Monday, February 28, 2011

Tot School
Tot School
JJ is 14.5  months

This will be my first tot school post. For more information about what tot school is please read all about it here.

JJ and I have been playing tot school for about a month now. I have been trying to implement a series of little activities for him to do during a dedicated one on one mummy and JJ, learning rich time period. We only spend about 30-45 minutes a day doing these activities, often split into a morning and early evening session. I have kept all tot school sessions brief and fun. I always stop before he gets bored or too frustrated with an activity. I believe a little frustration goes a long way, sometimes he gets a bit frustrated at difficult tasks like beading. I refuse to push him and I give him many opportunities to be "all done".   

One of his favourite activities is what I call pom pom play. JJ calls them pa-pa. We were at Pat Catans and he saw a whole section of bags of pom poms and he yelled out "pa pas" in excitement. We spend time transferring pom poms to ice trays and baby bottles. You can read about our first session here

Here are some of the tot school activities that we did this week.

I purchased some cheap poker chips from Pat Catans and then cut a slit in the top of a cottage cheese container. This $3 toy keeps him highly entertained. It took him a little while initially to get the 'coins' in the container, but after a little patience and persistence he figured it out. He will sit until he gets all one hundred 'coins' into the container. 

This is JJs rice pit. It our version of a sensory bin mixed in with some montessori-esque tasks. This much loved and played with toy is just 10lbs of rice, which we purchased for about $3 at walmart, and a 35L under the bed plastic bin that I already had. Over time we just added things to it that we had around the house. 

Humble beginnings with just rice and a few hidden toys. 

Right now JJ predominately just free plays in the pit. I hide his farm animals in there and he digs them out and we practice their sounds. 
I also try and model several tasks for him, even though he is too little to do them, once he sees me do them he often tries and very seldom succeeds. But that is what learning is all about! 

Things we can do with the rice pit.
  • Transferring pom poms or pasta into a cups via fingers and tweezers
  • Spooning pom poms or rice into cups
  • Pouring rice, pom poms and pasta
  • Montessori color cards activity with pieces of bow tie pasta
  • Sorting pasta by shape and color
  • Sound shakers. Right now I just have rice but I will be adding beans and bells. 
  • The pit is currently stocked with farm animals for learning vocabulary, I will change out these toys periodically. 

Beading often starts with JJ intensely concentrating on getting the piece of rigatoni onto a pipe cleaner then within about 1-2 minutes he is done. This is what I call a challenge task. It is difficult for him to do but when he achieves it his accomplishment is evident as his face lights up in triumph! 

Less than 1 minute after starting beading

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day Cookies

This is not an easy way to make cookies, but it is fun! It became more of an extended art project which JJ enjoyed being able to participate in. Disclaimer: I don't like cookies and I don't eat them, so I don't know if these are even good cookies. They certainly aren't healthy. But they are the cookie base my mum used when she baked. She would always add something to them, chocolate chips, nuts, raisins.

 Here is the recipe
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 /4 cups of self raising flour
  • Vanilla
  • Zip lock bags
  • Food coloring
Soften butter by leaving it out of the fridge for 30 minutes or nuke it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. Be careful you don't want it to melt, just to soften a little.
Add sugar to the butter and cream it but smushing it together with a spoon.
Mix in the rest of the ingredients.
You can then roll out and cut into shapes, or use the spooning method to make cookies.
Bake for 15 minutes in a 325 degree oven.

We did something a little different with our cookie mix.
We separated the cookie mix and put it into 3 ziplock bags. I added drops of coloring, closed the bags tightly and blended the cookie dough and colors together.
This is where JJ got to have his fun. We squished and squeezed. Flattened it out, hammered on it and even drew hearts into the bagged mix.

Once the colors were mixed to our liking we I cut a hole in the bottom corner of the bag and squeezed the mixure out. Rolled it into a ball and put in the fridge while JJ took his nap.

When JJ woke from his nap we rolled out the dough into 3 rectangular shapes. They don't have to be perfect. Then I lay the three rectangles ontop of each other and rolled them up so that they formed a log. I put this back in the fridge for 30mins so that the dough could harden before cutting it.

