Monday, 26 November 2012

Keeping Toddlers Happy Whilst Home-Schooling

I have been cruising around the net looking for ideas to keep Idris busy whilst I do things with the girls. I was waiting until he went to sleep (around 10.30) to really get stuck in, but I have found that by then the girls are ensconced in a game or activity that they are not willingly extracted from, and also that it is too early in the day for a sleep for Idris as then he is so tired by four that making dinner is really tricky! So I have switched to trying to keep him going until after lunch, which we often have at 11.45 round here as a knock on from how early we have breakfast! He will happily go until after lunch - as long as he is entertained constantly! He is not a 'sitter and doer' as the girls used to be, he likes a playmate, or to climb onto the table and join in or to demand milk in a loud voice every five minutes if my attention is elsewhere! My goal is for him to be absorbed in something for about ten minutes, just long enough to explain and get the girls going with something before turning my attention (well half of it!) back to him! I want to intersperse these with blocks of full on fun and games just for him, which gives the girls some breathing space too.

So far I have come up with the following:

  • Give them your attention first so that they aren't trying to compete - we do this every day as we are up first and have some time together before the others are up.
  • Snacks - sit them down with a drink and something to nibble - Iddy isn't that motivated by snacks really but I could try some new ideas once his molars have finished coming through!
  • Sensory boxes/trays - Idris loves his metal treasure basket still and water pouring would keep him busy for a long time - wide splash zone needed as Idris has definite ideas of what water play entails!
  • Play dough and tools - this kept him happily occupied for ten minutes today, the end was signalled by a few pieces of blue dough being launched very accurately onto our game board!
  • Have one child play with your toddler whilst you focus with another child - Faith sat and looked at board books with him today on the sofa and he loved it!
Another tip that I read was to get the older children to get started on something by themselves at the start of your day whilst you are spending ten minutes with your toddler. They suggest making it the same thing every day to start the day off in a nice routine, I don't tend to do the same thing every day so I will think on this idea a little more!

Many of the activity ideas that I found were for older toddlers of 2 -3years and I am confident that I can sort  those activities when the time comes thanks to my Montessori training, I am off to trawl Pinterest now for some busy bag ideas that can be scaled up to engage him. The idea behind those would be that they only come out for a short time and are not on 'general release' so he won't get fed up with them so quickly. I am only thinking that I will need this level of input into keeping him busy during the Winter as when he is outside he is perfectly content, just too young to be out there on his own, all-in-one Winter suit or not!

And if you just need a little perspective, and a good laugh, then read this post from Confessions of a Homeschooler! I recognised many of these activities!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Easy Make-at-home Maths Games

I have been trying out some maths games from the book 'Games For Math' by Peggy Kaye. It fits superbly with my 2012 promise to myself to stop procrastinating being a perfectionist and start doing things right now without over planning and missing the moment! This book fits with that because the games can all be made with close to hand household materials, often simply paper and pens, no photocopying, colouring, laminating etc. You could make them pretty and permanent if you wanted to, but I have chosen to just DO them!!

This game is called 'double it'. You pick two number cards and one instruction card and move your piece around the snail board according to the answer. I tweaked it slightly to have various forms of the same instruction such as add/plus and minus/take-away/subtract. It aims to build knowledge of basic number facts. My girls are confident calculating these, currently using a range of techniques to get the answer, some 'in their head' and some on fingers etc. I thought this would help them as they don't always link the words with the actions. As I predicted, minus caused some confusion!

I have one 'happy maths' child and one more reluctant maths child and I think I made the spiral a bit too long for the reluctant maths child. The game lasted about 20 minutes and she was unhappy for at least ten minutes of that, but cheered up at the end as she won. A shorter spiral (and better counters that didn't keep falling over!) would make this more successful! Like many areas of home educating, I am constantly making little changes to help things run more smoothly!

I accidentally deleted lots of blog photos!

Just a quick post to apologise for the lack of many photos now in the early posts made on my blog. I inadvertently deleted them from the Picasa web album, not realising that they would be deleted from the blog also. I regard myself as functionally tech savvie but not top level tech savvie and this is a rookie error of cosmin proportions! I have no way of putting them back, I think I lost about 100, there is now a black space  with a question mark on it! Oh dear! I now need to purchase space from Picasa on a monthly basis in order to continue adding photographs, the lowest additional package gives me an extra 25GB of storage space which should keep me going for a few years!! I suppose it is a measure of how long I have been blogging now. I was hoping to get a more interesting post than this written whilst children were either sleeping or otherwise occupied but am sorting out Picasa instead...... *sigh*.........

Monday, 19 November 2012

An Advent Calendar of Activities!

