog that O Boy discovered and OF COURSE had to wade through several times to test the depth. Nice!

Flashlights and snacks

The other day we were doing a lot of flashlight play, so I decided to have the kids use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of their bread to shine flashlights through. This was a really good fine motor/hand strengthening activity.

First, they had to get the cookie cutters all the way through the bread.

Then they had to gently poke the shape out without tearing the bread to bits. This was quite tricky. Often we had to resmush the bread together where it had torn!
Then we shined our flashlights through the openings.

Homeschool: making armor

We've been studying the armor of God this past week. The boys already have various pieces of plastic play armor but they didn't have breastplates. So on that day we practiced tracing and painting our own breastplates. They first had to choose what design they wanted (diagonal or straight stripe etc.), then they chose their colors and painted. The next day they used glitter paint (very good handstrengthening activity) to add details to their breastplates. You'll see pictures of the complete armor when it's all finished.
The Little Sweetie wasn't really interested in painting hers until I squished a bunch of paint directly onto her breastplate and let her fingerpaint! Perfect!

Homeschool: castle store

We've been doing a lot of castle/knight stuff lately in school. Two fun books we've been reading over and over are The Knight Who Was Afraid of the Dark and Cowardly Clyde.

So the other day when I was thinking about how to work on building castles with Mr. T I came up with the idea of making a castle store. I first built the series of castles that you see in the back row. The main character (me) was the little black knight on the end.

This knight explained to Mr. T that a bunch of his knights were asking him to build them their own castles. He wondered if Mr. T could help out, and of course he was very willing to do so. So we picked one knight out and he looked at all the castle options and chose the first one (on the far right). I then gave Mr. T just the blocks needed to build a copy (of course the knight couldn't have the store model) of that exact castle. He did this quickly and easily.

Then the next night came along and chose the next castle made of bristle blocks. I gave Mr. T the blocks to build that one and it was definitely a bit trickier. It was hard to balance the two walls and get the roof on at the same time but he did it and the knight was very happy with his new home.

Then came an even more difficult order. A knight with a really long, tall sword ordered the tall house (the 2nd from the left). I gave Mr. T all the blocks he'd need and he just couldn't conceptualize getting the colored blocks on top of the cube block. He tried building it several times with the tall blocks next to the cube. Unfortunately, with the roof on it was too short for the knight and his sword to fit inside. Something had to be done. Finally I demonstrated by putting one up on the cube and he put the rest together easily.

Now he had 2 more knights to build for and no more models. So he had to go pick out blocks himself (there were several buckets worth of various kinds dumped all over the kitchen floor!) and build his own castle. You'll see his first attempt 3rd in from the left. He put 2 blocks on top of each other (a tower) and then the knight complained that his castle had no roof. This was a serious problem. But Mr. T looked around and found an arch piece and added that. It's a bit of a tight fit for the knight (you can see he's lying down) but it's a roof over his head so he shouldn't complain. I was really happy to see Mr. T pick a block that was the perfect shape for a roof. Good thinking!

Finally he had to build one last castle (this was really stretching his attention span at this point). You'll see his final attempt is the first castle on the left. I think I asked him to build it out of bristle blocks but I didn't give him the blocks needed. He again began building a tower (you'll see the two blocks on top of each other) but then the knight complained that it didn't have any walls and so he was able to get back on track with building more of a house structure. In the end he did a great job, but the knight complained that every other castle had some decoration on the roof (tough customers) and so he looked around and chose a triangle block to add to the roof to make it more fancy. Very nice! This was such a fun and motivating activity to do with him and it was fascinating to watch him develop his building skills even through the course of this short activity. Way to go, Mr. T!

During the course of this time O Boy was on the floor building sheds, a barn and a house for a knight, his horse, his cannon, and his catapult. I gave him another piece (a cannon, horse, etc.) after he built each structure. Each of his structures (even the barn) had chimneys and other interesting features. The Little Sweetie was alternately knocking down O Boy's structures and building her own to knock down during this time.
It was a perfect example of the developmental sequence of building!
(knocking down towers, building towers to knock down, building towers to build, simple structures, complex structures with details)

A great book to use to help develop building skills through play is called Block Play. It's very practical, well-illustrated (important), clearly explains the development of block play and how to help children move to the next level of development.

