Friday, December 31, 2010

Transition and Activity Songs

Sometimes it can be pretty hard to get Jonah to focus. Sometimes it can be pretty hard to get any toddler to focus. No matter what they are doing, it seems like their minds are on something completely different, or they are already rushing three or four steps ahead. In my preschool room, I started to sing songs during certain activities, or to transition into activities, to help them focus on what is at hand. I've found that Jonah benefits in the same way that my preschoolers did. It keeps his mind on what he is doing in this moment, and also holds his attention for the length of time needed. Some of the songs I've made up, and some of them have been used for ages for this purpose. Here are some of the songs we use to keep our bedtime routine running smoothly!

Going potty (to the tune The Farmer in the Dell)
Is Jonah gonna go?
Is Jonah gonna go?
Will he go pee in the big boy pot?
Is Jonah gonna go?

Washing hands:
I sing the ABC song but at the end I change the words to "Now we've sung our ABC's and our hands are squeaky clean."

Drying hands (also to Farmer in the Dell)
Dry off your hands
Dry off your hands!
It helps us to kill the germs,
dry off your hands!

Brushing teeth (to Row Row Row your Boat)
Brush, brush, brush your teeth
get them squeaky clean!
We make them white
and make them bright
until they shine and gleam.

Brush brush brush your teeth
scrub the germs away!
brush the top
and brush the bottom
now we're done, hooray!

Picking a book (If You're Happy and You Know It tune)
pick a book
pick a book
pick a book!

pick a book
pick a book
pick a book!

find a story that you like
and we'll read it before bed (nap/lunch/etc)

pick a book
pick a book
pick a book!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

quick and easy lunch

This time of the year, it is so easy to fall back on fast food for convenience. We've all been there: out running errands, standing in lines much longer than we anticipated, traffic worse than we imagined, and all of the sudden a little voice peeps from the backseat. "Hungry. Eat lunch!" Is it lunchtime already? Holy moly, it's twenty minutes past lunch! Frantically, we look around and find relief. Golden arches are just a traffic light away. And the kids cheer for their chicken nugget kids meal as we drive away from the carry out window.

I've lived this scenario both as the child and as the mother, repeatedly. Although we don't eat fast food terribly often, Daryl and I have decided to cut out as much fast food as we can from our family's diet. So what can we do to replace Jonah's beloved "Chickie nuggies" as well as keep convenience and timeliness in the picture?

Golden Nugget Chickie Nuggies:
boneless skinless chicken breast
Cheese Nips
bowl of warm water

Fill a gallon zip top bag about half full of the cheese crackers. Don't close the top of the bag or it will break. Use a rolling pin to smash the crackers into fine crumbs (I suppose you could use a food processor as well, but it's more fun to smash stuff, in my opinion!) Cut the chicken into nugget sized pieces. I usually make mine 1 1/2 inch by 1 1/2 inch, approximately. Dip each piece of chicken into the water to moisten it, and place them in the bag of cracker crumbs. Don't over crowd the bag, you can do it in batches if you have a lot of chicken. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 F.

One of the chemicals we are trying to avoid by cutting out fast food, tbhq, is found in most cheese crackers but not cheese nips which is why I list the brand name. I've been making these in large batches and freezing them, so we have frozen nuggets that can simply be heated up at lunch time. I buy the chicken when it is on sale and stock up on nuggets that way! They are so much tastier than any commercially frozen or fast food nugget, and they pass the picky toddler test!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fantastic Foto Friday

 Evie is enjoying the Jumparoo she got for Christmas

Jonah is enjoying the Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo

Jonah's reindeer hat that he made at the zoo

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Five Little Snowmen

Jonah has been enjoying counting things, so I made a couple of counting boards to go along with the following poems. For the snowflakes, I printed out large snowflakes that I got from my clipart library, and cut them out. I laminated each flake with clear contact paper, and glued magnet strips to the backs. For the snowmen, I used sturdy cardstock to make snowmen, then glued the magnetic strips to the back. During our activity time, I used a cookie sheet to count the snowmen and snowflakes along with the poems. I let him manipulate and count the items on the cookie sheet when we aren't saying the poems as well. If you don't have the time to make a magnet counting board, you can simply use your fingers to represent the snowflakes and snowmen!

