Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Everyone needs some magic mud in their life!

It is snowing here today and while at some point during the day we are sure to venture outdoors and play in the snow, this morning we decide to have a little fun indoors.

We are no strangers to mess in this house. I love to do messy activities with my daughter because well.... messy kids are happy, and I like happy kids. I break out the paint and playdough nearly every day because it keeps my little love entertained while I cook, clean, etc. and makes me feel less guilty than sticking her front of the t.v. all the time ;)

The other day I was making orange chicken and needed to use cornstarch for the first time. I know! I know! I have never before used cornstarch despite my near constant presence in the kitchen,

I quickly discovered how difficult it can be to work with when I had a terrible time getting it to combine with water. My curiosity was piqued and I did a little research. While the science behind it is not too entirely fascinating, at least not to a two year old (it has to do with suspension and viscosity) I found out that you could do some pretty cool things with this concoction and was excited to have my two year old get her hands in it!

When you mix cornstarch and water in the right amounts, it creates a sort of quicksand effect... or as I like to call it Magic Mud!

My little scientist experimenting with cookie cutters. What a look of intent discovery!

I didn't have an exact recipe but I poured out about half a box of cornstarch into a mixing bowl and slowly added water by the tablespoon until all the cornstarch was combined. It is a little tricky because as you mix, it starts to crumble. You know you have reached the right consistency when once combined and you stop mixing, it turns into a runny liquid that can be compared to honey or maple syrup.

Now for the fun! This awesomely cool Magic Mud stays in a liquid form when left untouched, however when you start to pick it up, roll it around, or harass it (yes I did just say harass...it's just a funny word) with cookie cutters it starts to crumble and solidify...but only for a moment.

video


video

It is very difficult to capture the true fascination of this occurrence due to how quickly it changes states of matter. It is best to just try it out yourself and experience the magic... or science ... whatever. Well that and the fact that yours truly photographs everything with an outdated i-phone and is famous for cutting off people heads... in pictures of course, not real life.

Picture quality aside, here is what we managed to capture.

Magic Mud briefly captured on the tail end of its solid state display.

Magic Mud showing off its awesome fluidity in its journey back to a liquid state.

Sweet Juliette mesmerized by the texture. (As it dries on your hands it kind of feels like baby powder)

You can see Magic Mud morphing back to a liquid in the bowl after Juliette had been digging in it.

This was a wonderful way to spend our morning and offered lots of experience with texture. Believe it or not, clean up was a breeze! I could easily wipe up the mess on the table and even pick up what appeared to be "puddles" on the floor. Be forewarned, apparently it is not a good idea to wash this down your drain, you should dispose of it in the trash because it has a tendency to clog drains.... whoops! I foresee a rather unpleasant conversation with my husband in the near future. 

Off to play in the snow! 



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Llama Llama Red Pajama and Why I still sing my daughter to sleep

Ever since my daughter was born my favorite part of the day was bedtime (and not because it provided me with much needed rest.) I loved to rock my sweet baby and listen to her breath start to steady and slow as she drifted off to sleep. The fingers she had so tightly wrapped around locks of my hair would loosen and my heart would nearly burst with love as I looked down at those beautiful half-moon eyes closed so tightly.

I swear in the moment that a child drifts off to sleep, they become an angel. Nothing on Earth is more angelic than the face of a sleeping child.

Now as my daughter has grown, our bedtime routine has shifted and changed more times than I can count. My daughter is going to be two and a half next month and while she still ends up in our bed at some time around 3:00 am, she generally likes to sleep in her own bed where she can stretch out. One thing is for sure however, she loves to have her Momma and Daddy put her to sleep and we are more than happy to do it.

When friends come over and I excuse myself to put my child to bed and go missing for 45 minutes or when I schedule evening outings late so that I can be the one to put my sweet angel to bed before having a family member come over to stay with her, I often find myself once again justifying why I don't just teach my daughter to put herself to sleep. The short answer is I am against sleep training and quite frankly I don't want her to feel forced to put herself to sleep. She wants her Momma and it's my job (and my pleasure) to be there for her.

Here is a more lengthy explanation which began when my daughter and I sat down to read Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. Now before I continue, my daughter and I both like the Llama Llama books and don't see anything inherently wrong with these books, I just tend to disagree with some of the practices that are displayed in the story line.



