Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Who Needs the Gym?

According to an anonymous person hopefully smarter than me:

"1 square mile is 640 acres, and if square has a perimeter of 4 miles.  40 acres is 1/16 of that. If square in shape, it is 1/4 mile on each side, and has a perimeter of 1 mile, or 5280 feet."

By my figuring...

When I took my kiddos to Storyland on Monday, my local 35 acre little kid amusement park, I would have walked a mile from parking lot, around the park, back to the car.  Add on the long Cinderella's castle...three times.  Quarter mile.  Then in and around and back and forth waiting in lines.  Another quarter mile.  All this while pushing a stroller packed with at least one child, lunch for four, a diaper bag, and enough soda, juice and water for the day.  Given that my beast of a jogger weighs about 35 pounds, my lightest kid is 20 pounds, and we brought a lot of hydration, I walked that mile and a half pushing between at least 40, at times 95 pounds.  Not a terrible workout. 

Now for the interval training.  Running after the escaping toddler with a mind of her own...half mile in short sprints.  Lifting children on and off rides...biceps and triceps, about 10 reps.  Getting necessary items out of bottom of stroller...squats, at least 50.

Aerobic exercise?  The Bamboo Chutes, Polar Coaster and even the Teacups sure got my heart rate pumping.

There you go.  Who needs the gym?  I shelled out the cash for a season pass, I'll get a great workout at least twice a week!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Own Personal Travel Agent

Those of you who have been reading know of the plan my then 3 and a half year old concocted in the middle of a November night while in the throes of throwing up.  If you are visiting for the first time click here to read about the funny things in her funny head.  The thing is...I thought the plan would go away when the fever died down.  It didn't.  She remembered the next day, and the next.  She began planning.  And we had to get there before she turned four.

Now I don't know if this perseverance is common to kids of this age or not, but it was clear to me that the idea of visiting "NEW YORK CITY" was not an idea that was going away.  I had a choice to make, let my child be my trip adviser or let her down gently, explaining that she would get to New York someday but probably not before she turned four.

I chose the first option.  Why not? I figured.  I'd like to go to New York too.  And so the planning began.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

App of the Week: iWriteWords

***All iPod touch, iPad and iPhone app reviews on this site are ones that I use with my own children or to integrate technology into my classroom. The apps I recommend are all available at the app store, are high quality and very useful from an educational and a parenting point of view.***

This is one of the first apps I purchased for my classroom as well as for my own iPod and it has withstood the test of time.  The iWriteWords concept is simple, your finger follows the crab on the screen and with your finger you write letters.  Shake the iPod and the letter falls to form a word.  Super for fine motor control, learning letters, and how sounds and letters connect to form words.  Engaging and educational, this app is a must for your kids and your classroom!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Funny Things that Trouble their Funny Little Heads

Back in November
2:00 AM

I hear tossing, moaning and then crying from my normally deep, deep, "Don't bother me Mommy" sleeper.  I get up to see what is going on.

"Mommy, I just peed from my mouth!"  are the words that greet me.  As does a smell and a mess.

I help my girl to the bathroom, tie back her hair, quickly strip the bed then try to comfort my sobbing little one.  "It's OK honey.  You threw up," I tell her.  Luckily for me this was our first bout with stomach flu in her entire three and a half year life and I don't want her to be scared.

Between cries and dry heaves she manages to choke out the following...

"It's just (cough) that I'm so worried (big shuddering breath) that I  won't (dry heave) see (cough, cough) New York City (sob) before I turn four (more sobbing)!!!!!


Never once in her short existence had the subject of New York been brought up.  Never once had we discussed going.  And yet here, in her darkest hour thus far, New York City trumped vomit.

Funny things happen in their funny little minds.  Try as we do, we really have no idea what exactly is going on up there.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Got to go see a performance of Alice in Wonderland today by the fabulous Hamstead Stage Company, and hosted by the one and only Theater in the Woods.  Like the Queen of Hearts, I respond "Bravo!" and will have the opening lines in my head for weeks!

So here you go.  Enjoy!!  And for extra points recite while standing on one foot and thumbing you nose.

Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

For a true dramatic reading, click here for Big Bird's interpretation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

App of the Week: iReward Chart

***All iPod touch, iPad and iPhone app reviews on this site are ones that I use with my own children or to integrate technology into my classroom. The apps I recommend are all available at the app store, are high quality and very useful from an educational and a parenting point of view.***

I have a four year old, which means I do a lot of negotiating.  I present choices, I try to anticipate reactions and plan accordingly, I practice patience.  There comes a point, however, when I have run out of deep breaths.  I need help!!!

Hooray for iReward Chart!  It's simple in design, easy to use, and effective.  Put in desired behaviors, chores, and responsibilities, set an amount that each is worth, and add a few rewards that your child can choose from when they have earned enough stars.  All of a sudden you are rewarding desired behaviors rather than reacting to and trying to change undesired behaviors.  Simple psychology applied to make your life a little easier.

There is a lite version downloadable for free.  I found that I very quickly upgraded to the paid version for $3.99.  It can handle more than one child and more than four tasks.  More importantly, it opens more quickly and I don't accidentally click on ads and wind up in the iTunes store when trying to quickly reinforce a positive behavior. 

I am not a person that advocates extrinsically rewarding good behavior all the time.  I certainly don't want my child to behave in a certain way only to earn a star.  However, there are times that children fall into bad patterns, patterns that need to be changed.  Zoe was in the habit of needing to be told multiple times to do things.  She sometimes would completely ignore.  Not fun for me and not something a time-out is effective for.  So I put "Do what Mom and Dad Ask" into iReward.  I added "Set table" and "Get hair brushed without screaming".  Each one is worth a star.  At 10 stars she can trade in for an extra bedtime story or a bowl of ice cream.  We've been doing this for a few days, and I'm already seeing a positive change.  My plan is to keep it up until we are in a new pattern.  Until she has some new habits.  I think 2-3 times earning a reward should do the trick, then I will put iReward away.  I'm sure it will come out again, and I am very glad to have it in my parent tool bag!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ignorance...Bliss for you Alone

Valley Pride Day...a large-scale cleanup of my little valley, well organized by many wonderful volunteers and participated in by many, many people.  We clean up the trash on the sides of the roads that has been accumulating all winter and hidden by the snow.  Then we all get together for a great barbecue,  This year we even got to swim in a local indoor water park!

Zoe is 4 now, and I felt like it was the year to become involved.  In the past we have always participated in the day by doing some sort of clean-up in our backyard, but this year I though she and I could do the real thing.  We went down to the headquarters and picked up out official bags, blue for trash, and yellow for recycling.  We put on our gardening turned trash cleaning gloves then we headed out to find some litter (not at all difficult to do). 

Our first stop was where a little side street near our house meets the main road.  We found cans, newspapers, socks, computer cords, cigarette packs and lots and lots of empty liquor bottles.  After judging the area to be as clean as we could make it, and sorting the recyclables, we packed the full bags into the back of the car then went to find one more area to pick up.

This time our destination was even closer to home.  At the outer edge of our property there is about an acre of unused wetland and I had noticed from recent walks that there was a lot of trash accumulating.  We headed out again armed with bags and gloves.  After filling a bag each and pulling out a half rotted chair surrounded by empties (someone might be disappointed with that removal) we called it a day.  This time Dad came by and packed the bags and the chair into the pick-up while we walked along the road heading home.

As we walked, I launched into a great discussion about the good we had done.  We were talking about how we were helping the earth and helping our community.  We talked about how much nicer it was going to be for all the people that drove, walked and biked past the area.  We wondered why people would throw their trash on the side of the road anyway...and vowed that we never would.  It was great!  A real teachable moment, just what I wanted.

And then it became teachable in a very different way.  Down the road came a neighbor's truck.  A neighbor who has a "Property Maintenance" company, but in reality seems to be a bit of a hoarder.  Along came his pick-up, pulling an open trailer, both of which were filled to overflowing and uncovered.  Filled with trash.  As the truck drove past, my daughter and I watched trash fly out and onto the quarter mile stretch of road that we had just cleaned.

Many choice words were on the tip of my tongue, and I had to fight really, really, really hard to hold them in.  "Wow, I'm feeling a little angry right now," is what I forced myself to say.  "I am too," my daughter replied.  Then we picked up the trash.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

App of the Week: Intro to Math

Intro to Math, by Montessorium - Montessorium, LLC.

***All iPod touch, iPad and iPhone app reviews on this site are ones that I use with my own children or to integrate technology into my classroom. The apps I recommend are all available at the app store, are high quality and very useful from an educational and a parenting point of view.***
My daughter attends a Montessori preschool and I love everything about the curriculum, materials and philosophy of the program.  Intro to Math, by Montessorium manages to capture the essence of Montessori education in an App.  The visuals look just like the materials in real life, there is a gentle pace to the explanations that encourage focus and concentration, and there are five different activities so your child can choose the "work" that is right for them.  Simple concepts are presented and this app is perfect for preschoolers and kindergarteners who are building their number sense.  In my classroom I also have several first graders that struggle with math who are choosing this app on a regular basis.

Created for both the iPod and the iPad, this app is well worth it.  Enjoy!
Intro to Math, by Montessorium - Montessorium, LLC.

***All apps that I recommend on this site are ones that I use with my children or in my classroom.  I find them to be high quality and very useful from an educational point of view.***

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chutes and Ladders

I love games.  All sorts, all kinds.  So we play a lot of them.  Chutes and Ladders was the game of choice tonight.  You remember Chutes and Ladders, yes?  You spin the spinner, then move ahead that number of spaces.  There are pictures all over the board.  When you land on a picture of a child who has done something good, you go up the ladder.  The better the deed, the higher the ladder.  When you land on a child who has made a poor choice, you go down a slide.  The worse the choice, the longer the slide.  After a lot of hopping, climbing and sliding, someone gets to 100...and wins!  Hooray!!!

As we were playing, I found myself viewing it throught the eyes of a kindergarten and first grade teacher and thinking how wonderful it would be if my students played this game at home with their parents.

The most obvious skill learned is the idea of actions and consequences.  As parents we try hard to teach our children that their choices carry consequences, both positive and negative.  We seek to discipline with natural consequences and guide by positive examples.  But when do we visually display what this means?  What opportunities do we give for our children to objectively look at the consequences of their actions without being in the action.  We had some great conversations while playing tonight, conversations that subtely helped to integrate right and wrong into her consciousness. 

In addition to the character building piece of Chutes and Ladders, there are a lot a really important math skills. 

A key part of kindergarten is developing number recognition.  This game uses a spinner printed with numbers 1-6.  The squares on the board are numbered 1-100.  When playing it is very easy to periodically check in about what number your child is on.  If they don't them out!  Every number they identify is helping to build their knowledge of numbers.

The squares on the board are numbered so you go first in one direction, then the other.  This back and forth pattern of movement makes for a game board that need to be focused on very carefully.  You need to look at the numbers to see in which direction they are getting larger, so you know which way to go.  This is a more advanced skill that your first or second grader will really benefit from practicing.

The layout of the board also helps to build skills necessary for addition.  When you move forward in Chutes and Ladders, you "count on".  You start with the number you are on, then move forward the number of hops that you spun on the spinner.  For younger children playing, this helps create a conceptual understanding...start on a square and jump forward.  Don't count the one you are on.  For older children you can actually tie in number sentences to the game play.  "I am on 32.  I rolled 5.  Now I am on 37.  32+5=37". 

There is even a little bit of algebra that comes into play.  In anticipation of a spin you can look at the board and determine what would be a good number and what would not be.  "Where I am + X more = Big Ladder.  I want to spin X."  You probably wan't be conversing in algebraic terms, but that is what is going on.

There you have it.  A simple game from a teacher's perspective.  So if you are wondering how to prepare your pre-schooler for kindergarten...board games!  Want to support and extend your elementary school child's math understanding and performance...board games!  Have fun!