Five Little Snowflakes
One little snowflake with nothing to do.
Along came another and
Then there were two.

Two little snowflakes playing  in a tree.
Along came another, and
Then there were three.

Three little snowflakes looking for some more.
Along came another, and
Then there were four.

Four little snowflakes that finally did arrive.
Along came another, and
Then there were five.

Five little snowflakes having so much fun.
Out came the sun, and
Then there were none!

Five Little Snowmen
Five little snowmen standing round my door.
This one melted and then there were four.
Four little snowmen beneath a green pine tree.
This one melted and then there were three.
Three little snowmen with caps and mittens blue.
This one melted and then there were two.
Two little snowmen standing in the sun.
This one melted and then there was one.
One little snowman started to run.
But he melted away and then there was none.  

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Baking Up Some Holiday Cheer

I love baking this time of year. To me, nothing says "Christmas" more than a kitchen that smells like melted chocolate chips and brown sugar. Especially since we've been snowed in, I thought we should bake up some delicious goodies for our neighbors. We haven't really met them yet, and being in the house with the kids day in and day out has me starving for any excuse to see another adult.

Jonah has been really interested in what I'm doing in the kitchen, so I let him help me make the chocolate bread and the sugar cookies. First we made chocolate bread, because it lasts the longest. Jonah helped me bake, for the very first time.

I found that the key to baking with a toddler is to have some of the ingredients measured out prior to starting the project- like the flour, of which I needed seven cups. It would have been too difficult for me to measure something like that with an impatient two year old right under my nose. It would also have lost Jonah's interest pretty quickly. So I measured certain ingredients into bowls while he was playing with his basketball, and he was able to just pour the bowls into the batter. But other ingredients, I measured in front of him and let him help me count how many "scoops" of each ingredient I was putting in, and some of it I even let him scoop and measure!

His favorite part was pouring the ingredients into the mixer. He has been playing in his pretend kitchen, and pouring imaginary contents from one bowl to another, ever since we tackled this project.

Since the bread took all day to make, I made the sugar cookie dough after he went to bed, and let it chill in the fridge over night. I really recommend making the cookie dough ahead of time, since it needs to chill anyway. I think Jonah would have lost interest really quickly if the dough wasn't ready to go right after breakfast!

Jonah helped me roll the dough

Then he chose a cookie cutter and began making the cut outs. He has really been infatuated with stars lately, I am not sure why but I think it has something to do with Dora. Whenever he has a choice in shapes, if a star is one of the choices that is what he picks! I just wish I had a large star cookie cutter for him. We ended up with a lot of teeny tiny stars.

Then we baked them. Jonah supervised this process.

Finally, it was time for the fun. I let Jonah pick three cookies and I gave him his own plate that contained sprinkles and decorations of his choosing. I had some dull toddler knives that I let him use to spread the frosting on.
 He was so deliberate in where he applied sprinkles and other decorations. He even placed the nonpareils one by one. I couldn't make out any kind of pattern or reason to where he was placing everything, but the concentration on his face showed he definitely had a plan!
Jonah's cookies did not make it to the cookie trays to be delivered to the neighbors. I was quite happy to let him eat them. Not because they weren't good enough or pretty enough for our trays, but because he just seemed so happy with his work. It seemed like a shame to let someone else enjoy them!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Own Two Hands Holiday Wreath

This craft is one of my mother's favorites. It uses a tracing of your child's hands to make a cute wreath! I've seen variations of this craft for an advent wreath, but I wouldn't recommend actually lighting any candles around it since it is made with paper. As a matter of fact, I strongly urge that if you make an advent wreath from this cute little craft, please let it just be for showsies, and your real advent wreath made with WELL WATERED greens.