Picture this...

My darling curls up on the couch as bath time approaches and says “will you read to me Momma?” The answer is always yes and I told her to go pick a book. She came back to the couch and handed me Llama Llama Red Pajama which had been given to us by a friend. We were both excited to read a new book and we settled ourselves on the couch for some pre-bath snuggles. I began to read.

“Llama llama red pajama reads a story with his mama.” so far so good
“Mama kisses baby's hair Mama Llama goes downstairs.”
“Llama llama red pajama feels alone without his mama.” now my heart begins to break

As the story continues, Llama calls for his mama who says she will be up soon but then busies herself with dishes and an unexpected phone call. Llama begins to get increasingly upset.

When we got to the page that reads

“Llama llama red pajama whimpers softly for his mama”

My daughter began to get upset. “Why is he crying Momma? Where is his Momma?” she asked sympathetically. I explained that not all mommy's sing their babies to sleep and reassured her that I would continue to do so as long as she needed me to.
The page that really broke me was this.

“Llama llama red pajama in the dark without his mama. Eyes wide open, covers drawn... What if Mama Llama's GONE?”

Now some may find this comical or gloss over it without a second thought. But the fear associated with feelings of abandonment at nighttime are very real to a great number of children. This truly made me sad for all children who feel this way while being sleep trained.

Now once again, I am not condemning parents who do not stay with their children until they fall asleep completely. Some children don't need them to, and some parents simply don't realize the harm that is associated with sleep training and the feelings of fear, abandonment, and panic that their children often experience.

As we continued to read, my daughter was very happy when Llama llama's mama finally came upstairs to tend to his needs once more, but we spent a few extra minutes cuddling before bath.

At bedtime that night, I was ever more grateful for the privilege of helping my baby girl fall asleep. As she lay on her belly, I rubbed her back and sang Tiny Bubbles. She held on tightly to two of my fingers and 15 minutes later as her grip softened and she slept soundly, I kissed her once more on her forehead told her how much I loved her, and slipped quietly out of her room.

My baby won't need me to do this forever. Every day I bear witness to the fact that she is growing more quickly with each passing day. She is such an independent, curious, brilliantly imaginative child. I can feel these moments slipping away and there will come a day when she won't want me to sing to her and hold my hand each night, so I am going to be sure to enjoy and treasure every moment of it while it lasts.

Childhood is a fleeting gift. Life gets too hard too fast. I love being her mom and I adore the opportunity to be there for her whenever she needs me to.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Positive Parenting - Ensuring That your Kids Grow up Happy (GUEST POST BY CLAIRE MORRIS)

Thank you Claire Morris for another wonderful guest post. Positive parenting is certainly something I am very passionate about. I am a firm believer that everything should be addressed in a positive manner especially things that are difficult, trying and frustrating. If you are looking for a quick and easy go-to-handbook for positive parenting, grab a copy of my e-book 6 Tips to Surviving a Meltdown available for only $0.99. Here you will find great tips to approaching the trying moments of parenting with positivity, love, and respect!

************

Every parent wants their children to grow up happy. However, this sometimes seems like a daunting task. The traumas of childhood can produce meltdowns which seem to imply that your child’s entire world is ending, and sometimes there’s just no cheering your children, no matter how hard you try. 

Often, parents make the mistake of trying to make their children happy by giving into their every whim, and satisfying their short term wants. In fact, they’d be setting their children up for a far happier future if they were instead concentrating on fulfilling their child’s long-term emotional needs. Readers of Welcome To Mom School will already be aware of the importance of providing for their children’s emotional needs, but some ways of proving for your child’s future happiness may sometimes slip beneath the radar.

Help them through sadness - but don't try and prevent it.

