Friday, January 24, 2014

Throw a Frankentoy Party!

My little one just turned 7! Because she loves tinkering and building, we decided to throw her a Frankentoy Birthday Party.
 What is a Frankentoy party you ask? 
Just like Dr. Frankenstein built his famous monster from lots of random parts, kids at this party build their own toys from bits and pieces of other toys.

Throw your own Frankentoy party by following these easy steps.

Step 1. Start collecting toys! 

We began searching our own toy closets, garage sales, and thrift stores for cheap toys to use for our party. Because I wanted to throw this party on a budget, I sent out a plea to Facebook friends for donations and they were happy to oblige. I ended up with way more than I needed.

Step 2. Take apart your toys

Some of the toys I was able to take apart with a screwdriver, but others I just had to saw up. I thought doing this in front of the kids might be traumatizing so I did most of it before the party. But as you can see some of the toy dismembering happened at the party and the children all thought it was great. It may have actually been their favorite part.

Step 3. Hot glue

Unfortunately there is just not another way to do this that will work as well. Hot glue is strong and fast. You have very little drying time so you don't have to worry about the toys falling apart on the way home. I only provided one glue gun and I kept an adult near by to help and supervise. You can also provide popsicle sticks to use to hold pieces together so little fingers don't get burned. It is my opinion that 7 year old children can use a glue gun, but I understand that some parents may be uncomfortable with this. Use common sense, and listen to your gut. If you feel like you would rather station an adult to do the actual gluing that is fine.

Step 4. Make your own Frankentoy creation to use as a cake topper.

Make sure you wash it thoroughly before you place it on your cake. This particular toy is made from a silver surfer, a rubber duck and a Madam Alexander doll.  I let my kids help with sprinkles and little candied googly eyes.

Step 5. Take lots of pictures of your fun creations and wait to be amazed by the creativity of kids. They are truly amazing!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Just a thought

I have had parents in my class become horrified upon discovering that their boys were dressing up and playing in the kitchen. They would say things like, "Don't wear that! You don't want to look like a girl."

What they are actually saying is that being a girl is shameful. And that is the inner voice these boys will carry with them in to manhood. That is the voice they will hear when they become a boyfriend, a husband and a father.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Don't Touch Me

 I have to admit, I am an affectionate mother. I love nothing more than to cuddle with my babies. I want to smother them with kisses. I want to chew on their toes. I want to pat and pinch and squeeze and tickle them. But my children's feelings have to come first.

My oldest and youngest children seem to be just as affectionate as me. My teenager will still curl up next to me for cuddles. And my son will lean in for kisses and hugs all day. But my middle child is different.

From the time she was a little baby, Birdie didn't want to be touched too much. She didn't want to be held. She didn't want to be rocked to sleep. She would scream and cry the entire time she was in my arms. But once I laid her in her crib she would fall right to sleep. I realized that kissing and cuddling were fulfilling my needs, but ignoring hers. At a young age she had set a boundary with me and I needed to respect it.

Last night as Birdie was getting ready for bed I leaned in to kiss her goodnight. Her eyes got big and she held out her hand, "Bubble, MOM! Personal bubble!"

Just like when she was a baby, my first reaction was to be hurt. But I quickly squashed it down. This wasn't about me. "Baby," I said, "Thank you for reminding me. You have every right to not want to be kissed. You have the right to tell me, Daddy, Grandma or Grandpa, or anyone else that you don't want kisses or hugs. Your bubble is yours alone and you get to decide who can come in and who can't." She smiled at me and I saw her body relax.

My children should all have this lesson. While some may feel that they have the right to kiss and hug as much as they want, my children need to know that they have control over their bodies. They need to know that others need permission to enter their space. It is a privilege not a right.

So this holiday, remember. If a child does not want to kiss Grandma, or Uncle Joe, please don't make them. Respect your child and their caution. And they will learn to respect their own inner voices.

 A while after our discussion, Birdie came and gave me a hug. She pulled my face down to her level and kissed my cheek and said, "I love you, Mommy." And that freely given kiss was the best kiss ever.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Frustrating Trip to the Doctor

Birdie came down with a very bad case of strep throat. It came on suddenly. Saturday morning she was as well as always but by 2pm she had a fever and it hurt to swallow. This was great because the extended hours of her doctors office go until noon on Saturday. So I had to take her to a walk in clinic.

Now, as anyone who follows this blog knows, my daughter likes to wear very short hair. I understand that folks are used to seeing girls with long hair and boys with short hair and when they see the reverse some folks get confused. I usually try to avoid confusion by using her name or mentioning her being my daughter in to conversation. I don't get angry by initial droppings of the wrong pronoun. I get angry when they don't let it drop once they have been informed of their mistake.

Which is what happened at the walk in clinic. Birdie and I walked in the door and up to the receptionist's desk.

