Monthly Archives: July 2012

Montessori Monday – Figure Tack Zap

Figure Geo Shape Tack Zap 3

This week, I brought out a hammering set that I had bought quite some time ago, but didn’t want to introduce to Dora until she seemed ready for it. It is the Figure Tack Zap set by Haba. I know a lot of people like the Geo Shape Tack Zap set, but I thought that Dora would prefer having animals and people in her set since she usually likes to animate most playthings. She was so focused on hammering, however, that she didn’t do any storytelling, role playing, or animating. While verifying the name of the set for this post, I did notice that Haba has now added an “On Duty”/Construction set and a “Springtime Butterflies” set to their Tack Zap line of products (which is now leaving me feeling stressed that I chose the wrong set, these aren’t cheap, so it’s not like I am going to buy them all!). I also noticed that you can by a figure tacks add-on set to supplement the shape set and shape tacks add-on set to supplement the figures set. I hope they will come out with add-on sets for the construction and butterfly sets. Dora did quite well with the set. The only problem that she had was actually inserting the small nail into the hole of the wooden pieces. She was perfectly able to hold the piece with one hand, while hammering with the other, which made me very happy as I have been trying to teach her to hold her paper with her left hand, while drawing/writing with her right hand in preparation for learning to write. It is also nice to know that she will continue to develop more fine motor skills as she learns to master picking up the tiny nails and inserting them in the holes. I think that she will be very motivated to do this, just because she has to wait for me to help her make her design otherwise.

Figure Geo Shape Tack Zap 4

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Colorful Milk and the States of Matter

Colorful Milk 2

This week, Dora and I “studied” the states of matter. It is a subject that is covered in the ages 3-6 Montessori “curriculum”/album that I have. I think I’m going to wait on the rest of physical science until she is older though. It really seemed to go over her head. I tried demonstrating with melting ice in a jar, which I then heated until it formed steam, but she clearly didn’t grasp what I was teaching. The one thing she did grasp, is that water makes things stick together, such as hair and paintbrush bristles. I have no idea why this was the one thing she hooked onto during the week, but she has been spraying her hair with a water bottle all the time so that she can show everyone how the water makes it sticks together. For this unit, we did the famous colorful milk experiment that you see all over the internet these days, but which I personally had never heard of until I started reading blogs. You add several drops of food coloring to a dish of milk and then drop a bit of dish soap in the milk (you can also touch the milk with a q-tip that has been dipped in soap). The soap instantly sends the food coloring flying in all directions. (Here are some good “officially scientific” directions and explanations from Steve Spangler.) The picture above shows the milk after we dropped the soap in, below is the before shot.

Colorful Milk 1

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Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Dora is Interested in Geocaching!

Tree Stump Throne 2
I am very excited, because Dora has finally expressed an interest in geocaching. Hopefully, her interest will last. I used to geocache a lot before she was born, but since her birth, have only found a few caches. Geocaching is a great way to get exercise, explore new places, practice geography skills, work on problem solving skills, and more, depending on the cache. This particular cache was an easy cache, which was a necessity if I was to keep Dora’s interest. It also helps that it was at a park. She played for a long time, then we hit the trails. It didn’t hurt that there is a tree stump chair/throne on the trail.
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Labels: Nature Study, Physical Education, Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Petunia and Pinkalicious

In this day and age, it can be hard to find a good role model for our daughters. Times have really changed. When my mother was a girl, her PE class consisted of playing basketball by standing in place (I kid you not, they passed the ball back and forth without running around). When I was in junior high, I was put in “girls PE”, where I was forced to take dance and gymnastics, much to my tomboy self’s horror. In 8th grade, I was one of the first girls allowed to take “boys PE”. Now, it is a given that PE includes both sexes. Additionally, girls’ sports have come to resemble boys’ sports. When Tertia played on a soccer team, I could not believe how aggressively the girls played. Had any girl played like that when I was a kid, she would have been red-carded and socially ostracized.

With Dora being a later in life child for me, I find myself more challenged to help her fill her role in society as a girl. How aggressive should she be? Should I actually discourage feminine behavior? What do I say to strangers who ask her who her favorite princess is? (I still am always flabbergasted by this question, neither Secunda not Tertia were ever asked that and why do people assume that little girls have a favorite princess anyway?) Then there are studies that come out that show how differently we raise boys and girls and I feel the need to try to counter some of that. So I find myself trying to be very careful when selecting literature for Dora that portrays female role models. In past posts, I had mentioned how much Dora likes the Ladybug Girl series.

This week, we found two more really astounding female literary role models for Dora. I had really avoided the Pinkalicious series of books up to this point. I seriously doubted that anything named Pinkalicious could portray my values. Boy was I wrong! This week we went to the bookstore and Dora saw Pinkalicious and I consented to read the book to her in the store. Well, we both loved the book and I ended up buying it and Purplicious too! Pinkalicious loves pink, but so does her dad, brother and mother (they like to play pink pong and so forth). In addition, her high energy spirit greatly reminds me of Dora. (Here’s a pink trivia piece for you. Did you know that pink used to be considered a boy’s color? “An article in the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department in June 1918 said: ‘The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.’” – source Wikipedia)

The other female role model who is much like Dora, in spirit, is Petunia. We had previously read A Pet for Petunia, which is really funny as the pet Petunia wants is a skunk. While at the bookstore, however, I noticed a second Petunia book, Petunia Goes Wild. In this book, Petunia decides that being human is far too boring for her. She’d rather be an animal, but when she asks her parents if she can be their pet, their reaction is not what she had hoped for. So she decides to mail herself to Africa (the book won bonus points with Dora for mentioning Africa in it). In the end, Petunia is able to reconcile her wild behavior with being human.

Gohan continues to read manga and I haven’t been reading much lately, which is unusual. I started reading a book by one of my favorite bloggers and it upset me so much that I had to stop reading it about 1/3rd of the way through. I rarely leave a book unread if I manage to make it past chapter two. I guess I have been feeling a bit gun shy since this negative reading experience. What about you? What have you been reading this summer? What have your kids been reading?

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Transferring Water With a Sponge

Transferring Water with a SpongeAs we were discussing the states of matter, using water as an example, this week, I thought it would be fun for Dora to do some transferring with water. She really has done a lot of pouring activities recently, however, and I was trying to come up with something new. That was when I remembered I had seen posts about people using sponges for water transferring practice (sorry I don’t have a particular post I can link to). Thus far, our experiments with sponges hadn’t been too successful. She tended to just stick the sponge in the water and not understand how or when to squeeze the sponge. This week, however, she mastered the activity. She spent about 1/2 hour just transferring water from a tub to a bowl, using sponges. Then she decided to use the sponges to wash various things, such as our porch, our car, etc. We’re actually not allowed to wash our cars in our driveways here, due to water pollution run off killing the endangered salmon, but Dora wasn’t getting the car wet enough to create run off. She was very proud of how “shiny” she made the car though!

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Labels: Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Screaming Balloons

Screaming Balloon 1

Our summer continues to be a bit of a free-for-all. Carefully laid plans have given way to spontaneous chaos and fun (okay and some boos boos, tantrums, and tears and maybe a few exasperated sighs from yours truly). Last week, Dora and I were supposed to be looking at the states of matter. I’m not sure how this came up or why I felt it tied in with the theme, but we ended up making some screaming balloons. I first heard about these when Gohan received a Steve Spangler science kit many years ago. You can see all of the directions, video, and notes to make Screaming Balloons at the Steve Spangler site. What it comes down to is that you put a 1/4” hex nut into a balloon and twirl the nut around in the balloon, which makes a very weird, screaming sound from the vibrations of the nut rubbing on the balloon. One has to wonder why someone ever thought of putting a hex nut in a balloon and twirling it around (kind of like why in the world did anyone ever think of putting a bar of soap under their sheets at their feet to cure restless leg syndrome, which I cannot vouch for by the way, as I have never tried it).

Screaming Balloon 2Note – I had to refresh my memory about how to do this, because at first we were holding the balloons by the tie and that does not work. So, if you decide to try this at home, be sure to hold the balloon by the main part of the balloon as Dora is doing in the photo above. Though, I personally found it easier to hold my hand out flat, like I was waiting for a high five, but with my fingers splayed. I then rotated the balloon horizontally.

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Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday – Another Fun Game for Tactile Sense Work

Months ago, I posted about Ruff’s House, a great game that we have found works better for us for working on tactile skills than the traditional Montessori materials do (i.e. Ruff’s House can work as a much cheaper alternative to the fabric boxes, grading tablets, and baric tablets) . We now have found a second, more challenging game, called Laundry Jumble Game. In this game, the child draws a card that shows them (no reading required) which laundry item they need to find in the “washing machine”. Since many of the fabrics feel very similar, one really needs to use one’s hands to explore each item’s shape. If the player retrieves the correct laundry item, he gets to keep the card. He then puts the laundry item back in to the “washing machine”, the next player draws a card, and so on. 

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Montessori, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our Growing Wildlife Population Got a Bit Too Big!

I wrote a couple of months ago that we had a chipmunk living in our backyard. I had also hung some bird feeders in our front yard and we were getting lots of wonderful birds. Then it appeared that our chipmunk gave birth (“he” was a “she” it seems). Then we acquired a rabbit, who seemed perfectly content to nibble on the clover in our yard, while ignoring our vegetables. Still, I began to wonder at what point does one say, “This is too much wildlife in our tiny yard.” Well, last week I learned what that point is. One day, I woke to find that both of my bird feeders had been knocked down and I assumed some of the annoying local teens had done the job, but was very impressed with their strength. One of the feeders had a huge footprint in it and the other had a bar bent that I couldn’t even begin to unbend. With the undestroyed pieces, I was able to cobble together one feeder, but about an hour later Tertia called to me, “Mom, you need to come see this.” Well, there were two black bears ambling up the path towards our house – a mom and a cub!