It may seem counter-intuitive – but one of the best ways to ensure your child’s present and future happiness is to allow them to experience sadness, frustration, and other ‘negative’ emotions. All parents instinctively want to protect their children from the harsher aspects of the world, but try not to let this instinct get out of control. Coddling your children, wrapping them in metaphorical cotton wool, can actually have a profoundly negative effect upon their emotional development. They will ultimately be far better off if you allow them to experience sadness that comes their way in their own manner. This will give them the opportunity to learn coping mechanisms with which to deal with those emotions, setting them up for healthy emotional lives as teenagers and adults. ‘Helicopter parenting’, in which parents attempt to shield their children from any and all distressing situations, can in fact leave your child profoundly unprepared for distressing or frustrating situations they may encounter when they have grown beyond your remit. Lacking the exposure to the minor upsets of childhood, they will also lack the coping strategies they should have developed while young, and are likely to be utterly devastated by the first negative real-life experience which comes their way. The best thing you can do regarding childhood upsets is be on hand to offer loving comfort to your child, reassuring them of your unconditional love and continued supporting presence. This will do far more for their emotional and mental wellbeing than attempting to cut off all sadness at the source, and will set them up for a happier, better emotionally balanced future.

Be happy yourself

Happy parents have happy children. Children take many of their behavioral and emotional cues from their parents, and this can have a far deeper impact than many may realize. Parents need to take care of themselves and their own needs, because children are deeply connected and attuned to their parents, and have an uncanny ability to intuit when their parents are sad or frustrated. Having distressed parents can be just as distressing to a child, who will be extremely uncomfortable in a depressed atmosphere, perhaps worrying that their parents’ misery is their fault. Furthermore, people whose emotional energy is exhausted will not be able to provide the kind of nurturing environment their children need. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from depression, one of the best ways to prevent your children from suffering from the same dreadful illness later in life is to summon the strength to seek help. Postpartum depression especially can have a terrible effect upon the mother/child bond and the emotional well-being of the child, as well as being a horrible experience for the mother. If you are struggling with this condition, and do not know how to cope with postpartum depression, seek medical help. Women with this condition often feel embarrassed about seeing a medical professional, thinking that it will make them seem a bad mother somehow. However, suffering from postpartum depression in no way implies that someone is a bad mother. If they want to be a better mother, however, they should seek help to prevent their condition from impacting upon their child.

Play with your kids!

Playing with your kids, obvious though it may seem, can make them very happy. Play has more than short-term benefits, however. As well as often improving their physical and cognitive abilities, which will in itself improve their happiness, playing with your children will help you to connect with them. The absolute best way to ensure the present and future happiness of a child is to give them a sense of connection – of love, security, and belonging. Those who practice attachment parenting will already be aware of the importance of this sense of love and security in the development of a child, and engaging with your kids in play is one of the best ways to foster this sense. Playing with your children will really help you to get to know them, to connect with them on their own level, and in return it will help them to understand that they are deeply important to you and that you enjoy their company. Children whose parents play with them and make the effort to enter their world will feel much more as though they are a vital part of the family than children who are left to play among themselves while the adults do ‘grown up things’ to one side.

Long-term emotional fulfillment 

The key elements, therefore, of raising happy children involve laying the foundations for long term emotional fulfillment, rather than making the mistake of thinking that gratifying short term wants will provide ultimate happiness. By taking care of your own happiness, you will naturally be more able to provide the kind of nurturing and happy atmosphere which will inculcate happiness in your children. By playing with your kids, you will give them a sense of emotional closeness and belonging which will help them to understand their value to you, and to feel the security of your unconditional love and support. This love and support will provide a secure foundation to help them to get through the sad moments of their of childhood – and these instances of sadness themselves, while distressing at the time, will -when successfully worked through - help them to grow into happy adults, with healthy emotional lives.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Crafting With Kids (Thanksgiving Edition)


As a mom I love to do whatever I can to include my daughter in holiday festivities. I find that crafts (the messier the better) are one of the easiest and most enjoyable activities to do together. Crafting encourages creativity and promotes education and discovery. Woohoo for kinesthetic learning!
The first craft (and I use that term very loosely here... perhaps activity would be a more adequate description) we did together in the spirit of Thanksgiving was to to talk about what it means to be thankful. We discussed things that we are happy to have in our lives, people we love, and activities we enjoy doing together. I try to encourage my daughter to understand how fortunate she is and to truly be appreciative of the things she has in life.
After I was satisfied that my darling two year old daughter had a good grasp on the concept of thankfulness, I asked her to tell me about some things that she was thankful for. As she talked, I transcribed. Visions of creating a lovely little book of thanks for her danced around in my head. As she continued to talk and I continued to write, the hilarity ensued.

