Category Archives: Family

Conversation Card

The outside of the card might not seem like much, but it’s the inside that counts the most! For Father’s Day this year, I’m starting a new tradition.  I asked J a few questions about his dad and wrote down his responses.  When he made  his Father’s Day card (this year was just construction paper, stickers and markers), I made sure he left space for me to include his responses.  The plan is to do this every year.  Hopefully posting this here will help me remember to keep it up!

We also did this for his Grandpa’s card. 

My questions were basically geared towards getting a 3 year old to share his thoughts on dad/grandpa. Here’s how one of our conversations went…

What’s your favorite thing about ___?
     “His toys.”
What do you like to do with ____?
     “I like to play with him.”
How would you describe ____?
     “He has a head. He has some eyes. He has a nose and a mouth.”
What do you want to say to ____?
     “I love you!” and then he says to me, “Thank you!” And then I say to him, “You’re welcome!” And then he says to me, “I love you.” and I say to him, “Thank you!” And then he say to me, “You’re welcome.”

I personally would love to get a card with my son’s thoughts about me, however simple.  I’m hoping dad and grandpa love it too.

My Little Helper: Laundry

We focus A LOT in our house about how we’re a family and a family works together to help each other out.  This is in fact one of my parenting goals that I have listed down. Doing simple chores is just one way to put this goal into practice and hopefully create a good habit that we’ll reap the benefits of in the future!

It’s been awhile since I’ve added any new responsibilities to J’s week.  I got lazy with early pregnancy.  Now that the nesting stage has hit, I’m trying to introduce some things that will hopefully help in the future.  Note that he’s just learning which means these new chores take longer to complete right now.  He’s also still in the stage of finding them fun (I try to make it a game).  I try to enjoy this because he does get to the point where mom must require it with some chores.  The older chores (that’s he’s had for a year or so) he is now capable of completing on his own without my help. This is a great stage to work towards!!  

1. We sort.  I typically bring down all the laundry baskets from the bedrooms and J helps me sort the clothes into 4 different piles (darks, whites, mediums, and reds).  This is great sorting practice by the way.  We work together on this task for now.  He does a great job, but does randomly come across something he isn’t sure where it belongs.  I’m sure he could’ve even done this at an earlier age, though likely with a little more direction on my part.  Me being there also helps encourage him to stay on task.  He can get distracted by naming who wears each particular article of clothing or trying to find a match to a sock.  I would venture most 2 years olds could manage this activity with mom or dad working alongside them.

2. He helps to put the dirty clothes into the washing machine.  I have a frontloader which makes this very easy for him.  His favorite part is pushing the buttons!

3.  He helps transfer the wet clothes into the dryer (and again pushes the buttons). 

4.  He helps me fold the clean laundry.  Sort of.  As of now, his job is to separate all the socks and then to sort them into piles for mommy’s, daddy’s, and J’s.  When we wash towels, we’re starting to work on folding the washcloths but there’s still a lot of learning with this one!

Please note that this doesn’t always look pretty.  I’ve found that things run the smoothest if I stick to my routine (choretime after breakfast and before play).  If I randomly call him for chores, his attention span doesn’t last as long.  He also doesn’t help load each color.  If he’s nearby, he wants to help (so he can push the buttons) or I call him to help.  I do it on my own if he’s playing in his room, with dad, or napping.

Age attempted: 33 months

Here are some of my other “My Little Helper” posts.  More to come as I take advantage of nesting!!

Ziploc Photo Books

My grandparents are always telling me that really all they want for birthdays or Mother’s day are lots of pictures to show off.  So this year, J made a photo-filled birthday card for his great-grandma.  This would be a great art project for toddlers to give at Christmas time.

All you really need is a stack of ziploc bags, photos and a stapler and/or duct tape.  To make this activity last longer, I added construction paper and various art supplies to the materials.  I set out the materials and J chose how to decorate each page (stamps, stickers, dot markers, crayons, rolling stamps, …  hmmm that’s all I remember).  He then chose which picture he wanted to place with each page and placed both his art piece and his photo into the ziploc bag.  I stapled all the opened end of the bags together and covered it with fun green duct tape. 

Older kids could write their own story, draw their own pictures and give their first published piece to grandpa or grandma. 

