Thursday, August 10, 2017

Daily Schedule Picture Chart

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A daily schedule is essential to our days. Everyone doing whatever desired whenever desired is a sure recipe for disaster. Behaviors will become less than desirable. The house can be a complete mess in mere minutes. I simply can't keep up with everyone and everything singlehandedly. In the end, we're actually not enjoying each other or our home without some direction.

     I've long utilized a schedule and routines for our days. I have a copy taped to the side of our refrigerator (which tends to serve as a "command center"). However, I began to realize that I'm the only one able to follow it as I am the only one able to read! In order for a daily schedule to be effective, all individuals need to participate. For my children, that meant that I needed to offer them a version that was better suited for them. 


     I looked at various options online, but was not satisfied. I wanted a picture chart that was relevant to us and our day specifically. So, I decided to create my own!

     I began by taking photos of each element in our day. (Yep, there's even an image of a potty. haha). I then formatted the photos by combining some, adding a caption space, and labeling each image with the task(s). I printed them at a nearby 1 hour photo service (they probably wondered why someone was having photos of a potty printed! haha). I ended up with ten images to show our mornings, five for the afternoons, and five for the evenings. 

     I used colored poster board cut down to fit around each part of our day. So, the morning is yellow, afternoon is blue, and evening is gray. This is a nice visual of the various parts of the day and the tasks therein. 

     Each photo is attached with photo corners. This allows me to insert new photos or move photos around when we might need to modify the schedule. For instance, in the summers I move our card for "outside playtime" to the earliest part of our morning so that we can better avoid the sweltering heat. In the winter, however, I will move that card to as late in the morning as possible to allow the temperatures to warm up a bit before going out. I believe schedules should create structure, but that structure be a little flexible.


     The way I have our day organized allows me to easily move elements around as needed. I purposely created the two halves of our day to repeat. This helps us come to know exactly what comes next. For instance, a general flow includes: wake & get ready, eat & story, school time/ room time, cleaning time, outside time, wash hands & meal etc. I'm more focused on the order of events than I am the timing. With a baby, there are many times in the day in which I must stop to feed or get the little guy to sleep. We do what we need to do during those moments, and then pick up where we left off on our schedule.I've shared our current schedule in this post: "Daily Homemaking Schedule (3yr. old, 2 yr. old, 3 mo. old)"

    Below each photo are two Velcro dots. Each child has a painted clothespin with Velcro on the back. As we go about our day we move the clips from one place to the next using the Velcro dots. This has been a wonderful way to keep up with where we are and involve them in us all moving along in the day.


     So far, we are loving the new visual chart! The children enjoy looking at the photos and moving their clips. It's been a big motivator for staying on task (especially for Mama!). Whenever we encounter a struggle for what needs to be accomplished next, we can direct them to the chart and they will usually comply. I imagine to the young child it's a difference in being told what to do all the time and getting to see and have a part in what needs to be done. 






Thursday, August 3, 2017

July 2017 In Our Home


We spent this particular morning outside pretending to ride on a train drawn in chalk. 
  The biggest event for our family in July was my father being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It was a rather emotionally conflicting time for me personally as my relationship with my family isn't exceptionally close. Family relationships are always a delicate matter. This situation opens up a new aspect to navigating those relationships. Fortunately, his prognosis is good. He will undergo chemotherapy, radiation and surgery for the next couple of months. David and I have discussed traveling back to visit sooner than our typical annual summer trip. However, we won't all be able to make a trip of that size for a second time in the year so it will probably be just the baby and I. It will be the first trip I've ever made by myself, but it's important and if it's important then you find a way. Prayer has been my companion through this.

    Another big event this month for our family has been an increase in David's work schedule. That has meant a lot more time as just the children and I. I'm getting a lot of practice in managing everyone and everything on my own. Honestly, it's been quite a challenge. It's hard to be apart so much and still aim for a close-knit family. The children have the hardest time with his work schedule though. We've had some pretty epic meltdown moments. It just breaks my heart as I'm reminded of my own childhood.