I present to you ... The List

Soft Blanket is her most prized possession, and therefore not surprisingly number one on her list.
Ms. Julia is our neighbor, and Jackson is her son. Notice Mom and Dad did not make the list. I digress...
We watch the news (and by news I mean the Today Show) every morning, I with my coffee and she with her milk. A baby doll or two may join us.
Anyway, this is a very good way to approach the topic of being thankful, but be prepared for a laugh-fest when it comes to young children.
The second craft (and this one is actually a craft) was really fun! We made turkey's out of handprints and footprints. We initially did this on paper, but had such a great time with it that we ended up making a t-shirt (by we I mean my daughter; a handprint turkey shirt is cute on a toddler but a little weird on an adult.)


Here is a similar idea using construction paper on which hands and feet are traced. We opted for paint, because like I said before, the messier the better.
Crafts are a great way to get everyone in the holiday spirit and have some hands-on fun. For more great Thanksgiving craft ideas check out this list from parents.com.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Creative Bonding with Kids: Claire Cartwright

Good morning!

I was recently contacted by Claire Cartwright about the possibility of guest posting here at MomSchool. The whole purpose of this blog is to unite moms and caregivers with other moms and caregivers and to help each other survive and thrive the ups and downs of parenthood.

This is a lovely piece about bonding with our children by doing creative and educational activities such as cooking!

Thanks Claire for this wonderful contribution!

******************************************

Teaching Kids to Cook - Bond with your Kids, and Teach them at the Same Time!

Practitioners of attachment parenting know how important it is to share time with your kids, and to make them feel an important part of the family rather than just dependent appendages to Mom and Dad. One of the most integral parts of family life is the cooking and eating of meals. Mealtimes are a major feature of family life, when people gather together around a table and share quality time over food they’ve prepared themselves. The kitchen is, in many ways, the heart of the home. There can therefore be few better ways to really involve your kids and make them feel like important parts of the family than to involve them in the cooking process. For dads and moms to teach their kids to cook not only imbues essential life skills which will stand them in great stead as they grow, it can also have a far greater educational and emotional impact than many may realize.

Teaching Responsibility

There are few better ways to spend quality time with your kids, bond with them, and at the same time give them an important developmental experience than by cooking with them. Cooking is a great bonding experience. It results in a pleasant meal which can be enjoyed together. The sense of achievement and fulfillment will make it taste all the nicer. Letting kids cook also gives them a sense of responsibility – cooking, and having mom and dad eat what you’ve cooked makes them feel important and integral to the family, which can work wonders for self-esteem! It lets them learn what it is like to be responsible for thewellbeing of others. They’ll be thinking while they’re cooking about the people who will be eating their food, which helps them to empathize and think of others. It also teaches them how to take responsibility for themselves around dangerous things (knives, heat sources and so on) in a safe and controlled way (obviously you’ll be on hand to make sure that they don’t actually hurt themselves!).

Literacy and Numeracy Benefits

The simple act of following a recipe can have enormous educational impact – without your kids even realizing it! Reading the recipe has clear benefits for literacy, and often introduces new words which they wouldn’t come across in school. As a recipe works towards a tangible end, cooking can help children who may be reluctant readers to see the purpose in improving their literacy. Basic mathematical skills are also imbued through adding up and measuring out ingredients – not to mention the principles of chemistry and experimentation which come from mixing everything together and learning how heat, the addition of water and so forth affect the final product. Cooking is thus an all-round educational experience, and provides lessons in a fun and subtle way so that your kids don’t even realize that they’re learning about things they’d find dull in school!

Developing Healthy Habits

Teaching children to cook can instill healthy eating habits which will last a lifetime, and greatly broaden their nutritional horizons.  Knowing what goes into your food and preparing it yourself gives you a much greater degree of control over your diet. This often means that your diet will be healthier than a diet which relies on pre-prepared foods from stores, stuffed with additives and hidden calories. Teaching kids to cook from an early age will make cooking seem fun, not a daunting prospect which can easily be bypassed with ready meals. It also widens their palate, which stands them in great stead for later life. Licensedprescriptions.com recommend that children be allowed to freely taste (within reason!) all the ingredients that go into a dish you’re making with them, pointing out that “If children can taste foods, it will encourage them to widen their list of what they will eat”. Kids are much more prepared to taste unfamiliar foods if they’re actively involved in their preparation, which can in turn lead to a much wider palate and, consequently, healthier nutritional habits in later life.