Age attempted:  29 months

Teaching Thanksgiving to Toddlers and Preschoolers

This is really the first year I included lessons on Thanksgiving prior to Thanksgiving day. The majority of what we do comes in day to day conversations.  I’ve used books, pictures, activities, games, and videos to give J a visual image of the different aspects of Thanksgiving.  You don’t have to do ALL of them, one book or one activity is enough to jump start many conversations throughout your day.  In my experience, those conversations are where they learn the most.  They are often asking questions and therefore paying close attention to the answers.  It’s all really simple and easy to do.  

Here are a few resources I used to help me introduce the history and purpose of Thanksgiving to J (at 2.5 yrs old). You might have seen most of these links on my Thanksgiving index post, but I wanted to highlight a few that have been helpful for us in teaching.

SCRIPTURE:

Thankfulness List - “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. —Psalm 9:1″ You don’t have to WOW them with fancy crafts, the beauty of a toddler!   I wrote the scripture on construction paper, we talked about it and then taped it up where near where he plays.  There’s a cup of strips nearby to add new things as inspiration strikes him.  My goal is to help him learn how to recognize things he’s thankful for all throughout the day and to thank God right then and there.  This means we stop whatever we’re doing to add to the poster.  It’s worth that tiny effort.  I review the scripture each time and we say a quick thank you prayer for that particular “wonderful deed” God did (or allowed in J’s life). 

SONG:

“If I Were a Butterfly” – This is an adorable song that kids love about being thankful for how God made us.  I played this song for him (used just the audio from youtube since the pictures weren’t great IMO) and had pictures of the different animals up on the computer.  I just copied the pictures real quick from google images.  He could follow along with the song by pointing at the different animals.  Now we sing it together all the time.  Sometimes we pull the pictures out again and he can choose which animal to sing about next, sometimes he calls out a random animal and I make up a verse about it.  We make it a fun game this way. 

BOOK:

“Let’s Celebrate God’s Blessings On Thanksgiving” by Lise CaldwellI loved how this book incorporates the history of Thanksgiving, applicable scripture and the modern day Thanksgiving our little one’s will experience.  (I found it for $2 at our local Christian Bookstore)

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Thanksgiving: With Turkey, Family, and Counting Blessings“Celebrate Thanksgiving with Turkey, Family, and Counting Blessings” by Deborah Heiligman - I like to use non-fiction books as well as fiction, just to get J used to seeing both type of books.  This is a book published by National Geographic that takes you from Pilgrims on the Mayflower to the Thanksgiving parade to pumpkin pie.  I wouldn’t buy this book, but it’s a helpful library check-out this time of year. 

VIDEOS:

“The Story of Thanksgiving Basically” – This is a cute cartoon video that tells the BASIC story (with some humor) and does a decent job connecting it to our lives today.  It’s no more than 2 minutes long, so will easily keep the attention of young ones. 

This is America, Charlie Brown, The Mayflower Voyagers – this video is longer than the first one I linked to, but does OK at telling the story in a way little ones can understand.  (the link will bring you to part one of the story; here’s part two)

CRAFT:

Pilgrim, Pilgrim – This is a create your own coloring book about the pilgrims.  It’s told in a similar fashion to Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  I was surprised at how into coloring J was on this activity.  We just added a few quick staples and were done, nothing flashy.  We now have a good review book. 

Crafty Canned Food Drive - I love this (scroll down to the bottom of that link to see the canned food “craft”).  This is so simple, yet a great way to incorporate the lesson of WHY we give and be a witnessing tool as well.  You can bring this back to the history of Thanksgiving by explaining how we can be a blessing by bringing food to others, just like the Native Americans blessed the Pilgrims. 

GAME:

Thanksgiving through pictures - J loved this game and still asks to play a full week later.  You can choose whichever Thanksgiving images you want to reinforce whichever aspect of Thanksgiving you want.  I made both cards for the historical aspect of Thanksgiving as well as images of things J will actually see when the family gets together. 

LEARNING:

Thanksgiving Worksheet Packet – These are printable worksheets that add Thanksgiving imagery to basic skills like letters, writing, colors, sorting, and counting. They are really well done.  We won’t be doing all of the pages, but I’ve chosen a few that will challenge J.

Homemade Toy: Family Board Books

I made these board books for J when he was probably 12 or 13 months old.  It was SO easy to accomplish and well worth it.  J has always loved them.  I think these would be great from infancy on (just keep your little one’s slobber away since the ink will bleed… or seal the pages beforehand).