     These situations feel significant, but are merely hills we must climb. They are not insurmountable by any means. I can be grateful my father's cancer is localized and he is expected to make a full recovery. I can be grateful my husband has a steady job that provides for us. I can be grateful that I have the opportunity to spend so much time with my children.

      One resource that has really helped me along this past month has been the writings of Sally Clarkson. Sally Clarkson is one of my favorite authors/speakers. She writes and speaks extensively on motherhood, the home, and the family. I love how she encourages idealism and excellence, two ambitions which aren't always exalted in society but are fitting to my personality. She demonstrates a life lived in following Christ. Her books, blog posts and podcasts have been such strong motivators and encouragements to me. If you have not read or listened to her materials, then I highly recommend doing so.

     In regards to the children, they seem to have grown by leaps and bound lately!  We have long been working with Tennyson on how to properly respond when he's upset. If he react towards someone, then we have him say he's sorry and give him/her a hug (or otherwise make it right). Finally, those lessons seem to be clicking! Now, he catches himself making a poor choice in behavior and immediately follows up with the apology and hug. You can see that he genuinely slipped up and knew it. Interesting to look back and see how much behavior was genuinely due to immaturity from such a young age. First child teaches mama a whole lot in parenting! I've also noticed growth in his pretend play. It is so fun to enter his world and play along with him. He's also grown in size, or rather height. Every bit of size he gets goes straight towards height. He's now up to my waist! He's quite the long-legged boy. 





3 1/2 years old!
He got to "meet" his favorite book character- Backhoe Joe*!

    Tennyson and Huxley continue to be best buds. Tennyson loves to play with Huxley and make him laugh. That's not a difficult task as Mr. Huxley is such a happy little guy. He grins and laugh readily! He also happily plays when he wakes, even all through the night! With the effort of cutting more teeth, nighttime sleep has returned to being rather fitful. His front teeth gave him quite a bit of trouble coming through. Now that they're through (teeth count at 4 currently), it appears as though he'll soon be cutting four more very soon. Phew! He's nearly 20lbs and wears 9 month clothes. He's practicing getting up on his knees and working on crawling every chance he gets. 
5 months old! He's the happiest little guy!



      Miss Annelise is quite the busy little girl! It seems like the house can never be cleaned enough and things put up high enough. She can be quite a mischievous one! But yet she also makes for the cutest little toddler! Her speech is growing by leaps and bounds. That is, in large part, to her desire to copy big brother's every move and word. She follows him and mimics his every action. It's rather adorable, and fortunately Tennyson doesn't seem to mind at all. (This is also very helpful to me when we're out somewhere like a play area because I know they'll stick together). She's gotten into a habit of sneaking into our room in the middle of the night. It's not an ideal situation (but we're often too tired to resist. hah), but I must admit that she's pretty cute tip-toeing down the hallway. 
2 years old and all spunk!

Books We're Reading:
   I ordinarily like to purchase a new book for each of the children each month. However, I purchased a huge box of used books back in June, and so we have plenty to keep us busy currently. We also check out fourteen books from the library for read-aloud/snack time. A complete list of books we've read can be found on our online Bookshelves. A few in particular this month:

Me:
Children:
  • (Read to Tennyson) Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne*
    • I wasn't sure how well he'd enjoy this particular type of book. To my delight, he seems to enjoy it! He'll ask for it at bedtime or during outside playtime (two of my favorite times for reading aloud). I checked out a copy from the library, but I'm fairly certain I'll be purchasing it for our bookshelves so that we might enjoy it again and again!
    I'm going to try to begin blogging more often. Honestly, I miss it! I miss getting to reconnect and reaffirm what we do and why. Most importantly, I miss the main aspect which is that these posts serve as the pages in our story. I love having that storybook of our lives together. I also enjoy connecting with those of you who continue to read this blog page. If you are on Instagram, then follow me there for daily posts. I've tried Facebook Live videos but then end up second guessing myself (..."I looked silly," "that was so disorganized no one will makes sense of it," "did that even accomplish anything productive?" ..you get the picture). Funny how one of my reasons for beginning to do videos was to encourage confidence! Clearly, that still needs some work. Perhaps next month I can attempt a video again. I do intend to have more weekly posts on the blog in the following month (August)! 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Raising Children Without a Playroom

   
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      A parenting trend has emerged within my generation- the playroom. It would appear that to parent in this day and age a playroom for children within the home is a necessity. I get it. The children have a little world of their own in which their imaginations can develop. Toys and play have a centralized location which limits the mess spread through the entire house. Also, Mama can have the opportunity to accomplish her desires or simply gain a little space from the demands of little ones (because at the youngest ages everything is a demand and immediately needed). Truly, I get it. I've seen it many times over. (And wondered if we're still the only ones functioning without one!). However, these rooms can also be rather disadvantageous. For some of us, a playroom simply isn't available or desirable. In those cases there must be alternatives for play areas and toy storage. After all, generations past have successfully raised children without a room full of toys or space specifically for the child(ren). How did they do it? I don't know precisely their methods, but I can share our approach to raising children without a playroom.


*Note: This post is not intended to be in condemnation of the playroom. On the contrary, it is to simply demonstrate strategies for raising children without a playroom. We've now raised our children in two locations, and have encountered a playroom-less home to be a rarity. When seeking ideas and strategies for managing the children's day without such a resource, I've found very few. Therefore, I hope the following will be helpful for anyone in a similar position. These are ideas that I have sought out, implemented, and have worked well for our family. 


      For the first two years of our parenting journey, we lived in a small townhome. The two bedroom, tightly-configured space didn't leave any options for a play area. This home, however, provided inspiration to find alternatives for toy storage and play. For instance, we kept all toys in a hall closet upstairs. (It was previously a linen closet, but after some shifting of items to other locations of our home it provided a perfect space to store toys!). We would select a few toys to bring downstairs and stored them in a large basket that fit within our entertainment unit. Periodically, I would rotate the toys available in that basket. The children came to know this system as the only means for toys and play, and were perfectly content! When we would visit places with playrooms abounding with toy options, it was evident that they were intrigued but highly overwhelmed. (And, honestly, the sheer volume of mess overwhelmed me!). It can be difficult to fully explore an individual toy, learn to take proper care of the item or space, and be calm and content in such an environment. This, at least, has been our experience. 
The toy closet


Top shelves
Bottom shelves
   We've maintained this approach to toys and play. Though we have purchased and moved into our own home now, which is more spacious and even has an "extra" room in the form of a formal dining room, we have chosen to not create a playroom. (We chose to create an office/school room/guest room instead). We still have the same approach of storing toys in a hall closet. The children ask or I select a few bins for play. Once that playtime is done, we put the toys back in the bins and back in the closet. We do have a few toys elsewhere in our new home, but those are very purposeful in placement.

     Each child has a wooden crate in their bedroom. The crate houses just a few of their favorite toys or some of the more gender-specific toys. They are welcome to play with those items anytime they are in their bedrooms but not sleeping. The limited quantity allows the clean-up to be quick and manageable for little ones. 
Annelise's crate in her bedroom


     We also have a few educational toys in our office/school room, which we use as part of our "tot school" and "tiny tot school" curriculum.
Bins in the school room 
    The children may play neatly in any room, but often play in the living room as it is larger and central in our home. Within that room, we have a pack n' play and play yard set up. Unless it's specifically playpen time in our daily schedule (typically while I'm nursing the baby), the play yard is left open for the children to enter and play at will. Toys are required to stay in that area instead of being carried and left all over the living room floor. 

Play yard in the living room

      Of course, outside is also a wonderful option for a play area! We love to get outside as much as possible. Fortunately, where we live it's warm enough to play outside most days of the year. We store outside activities and toys in a similar fashion in bins within our shed. 
The dirt pit!
Activities and toy storage in the shed
      Yes, being without a playroom does take a lot of hands-on attention and guidance from Mama. My children are very activities-driven versus toy-driven. It's been a conscious decision on my part to learn to be "all in" in my parenting in this season. There will come a time in which the children will need less hands-on and less guidance. Learning to play well with their toys and in their space is a benefit of our approach. I'm sure there are other approaches that achieve the same goal. This has been ours, and it has been wonderful for us. 

*Note: I apologize if the formatting of this post is off. Our computer is still struggling to function properly. :(


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Blogging Break

    I will be taking a brief blogging break while our computer is being repaired. I will still be updating other pages:

Facebook page -www.facebook.com/ourhomemakingstory

Pinterest boards- www.pinterest.com/homemakingstory

Instagram page- www.instagram.com/ourhomemakingstory (send private message to follow).

Saturday, June 10, 2017

May 2017 In Our Home




Blogging
     Clearly, blogging has not happened this month. I really wish I could post more but I simply don't have the time. I stay so busy during the day caring for the children and our home. My time for other pursuits is even more limited when David travels for work as much as he has this month. I'm not yet totally giving it up because this little space means so much to me and I so thoroughly enjoy the memories recorded. However, posting may continue to be very sporadic. Instagram and the Facebook page have become more preferable as they do not require quite as much time as writing full blog posts. Perhaps when all three children nap well during the day I can pick it up again. I do miss it, and greatly appreciate everyone who continues to follow!


Breastfeeding
     At the beginning of last month I was ready to move on from breastfeeding. Little Huxley and I were continuing to experience lots of problems from the oversupply and fast/forceful letdown situation. I decided to give myself a break by simply pumping and bottle feeding for a while. Unfortunately, since a pump doesn't empty as well as a baby and I make so much milk I ended up with a bad case of mastitis within a few days. It was by far the worst case I've had yet with it, and having to continue as normal in caring for the home and children didn't help matters. A couple of days and multiple cabbage leaves (crazy remedy, but it works!) later, I finally got it to clear up. (phew!). 
     After that experience, I returned to breastfeeding and I think we'll be pushing through just a little while longer. I don't want to experience that again! So, despite some continued problems we've pressed on. And, somewhere along the way I fell in love with breastfeeding. It's always been so problematic for me with the oversupply issues that it's always been more of a pragmatic matter. However, this time is different. Perhaps it's the effect of not knowing if this will be our last baby and my last time to feed a baby myself. Whatever the case, I'm now delighting in holding him close and loving on him in a way that only I can at this moment. 

Traveling Days & Parenting Solo
     This month was a very busy time for David traveling. He was gone one week to PA, then home a week, then gone a week to CO, then home a week. To say I was nervous about having full-time care of the home and children while he was gone is an understatement. Three children three years old and under all day everyday is no small feat. The week flying solo started out a bit rough as we had a plumbing problem and an adjustment for the children, but by the end of the week we were making it through just fine. I learned a few valuable lessons during these times: 
     1. I'm stronger and more capable than I knew
     2. It's okay to cut myself some slack (paper plates and semi-homemade meals are just 
         fine!)
     3. Prioritizing and letting go of nonessentials is a must. (So what if we don't do and go
          like some other families?!)
     4. I can keep my cool to be calm and joyful in any situation, even tantrums
     5. I can get by on very little sleep (hello, night time "napping." It's not pretty but I made it)

Tennyson
      Tennyson is in the middle of that "big emotions" time in life. I think I'm learning how to handle things just as much as he is! One thing I know for certain is that the more upset I get the more upset he gets. If I can remain calm and compassionate, then he can heed the lesson much better. Disappointment/disapproval from me and/or strong disciple are not effective at all with him. He's a sensitive soul and internalizes things so easily. It's a quality I'm needing to learn more about so that I can reach and encourage him to thrive in his own way.
    On another note, I've observed a characteristic of Tennyson's learning style. He does not cooperate with Q & A. Casually reveals knowledge within conversation. It's really remarkable how much he knows (and how much has come from books!)! I think a literature-based homeschool approach will be very well suited for him in the future. 

Annelise
23 months old!
     We continue to have bouts of frustration due to an inability to communicate clearly. She's has many words that she uses, but there are still many, many more that she has retained but doesn't yet have the ability to articulate clearly. I've been spending more time reading to her when she wakes up before everyone else in the mornings or naptimes. I've also been spending some time with her word book by having her repeat the words after me. I've considered flashcards, but haven't purchased them yet. If it weren't for her frustration, I wouldn't push such as this. However, she clearly has the desire to communicate to a greater extent but needs practice in articulation. (I'm open to suggestions for encouraging language development!)
   One big moment for her this month was getting a big girl bed! She has really enjoyed the extra freedom and is much calmer when she wakes. However, this has also meant that keeping her in bed has been a bit of a challenge. haha

Huxley
3 months old!
     Huxley is by far the easiest baby yet. As long as his belly isn't upset, he's such a content little guy. He doesn't mind playing in the swing, on his floor mat, in the bouncy seat etc. He indicates clearly when he's hungry or tired. I can often simply walk around while holding him and he will fall asleep. Speaking of sleep- this. child. actually. sleeps! He's our first to do so! (Our older two still don't sleep through the night for one reason or another). He still wakes up once or twice to eat. However, that one time at night may be at 5am. He's such the easy baby that it's hard not to want another baby! haha


Now that I've had multiple children, I'm more convinced that some things are more personality than training. Two have been poor sleepers and one..well, decent sleeper. Two have been belly sleepers and one is a back sleeper. Two have not taken a pacifier whatsoever and one absolutely loves it. So far, one is a picky eater and one eats everything offered. Two are of a calm personality and one is spirited. 

School time
Colored water exploration bin to go
 with our tot school unit that features
 the color yellow
   Sometimes I wonder if we should be accomplishing more in our school time. After all, Tennyson is three and most children his age are already enrolled in a formal preschool. It's tempting to fear he being "behind" his peers. But then, I go back to our reasonings for spending our days together as a family and homeschooling in the future, and I am confident in our decisions for the direction for our family. It brings me great joy, in fact. So, I push aside the comparison trap and delight in where we are presently. I feel like this is a completely appropriate time in life to just play and read stories together. If the children want to go outside instead of having school time, then outside it is! If we need to spend some time focusing on learning and practicing correct responses and properly handling those toddler "big emotions", then that's what we do. There are many areas of learning to focus on at this point beyond academics. It's not like we don't do anything academic. We still have our tiny tot curriculum and tot school curriculum, from which we complete an activity each day. We still accomplish learning, but it might just look different from a public school approach. (But the freedom and flexibility of choice one benefit of homeschooling?). The point is- know why you do what you do and then confidently and joyfully pursue it. Don't compare. Walk your own path!

New Books We're Enjoying This Month:
     I like to purchase at least one new book for each of us each month. For an additional look into the books we've enjoyed in our home, click the "Bookshelves" tab at the top of the page and then follow the links to our various online bookshelves. 

  • Me:
  • Tennyson
    • *Amazing Airplanes by Tony Mitton
      • We have *Amazing Trains as a part of our tot school curriculum. Tennyson really enjoys this book and has become quite good at naming all the trains and train parts. This book is part of a series and I thought the airplane book in the series would be a good addition. It would also help excite and prepare the children for our upcoming plane rides. 
  • Annelise:
    • *Five Little Ducks by Annie Kubler
      • This book is the fun little song in book form. Annelise really enjoys songs and their motions. Always fun when she can sit and sing the song as she flips through the pages. 
  • Huxley:
    • *Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
      • This was the first book we got when Tennyson was a baby. We read it almost daily during his first year. Unfortunately, it didn't make it in our move to TX. I thought it only appropriate to purchase another copy of the book for the younger two children to enjoy as well. 
Note: The "*" indicates the inclusion of an affiliate link. I am personally an affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a compensation for purchases made through the links. (Thank you!)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Daily Homemaking Schedule (3 yr. old, 2 yr. old, 3 mo. old)

   
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   I recently reworked our daily schedule a bit to meet our needs a little better. I wanted to improve it in two main ways- order of activities and one-on-one time.

     First, I created our mornings and afternoons to be the same routines but different tasks. That routine includes: getting ready, eating (plus a story read), housework, activities with the children, one-on-one time, and outside playtime. By limiting things to these main areas, the schedule and day is simplified a bit. Also, the repetition will be much easier for all of us to know what comes next in the day and transition more smoothly. 

     The second change I made was to incorporate much more one-on-one time. With three children three years old and under now, I'm finding much of the misbehavior to stem from a desire for greater attention. Their attitudes and behaviors improve quite a bit when they've been able to have either mine or David's undivided attention. This can be difficult to do in a day though. But, if I plan for it then it's more likely to happen. So, I've paired one-on-one time with time for independent play in the bedrooms. While I'm spending a little time with one child, the other one can be playing alone in a bedroom. We've yet to be successful with independent play, but we're going to really work on it because I know we're all at a point of needing some space (ie independent play) and one-on-one time. I have it scheduled twice a day so that we have ample opportunity to be together and it maintains the repetitive nature of the morning and afternoon routines. 

     Below is a copy of our current daily schedule. (Click the images to view larger).  


Notes:

  • "Tiny Tot School" refers to activities designed for Annelise's age (1-2 yrs old). This isn't a formal academic curriculum but more so just simple activities. For instance, this week we sang "I'm a Little Teapot," learned the sign for "no," read Llama, llama Red Pajama, stacked blocks and played "cushion crawl" (simply acting silly crawling over and around big cushions/pillows in the floor). 

  • "Tot School" refers to activities for Tennyson's age (2-3 yrs. old). We use the "All Aboard the Animal Train" curriculum from My Father's World. Again, this isn't a strict, formal academic curriculum but just simple activities. For example, this week we sang a song and played a corresponding game, read a story, sang "This Little Light of Mine" with the hand motions, worked on a puzzle, and then ended the week with a yellow water exploration bin outside. 

  • "Morning Jobs" refers to helping to unloading the dishwasher and to helping move laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. Both children are able to do these tasks. My desire is for them to begin to have a role in maintaining our home each day. 

  • "Personal interest" during naptime- If I don't designate or schedule such as this then it likely won't happen! It also likely won't happen if a little one takes a while to go to sleep or wakes early from sleep. I've learned to hold this time very loosely. Sometimes I get the opportunity, and sometimes I don't (okay, most of the time I don't but that's just the way it goes!). 

  • "Afternoon cleaning"- For me, the housework is manageable if I work on a little bit each day. So, I aim to have two rooms tidied and one deeper cleaning task completed each week. I haven't had the children join me in this effort just yet, but I'm going to try to begin incorporating them by assigning them one simple task as I work (such as picking up blocks if that particular room has toys strewn about). We may be successful in them helping, but we may not. They will at least witness that tidying up is a normal part of the day. haha

  • Anything else?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Home Tour: Backyard

    
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      One really nice aspect of home ownership is the ability to personalize the house or property. Being somewhat 'all or nothing' kind of people, we decided to tackle one room or area each year. We create a plan for the space, save up the funds, and then complete the project in it's entirety. 

      Last summer when we moved into the house, we promptly began converting the existing formal dining room into a school/office/guest room. We knew we would need this particular space to be set up and functional before any of the other areas of the house. This room has been so nice to have! All our books are stored there in the large bookshelf (that's not entirely true, we have books all over the house! haha), our desk is in there and easily accessible, and our guests have used the room during their stays. I certainly will always want a space like this in future homes!


     This year's home project has been our backyard. I love spending time outside. Depending on the heat, I like for the children and I to be able to spend some time outside each morning and afternoon. I also thoroughly enjoy sitting on the patio talking to my husband. I think being outside when the weather is nice is far more preferable than sitting inside all the time! Fresh air is good for the soul, right? Right!


     So, since we spend so much time outside we wanted to spruce it up a bit. David and I both enjoy gardening. We've attempted a container garden outside our apartments every year we've been married. We talked and dreamed quite a bit about the garden beds we would create since we purchased the house! We created three garden beds in our backyard:


1) Herb Garden
     The border bricks were originally lining the side fence in a similar fashion. That garden bed, however, had long been neglected. We relocated the pavers to the side of the house and created an herb garden. In this garden we have: sweet mint, cinnamon basil, greek oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, fern-leaf dill, chives, chocolate mint, fennel, cilantro, mexican taragon, peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, grapefruit mint, pineapple sage, and stevia. In front of the herb plants are marigold plants. This bed will really be quite nice when it fills out fully. We will also have an abundance of fresh herbs to use now or dry to use later!       


2) Flower Garden
     This is one of my favorites! The border bricks were orginally just stacked beside the shed building. We wanted to create a garden in this particular garden bed for a couple of reasons. One, in considering the potential for snakes and the likelihood of them residing between the shed and fence, we wanted to block off access for the children. We didn't see any snakes last year, but have heard about snakes in Texas. I'd rather be cautious and not encounter one if at all possible, and I certainly don't want the children coming upon one while playing in that area. A second reason for this garden bed is to attempt to naturally repel mosquitoes. The mosquito population is greater here than anywhere else we've ever lived. Annelise and I are particularly tasty to them. So, within this bed are several mosquito-repellent plants. Hopefully, they will be helpful and we'll not fight with the mosquitoes quite as much this year! Beyond those reasons, I'm enjoying this garden bed for it's simply beauty. I really love the finished look!


3) Vegetable Garden
     This is the main focus of our gardening! David spent several weekends creating four 4x8ft. and one 4x4ft raised bed gardens. We then determined the vegetables we wanted to grow and created a plan according to the principles of square foot gardening. We were able to plant and grow a lot in these beds! We're excited to grow and preserve some of our own food! We're also delighted to be able to raise the children with an experience of where food comes from (beyond the store)!
The large beds line the fence to make the most use of our small backyard. 


brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, curly-leaf kale, red swiss chard, sweet potatoes


red onions, scallions, yellow onions, romain lettuce, lima beans, crook-neck squash, zucchini squash, corn, green beans


purple hull peas, zipper cream peas, okra, japanese eggplant, butternut squash


green bell pepper, red bell pepper, jalapeno, sweet banana pepper, grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bradley tomato (good for canning), red beefsteak tomatoes (good for slicing and eating), Cherokee purple tomatoes (good for slicing and eating), sweet basil, lime basil, purple basil, picking cucumbers, cucumbers (for slicing and eating)


cantaloupe


Strawberries
(The hangers were already on the fence. We thought we'd make use of them by growing strawberries in baskets. Plus, they should also attract some pollinators to the garden beds)
 Other Areas
The back patio:


Outside Activities/Toys Organization
     I cleared out half of the shed for use in storing the children's outside activities and toys. We can now easily choose activities and then put them back away. 
Activity/Toy bins include: gardening, chalk, bubbles, water, sand (shovels, molds etc), construction trucks, and sports (balls). Tools used in the exploration bins are stored within those bins. 