You can begin this craft a couple of ways. I chose to trace Jonah's hands on a piece of scratch paper and cut them out to use as a pattern. Your child can trace around their own hands if they have the coordination. You could also trace the hands straight onto the colored paper, several times. The reason I made the pattern from scratch paper rather than tracing his hands several times is because he is a little too squirmy. It was hard enough tracing each hand just once!

Once I got the hands cut out from my green cardstock, I traced a ring, using a plate, on some 12X12 brown cardstock, and cut it out. Using a hole punch, I punched a hole in the ring and tied a loop of red yarn. The yarn will be to hang the wreath.

Then Jonah used glue to position his hands on the ring, with the fingers pointing outward.It did take a little guidance from me.

He ripped up some red tissue paper (that I had leftover from a gift from last year) 

We pasted the small bits around the wreath for "berries."It helps it look a little more like holly berries if you kind of crunch the bits of paper up before gluing them.

If your child is older, they can cut out holly leaves to put on their wreath, and add a bow. I decided to leave these items off because I didn't want it to be too "mommy influenced." It is his craft, afterall!

If you make it with quality paper, this is a cute gift to give to grandparents, or to display with your other decorations. Jonah is so proud of all the decorations he's helped me make this year. After we hung this wreath in the living room, he has been walking past it, pointing, and saying "My hands!" This is the first time that he's used a possessive pronoun such as "my" or "mine" so it makes me proud too!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Counting & Sensory Snowman Craft

One thing about toddler crafts is that they aren't always going to look awesome. But we just have to remind ourselves that it's the process that counts, not the product. So even though he looks a little wonky, I'd like to present to you the snowman which is now adorning our mantel.

That might be one creepy, googly-eyed snowman, but Jonah loves him and we had a lot of fun making him. So there he sits.

To make this ugly little guy, I saved a coffee creamer bottle and used a bottle brush to wash it out really well. I wanted this to be a sensory-integrated craft, so I decided to have Jonah put cotton balls into the bottle. This gave him a sensory experience of touching each soft fuzzy cotton ball.

It worked his fine motor as well as his motor planning skills, because he had to get the cotton balls into a small opening.

Something that Jonah has been interested in lately is "counting" things. Of course it is just the typical "Eee, oooh, ahhh oooh..." as he points to each object (even though some say this isn't counting, it is a very important step towards counting that demonstrates the child has knowledge of basic concepts such as the "one to one" rule, the "stable order" rule, and the "abstraction" rule. If you want to know more about how children learn to count, visit this article from Scholastic)

As he put each cotton ball in, we decided that it would be fun to see how many cotton balls fit into the bottle! He had a lot of fun counting with me, and we got all the way up to twenty two!
Next, we put the hat on the snowman. This is just the bottle top. I realized how much adults take certain skills for granted as I watched Jonah struggle to screw the top on. Something that takes nearly no thought for us requires a lot of fine motor planning for a toddler! After a lot of trial and error of trying to figure out how to turn his wrist and hand together, Jonah finally got the top on by himself.

Then he decided that it needed eye balls. He pointed to his eyes and said "Eeee baaasss!" I couldn't argue with this. Snowmen do need eyeballs! So we glued googly eyes on him.
Then, because he loves adding them to EVERY arts and crafts project, he had to bust out the "domdom" (pom poms.) But not the boring little black pom poms. Oh no, he had to go with the crazy bright big pom poms. He got them out of the crafts cupboard all by himself (note to self: childproof the crafts cupboard!)
A fun thing about this craft is that we can continue to use it to practice our counting. All we have to do is take the top off and take the cotton balls out of it. Then we can count them over and over and over and....

Have fun!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Swiper, No Swiping!