I bought a board book kit from Amazon; I’m pretty sure this is the link. I still have a three blank books to make.  The kit included the books, blank labels for each page and a computer template to download.  Of course you don’t have to use the labels.  You can draw on the books or even have your toddler create their own book.

The family book I made is really simple.  I include parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We don’t live anywhere near ANY family, but I really wanted J to learn who all his relatives were.  This way when we are able to see them, he is already familiar with their pictures at least.  Each page in the book has just one labeled picture so it’s very clear who is who.  I used to read this book a lot to him before we took a trip to visit family.  After each trip we’ve taken to visit family, J tends to return to the book a lot on his own too.   I do think if I were to do it again, I would try and include photos that were a little more fun… like Grandpa playing with a ball or Aunt Jenn riding a bike (whereas I just have a front photo of each one smiling). 

“My Dad Loves Me” was actually a Father’s day gift (from J to daddy).  This is his favorite of the two board books, probably because Daddy is J’s favorite person in the world!  I included lots of pictures of J and dad from birth until the present (or when I created the book obviously).  I added a rhyming story to go along with the photos.  J loves that he sees them playing the guitar or playing with a ball in the pictures.  When we’ve taken a few trips without dad, I brought J’s daddy book along with us to read which he really likes.

Here’s the text of J’s daddy’s book:

Right from the start, Dad was my biggest fan. 

We share kisses and cuddles and lots of big grins.

My Daddy is teaching me to play the guitar.

I’m teaching him to take care of the car.
We work out together.
We act silly together.
We walk and we ride and we explore together.
We splash around in the pool.
We eat ice cream ’till we drool.
Whether we’re playing ball or just hanging out,
My Daddy loves me. You can’t get better than that!
Another side benefit of the books is that when J has experienced a little separation anxiety and hesitant to play alone, I have kept the books within his reach so he has pictures of those he loves close by.  I got this idea from an online group I’m in.  I’m honestly not sure how much this helped since any bout of separation anxiety was very short lived.  It certainly didn’t hurt though!
FYI…. I also bought this blank board book kit and it really only included the blank book and some ideas/instructions on how to create your book.  I haven’t used this one yet; it’s currently stuffed in my craft cabinet. 

My Little Helper: Separating Utencils

J is becoming more and more involved in helping around the house. He already helps put away his sippy cups and even thinks its a fun game (see this post)!  I’ve recently started allowing him to replace the utencils too. 

23 months

I sit J down with the basket of clean utencils and the utencil tray.  Of course I first remove the knives!  His job is to replace the clean utencils in the correct section of the tray.  This is actually great practice with matching that really incorporates size recognition since he has to detect the difference in the small and large forks as well as the small and large spoons.  He doesn’t get it right everytime, but he is improving. 

I used to just have him hand me the clean utencils from the dishwasher and I would place them in the drawer myself.  When I read this post from Children’s Learning Activities, I realized he could easily complete the entire task himself!

By the way, it is also his job to place the dirty utencils in the basket to be placed in the dishwasher.  I rinse them off first and he takes care of the rest!  He feels like he’s accomplished something to help mommy and I didn’t have to bend over again and again to reach the dishwasher!

Age attempted: I don’t really remember when he started helping with the utencils, probably around 13 months; he started returning them to the utencil drawer himself at 22 months. 

Teachable moments:  We’ve talked about the difference in dirty and clean, why we have to clean our used dishes, the size of the different utencils, and of course working together as a family to help around the house!

Try Again?  :)

Homemade Toy: Family Photo Magnets

Much of our family live far away so J doesn’t get consistent interaction with them.  It is very important to me that J know his relatives and develop relationships with them as he gets older.  The first step to me was knowing who was who in his family.  At 10 months, I made some photo magnets for him to play with.  I printed pictures of each family member, put a sticky magnet on the back and then lamenated both together (so he couldn’t peel the magnet off the back).  He has loved them since the first day I put them up.  He often played with these while I cooked dinner (convenient for me since he was close by).  He quickly learned who was in each photo.  When we were plannning a visit to see certain family (or before family came to visit us), I emphasized their photos. 

Age Attempted: 10 months; this is an toy/activity he still plays with at 22 months. 

Teachable Moments:  Family members (or other important people in baby’s life)

Try Again?  This toy rests permanently on the refrigerator door, used often