Wonderful "Grandparents"

Mr. T has come a long ways from the days when "Grandpa" Mike was a bit intimidating for him...this was taken when Mr. T was about 7 mos old)
Now he's, of course, best friends! Ready to go hunting, Grandpa Mike!
This picture is a bit blurry but I had to include it because it shows that the Little Sweetie absolutely adores Grandpa Mike as well. The whole time he was at our house she kept bringing book after book to him to read to her.

Homeschool PE class: rolls

Last week our homeschool PE class was all about the different kinds of rolls you can do. The wonderful elementary PE curriculum book I have suggests using food descriptors to teach the rolls. So we named each of the 3 rolls I taught this way: hot dog, watermelon, and pizza (or pie) rolls. After they demonstrated each roll several times, then they got to put the 3 rolls together into a "picnic lunch" in any order they chose. They had to tell us their menu before they rolled and then demonstrate their combination. It was really fun! I had forgotten how incredibly difficult these rolls can be and how much they work your core muscles. So this ended up being a really good PT session for Mr. T. And he had so much fun he didn't even realize it.

Here's Doris helping Mr. T do a hot dog roll. It's very hard to do this roll with your feet and arms perfectly straight. You have to depend almost entirely on your core muscles to keep you rolling. Try it! One thing I love about these pictures is the other kids in the background rolling around while they wait.
The Little Sweetie was roaming around, back and forth across the mat, while the boys nicely waited in line and did their rolls one by one. So I finally caught her to see if she wanted to do some rolls just by herself with me. She screamed and wiggled and wanted to do it all by herself instead! I think here she's saying "roll, roll!"
Here's Mr. T doing a watermelon roll. In this roll you have to stay tightly tucked and again, use your core to keep your momentum going. Very tricky. We had a lot of wobbly watermelons rolling around. The procedure here was that they did watermelon rolls all across the mat and then, when they got to the end, they got up and jumped as high and they could and yelled, "SPLAT!" (as a watermelon would splat!). You can see the other little watermelons all lined up and ready to roll.
Watermelons everywhere. I love this picture of the Little Sweetie trying to be just like the big boys.
O Boy doing a watermelon.
Rowan doing a watermelon.
It was very hard for Mr. T to keep his arms and legs out in the hot dog roll because it's easier to bring them into a tuck position to help maintain a rolling position. Here you can see O Boy helpfully showing him what to do.
Here's Mr. T doing his watermelon "SPLAT!" He got some good height on that splat!
Here's Rowan's SPLAT!

Here are the boys getting ready to do forward rolls. Their gymnastics teacher had a great phrase to teach this: "Reach up high, reach down low, and over you go."
Rowan forward rolling.
O Boy doing more watermelons.
At this point the Little Sweetie wanted to break into the action and, out of the blue, came and plopped herself down on top of O Boy as he was getting ready to do a perfect execution of a hot dog roll. It was pretty hilarious and turned into an immediate "everyone dogpile on O Boy" moment.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homeschool: leaf sorting

It's always seemed very difficult for Mr. T to understand the concept of sorting, so we've been doing a lot of sorting the past few weeks as workboxes tasks. He's sorted coins, playing cards, and (most successfully) trailmix. It's always interesting to see the different ways that he and O Boy sort. The other day I had just Mr. T sort some leaves that we'd collected and pressed. Here's a summer of the series of questions I asked him.

"Can you put these into groups? Which leaves would be together in families?"
He put them all neatly into one pile.
I can't remember how, but I kept restating the above questions into different ways and perhaps starting grouping a few of the leaves together myself. He quickly caught on and neatly put them into groups in a circle. Interesting!
Finally we talked about it again and I emphasized thinking about how the leaves were either the same or different. He got almost all of them sorted into piles of his own creation (that had his own interesting categories - for example, he put a brown leaf in with all the red leaves because they were all dark). Good job, Mr. T! This was another example of an activity where he needed to see just a few leaves at a time, rather than be overwhelmed by a huge pile. This is the same with blocks. If he is given a whole bucket of Legos he doesn't seem to be able to sort or build with them. But given just a few he can start to play with them more meaningfully.

Baby fun

A few days ago the Little Sweetie finally had a "playdate" of her own. We invited the two Miss Midkiffs over to do some playing and pudding painting. Here are the two babies diving in. I think in the end they had more fun playing together in the bath!