Evie crawled over to Jonah and reached out to touch the football he was playing with. Immediately, Jonah sprung into action. He jumped up and stuck his hand out. "Boppo, mo ba. Boppo mo ba! Boppo moooooh BA!!" He then stuck his elbow out to the side and swung his hand in front of his chest. "Ohhh Maya!" Then stuck his hands in the air and proclaimed "Yayyy! Bop Boppo!" He proceeded to walk to the other side of the room, and play with his ball without that pesky little thing they call sister.

Anyone who watches Nickelodeon with their kids might recognize this Jonah-speak. Jonah has been acting out the "Swiper the Fox" scene that occurs in EVERY SINGLE Dora the Explorer episode. Yes, EVERY SINGLE EPISODE. He will pretend that the dog or Evie are swiper. He has recently added "(gasp!) dee boppo??" Whenever one of them enters the room. (in the cartoon, they ask "Do you see swiper??") 

At least he is engaging in pretend play, right?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Our Thankful Book: The End Product

Jonah and I have been working really hard to finish our Thankful Book. We have been talking about all of the things that make us happy this holiday season, and what being "thankful" means.  We finally finished it on Thanksgiving, just in time to share with our family for the holidays!

After making the cover for our book, we walked around the house and our yard to find things that make us happy. When we found something, we took a picture of it or found a picture that we already had, and said "Thank you! (Blank) makes me happy!" We used ASL signs along with verbal language to talk about how these things in our lives make us feel. We went back to look at the pictures a couple of times a day on our computer, and I talked to Jonah about how happy and thankful we are for these things.

Then, every one in the family chose three things to put in our thankful book. Evie had a little help deciding! We made each page of the book on our computer, and I cut them out and laminated them with contact paper. Then I joined them all with a key ring.

Here is the finished book:

Mommy is thankful for...

her family

her puppy

quiet time.

Daddy is thankful for...



Jonah is thankful for...




Evelyn is thankful for...

her monkey


Friday, December 3, 2010

Baby's First Taste

This week, Evelyn turns six months old. She has been very interested in our food when we eat, and will mimic chewing motions with her mouth when we are all together for meals. Our original plan was to wait until she was six months or sitting up on her own, before introducing her to purees. She has far surpassed the stage of sitting up, and is now crawling and pulling up on furniture. With her six month birthday in just days, we decided that it is time. She is definitely ready for babyfood!

We decided that we would start her on Avocado, the same as we did with Jonah. Avocado is very nutrient rich, has a mild flavor, and is even less likely to cause allergies than rice cereal which could cause grass allergies.
I mashed about a quarter of the avocado with a fork until it was very smooth. I then added breastmilk to thin it out, and also to add a familiar flavor to it. Evie waited very patiently in the high chair while I made her food!
I gave her the avocado using my finger (very well washed!) instead of a spoon, because I didn't want to introduce too many new textures into her mouth all at once. A spoon is a pretty foreign object to an infant, as is the baby food; whereas my finger is much more similar to what she is used to eating from (my breast) in texture and taste.
Using my finger also helped me make sure that the puree was the correct consistency. Even though I mashed it up really well, there were still a few chunks that I would not have noticed had I been feeding her with a spoon. Using my finger helped me find the offending chunky bits, and mash them further.

She really enjoyed her first food!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Easy Eight Layer Pumpkin Cake

This recipe was inspired by the Pumpkin Torte recipe in A Taste of Home 2010 Fall Baking Cookbook, but of course I can't leave anything alone so I changed it a bit!

This impressive cake is as easy to make as mixing and frosting any boxed cake mix! I know I am a big advocate of making things from scratch, but this season can be hectic enough. With everything else that I've been making in the kitchen, I opted for the "easy-out" for this recipe. I'd rather spend time with my family than worry about dessert!

1 box yellow cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp ground cloves

preheat oven to 350 F. Mix all ingredients together. Beat for two minutes. Divide between two 9 inch round cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake for about a half hour, or until inserted knife comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes then turn the cakes out of the pans onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.