Once hardened I sliced the dough into 1/2 inch thick slices. Then we lay them on a cookie sheet to bake. We also rolled out some dough and cut out heart shapes with a cookie cutter. 

Valentines Day

Today was Valentines Day, which we call love day. I wanted to make the day as pinky and lovey dovey as I could for JJ. Lets face it, this day is one of the few days that it is okay to play around with pinks and reds and hearts for boys.... right?
JJ got a cute little white teddy bear, a box of 3 chocolates, 20 troll dolls to practice counting with, some cookies and a card that we made together. 

We started the day with a breakfast. I made yogurt and oatmeal with blackberries, strawberries and blueberries. All mixed together it make a very bright pink breakfast.
For lunch JJ had a grilled cheese in the shape of a heart with a side of peas, carrots and mashed potato and brisket.
For dinner JJ had heart shaped beet and banana pancakes with cottage cheese, cheerios and strawberries. Of course he loved all his food, I think the whole theme went over his head though.

We also made love day cards for JJ's daddy and little friends, and cookies that we baked. I will do a separate post for the cookies here. We finished our love day fun with a mock photo shoot (I am no photographer, nor do I have a decent camera) which JJ did not want to cooperate with. 

To make cards I had JJ stick a heart onto a card which I had already written onto. He then flicked a little water onto the card with his fingers then he 'painted' onto the card with one of my old blush brushes and blush. He loved it. This has been the most enthralling art project that we have done yet. And it is mess free!
He also personally decorated the backs of the cards with a sticker and some crayon scribble. 

The final products. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Motor Skills

Here are just a few of the gross motors skills that we have been working on:


Riding his bee buggy


Here are some of the fine motor skills that we have been working on also: 

Drinking from a cup

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Today we made play-dough for the first time. JJ enjoyed throwing the salt and flour around. However once we had made the play-dough he was reluctant to do anything with it. In fact he was rather unimpressed. He did attempt to put it in his mouth several times, even though it was evident he didn't like the taste. 

I tried to teach him how to mash it and roll it and squish it in my hands. He wasn't really interested. All he wanted to do was pull it to pieces and fling it. He did spend a little time time transferring the small pieces of play-dough into a measuring cup. I shouldn't really have been surprised by this because we have been doing quite a pit of transferring lately. We played play-dough for about 3 minutes before he decided that he was "all done".

Here is the basic recipe I used. The texture is very gritty and I doubt that the play dough would keep. 

  • 1/2 cup of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of oil
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • Food coloring
Premix the oil, food coloring and water then add these to the salt and flour. Stir and knead until it is the consistency of...well... play-dough. 

Chili and Baked Potato

  • 2lbs of ground beef or turkey
  • 29oz can of dark kidney beans
  • 29oz can of light kidney beans
  • 29oz can of pinto beans
  • 29oz can of tomato sauce
  • 3 tomatoes diced
  • 2 green chilis diced
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 tablespoons of cumin
  • 3 tablespoons of chili powder
  • Pepper and salt if desired
  • 1 Potato

Brown meat in skillet. Drain fat. Then add all ingredients to a large crock pot. You may want to halve ingredients if using a smaller crockpot. Cook on low heat for 8hrs.

Wrap clean potato in foil, poke holes in it with a fork and bake in oven for 45-60mins. 

Kiwi and Cream

  • 1 Kiwi pureed
  • 1 tablespoon of whipped Cream

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pom Pom Play

Our first attempt at pom pom play didn't go too badly. JJ was able to successfully transfer about half a dozen pom poms into ice cube trays before he decided he was done. 

I modeled how to transfer the pom poms by over emphasising my pincer grasp. He giggled at my 'pinchy fingers' did a few precise pincer grasp transfers, then proceeded to rake the pom poms instead. 

Eventually he just dumped them into the trays from the bowl. He ended by throwing pom poms everywhere.

By refining and strengthening JJ's pincer grasp it opens an avenue of tasks that we will be able to do with more efficiency. Writing with a pencil, buttoning buttons and undoing zippers are a few things he will be able to do. 

Next we tried putting pom poms into a 4oz baby bottle and removing them. He did quite well and was more focused on this task. He played attentively with it for twice as long as the first task. 

It was very difficult for him to get the pom poms out, but this just gave him some good problem solving practice and it never frustrated him. I ended up making things a bit easier for JJ but giving him qtips rather than pom poms to work with. He liked these just as much.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ring Stacker

It has been several months since we have really practiced stacking rings, so during this week toy rotation I pulled out my favourite ring stacker. At first JJ had no interest in the stacker; he is more into the shape sorter these days. However once I sat down and started demonstrating the ring stacker his interest was piqued. The other night during his first few attempts at completing the stacker JJ was initally frustrated and ended up throwing the stacker across the room. So we retired it for the evening and went to bed.

I figure JJ might have been dreaming about the stacker because the next morning it was the first thing that he wanted to play with. He was able to complete the stacker with ease this time. Now he likes to mix it up and try and put the duck out of order. Going so far as to try and balance the rings on the duck's head. Silly boy. 


 Groundhog Day

To commerate groundhog day today JJ and I wanted to make a groundhog inpired lunch. I finally decided to make a quiche with a groundhog popping out of the center.

Quiche Recipe
  • 1 cup of chopped ham
  • 1 cup of broccoli florets
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 1 pie shell

Preheat oven to 375degrees Fahrenheit.

Blanche broccoli florets in boiling water and saute onion in butter. You can do this in the microwave by putting the broccoli in a bowl of water and cooking on high for 3 minutes and by putting the butter and the onion in a bowl and cooking on high for 90 seconds. 

Whisk 4 eggs, 1 cup of milk and 1/4 cup of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of flour then set aside. (You can use all milk, or even all light cream. I just had some heavy cream on hand that I wish to use.)

Layer cheese, ham, onion and broccoli in the pie dish. JJ really enjoyed doing this, and he like to taste test all the ingredients so that they past his inspection. 

Pour egg mixture into the pie crust until it is just under the rim. Then bake in oven for 50 minutes.

Groundhog Damper Recipe
  • Plain flour
  • Water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of baking Soda
  • Food dye to make the groundhog brown.
Mix flour, water, salt and baking soda in a bowl until it is the consistency of play-dough. I just eyeball it. Lay the damper on the counter and knead it. Form it into the shape of a groundhog. Bake it in the oven on a cookie sheet for 25 minutes at 375 degree Farenheit until it is sounds hollow when you knock on it. 

Cut a hole from the center of the quiche with a cup and then put the cooked groundhog in the center. Decorate his eyes, nose and mouth. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow Ice-Cream

We went on an adventure today. JJ got all rugged up in his snow suit, settled in his sled, with his bowl in hand. We were on a quest to find the perfect, freshest, fluffiest clean snow so that we could make snow ice-cream!

 First we had to test out the snow for overall perfectness.

Hmm... this stuff sure seems fluffy enough... but I am not sure if it is right....

So the quest continued... we searched near and we searched far.... 

Hey! Lets check out the snow over there. So we continued on.

And like no true adventurer, no quest is complete without a few bumps and bruises along the way... or in this case an overturned sled. 

And like the noble adventurer he is JJ was quickly back on his sled.  

Once the snow was collected it had to pass intense inspection.This snow is just right.

 By now our stalwart adventurer was cold, weary and hungry. Time to make some much anticipated snow ice-cream.

This is the recipe we used to make snow ice-cream. 
  • 4-6 cups of fresh fluffy snow
  • 1/2 cup of thick cream
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • Several drop of food dye (optional)
Mix the cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Then gradually add cups of snow to the mix until it is the desired consistency. We chose to make it a little thicker than soft serve. 

Surprisingly it tastes a lot like vanilla ice-cream. Initially I forgot to add the sugar and it tasted pretty nasty, just like snow and cream. JJ didn't seem to mind though.