Gymnastics class

We've been hearing rave reviews about the new gymnastics teacher in town for a year or so. The boys finally got to take their first gymnastics class 2 weeks ago. Here are some fun shots from their time...

Balancing on one leg on the balance beam. The flying blur is Mr. T. You can see from the picture how long he stayed on the beam!


Building with Bristle blocks

A few weeks ago Mr. T met with his OT for the first time this year. Building with all kinds of blocks, especially Legos and Bristle blocks, was encouraged. Legos we have aplenty, having been generously handed down the entire Skeek family collection a few years ago. But we didn't have any Bristle blocks, which I remember having a lot of fun with when I was little. So I was going to head online and buy a set eventually. I rarely, rarely go to the Salvation Army these days but I decided to swing in either that same day or the next. Guess what was sitting in the toy section? A (as far as I can tell) complete bucket of Bristle blocks! Wow! Thank you, God!

O Boy of course immediately began going crazy with these things. He has built all manner of machine, from aircraft carrier stocked with a complete fleet of submarines and lifeboats, to helicopters to airplanes...
This is a recent digger he made when we were all working together a few days ago.
Here's the robot that Mr. T and Mom built.

3 Bears: Panda face snack

Lots of times the magazine Clubhouse Jr. has really fun and easy themed snacks that we'll try if we have all the food supplies. A recent issue had a panda face snack that looked pretty cool. Since we were reading the 3 bears (I know pandas aren't real bears...), we decided to try making it. Though not particularly a nutritiously well-rounded snack, it sure looked cool. Just mush regular rice together and cut olives into the various shapes (a good fine motor activity) to make the face. There aren't any pictures of the Little Sweetie's panda face since she just ate any olives I gave her as fast as I passed them out.
Thanks for our Clubhouse Jr. subscription, Mimi!

As I should have expected, O Boy decided to alter the original design. Instead of using an olive for the panda's smile, he mushed and smushed an opening in the rice for a smile of his own making.

Making oatmeal playdoh

One of their "workbox" tasks for this particular day in school was following a recipe to make their own bowl of oatmeal playdoh. They then had to use it to cover up the shape of a bear to sort of form it into a bear. This was one of those activities that I lifted basically straight out of the curriculum I am using (Read, Play and Learn) sort of against my better judgement. The covering of the bear/making it into a bear shape is perhaps something some little neat preschool/kindergarten girl might find interesting. These boys? No way. Read on to find out what their favorite part of this activity was.

Yes, reading and following the recipe quickly digressed into "let's see what happens when we dump the various ingredients into the large bowl of water mom put here for us to measure OUT of." Nice! Guess it ended up as a science experiment...

O Boy's newest pet

Several weeks ago O Boy was out riding his bike and discovered a woolly bear caterpillar. He brought it inside, we looked up a bunch of stuff on it on the computer and decided to try and actually keep this bug alive in his bug box (as opposed to all the others who have died after a few days incarceration). You'll note that, as is natural for a coastal caterpillar, the boys put a LARGE and heavy shell inside his bug box for him to climb around on rather than the traditional sticks and leaves...He almost got smushed by it several times as the boys carried the bug box around. Much to our surprise, it began making a cocoon the same evening we brought it in! It was the first time I've ever seen such a thing in action and it is truly an amazing feat. As O Boy says in his description below, the caterpillar did literally pull all that "woolly bear" hair off to make the cocoon; another one of the wonders of God's design. It was pretty neat to be able to see it so close up because of the way it built on the wall of the bug box. We're hoping it will (as one internet site promised) hibernate all winter in our bug box and then emerge in the spring as an Isabella Tiger Moth.


O Boy composed the following email for me to send out to "all his friends" to announce this special event.

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To the friends of O Boy (Charlotte, Tolin, Gramma Alice, Mimi and Papa, Noah and Breiland, Josie, and Udai),

We have a caterpillar as our pet. His name is Yellow-Black and for his nickname he has Black-Yellow-Black. I found him going under my back tire and going through my training wheel and then out the other side. And he is already in his cocoon. He made his cocoon by taking off his hair. He was kind of biting his hair and taking it off.

from, O Boy

P.S. Thanks again, Charlotte for one of O Boy's best gifts ever (the bug box!) Now that he actually has a living bug in it we can stop calling it the Bug Graveyard. :-)