2 container cream cheese frosting
1.5 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp nutmeg
finely chopped pecans

Combine all ingredients except pecans. Slice each 9 inch round horizontally, to make four layers of cake. On the serving plate, layer cake, frosting, pecans, cake, frosting pecans. On the top, leave the pecans off. Frost the sides of the cake (the picture in the cookbook did not have the sides frosted, but I thought it would look better and taste better completely frosted)

fresh cranberries
caramel sundae sauce

sprinkle the cinnamon over the top layer so that it appears to be lightly dusted. Place the cranberries around the edge of the cake. Use the caramel sauce for decorating the plate, or serve it on the side with each slice.

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Pie! um, I mean cake!

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Favorite Things

I love:

when I'm feeding Eve and she starts using her free hand to stroke my neck.

when Jonah randomly stops what he is doing and leans over to give me a kiss.

when I have a plate prepared for Jonah's meal, and he comes running into the kitchen and exclaims "mmmmmmm! Yummy!" upon seeing what is in front of his chair.

When Eve sees her brother, smiles as big as her face, and tackles him for a hug. Even though he tries to get away from her. I love that too.

When Jonah says "I love you."

When Daryl comes home from work and everyone is so happy to see him.

when Eve is getting hungry and I pick her up to feed her, she makes a noise that is half laughing and half panting while I'm trying to get situated to nurse her. Then she makes happy humming noises once I finally get her to breast.

when I am rocking Eve to sleep and Jonah comes over and strokes her little head, gives her nose a kiss, then looks at me and says "shhhhh" with his finger to his lips.

when story time becomes cuddle time

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sausage and Gnocchi Soup

2 lbs italian sausage (sweet or spicy depending on your taste)
three tbl extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
few cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 green pepper
1/2 can stewed tomatoes, drained
32 oz box beef stock
1 can navy beans
1 package potato gnocchi (can be found near the pasta in the grocery)

In a skillet, brown the sausage over medium heat until it is cooked through. Drain off grease.

In a pot, heat oil over low to medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Heat while stirring until onions begin to appear translucent. Add the pepper and tomatoes, continue to heat until peppers become slightly tender. Add beef stock, sausage, and navy beans and turn up the heat. Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil. Add gnocchi and boil for about seven minutes, until gnocchi is tender.

Serve hot with a side garden salad and garlic bread.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Farm and Fall Songs

Of course we try to teach Jonah where our food comes from year round, but it seems to be especially appropriate this time of year. I feel that being thankful for our food includes understanding and respecting where that food comes from. We've been talking and reading a lot about farms, and so I've also tried to incorporate that theme into our music time. I thought I'd share two of Jonah's favorites.

Down in the Barnyard (to the melody of "Down By the Station")

Down in the barnyard,
early in the morning,
see the little turkeys
standing in a row.

See the busy farmer
giving them their breakfast.
gobble gobble, gobble gobble
there they go.

(repeat using other farm animals and their respective sounds, as long as your child keeps interest!)

This one isn't so much about farms, but about the seasons of fall and winter. Jonah really enjoys dancing to it! I use the ASL signs for change, leaves,  orange, brown, and snow.

Changing Seasons Song (to the theme of "I'm a Little Teapot")
I'm a little person
who's aware
of the changes in the air.

First fall the leaves
orange and brown
then the snow comes gently down.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thankful Book

Thanksgiving is next week. Where did the year go? It seems like we just finished the holidays, and now here we are getting ready to celebrate again!

Jonah is old enough this year to understand a lot more than ever before, and I am enjoying teaching him about different aspects of the holidays. One of Jonah's favorite TV shows is Blue's Clues. I often let him watch it while I'm preparing dinner. We have Netflix on Demand, and so I can pick which episode to let him watch. We've been watching the "thankful" episode. Steve created a "Thankful Book" and goes around to all of the characters, asking what they are thankful for. Then he reads the book at the fall feast.

