Tuesday, December 30, 2014

1000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge

I recently bought Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Lives Forever by Mem Fox. It is a very interesting and informative book about the benefits and joys of reading aloud to children. She says that "Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read. Or the same story a thousand times!" So when I came across the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge, I decided that we were in. It also seemed like a fun way to track just how much we were reading.

 Mem Fox's website has sections for parents, teachers, children and writers. Visit her site here. It is full of great tips, thoughts and information.

You can find out more about the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten here.

I was always surrounded by books as a child and enjoyed being read to. My greatest love has always been getting lost in a book. I loved reading to my older son when he was small. I would do silly voices for different characters and we'd get right into it. Once he grew out of it, he continued to read, but never to the passionate degree that I do. Little Bean already likes to cuddle up and read a book together, and I really hope that he becomes a hardcore bookworm like me (hopefully a Whovian & sci-fi geek too).

I've decided to track our progress by putting a list of the books we read on this blog. You can see our booklist here.

Here are some other great sources for information on children's books, including reading lists and my favourite online store to buy books:

The Book Depository - My favourite online bookstore. It has a HUGE range of books, great prices and free delivery worldwide. 

Children's Book Guide - Top 100 Children's Books of All Time

Growing Book By Book - a great site with book reviews, reading lists, reading themes, book-based activity ideas and lots more.

GoodReads - a great source for all things book related. There are reviews, booklists, information on authors, quizzes, quotes and trivia. You can see what other people are reading and share your own reading list. There's even an app where you can get book recommendations based on your reading history. GoodReads also has their own annual book awards. Here are their latest award winning children's books:

GoodReads Best Picture Books of 2014

GoodReads Best Middle Grade & Children's Books of 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Montessori Christmas

The Christmas chaos has subsided, the visitors have gone home, we've delivered all the gifts and the last of the leftovers have finally been eaten. Now it’s time to sit back, relax and have fun playing with all our new toys. I had so much fun shopping for Little Bean’s presents this year. I found lots of great Montessori inspired toys online.

My favourite items were these Rainbow Sound Blocks on eBay. They have beads between two layers of coloured plastic in a wooden surround. They come packaged in a beautiful wooden box. They were an instant hit with Little Bean. He loves putting them in and out of the box almost as much as he loves shaking them.

I also bought a plain set of Rainbow Blocks on eBay. The plain blocks have one piece of coloured plastic in a wooden surround. I can't wait to play with these on a light table.

With his current desire to be Mummy’s Little Helper, I thought that some toddler-size cleaning equipment was in order. I got him a rake, broom and a dustpan set. He had a blast raking up in the garden with his uncle.

I found this awesome little ride-on toy at Target in Australia. It's great for developing balance. When we finished our shopping, the carpark was almost empty so we let him have a go while we loaded the shopping into the car. He jumped straight on and instantly knew what to do. Clever little cookie.

I've heard lots of kids raving about how good Kinetic Sand is, so I bought 2kg of it. This will be a great addition to our sensory play toolkit.

Santa gave Little Bean this swing, but so far, he's been most reluctant to try it out. I'm not sure why. Maybe he's scared of it, or maybe it reminds him of his highchair and he thinks I'm trying to trap him in a boring toy.  

Little Bean was spoilt by the rest of the family too. He got these great books from Nanna and Pop.

He also got these magnetic numbers in a cool Minion pencil case. I'd previously tried wooden magnetic pieces but he kept chewing them to bits, much like he does with wooden jigsaw puzzles. I asked for these plastic ones for Christmas. Lets hope these ones weather the punishment a little better.

These are Little Beans first set of realistic animal toys. These are a small size. I also bought him some large sized African and farm animals, plus some small sized marine and Australian animal sets.

One of LB's aunties knows we Montessori and she got him this lovely wooden clock and a wooden numbers jigsaw puzzle. Very cool.

I think that this lot will keep us busy for several weeks to come.

Monday, December 22, 2014

What we're doing this week

This is what we got up to last week. Little Bean is still fascinated with bugs, so we continued with most of our activities and books from the previous week. We also added some new activities.

Little Bean loves pulling stuff out of the kitchen cupboards, so we direct him towards the section storing our plastic stuff. The other day he found a drink bottle and became obsessed with screwing the lid on and off. I ended up getting a plastic egg carton and a flip top storage container for him too and let him practise opening and closing them.

I found these great toys on Australian eBay. They were part of an 8 pack of wooden puzzles and cost around AU$55. After Little Bean had played with them for a while, he got the plastic egg carton out and started to put the wooden discs in the compartments.

Little Bean was playing on the floor and bumped a plastic toy cow. It started to spin and he loved it. He started to investigate how to spin the cow on purpose. Once he had it sussed, I added some other animals and objects for him to try spinning. Any that didn't spin were quickly tossed aside and he decided that the cow and a fish were the best. We've since found lots of different spinning toys and household items to explore, some purpose-made to spin and some that just happen to spin well.

A surprise addition to our activities this week were some plastic water bottles. I was crushing them up and putting them in a tub, ready to go in the recycling bin. Little Bean liked the noise it made and wandered over to watch. When I was done, he took the tub and sat down on the mat with it. He proceeded to put the bottles in and out of the tub over and over again. Occasionally he would play with the bottles and crinkle them too.

Little Bean has become interested in books with flaps. We've been reading these two books this week.

Little Bean loves singing and we often sing and do actions for nursery rhymes. 

I read "Hettie and the Fox" by Mem Fox to LB and my nephew as a bedtime story last week. It was a big hit. I loved doing different voices for each animal. Reading aloud to kids is so much fun. I am a huge Mem Fox fan, so I just bought her book about reading aloud to kids on eBay. I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to read it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

This week's discovery basket

Little Bean and I went exploring in the garden. It was great to see the wonder on his little face as he discovered so many new things. I actually watched his world become bigger. We gathered up all kinds of interesting leaves and nuts. I made sure to get a wide range of textures, colours and sizes. I got lots of different leaves from brand new, soft, smooth leaves through to old, dry, crunchy leaves. Later that night, we sat down to have some quiet time before bed. I showed him how to run his fingers over the leaves to feel their texture. I also taught him how to smell a sprig of rosemary, which had him making funny noises as he sniffed in and snorted out. So cute and very entertaining. Then he went on to sniff everything else in the box too.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What we're doing this week

This is what we did during our first week back in Australia for the Christmas - New Year holidays. Little Bean is loving it here. Our house in Vietnam is rather small and doesn't have a yard or garden to play in. We only have a tiny courtyard at the front where we park our motorbikes. Little Bean has played more outside in the past week than he has in the previous 3 months. It has made me long for an Aussie style house and garden. When we remodel our Vietnamese house next year, we'll be including a large rooftop entertainment area which will serve as a garden and play area for Little Bean. He really loves exploring my sister's garden and has quickly gone from walking to running since we've been here.

I unintentionally ended up with a bugs & insects theme to most of our activities this week. It just happened that LB found some bug books and discovered my nephew's bug specimen collection.

I bought Little Bean a play set because it included a little wagon, some sandpit toys and a watering can (which I have wanted to get LB for ages). It just happened to also include a "Creeper Keeper" bug viewing container. We haven't tried it out yet, but we'll go looking for some creepy crawlies to go in it this afternoon. I'm sure we can find some slater bugs or snails amongst the pot plants when we water them.

My sister found this awesome bug collection for my nephew at a garage sale. It was a lucky find as it was one of those sets where you had to buy a weekly magazine and bug specimen. These sets usually cost many hundreds of dollars by the time you purchase them all, and often take up to a year to collect. Little Bean is fascinated by them and is very good about only getting a couple out at a time, then returning them to the case before swapping them for more. He is grasping many concepts like this now and I am constantly amazed by how much he actually understands.

Little Bean got to play in a sandpit for the first time. I gave him a couple of spoons and a sand castle mould to play with. He happily scooped, poured and transferred sand for hours. We also used some damp sand to build small castles, which he gleefully smashed with little fists. Once I bought him a sandpit set, he had a shovel, rake, hoe, sieve, bucket and small moulds to play with too.

   Little Bean's cousin was watering pot plants and LB wanted to join in, so he was very happy to be given his own toddler-sized watering can. He quickly got the hang of it and likes to help water the plants every day. He is really enjoying being able to do lots of things that big kids and grown-ups do. Now that's he's undertaking so many new practical life and self care tasks, I'll be writing a post on practical life activities shortly.

The weather has been quite hot, so we've been playing with water a lot. I have been filling his little wagon with water and giving him different tools to play with each day. So far he played with his sandpit set, cups, bowls, slotted spoons for scooping and large serving spoons for transferring water. He also plays with all sorts of natural items he's collected himself such as leaves, rocks and honky nuts. The honky nuts and rocks seem to be firm favourites.

Little Bean has also been enjoying some quiet activities on his Montessori mat. He's been stacking plastic cup towers and knocking them down. He's also been nesting cups and bowls too. As a fine motor skills activity, he's been playing with an icy pole mould set. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Travelling with a toddler

Each trip we've taken during Little Bean's short life has been very different. I think that the first was the easiest. He was two months old and slept most of the time. We met so many lovely people that helped with bags and at customs checkpoints. For the next trip, he was 12 - 13 months old. He was able to sit in our seat while I stowed our overhead luggage. Very convenient. He toddled around a little but was light enough that I could carry him. On this latest trip, last weekend, Little Bean was 16 months old. He will often play independently now, so he was easily entertained. He loved saying hello and bye bye to everyone on our plane and at the airport. He's definitely a Leo. For the first time, he was interested in looking out the window. He really likes to be Mummy's Little Helper, so giving him small jobs when he was restless worked well. This time, it felt like I was travelling with him, instead of just taking him along for the ride.

We flew from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Perth, Australia. We always fly with Singapore Airlines via Singapore. (More on why I love Changi airport later.) If you have small children, I find that Singapore Airlines makes life much easier for you, especially if like me, you usually travel with only one parent. They will let you take your pram to the boarding gate and will load it just before boarding. They also have bassinets on board that can be used for children up to 14kg. We usually take red-eye flights so that most of our travel is done done during Little Bean's natural sleep-time. I love the inflight entertainment system with movies, TV shows and games. You can even play games against other passengers. A great feature for siblings travelling together. Flying is one of the rare times that I get to see a current movie, as I haven't been to the cinema since Little Bean was born.

Now that LB can walk next to me and hold my hand, I got this cute monkey backpack - baby harness combo. I wish I had practised with it before we travelled because he keeps trying to run off and sometimes falls when he reaches the end of the lead. We'll be practising a lot before our return trip. It will make all those customs checkpoints much easier if I know he won't be running off. I bought the harness in a pack with a neck pillow and safety mirror from Target in Australia. It was only $17. Bargain!

For the plane ride, I made up a special Discovery Basket to keep him amused. It included a numbers board book, two Mr Men paper books, a couple of teething toys, a toy phone, a wooden car, an X-Box controller and a face cloth for playing peek-a-boo.

Little Bean found the X-Box controller when he was rummaging through some drawers last week. He's never seen anyone play video games, so he has no idea of its intended use. He's just fascinated with the various button and toggles. It was a big hit during the plane ride. He has recently started to play pretend phones with us. I have lost count of the number of fake phone calls he's had me make in the past two weeks. 

The basket was a great way to store everything. It fit perfectly on the seat between his legs so his toys didn't get spread all over the place. It also made it easy for him to carry around and kept his little hands occupied at customs checkpoints.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

This week's discovery basket

This week's basket is all about interesting textures. I chose items that were smooth and shiny, smooth and dull, and varying degrees of roughness.

The basket contains two smooth shells, an engraved shell, a slightly rough wooden pestle, a wire sieve, a plastic juicer, a rainbow shower pouf, a plastic scrubbing brush, a bamboo placemat and a drink coaster made from carpet.