Receptionist: And who are we seeing today?
Me (placing a hand on my daughter's shoulders): My daughter is not feeling well. I think it may be strep.
Receptionist: You mean your son?
Me: No, I mean my daughter. She has a fever and a sore throat.
Receptionist: Has he been here before?
Me: No this is HER first time here.
Receptionist: And do you have his insurance card?
Me: Yes, HER insurance card is right here. There is HER name and HER social on the front.

Birdie was much too miserable to listen to anything that was going on around her and didn't hear any of the conversation. But it wouldn't have been the first time she has run in to the situation.

When my daughter decided that she wanted to start wearing her hair short, we discussed what public reaction might be. We talked about people's preconceived notions about boys and girls are and how they might not understand a girl wanting to wear their hair short, just like they might not understand why a boy might want to grow his hair long. We role played situations in which she might say something to someone who mistook her for a boy. And every time it has happened Birdie has shown grace and courage. She has not gotten angry. She has simply corrected them. Sometimes she will tell a little joke and every one will laugh. But I can't help wishing that the world we live in would just be a little more accepting of her and kids like her. I wish she didn't have to explain why she likes her hair the way she does, or why she wants to wear the clothes she wants.

I wish she could just be herself and that we didn't have to educate random strangers at walk in clinics. But that is not the world we live in. Not yet. The world we live it is still consumed with the idea that girls should wear pink, and like sparkles and play with dolls and if they don't they must be defective in some way. And as much as we attempt to educate there are still people out there who can't wrap their brain around a girl who doesn't fit in their mold.

All we can do is keep on. We will keep correcting. We will keep educating. Birdie will keep being brave in the face of small minds. And hopefully one person at a time she can start to change the world. Hopefully the woman at the clinic went home a little more enlightened. Hopefully she goes home embarrassed about how she handled the situation. Maybe she will tell the story to others, who will also think twice before assuming that a girl is only allowed to look one way. Maybe her world got a little bigger today. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

B is for Bear in a Basket

While I work one on one with children in my class, I like to set out table top activities that the rest of the class can work on by themselves. I pulled this little math activity together for my class as we began to explore the letter B.

The children rolled the dice and then used the tweezers to feed the appropriate number of blueberries to the Mr. Bear. This activity tied a number of concepts together. The first was letter sounds. Everything from the basket, the bear and the blue berries began with the letter B. This activity also introduced number recognition and one to one correspondence. And finally, using the tweezers to pick up blue pom poms one at a time to feed to mister bear also allowed the children to practice their fine motor skills.

My class really got a kick out of this super easy activity. It was a snap to throw together and kept them busy all through center time.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Keeping Little Ones Busy So You Can Get Things Done

I received a question from a reader and first tried to answer it on my Facebook page. I then realized that my answer was getting pretty lengthy so I decided to turn it in to a full post instead.

Here is the reader's question...

"I have come to a conflict with my three year old and would like to ask you for some advice. My daughter is whining a lot lately and I notice the behavior appears during the transition period when my older boys come home from school and I am helping them with school work. She has stopped using her words to ask for things and when prompted to do so she refuses. When she does whine, I continue to ask her to tell me with her words and she does silly things like licks the air, speaks in her own language and does some barking as well and then proceeds to whine/cry some more. Do you have any suggestions on something I can do differently?"

Being the parent of children who are spread far apart can be a blessing in a lot of ways but it definitely has it's challenges. There are many times you feel stretched very thin while trying to meet so many different needs. I know that having one preschool aged child, one elementary aged child, and one child in high school leaves me with little time for much else. Little ones especially want to feel like they are a part of what is happening with other members of the household and this can make it hard when your attention is needed elsewhere.

Here are a few ideas that I hope you will find helpful.

While your older children are working, try giving your little one a "homework assignment" of her own. This way she can feel like she is a part of what the whole family is doing. Here is a great list of printables from 3 Dinosaurs.

You could also consider an invitation to play. Try setting up something for her to explore. Here is a great list of invitations from  My Nearest and Dearest, Twodaloo, Buggy & Buddy, Play Trains and Fantastic Fun and Learning.

Or check out this Invitation to Play Pinterest board. It is full of wonderful ideas and links from many fantastic kid bloggers. 

Another way to keep her busy might be a busy bag or busy box. Check out this Pinterest board for a list of busy bag ideas. You could try keeping some toys set aside and only pulled out on occasion  to add interest to the toy itself. Something your child may ignore if it is out all the time, suddenly becomes interesting when brought out after being put away for a while. Busy bags are a great way of rotating toys.

You may also find a way of adapting these Motivator Jars from True Aim Education and Parenting.

For more resources, be sure to check out these following sites:

 Invitation to Play Tutorial from Teach Preschool

 The Invitation from Play at Home Mom

Creating Invitations to Play from The Imagination Tree

I hope that some of these ideas are helpful to you and your family.