Teaching Life Skills

Involving kids in every stage of the cooking process teaches essential life skills in a way which will make it fun, so it won’t seem like a chore in later life. Taking kids grocery shopping, for example, can seem like a major hassle. The kids often drag their feet and whine because they don’t really understand why mom is hauling them around this big, boring store. However, if they know they they’re shopping for ingredients which they will use later, they instantly become involved in the shop, and even excited and enlivened by it.  Jillian uses grocery flash cards when she and her little daughter go shopping, which takes the onerous element out of shopping at the same time as teaching her daughter all about products and purchasing.

Get Cooking!

Teaching your kids to cook, or even just involving them when you yourself are cooking, can thus be a major step in their overall education and development. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a great way to spend time with your kids in a way that involves them in family life. Cooking with mom and dad will make kids feel important, and is a fun, creative way to bond as a family. So, get out the mixing bowl, and get cooking!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Tangible Approach to Time

Parenting is the most rewarding yet most challenging job there is. Children change so quickly. What worked yesterday may not work today and what works today may not work tomorrow. Being creative in our parenting is practically a must. Each child is different and needs to have their needs met in a way that works for them. Honesty and communication can ease anxiety and help a child to understand the world around them. Finding ways to explain certain concepts, ideas, or situations to young children may take some creative thinking but is far better than dismissing a concept as being too mature for a child to comprehend.

My husband has a wonderful job that he excels at. His career and hard work allow me the privilege to be home to raise our daughter. My daughter and I have endless amounts of fun together every day and we are certainly just about as close as mother and daughter can be. While our little girl certainly enjoys her mommy time, she is undoubtedly Daddy's little girl. She stands watch at the door when she knows he is on his way home, loves to play with him every evening, and looks forward to family time on weekend's.

My husband's job does require certain amounts of travel. We have been rather fortunate with minimal travel since becoming parents, usually not amounting to more than a few days at a time. The last time my husband had to go out of town, our daughter was a little over a year old and didn't entirely understand the concept of him leaving. She was happy when he was returned home but didn't seem to be too affected by his absence.

This past business trip however required my husband to be out of town for two weeks. Two weeks is a long time for us to be apart from our favorite person :)

While technology has made it much easier to keep in touch during the absence of a loved one (Face Time has been our family favorite,) time can still be a difficult concept for toddlers to fully comprehend. Our daughter is two and understands pretty well the meaning of yesterday and tomorrow. Explaining to her the concept of daddy being gone for two weeks however was not an easy task. I decided to make a tangible representation of two weeks time for our daughter in the form of a countdown chain.


At the end of each day, after a Face Time session with daddy, I had our daughter tear off a link in the chain. Each link represented a day that daddy was gone. At the end of the chain was a circle with the words "Daddy is Home!"

This method worked brilliantly. With each paper link she tore off, our daughter would happily say "We are one day closer to daddy!"

While our little girl certainly missed her daddy, she found it much easier to understand when he was coming home with the help of her countdown chain. 

Children are far brighter than we sometimes give them credit for. Just because they are not able to fully understand a concept in the way that an adult might, doesn't mean that they are unable to understand that very same concept when put in terms that they can relate to. 

All it takes is a little creativity and a whole lot of love. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Grocery Store Flash Cards

I have had quite a few requests for grocery store flash cards since my set made their debut a few weeks back. Not only are these great for promoting early literacy, they also help keep children entertained at the grocery store and make them feel included in the shopping trip.






Each set includes forty laminated cards with two large rings that can easily be clipped on strollers, car seats, or chopping carts. Items included in each set are:

peanut butter            jelly
milk                          tomatoes
eggs                          beans
butter                        pasta
cheese                      cereal
produce                    bread
bananas                    crackers
strawberries              cookies
lettuce                       oatmeal
potatoes                    fish
hot dogs                    bacon
chicken                      oil
flour                           toilet paper
wipes                         diapers
trash bags                  dish soap
soap                          paper towels
pretzels                     chips
juice                         coffee
fruit snacks               grapes
graham crackers       apples

Up to four customized cards can be added to your set should you have specific items not included that you frequently purchase.

 Purchase your set of grocery store flash cards here or see sidebar.


Custom Card Choices (up to 4)