The gardening activity bin
   We would still like to add a screen door to the house. The grass will also need some attention as it did not come back as nice and full as it had been previously. Otherwise, we're finished with this home project. It took us a few months of work, but we are now thoroughly enjoying the result. It's such a nice space of our home now! Gardens are just happy places, don't you think? 

Monday, April 24, 2017

8 Non-toy Toys

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     Sometimes the best toys are non-toys. They're those bits of random objects around the house that can be repurposed for play. After all, don't you know that the best part of a new toy is the box?!

     The following is just a few of the activities I've created over the last few years. Some have been more successful than others. They have all been wonderful to offer the children when they need something new and/or interesting and interactive. 

1) Coin Drop
     This activity is made from a baby oatmeal container and milk jug caps. The bottom of the container is metal and makes a sound when the coins are dropped into it, which has added to the enjoyment. When noise isn't desired, though, I added a piece of felt to the inside. The children have played with this activity so much that the slit in the top is nearly worn out. 

      Also, this activity pairs well with a tot school unit on the book *Corduroy by Don Freeman. It's a safer alternative to using real coins for little ones. 

2) Jingle Bell Socks
     This activity has been great for our 0-1 year olds. It is made from a package of infant socks (0-6mo.) and small bells. I placed a single bell in one sock, two bells in another, and three in the third sock (that fourth sock walked away from me and I never found it!). I then sewed up the top of the sock, leaving the cuff intact. The cuff, actually, provides a great place for little hands to hold. Who needs fancy plastic rattles when you have socks?! haha!

3) Foam Bead Lacing
      The idea of this activity is to practice fine motor skills by lacing the pieces onto the string. It's made from a foam pool noodle and shoe string purchased from the dollar store. 

     This has been one of our least successful activities. First, the tip of the string was more difficult than expected for them to string through the beads. I think they would have been more successful if the end of the string wasn't so floppy. Or, simply wait until an older age than when I had introduced it to them. Second, if you notice there are bites taken out of the bead pieces. This was the main reason this activity isn't brought out very often and if it is there must be close supervision. I don't care to pick up dozens if small foam bits from the floor or have the activity itself destroyed! 

4) Scent Bottles
     The children really enjoyed these! These are simply a set of travel bottles within which I added a scented element inside (essential oils, extracts, pieces of herbs or other aromatic plants). The children have enjoyed squeezing the bottles and smelling the various scents! 

5) Velcro Sticks
     The children call these "sticky sticks." They are simply the largest colored craft sticks and pieces of velcro. These are fantastic for creative play, and we've often brought them in an activity bag for church. We've also used them to create various shapes (triangle, square, rectangle, pentagon etc.). They will hold the shapes up to their faces like frames and giggle. 

6) ?
     I'm not sure what you'd call this activity. It consists of an empty container (formerly filled with peppercorns) and cut pieces of pipe cleaners. The idea is to insert the pipe cleaners into the small holes of the lid. It's a great fine motor skill activity!

7) Pom-Pom Drop
     This activity is similar to the Coin Drop activity, but easier for younger ones to complete. It's created from an old dairy container. I purchased a value bag of various sized pom-poms from the craft store to accompany it. The nice thing about the container being something ordinary is that I can always get another lid and cut smaller holes for smaller pom-poms. So, it can increase in required fine motor skill as they do. 

8) Ribbon Pull Box
     This is also a favorite! I simply poked holes in a small box and inserted stripes of fabric (could do ribbon, but fabric strips were what I had on hand). The fabric piece are strung through two holes on different sides of the box. When one side is pulled the other goes in, and vise versa. We have played with this activity so many times. The children really enjoy when I add silly sound effects when they pull on one end causing the other end to move as well. 

     Like I said, these were created over the course of the last three years. I don't have near as much opportunity to create activities these days. It's nice that once created, we have them to play with for the next few years. Although slower, I still enjoy adding to our collection. It's so fun to offer the children activities that promote skill building and exploration (not to mention, free reused materials!). This sort of thing satisfies my creative spirit. 

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