Inspired by my sister-in-law and by these bags that I found in Ikea today (apologies for the upside down photo, I am getting to grips with drop box and an android phone - bear with me!), I have put together an advent of activities for the children and us to enjoy throughout December. I downloaded printable Christmassy labels and edited them to show all of the activities that I have come up with. I have more than 24 as I plan to tweak both the order and the activity in the bag to suit the day and the circumstances! I think that I'm going to hang them down our beautiful banister rail so they will look really decorative as well as being their advent calendar. I'm not as organised as my sister-in-law as I haven't yet GOT all the ingredients and materials needed but there's plenty of time for that! This was very spur of the moment but I had no trouble thinking of things as we always do quite a few fun activities in December and I have been thinking about doing this for several years now! Events just collided to make me do it this year! Thanks Lorri and Ikea! Here is our list - some are specific to our area, and some are general!

  • Shop for Christmas gifts for the children at The Haven
  • Put up and decorate the tree (always on the 14th after Daddy's Birthday!!)
  • Make mini gingerbread houses (a work in progress as we can't get graham crackers here and that was the idea that I saw....... watch this space!)
  • Go Ice skating or to snow play, depending on deals and offers!
  • Go for a walk to see the lighted houses near Granny and Grandpa's house
  • Make marshmallows
  • Make new ornaments for the tiny Christmas trees and decorate the trees
  • Make ice-candles
  • Make ice-cream cone Christmas trees to eat
  • Treat the birds
  • Decorate the Christmas cake
  • m&m's Christmas story
  • Christmas tree play dough
  • Write letters to Santa (something for me, something for someone else, something for the world)
  • Make reindeer food
  • Learn a new Christmas carol
  • Make hand print ornaments
  • Make paper chains (we always do this, it's a tradition in our house!)
  • Make lolly stick snowflakes for the walls
  • Have a family pow-wow and say nice things about each other - write them down to keep!
  • Make mince pies and give to the local people we know who are in need (Jack (92) is first on the list, he always carried a boneo in his pocket for our dog, and he was the only person she never barked at as she rushed out to sit and beg waiting for her treat then scuttled off again without a backward glance - pure cupboard love but we have come to love Jack and after a bout of pneumonia earlier this year, we no longer see him take his daily walk and we miss him!)
  • Go to the Christmas tree festival at Church
  • Make paper snowflakes
  • Enjoy hot chocolate with all the trimmings!
I might pop the odd sweet or chocolate in there to make the children giggle, like red smarties for Rudolph's nose and chocolate coated raisins for reindeer poo! I'm really happy I did this this year and I'm looking forwards to it! Have fun making yours!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Taking a Break from Childminding.......

Changes are afoot around here - they have been brewing for a while and I am finally embracing them!

The first is that the house purchase we had been working so hard on for the last seven months fell through a couple of weeks ago. There was an access issue that we had done lots of running on to try and solve and it turned out that the owner knew all along that permanent access rights couldn't be granted because she'd had an access dispute with the Council in 2003. That is the third one this year that has gone belly up and after spending fifteen months worth of time and energy and rather a lot of money on NOT moving, we have decided to throw in the moving towel and make this house work for us instead.

I'm happy with that - we've just had to work quite hard on 'resetting' ourselves as for the last seven months it has been "when we move" and "when we have a big kitchen" and "when we have room for the piano" etc etc and have been putting things off and storing things with our thoughts pinned on the future move. With that gone, we are now doing all the things that we've been putting off and moving on all the 'large house' furniture to new homes!

This house needs some re-organisation to make it easier to live in (it's quite a little house for a family) and that takes time, and the obligatory extra mess and chaos whilst we are trying to reduce the mess and chaos. I am startled every time I walk into my bedroom now that I can see the corner again (we are unpacking boxes that have been packed since January!) It looks so much bigger! I am frequenting e-bay, Amazon, Freegle and other sites giving away and selling surplus materials.

My Dad has been and built a wall-mounted high-sleeper bed for Eve who lives in the box room - she is currently camped out in Faith's room whilst I decorate it - it is the most re-purposed room in the house that one, even though it is the smallest, it has been an office, a nursery, then an office again, then a bedroom and hopefully it will stay as it is for a good long while now! The high sleeper means there is floor space for Eve to use and we can fit some furniture in for her clothes, and the desk she would dearly like to have! Poor Faith is feeling a bit plagued as her room is stuffed full of flotsam and jetsom at the minute!

Dewi is busy digging up the garden - a herculean task as there are lots of raised veg beds made from concrete slabs - ready to make a hard-standing for the 'garden room' that I ordered this morning! It will give us much needed additional space at a much smaller cost than extending the house would be! We have lots of plans for what we could do with it but will wait and see how the space feels when it is built!

Part of all the upheaval is that I have decided to step back from child minding for a while. I have struggled to make it work for me for a while now, mainly because of the amount of gear and the amount of children in a small space. My own children were suffering and that isn't why I started to child mind. They have to come first and so it is with a little sadness that I am packing things away and moving on the majority of my resources. I was delighted to gift a local charity The Haven (it houses women and their children securely when in desperate need due to domestic violence etc) with a people carrier stuffed full of my highest quality resources from a wooden kitchen to sensory blocks to baby equipment, you name it, I hope they get a lot from it. Some has been sold and there is more to go. I am stunned at how much I have amassed over the last four years and I don't miss any of it! I have worked very hard to build my business and support others but it is time to take some space from it - I am retaining my registration though!