Monday, August 1, 2011

Tot School: Life Skills

This week was full of classes and Summer camps, so we had very little time for "lessons" at home. Instead, I tried to incorporate some "life skills" into what we did.

After Princess-themed ballet camp, we played dress-up at home (since I was the only Mommy who hadn't even thought to bring a Princess dress for camp. Poor little Matchstick Girl was the only one in tights and a leotard.) We busted out her jewelry box, and she adorned us both with rings and bracelets. And snazzy reading glasses (dollar store) with the lenses popped out. She put the bracelets on in a specific order, totally mysterious to me. And she chose some for me to wear.
So she worked on sharing, cooperation, sorting, and imagination. [I worked on not falling unconscious, since I didn't get a nap, and it had been a long day.]
At camp they also made a cute, easy craft. Pre-made cone party hats decorated with curling ribbon (either glued to the tip or tied through the hole,) stick-on gems, and Target Dollar Spot or Dollar Tree foam stickers (they're better than the craft store ones because the foam is much thinner, which helps them to stay on the curved surface.)
I would also like to note that there were roughly 30 kids in her ballet camp, and the teachers had written each Princess' name on a paper grocery sack (to put their shoes and wands and finished crafts and snacks-from-home in.) Z was able to find her own bag, without any coaching from me! I was super excited, especially since the names were hand-written, instead of typed, and they used upper- and lowercase letters, whereas Z and I have mostly focused on all uppercase for her name. She was very proud of herself too, and guarded that bag like a favored toy. I was especially pleased that, despite them moving it between activities as new girls showed up late, Z was still able to find it when she came back out for a cry and a drink, snack time, and after camp. (It was a drop-off camp, but she wasn't ready to be dropped off, so we're practicing. I stayed in the lobby and she tried to stay in the class and listen to and be comforted by the teacher for as long as she could stand. After 60 minutes, her internal timer went off, and she was done. Other than preschool, where I've either been in the room or in an adjacent room the whole time, all her classes have been 45-60 minutes each. I thought it was funny that she knew when class should be over, even though there were still 2 hours to go, since this was a Summer camp. She took a breather with me, a sip of water to help cool her down, then agreed to go back in to the dance class for a few minutes until snack time. After snack, she was excited about crafts and story time.)

We've been working on perfecting her pouring skills lately. I'd bought a small pitcher from Tupperware at a fair booth last Summer, but got tired of cleaning up all the spills. She would pour until the pitcher was empty, rather than pour until the container was full, and I'm afraid I neglected to bother with it the rest of the year. So this time I've been coaching her through each pour, reminding her to do little dribs at a time to avoid spills. I fill it with milk for breakfasts, and let her pour it into her cereal and drinking cup. For dinner one night, she wanted juice, and I thought it might be fun to let her use one of the fancy china teacups and saucers I had bought at the thrift store for us to play tea party. (And for my MOMS Club Mother's Day Tea, which she loved.) I paid less than $1 at Value Village for each cup/saucer set, so I won't be upset if they break, and she gets to practice being extra-special careful with fragile grown-up things.
She was very careful pouring her grape juice, and didn't have any spills. She also was careful with her cup and saucer. She got to feel like a "big girl," and gained a lot of confidence for her success, and my trust in her.
This activity worked on pouring (life skill,) hand-eye coordination, being careful, pretend-play, success=confidence and self-sufficiency.

We also did some other things, but no photos were taken. She spent the weekend out on the driveway playing with her "outside toys" (Happy Meal toys and random things found while sorting through boxes) and coloring while Mommy and Daddy sorted through yet more boxes that have been sitting stagnant or accumulating in the garage for the past 11 years (Weekend 5, and almost done! Finally!) After we quit for the day and put everything back, she came to the backyard where Daddy had been doing some yardwork (most of the stuff in the garage is mine, so he lugs the boxes out for me to sort, then lugs them back into the "sell" or "keep" piles and kills time by mowing or hacking at blackberries, or the fallen trees in the backyard.)
She found my husband's saw (whatever the regular, non-electric kind is called,) and I offered to show her how it works and let her help me. I showed her the jagged bits on the blade and told her that they were sharp, and told her that it is not a toy and not for her to pick up. Then we picked a branch on the fallen plum tree and she held the handle with both hands and I helped her saw through the branch. She enjoyed it so much, we did it again, but then the larger branches were too far in and we were getting poked by the littler ones, so we put the saw away.
Skills: teamwork, being careful, effort=results, success=confidence

We also found 2 cherries on our cherry tree (in the 11 years we've lived here, I have never seen a cherry. My husband says they've been there and that the birds and squirrels eat them all, but this is the first time I've ever seen any!) We lifted Z up and she got to pick them herself. They were sooooo tiny. Practically just pit and skin. But she was thrilled with her bounty, and said they tasted really good.
We also have raspberry canes that we planted this year, and I was surprised to find berries growing! But it looked like something had been eating them before they were ripe. They'd get light orange, then next thing you know I'd find the core hanging there but no berry!
My husband said maybe they were ripe and falling off, so I went to check and see if they were ripe when orange. Apparently so! I'd been waiting for red ones, so we've been missing out! There were three orange ones, so after I found that they came off with the gentlest of tugs when light orange, I let Z pick the other two. She got to eat all three, so I can't tell you how they tasted, but she was thrilled.
Skills: patience, nature science (gardening and life cycles,) effort=results

She did get to play with a few "educational" toys (really, I view all unstructured play as educational. Maybe just to justify going online while she plays in her dollhouse. But I really do feel that creative play by herself is good for her too.) She played a Fisher Price Little People Bingo by herself, where she'd flip over a chit and then place it onto it's matching picture on a bingo card, until she'd done them all. She also had me get out this new mosaic picture toy I found at Winco (couldn't find it online, but Amazon has a few magnetic ones that look similar: a beginner one and a more advanced.) Ours isn't magnetic, and she had a hard time getting the triangular pieces into the slots. So she decided to just do the squares for now. And she only uses the picture design as a guide. Sometimes she was just in the mood for a big blue line across the middle. Since I feel that the process is more important than the results, I didn't push her to do it "the right way," and just let her be free to express herself.
Skills: fine motor, creative expression, self-confidence

 Linking this up with Tot School this week too!
Tot School

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