I decided that this was a great way to teach Jonah about being thankful! I have been talking to him a lot about what makes us thankful. I started by telling him that when we are thankful for something, we mean it makes us happy. Then I talked to him about all of the things that make me happy. I used the ASL signs for "happy" and "thankful." during our conversation, since he seems to absorb more when we use signs, even though he is becoming more verbal.

Then we talked about things that make Jonah happy. Basketball, football, Gigi and Papaw(my mom and dad,) Grandma and Grandpa (Daryl's mom and dad,) his gorilla Hank, books, the leaves outside. I wondered when I was talking to him if he was getting anything out of it, but he seemed engaged, and later in the day he picked up his basketball and said "Thank you! Basketball!" and signed "thankful" and "happy" so I think he understood at least the concept of what I was talking about.

Then we started our book. The very first thing we needed to do was make the cover. I cut a turkey shape from a piece of brown 12x12 scrapbooking paper. Then I let Jonah paint it with paints that he chose.
While we waited for the paint to dry, I cut feather shapes from construction paper. When the paint was dry, Jonah used the squeeze bottle glue to sick the feathers to the turkey.

 (the second picture is sideways and refuses to be turned!)

Then I cut the head out of gray paper, and finished adding the details such as eyes and a beak etc. We will take pictures of things that make us thankful and print out the pages using our computer. I will use clear contact paper to laminate the pages, and then bind them together with a binder ring. When it is done, I will share the finished product here!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fantastic Foto Friday

This was our yard a week ago.

Yes, that is snow. About an inch of it. Today is 66 F, sunny, and we are going outside without so much as a jacket on. Love living in the Lake Erie snow belt!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fall Prints

Every morning, Jonah looks out ofhis bedroom window and points to the bright yellow and red sugar maple. "liffff!"

He has really been noticing all of the leaves this fall. When we are out and the wind blows, he stops to listen to the dried leaves blowing on the pavement. He repeatedly shouts "lifffff!" to let us know he hears the scraping sounds. Out in the yard, he picks his feet up and stomps through them. I've been teaching him to say "crunch crunch crunch" when he does this, but it comes out more like "ba ba ba."

We went to the library, and Jonah found two books about leaves. Both of them are written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert. One is called "Leaf Man" and the other is called "Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf." While Jonah does not care for the story of "Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf" he really likes to look at the pictures. Both books use leaves to make up the pictures! He loves reading "Leaf Man" and whenever we get to the line "a leaf man's gotta go where the wind blows!" he makes a blowing sound.

Looking at all of the textures and beautiful illustrations in these books, inspired us to collect different textures from our yard. We brought home different kinds of leaves, and my personal favorite fall texture- osage oranges, also called "horse apples" (my preschoolers called them the "big green brains.")We used the fun textures we found, to create our own colorful fall pictures by dipping them into paint and pressing them onto paper.

For the leaf prints, we pressed the leaves into paint, and wiped excess paint off. Looking back, it probably would have made more sense to have Jonah apply the paint to them via a paintbrush, in a thin layer.

Then we pressed the leaves to the paper and lifted them up to see our beautiful picture!

We decided to make a separate picture with the osage orange, on a different day, but you could certainly use all of the textures in one painting for one single art project rather than breaking it up into two!

We rolled the osage orange in the paint. I let Jonah pick two colors to paint with, and we rolled the osage orange in both at the same time, so we got a marbled effect.
Then we rolled the osage orange onto our paper. This was a bit of a challenge for Jonah, because he did not like to push hard enough on the osage orange to make the print. Every time he would try, he would get upset because the paint got on his hands.

Both activities were great sensory activities for Jonah. Even though he was reluctant to touch the paint, he really enjoyed making art with the leaves and exploring their different shapes and colors. He also really liked that we were using something that looked so much like his favorite object- balls!

And, we now have some beautiful fall colors to adorn our fridge: