Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mid-Week Mom Tip - Sun-upcycled Crayons

I love crafts with children and love them even more if they are easy and frugal.  This post by MaryAnne at Mama Smiles fits every requirement:
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Making Friends Monday

Are you looking for new friends around the blogosphere? Check out Making Friends Monday!

The rules are simple!
1. Follow the Making Friends Monday hosts (Listed as # 1-5) as well as the Spotlight Blog of the Week (listed as #6)--they WILL follow you back!
2. Link up the Making Friends Monday post on your blog.
3. Grab the Making Friends Monday button, and include it somewhere on your blog-this can include a simple post.
4. Visit as many blogs as you would like, and follow them. Be sure to tell them you are a new follower from Making Friends Monday!
5. Follow back as many bloggers as you would like from Making Friends Monday. Following your new friends back is appreciated!
Help spread the word and get more followers:
-Put the same linky list code on your blog, and you'll have the exact same list!
- Your blog visitors can add their blog to your list, and it will show up on all lists!

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My Baby Can Read?

When Little M's parents told me they had ordered the "My Baby Can Read" program (of late-night infomercial fame) for him at 15 months old, my first thought was, "how about my baby can talk first?" Although he had mastered the word "more" at 10 months old, his speech was so slow in progressing that five months later, all he had added to his repertoire was "nan-nan," which he called me.

When the box of videos, books, and flashcards arrived I agreed to work with M each day using the program only because they are the parents and I am the nanny. It's my job to carry out their wishes, but I had little faith in seeing results. I've completed enough child development and early literacy courses to have it drilled into my head that flash cards in early education are a big no-no and have been for over 20 years!

Somewhat Sketchy:

The instruction booklet for the program suggests moving on to each new DVD and accompanying book once your child has mastered the first set of words. Buried in small print midway through the instruction book is the fact that this mastery will "usually occur between the ages of 4 and 5." Hmmm...this is around the average age that children normally start to recognize letters and environmental print (ie. street signs and logos). Sounds like the title of the program should really be, "My Preschooler Can Read," which I guess is not as impressive as babies learning to read.

I don't know how much M's parents paid for this program, but I don't think it was cheap. Dr. Tinzer, who supposedly developed this program for his own children, comes across a little bit like a used car salesman.Dr. Tinzer insists that your child watch his videos three times a day while minimizing all other television viewing.


A month later, Little M was indeed saying some of the words on the flash cards. Some of the words were easy, like hi and car, but recognizing words like wave, smile, bucket, and tiger was a little more impressive. Hmmm, maybe there was something to this program after all.


5 DVD's that progress from Starter to Review stages, each introducing new words

5 matching books that correspond with the words on the DVD's. The books are large flapbooks, which are interesting to children. Words appear first and the photo appears under the flap.

Word cards - large flashcards with words on each side - no photos

Sliding word cards - A word appears on each side of these heavy cardboard cards which pull apart to reveal a corresponding photo. M has fun pulling these apart, but doesn't have the dexterity to slide them back together, which makes the thinner middle card bend, crease, and almost tear.

Big Board book with sliding panels - M enjoys this book the most.  Little sliding word windows can be pushed back and forth to reveal a picture underneath.

What makes the difference in this reading program?

Dr. Tinzer believes that his program is different because children are not just passively watching television, but are interacting with the words and actions on the screen. He suggests that parents mimic the actions on the screen and repeat the words.  For example, if the video shows a baby clapping and says the word clapping, parents are supposed to clap and repeat the word. Although this might sound effective in theory, have you ever tried to join in and get someone's attention while they are watching television? Their annoyance with you aside, wouldn't the viewer miss the important information that is supposedly being transmitted? 

The only difference:

The only way that this program differs from other videos or books is that the written word is a prominent part of the program. It is a fact that children learn to talk by hearing adults talk, having conversations, and listening to story books.  It does makes sense that if children observe a large word in conjunction with hearing the  spoken word, that he may learn to recognize the word when he sees it.

This is one component that is not discussed in early childhood education. Most experts would say that this is not developmentally appropriate and considered pushing the child to learn a skill before he is truly ready. I agree with much of this belief, however, I have noticed that this is the ONLY visible difference in this program from any of the usual ways parents and educators have approached language skills.

Can Little M Read?

Little M has shown that he can "read" or recognize about 50 percent of the words written on the word cards in this kit. Within three months his parents showed him all five tapes and all the books and cards, which rushed the process a bit.

I have not pointed to words in our favorite books to see if M can "read" them, however, if he was actually learning to read, maybe he would point them out to me if he saw a familiar one.

Flashcards can be a chore:

In fact, this is the one reason why many early childhood educators are against using them. Flashcards are like quizzing a child, and soon they tire of the game and don't want to play anymore. As M's parents became more excited about his emerging word recognition, they began to flash the word cards whenever they were together, and soon M didn't want anything to do with any of the program components, including the videos.

Did this program teach M to read?

I believe that this program introduced words to M in a way (mostly visually) that his parents and I would never have tried if not being introduced to this program.

What were M's abilities before beginning this program?

Some background on M is important because they may have influenced his abilities to learn through this program.

M rarely watched television or electronic media before watching these DVD's. Since his birth, his parents have insisted that he not watch television during our days together.  I saw M develop an amazing attention span for getting involved in his own activities from a very young age. He does not need to be entertained.

M loves books. We have been reading to him daily since he was 2 months old. His favorite early books were ABC's and a Counting Book. He loves rhyming books and musical nursery rhymes. He has a package of foam letters and numbers that his mother received at her baby shower. He liked to chew on them as an infant, but over time his Daddy taught him the names of the letters and numbers.

Before starting the Baby Can Read program, M already knew 10 foam letters by sight and all 9 numbers. He played with them by himself, and I would often hear him say aloud to himself --  A, E, O, as well as the numbers. His number recognition transferred to him being able to read the numbers on a stack of cardboard blocks, which I found pretty impressive by 15 months.

In my opinion, M was ripe for the Baby Can Read program. He already enjoyed and recognized some letters and numbers. Visual learning may be one of his personal strengths.  Since he never watched TV, the 20-minute videos of simple actions paired with a word appearing on the screen were fascinating to him. Would he have enjoyed them if he was already watching Sesame Street, Dora, or Bob the Builder? I can't say for sure.

Should you get the Baby Can Read program?

If you could borrow it from a library or found it inexpensively somewhere else, the books would probably be enjoyable to most children because of their flaps and sliding panels.

However, since the only thing I find unique about this program is the visual depiction of words, you could accomplish this at home by yourself.

A simple sheet of construction paper folded in half with a single, large word on the front and a magazine picture cut-out on the inside might have the same appeal.

Your opinion?

I would love to hear from anyone who has had experiences with this program and hear your thoughts! Did it work for your child? What do you think was the effective component?
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Fun with Magnets

I felt honored to be asked to contribute a guest post to Melitsa's blog, Play Activities.

This terrific site has tons of learning activities and ideas for children -- check it out:     Fun with Magnets at Play Activities
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mid-week Mom Tip - Removing Permanent Marker

Try This Tuesday - Removing Permanent Marker is a post from The Little Book Nook, a blog I just hopped over to this week!

Perfect tip for anyone with young artists running around!  Thanks to the Little Book Nook!
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Saturday, July 17, 2010

The 1-2-3 Warning

The 1-2-3 warning is a handy strategy for parents in the early childhood years.  Toddlers are on their own time, and sometimes we adults can't always wait until they are ready. There are times when we have to do something "now."  This is especially true of those times you need to get children into the car for daycare,  preschool, or a family event.

Toddlers hate to stop what they are doing and want to be in control of themselves. By plucking a child away from something interesting without warning, a major outburst might erupt. Transitions are more difficult for some children then others, so a warning of sorts is helpful.

I started using the 1-2-3 warning with Little M when he was about 18 months old because he was never in a rush to have his poopy diapers changed. Whenever I suggested it was time for a change, M would stare at me blankly or inch further away. Not wanting to force my will on him, I announced that I would count to three, and it would be time to change his diaper.  I told him that he could walk with me or I would help him by picking him up and carrying him.  The 1-2-3 warning served a few purposes: 

1.  It got his attention
2.  It let him know that a transition would soon occur
3.  It offered him a choice of two actions

So, this is how it went:

"It's time to change your diaper M."

Blank stare

"Okay, Nan's going to count to three and then it will be time to change your diaper.  One, two, three.  It's time!  Would you like to walk with me (reaching out my hand) or do you need me to pick you up and help you?"

Blank stare

"Okay, I'll help you." (as I picked him up and carried him off)

The first few times M was NOT HAPPY to leave his toys, but soon the 1-2-3 warning worked its magic. It signals a predictable routine, which children really thrive on.  It also preserved his dignity and helped control his emotions by offering him a choice of two actions. I wasn't just picking him up out of the blue without warning.

The 1-2-3 warning has been extended to our playground outings, which can be prime tantrum time. Toddlers hate to leave all the fun, even if they are almost dropping from exhaustion.  After my usual warning that it will soon be time to get in the car and head home for a rest, I begin the 1-2-3 warning and countdown.  Usually M just stands there while I pick him up with no fuss. Sometimes he surprises me by reaching for my hand to walk with me.

Even though I started the 1-2-3 warning before M could fully grasp the concept, it was the beginning of a new routine that will carry him and his parents through many years. I was still using the 1-2-3 warning when my own daughter was 11 years old!  The consequence/choice changes (obviously no more picking the child up), but it works just as well as a motivator for older children to start their homework or clean up their bedrooms as it does for small children.

Anyone else have success with this or other warning strategies?

Photo Credit:  istock photos 
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Follow: Building Friendships One Blog at a Time – July 16th


Welcome to the 8th Friday Follow hosted by our awesome hostesses, Heather & Jessica from Saving Money and Living Life, Tami from Hearts Make Families, Harriet from Harriet and Friends, and Ian from The Daily Dose of Reality. Thank you everyone for being willing to host! Please stop by and see these awesome host/hostesses.

We invite you to join us every Friday to get more blog followers and to find many interesting blogs that you like. This is all about sharing and having fun.
We expect you to be on your honor and to have fun. These are only guidelines to make it more enjoyable for you. Here’s how YOU can join the Friday Follow celebration:
  • Link up your blog below.. One Link per blog
  • Grab our Friday Follow button include this post.. grab the linky information if you want it
  • Follow the Friday-Follow blog and the hostesses in slots 1, 2, & 3 that have volunteered today to host
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If you need more guidelines about following see
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Congratulations to our Three Friday Follow Winners!!!

#8 – My Three Bubs
#9 – Toddler Awesome

Each week we will randomly draw from three (3) blogs from the links for the next week’s Friday Follow, and each blog chosen will be placed in the highly coveted number #7, #8, and #9 position on the blog hop. The first blog chosen will also be given the option of doing an interview which will post on on Thursday the next week. We love your participation and want to give back to you! You could be next!

Today’s Friday-Follow is sponsored by The Twinners Reviews & Giveaways.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mid-Week DAD Tip - Walnut Boats

Creative Dad Blog Alert!  I'll never lose my affection for frugal kid crafts and love finding new sources of inspiration -- hopefully you do too!   Made by Joel approaches arts and crafts from a Dad's (and artist's) perspective. 

Walnut boats is only one of the fun projects found at Made by Joel.  Although there are many more, another post that quickly caught my eye was Cereal Box Marble Run

Thanks again to Money Saving Mom who posted a link to download Joel's Free Paper City -- another great activity that led me straight to Joel's blog.  Check it out -- hope you like it as much as I do!
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Children's Reading Circle at Partners Village Store in Westport, MA

Little M and Nanny Rating:   * * * (out of 4)

Today Little M and I went to the first summer reading circle at Partners Village Store in Westport, MA; pictured above.  Partner's combines the quintessential coastal New England gift store filled with quality nautical and seashore home accents; books; toys; candy and gifts with an attached "kitchen" offering fresh sandwiches; beverages; and baked goods to eat in or to go.  Their online store does not do justice to all the wonderful items tucked into every nook and cranny of this location.

The free story program is held almost year round with a short break in June.  During the cooler months, the reading circle is held indoors.  Miss Joan; a kind, grandmotherly woman, shares stories; a craft; and snack of fresh-baked cookies and apple juice. 

Today, we sat outside on the spacious side porch in the warm breeze while Miss Joan read stories about the beach.  The sugar cookies were frosted to resemble beach balls, and the craft consisted of gluing colored sand to pretty ocean blue shades of paper.  Five sea creature stickers were passed out to each child, along with crayons to complete their masterpieces.

Little M (at 26 months) is a little young for the types of crafts offered, but he does enjoy the stories and snack!  At our previous visit indoors in June, there were many children around M's age as there are no age limits given, but I think children at least three years and up would enjoy it best.

The indoor version especially requires the self-control of older preschoolers, as the group gathers in the toy section of the gift store and spills out into other areas -- all which contain shelves of too many small, interesting (and sometimes breakable) items.  Luckily M was very cautious the first time we visited and did not start to explore until the end.  I'm glad they have moved outside for the summer -- no temptations!

What:  Children's Reading Circle

When:  Every Thursday from 10:30 - 11:30 AM  (3-week break late June/early July)


865 Main Road
Westport, MA

Ages:  All welcome; although best suited for children at least three years old and up.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mid-Week Mom Tip - Popsicle Stick Puzzles

I stumbled upon Chelsea's blog, Fantastic Find, while blog hopping and found her fun and simple kid craft for

Popsicle Stick Puzzles 

Chelsea's blog is full of frugal, fun ideas for children, so you're sure to find something new to try.  Another favorite post highlights link from about More Fun with Big Boxes -- always a hit with small children! 


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