Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Box Blocks

I admittedly got this idea from one of the 2 year old classrooms at my school.  The kids were studying all different ways to use boxes.   The teachers taped some big boxes together to make blocks for stacking and building.  I thought the idea was great and since O loves to stack (or rather he loves to stack with the intent to knock over), I knew he'd be into these big blocks.

I collected a number of boxes we still had from deliveries from Christmas gifts.

I taped them up early one morning and piled them high for O to discover when he woke up.

He quickly got to work disassembling my tower.

And then building his own.

And of course knocking it down!

These box blocks are great because they are big enough to encourage some gross motor development (wide arm movements, lifting over head, kneeling to standing position while carrying) but not too heavy for him to move around.  O stacks them and knocks them down constantly, tries to balance the bigger ones on top of the smallest, uses them to stand on, and even as a small table for puzzle work.

For infants and young toddlers it would be fun to use really small boxes for them to stack or build with, offering them bigger and bigger boxes as they become more mobile, and learn to stand and walk.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Baking a cake

Cooking with children is such a great experience.  It's fun for everyone but also is a huge opportunity for learning.  As an infant, O sat in his bumbo or highchair and watched me cook and I would hand him pieces of food to touch or taste.  Now, as a toddler he is able to help me.  We have a routine in the morning where he helps to make his oatmeal (one day when someone can help me take pictures that early in the morning, I will post an oatmeal making entry).  He has learned the steps and is clearly quite proud of himself.

I wanted to make a cake for my staff after they had a particularly hard week so I enlisted O's help.  Here's how it went...

Collecting ingredients.

Scooping dry ingredients into mixing bowl.

Adding the eggs (we worked together to dump the contents of the measuring spoon into the bowl).

Pouring the water (I helped him lift, but he poured on his own).

Mix everything up.

Whisk.  Whisk.  Whisk.

So many areas of development are supported during a cooking activity.  Sensory, fine motor, language, math, science, sequencing, following directions, and many more.  It's really something I suggest every family start doing together at an early age.  

What to look for in a toy

When it comes to selecting toys for children there are a number of criteria I expect them to meet, but two of the most important aspects are that the toy is an open ended material and that it will be able to provide appropriate challenges for a number years.  Many toys on the market have a single and obvious purpose,  (they are often made of plastic and beep or sing songs), this means that there is little or no room for creativity, organic exploration or problem solving AND that you are buying a lot of toys.  

In my opinion, a good quality toy should promote creative thinking, math skills, problem solving, used in dramatic or social play, support language and fine motor development, encourage flexibility and have an increasing level of difficulty as the child grows.

This is an example of one of O's toys that he has found multiple ways to explore and will grow with him over the next few years.  It's the Melissa & Doug Shape Sequence Sorting Set.  The age rec for this item is 3 - 7 years but we gave it to him at about 16 months.  
At first he needed a lot of support from us in figuring out that the the shapes did not just fit into any space but he has become quite good at testing out different spots before finding one that fits.   

 Sometimes he matches the solid and hollow shapes separate from the board, this helps him in becoming familiar with the different parts and how they fit together.  

Currently, he is able to put all the pieces in their appropriate slots but they are not in size order and the hollow, outer blocks do not match their solid partners in the order in which they are meant too.

As he grows and it is age appropriate, we will encourage him to sort by size and match the pieces as they are intended.  

Other ways in which O has already discovered this toy to be useful include:

 * music: banging two pieces together to make a beat
* social play: holding one piece up his eye to look through (similar to peek a boo)
* cognitive and fine motor development: stacking (see pictures below)

Other areas of development that can be encouraged using this toy include:

* art: labeling colors, darker than/lighter than
* math: counting, shapes, size, matching, sequencing
* language development: vocabulary words (bigger, smaller, into, over)