The mom looked a lot like this bear. Unfortunately, I never got a good photo of the bears. By the time I ran and got my camera, they had gone into the woods near our house. The next two times they showed up, the mother bear was running right at our house at full speed, so I was a bit too busy running in the opposite direction to get a photo. A call to our local Department of Fish, Game, and Wildlife earned me a stern lecture on the fact that one does not hang bird feeders when one lives in “bear country”. I was unaware of this fact and I was also unaware of the fact that I lived in “bear country”. I knew neighboring cities had occasional bears, but didn’t realize that qualified as living in “bear country”. Anyway, I did know that black bears are not particularly aggressive. I had thought that they relocated bears that were living too close to houses, but it ends up that they do not do that. These bears have most likely co-existed with us for some time and as long as we don’t set out tasty snacks for them, they should leave us alone.

Birdfeeder 20
I had planned to write a wonderful post about our bird feeder and all the birds we had seen, but clearly that project was cut a bit short. Here is a picture of a Stellar’s Jay, however, that I am quite proud of. I’m not proud of the quality of the photo per se, but of the fact that I was able to catch a picture of one of these guys at all. I think that Stellar’s Jays have ADHD or have inhaled a few too many Starbuck’s fumes or something, they do not stay still for more than a second!
Bunny in Our Yard 2
This is a picture of our local bunny “hiding” under the picnic table. He honestly seemed to think he was doing a good job of hiding and that no one could see him. We haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks and I think his “hiding” skills (or lack there of, I should say) might have something to do with that. I have wondered if he became bear food, though there are a lot of eagles and hawks around here also.

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Labels: Nature Study
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Handa’s Suprise

I posted previously about Handa’s Surprise – we used the book when we were studying the sense of taste. Recently, Dora has started requesting that I read it again, every….single…day. It is a wonderful book that really should be on more “Recommended Reading” lists. This time around, however, Dora was more interested in the African culture shown in the book and the various animals that eat each piece of fruit as Handa is walking by. Reading this book has made Dora absolutely obsessed with Africa! In fact, during a variety of her imaginary games, she will say that various people or dolls are going to Africa for various reasons. Dora also has started trying to carry various things on her head, just like Handa does. One of Tertia’s best friends was from Kenya and visits there frequently.  I’m afraid to admit it, but her stories of malaria and the anti-malaria medication possible side effects (which I just know I would suffer) have made me very nervous about visiting Africa. Not to mention the fact that she got badly sunburned there, so I cannot even begin to imagine what would happen to my fair skin! Obviously, if Dora continues to be this obsessed with Africa, I will have to get over my malaria-phobia,  invest in some super SPF sunscreen, and take her there. In the interim, I do think it is time to bring out some geography materials!  

Woodland Park Zoo 10

Since Dora was so interested in the animals in the book, some of which are less common, we took a trip to the Woodland Park Zoo. Overall, it was a good day for a trip to the zoo. It was a bit cloudy, so it wasn’t too crowded (though driving there was H-E-double hockey sticks and I would like to point out that allowing street parking in the right lane on the main road to the zoo is very stupid). Anyway, we went in a different entrance than we usually do and went in the opposite direction that we usually go. The highlight of the trip for Dora was the Willawong Bird Station, where they sell seed sticks that you can feed birds with (parakeets, cockatiels, and parrots). We spent about on hour there!

Woodland Park Zoo 11

After we left the bird station, we stumbled upon the snow leopard right after it had been fed a huge piece of meat (I have no idea what type of animal it was eating). I believe that is the only time the snow leopard came out of it’s cave the whole day. So we were very lucky to be able to see this beautiful animal.

Woodland Park Zoo 14

We saw many animals, but one of the more unusual animals that we were able to see was the tree kangaroo, which never moved at all. It was kind of freaky, I couldn’t tell if it was sleeping with its eyes open or having some sort of weird staring contest, but it stood in this exact position for at least five minutes.

Woodland Park Zoo 13

In addition, I have never seen a sloth bear anywhere else, but the Woodland Park Zoo. They make you want to hug them while you are running away from them!

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature, Social Studies, Things To Do Around Seattle
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Pitting Cherries

Pitting Cherries

Howdy everyone! I hope everyone had a nice 4th of July. I enjoyed my week off, though we did not do anything special for the 4th.

Two weeks ago, at the farmer’s market, we bought two pounds of Rainier cherries. When we got home, Dora really wanted to have some, but she didn’t like the idea of having to eat around the pit. So I got out the handy, dandy OXO Good Grips Cherry Pitter that I had bought to feed her cherries when she was a two. Suddenly, I realized that that this was an excellent opportunity to work on some fine motor and practical life skills. After I showed Dora how the pitter worked, she was more than happy to pit cherries. The only problem was that she decided she didn’t like cherries anymore! She still wanted to pit cherries though, so the rest of us got to eat a LOT of cherries, whether we wanted to or not. Next time, I’m going to try Bing cherries and see if she doesn’t like those better.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Montessori, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff