Monday, August 16, 2010

Toddler Ramadan craft: fawanees!

(Update: Please also see this post for an idea geared towards slightly older toddlers/preschoolers)

I haven't found too many Ramadan craft ideas that toddlers can really get the hang of, so I thought I'd share this one just in case it's useful for anyone! Basbusa and I made a bunch of lanterns out of construction paper, and then strung them on a piece of yarn to make a garland. Here's our finished product:

Each lantern takes about 45 seconds to make (well, 45 seconds in grown-up time; longer depending on how old your kid is and how insistent he or she is about doing it "by myself!"). All you need is construction paper, a scissors, and some tape.

We have a pad of 8.5"x11" construction paper, so the first thing we did was cut a sheet in half (to get two short, fat pieces rather than two long, skinny ones):

You'll only need half a sheet for one lantern. The next step is to cut a strip off one of the long edges of the paper (this strip will eventually be the handle of your lantern):

Next up, make a narrow fold along both of the long edges of the paper:

Then flip over your paper and fold it in half, so that the two narrow folds are back-to-back, facing outwards:

Next, open out the two narrow folds so that your paper looks kind of like an odd paper airplane...

... and cut all along the "body" of the plane, with each cut starting from the folded edge and stopping when you reach the "wings."

Open out your paper, wrap it around in a circle, and tape:

Last step, tape on your handle:

Ta-da! All finished. I learned this in elementary school in Ireland (I forget what holiday we were celebrating), and I think I remember that we also taped some red or yellow construction paper inside the lanterns, to make it look as if they were lit. But I thought that was too many steps for Basbusa, and they look fine without it.

How much of this did Basbusa really do? Well, we did the first one together, with her doing practically all of it, and me giving very-very-very detailed guidance on exactly what to cut and what to tape. She was able to do it, but she absolutely adores cutting and taping, and I felt bad spoiling her fun with so many instructions. So from then on, we worked happily side by side, with me making lanterns and Basbusa making this:

The lanterns also look great if your toddler decorates the paper with random scribbles and drawings before you start (as long as they won't mind their picture being cut up afterwards). Normally, Basbusa would have been totally into this stage of the process, but today, the attractions of tape and scissors outshone those of her pens and crayons :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tot-School plans for Ramadan

Ramadan coming up so soon, insha'Allah! I thought I'd post my Ramadan tot-school plans, just in case anyone else is looking for ideas and hadn't yet found these links. We've been reading Ramadan books in the past few weeks just as a kind of a preview of what's coming up, since this will be the first time Basbusa is old enough to have any clue what's going on. I'm hoping to convey a few of the most important parts of the meaning of Ramadan, and also try to recreate the joyful atmosphere and excitement that would be everywhere if we were in a predominantly-Muslim country. So, here's my plan, iA:

  • I'd be happy if she came away understanding what fasting is, what charity is, and that Ramadan is the month when the Quran was revealed.

  • It would be nice if she could learn Aisha's Ramadan dua'a, which has always been one of my favorites (اللهم انك عفو تحب العفو فاعف عنا). I'm not sure whether all the repetition of similar words will make it easier or harder for her, but I'll give it a try and see if she picks it up.

  • Quran memorization and prayer as usual, but on a stricter schedule (right now, they tend to get fitted in around the rest of our activities, rather than the other way around).

  • I hope we can go to a masjid at least twice a week, so that Basbusa gets some of the sense of community, and hears at least a bit of Tarawih.
  • Basbusa's dad has a whole bunch of Ramadan songs that he's known by heart ever since childhood, and which always make him go all sappy and nostalgic when he hears them today :) I remember Christmas carols being the same way for me, so I want Basbusa to have a few of those in her childhood too, iA. We're going to be playing these two Ramadan songs and this Eid song quite a bit as general background noise. (I'll post the lyrics when I get a chance to figure them out iA, just in case there are any other non-native Arabic speakers out there who want to sing along with their kids.)

  • We'll be making a whole bunch of lanterns, insha'Allah! They don't look much like the traditional (or modern plastic glitzy) ones, but hey, pretty lights are pretty lights :) I'm hoping to try this one, this one and this one (just using a bunch of multicolored tissue rather than the Halloween theme!), plus one I remember making myself in elementary school (although it was nothing to do with Ramadan). I got a pack of 8 battery-powered tealight-lookalikes in Walmart for $4, so that we don't burn the house down iA :)

  • I love the Date Chain idea from here! I won't be fasting this year, so I think I'll do a pair of dates each day for Basbusa to open. One for herself, and one to give to Baba to break his fast with.

Other educational activities:

  • I think we'll go moon-watching every night, and take a picture with the digital camera. Hopefully when she can see the pictures all in sequence, Basbusa will pick up a little bit about the lunar cycle?

  • I'm not quite sure yet how to set this up, but it would be nice to have a size-sequencing activity in there. Maybe tinfoil-covered cardboard crescent moons, ranging from big to small? If we could hang them on some kind of a mobile, that would make a pretty decoration too.

  • If I can find some crescent-shaped cookie-cutters, we'll use them for baking cookies, which Basbusa always loves helping with.
And lastly, in a tot-school-related Ramadan assignment for myself, I want to make two lists as I read through the Quran this time insha'Allah. One list will be of verses to do with nature, and the other will be of verses having to do with good behavior (charity, forgiveness, kindness, etc). I'm hoping to intertwine these with tot-school "units" as we go forward - if we're talking about plants, I'll add in a verse about things growing from seeds; if we're talking about bugs, I'll add in a verse about ants, etc. And I was thinking we might pick a 'virtue of the month' to focus on, by talking about a verse that highlights that particular behavior and then looking for opportunities to put it into practice.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What's Basbusa Reading? (Ramadan edition)

(Update: Please also see this post for more Ramadan-related book reviews)

For readers who arrived via the What My Child Is Reading blog hop, just a quick explanation - with Ramadan coming up soon, I'm focusing this post on Ramadan-related picture books. They can be hard to find, so I thought other Muslim moms might find these reviews helpful. But sorry if this list is a bit too narrowly-focused to be much use to moms of small book-lovers in general!

By far our favorite of the Ramadan books I've found so far is Ramadan Moon, by Na'ima B Robert and Shirin Adl.
  • The illustrations are simply beautiful, and there are lots and lots of details to look for and talk about, which is always a hit with Basbusa. The front cover isn't as enchanting as the illustrations inside.
  • It talks about the importance of Quran and tarawih without making a big "religious" deal of it. An excerpt:
    "And in mosque after mosque,
    Of every shape and size,
    Men, women and children
    Will all stand up to pray.
    The imam will recite the verses
    Of the book that was revealed
    Upon hundreds
    Upon hundreds of years ago."
    For a toddler, I think this kind of description is much more meaningful than a selection of ahadith talking about the rewards and benefits in very complicated language.
  • I really like how it deals with fasting. It's the second aspect of Ramadan that is discussed, rather than the primary one (prayer and the Quran come first), and the book doesn't make a huge deal of how fasting is sooooooooooo hard, but then afterwards we get to eat sooooooooo much. Beside a picture of a family Iftar, this text just says,
    "In daylight, we feel hungry.
    But at sunset, when we eat,
    It makes us a little thoughtful,
    A little humble,
    And very grateful."
  • It truly captures the joy of Ramadan as it's really experienced. It conveys the sense of being part of a worldwide community and of a family; it makes the connection to the waxing and waning of the moon; there's a page showing a street alive with people in the evening, just like you'd see in Cairo during Ramadan, for example. There are people going to Tarawih, but there are also kids playing in a playground, people eating in restaurants, etc.
Basbusa loves the Eid page because she likes all the pics of tasty food and pretending to eat it, but she likes the whole book, really. We read it four times in a row the first time around, and many many times since.

I also really liked Reza Jalali's Moon Watchers: Shirin's Ramadan Miracle, but I think it will be more meaningful for Basbusa a few years from now.
  • I loved the close family relationship it depicted, of happy Muslims in the living in the West.
  • I loved how the little girl can't wait to try fasting and sees it as something beautiful, and how she tries part-time fasting since she's too young to fast completely.
  • This bit isn't Ramadan-related, but I also liked (with reservations) how the book addresses the way that the girl's mom doesn't regularly wear hijab, but that her grandmother does. Here's an excerpt:
    "As Mom stands and sits, the soft cloth catches the breeze. She looks beautiful. Later, I ask, "How come you don't always wear a scarf like Maman-Borzog [her grandmother]?" Mom laughs and says, "You know, not every Muslim woman covers her hair." "But in the pictures Auntie sends us she always wears a scarf." "In her country it is the custom. There are different traditions about such things. But all Muslims use the same prayers and we all observe Ramadan."
I do think that all Muslimas should wear hijab, but I really don't like how the whole scarf-or-no-scarf issue is made into such a huge deal, both in the US and elsewhere. "What's she wearing? Oh, she must be _____. All covered up? Oh, she must be_____ . A niqab? Oh, she must be _____. And most of all, "She doesn't cover? Oh, well then, it's obvious, she must be _____." I can't stand this kind of thing, whether the assumptions being made are positive or negative. Wearing hijab is important, but it is not one of the five pillars of Islam. I know some amazing Muslimas who don't wear a scarf and it drives me batty to hear people just dismiss them as "not good Muslims" just because their hair is showing. Plus, in the US, the question of Muslimas who don't cover is definitely going to come up in Basbusa's mind eventually, and I'm going to have to answer it somehow. My explanation won't be exactly the same one as in this book, but the tone of inclusiveness and tolerance, in conjunction with the message that covering or not covering does not equate to "good" or "bad" Muslim, is just what I'll be aiming for.

I was not so keen on Ramadan, by Sheila Anderson (it seems to be part of a series for kids on "Cultural Holidays.") It's non-fiction rather than a Ramadan-related story book. Basbusa enjoys some of the pictures, but the text (in my opinion) is dry and boring. Plus, it's slightly incorrect in some places (for example: "In the evening, people wait for the moon to be seen. Then, they can eat and drink again.") To judge by the names of those involved in writing it, none of them are actually Muslim, and I think it shows: although almost all the facts are perfectly correct, the joy of Ramadan doesn't come through at all.

And finally, we read Night of the Moon by Hena Khan. It has lovely illustrations, but they're not the kind that easily allow Basbusa to piece together a picture of what's happening in the story (which is probably too complex for her to grasp anyway, even in a general way). But this book is also an example of the kind of approach to Ramadan that I'm not so keen on, focusing on the more secular aspects. ("Yasmeen had been looking forward to Ramadan. It was a time filled with delicious foods, new clothes, lots of parties, and her favorite thing ever - presents!") I'm all for sharing the joy of Ramadan, but I think kids will appreciate those parts of it without help :) And they're not what's really important about the month anyway.

Does anyone else have suggestions for good toddler-level Ramadan books? I'd love to hear them!

For more suggestions and reviews (for kids books in general, not specifically for Ramadan), check out the weekly blog-hop at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Two years old: Islamic Tot-School progress

It's Basbusa's Islamic education that I'm most worried about, because, not having had a Muslim childhood myself, I'm never quite sure that I'm doing things "right" (all dua'a much appreciated on that one!). But at just-turned-two, here's where we stand:
  • She's such a good girl with prayer, masha'Allah!! Whenever I pray, I ask her if she'd like to join in or just do a takbeer, and she willingly goes along with it (most often choosing just a takbeer if she's busy playing or reading, but she does seem to have gotten the message that prayer time means we interrupt our other activities for at least a split second, which is all I'm aiming for at this point). I always lay out her little prayer-mat beside mine, though, and quite often she comes along to join in, or to have her doll join in, at some point after I've started. But she prays all the time by herself, which is the cutest thing EVER, masha'Allah. She tends to "pray" when she notices that a piece of material (might be a kitchen towel, might be a doll blanket, might be a tissue) is rectangular. "A prayer mat! I'm going to pray on it," she says busily. She smooths it out carefully, stands at one end, and starts off with her "prayer": "Allahu Akbar! SamiAllahu hamiya! Allahu Akbar! SamiAllahu hamiya!" In the eyes of this doting mama at least, there is nothing in the universe so cute as my darling cupcake "praying" on a cloth-diaper insert, not wearing a stitch of clothing, with her little bum in the air. Masha'Allah, I just can't handle the cuteness :)
  • She falls asleep every night to Ayat al Kursi and the pre-sleep thikr, which serves the double purpose of teaching her what they are, and conveying the message that now it's time for lie-down-and-close-your-eyes :)
  • She knows we say "bismillah" before eating or drinking, and "al7amdulillah" afterwards. She needs to be reminded about 80% of the time, but she totally knows the routine, and the reason for it. (In her words, "we say 'bismillah' because of Allah. Allah gave us the cookie.")
  • She has a vague grasp that Allah made everything. I don't think she has really generalized to "everything" yet, but she knows that Allah made her nose, and the freckle on her leg, and our food and drink, and the sun and the moon, for example.
  • She knows about saying "Al7amdulillah" and "yr7mkum Allah" when someone sneezes.
  • She can kind-of, sort-of say Surat al Fati7a. Very little of the pronunciation is particularly close to what it's supposed to be, and she gets it out of order unless she's saying it along with someone else, but she knows maybe half of the ayat pretty well by herself. And just yesterday, she found a framed ornamental passage from the Quran, realized what it was, and started "reading" it, getting almost the entire way through Al Fati7a without any prompting, masha'Allah. I was one overjoyed Mama :)
So, I'm not sure whether we're "on schedule" or not in terms of her Islamic upbringing, but I think we're more or less in the right ballpark insha'Allah? I've seen Youtube videos of two-year-olds who know far more Quran, and who pronounce it much better... but I'm not sure whether Basbusa is really "late" or whether she's still ok for having just turned two. The things I'm most happy about, though, are that she loves praying, "prays" willingly when it's prayer time, and loves snuggling on my lap to "memorize" Quran with me. I'm pretty sure that's a good start, insha'Allah...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Two years old: Tot-School Progress

Just a quick summary of where we stand in terms of Basbusa's "education" as she turns two:
  • She knows half the letters of the Arabic alphabet. I'm not rushing on those so much any more - I've seen that she can pick them up quite easily and enjoys it as a game, but I don't want to make a big deal of the alphabet as something she feels she "should" know or is "expected" to remember.
  • She knows all her colors.
  • She knows all her shapes (even more obscure ones like crescent, diamond and oval).
  • She can 'read' (well, recognize the words, not really read) Allah, her first name, her nickname, her last name, Mama and Baba. Oh, and in English, she regularly scares the daylights out of me in the car by yelling out "Stop!" when she sees a stop sign :)
  • She knows that words on the page "say things" and follows them along with her finger as she makes up text.
  • She recognizes the numbers from 0 to 9, more or less. Kind of. Not super-reliably, though, and she doesn't have much clue what they actually mean. She knows what numbers to press on the elevator for friends who live on particular floors of the building, and she knows what one, two and "half" mean, but as for counting larger quantities, she's not quite there yet.
  • She can count to six quite well, and sometimes makes it to ten.
Other semi-educational skills:
  • She's crazy about books;
  • She adores "writing" and drawing;
  • She cuts very well with scissors, not needing any help;
  • She's getting quite good at using a glue-stick and making collages (we haven't tried messier glues yet!).
And a few other tot-school "skills" which I had previously been trying to introduce formally, but which I've now decided not to bother with for the moment in a tot-school setting:
  • Sorting: none of the tot-school activities I used for this really attracted her, and she didn't really get the concept. But she's now sorting spontaneously by color or by size in real life, so that will do fine for now. I'll get back to it a bit later when she might be ready for more complicated kinds of sorts, but for now I'll use that tot-school-preparation-time for making other kinds of materials.
  • Fine-motor skills: these were some of her favorite tot-school activities, but in reality, she does almost nothing else all day long, in everyday life. She loves screwing and unscrewing things (jars, toothpaste, bottles, nuts and bolts), peeling things (garlic, bananas, any kind of sticker), pouring things, and stirring things. That's another area where I'll save the time on making tot-school materials and spend it on other areas instead.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Two years old!!

My darling Basbusa turned two a few weeks ago. I can't believe how time has flown, and how much she has grown and changed over the past two years, masha'Allah! She's the light and joy of my universe, and every day she lives, her company becomes even more fun and more interesting. She's such a blessing, al7amdulillah!

At two, Basbusa can say pretty much anything she wants to say in Arabic. She can explain all kinds of complicated ideas about the past, the future, and about how things work, and picks up new words at the speed of light, masha'Allah. (I know all toddlers do, but it still never fails to amaze me that I can tell her words like "walrus" or "dome" just once, and hear her remember them perfectly weeks later.) She chatters all day long, and there's nothing in the world that I enjoy so much as listening to her plans, opinions and explanations!

In English, she's much more limited, but it's insane how fast she's picking it up since we've moved back in with my parents (who don't speak Arabic). I was even getting seriously worried in the first week or two that she had already started on the slippery slope of letting Arabic become her second language rather than her first, but now it seems like she has sorted out that Arabic is her main language, and what she uses with Mama and Baba and our friends, and that English is what she uses with Grandma and Grandad and people in shops. (The other day, for example, she told Baba in Arabic that she wanted to go play in the water (in her paddling pool). "يا بابا! يا بابا! عايزة العب في الماية!") But Baba was too busy to keep an eye on her, so he said no. Undeterred, Basbusa went to find Grandma. "يا Grandma! يا Grandma! عايزة play in the water!")

She is absolutely crazy about books, and reads them all day long. She even likes to sleep with her favorites sometimes. It's interesting; all of a sudden a few weeks ago, she has started to show a very clear preference for longer picture-books with more complicated plots, rather than the board-books she has loved for so long. She still looks through them occasionally and enjoys them, but rarely goes in search of them any more. Overnight, she seemed to reach a point where she loves books with characters having experiences she can relate to, and follow through the courses of their adventures. In most picture books, some of the details of the plots are still over her head, but she gets the general gist, and loves reading them over and over again until she can "read" them back to you. She's also making all kinds of connections between things that happen in books and things that happen in her own life, and between similar or different occurrences in two different stories.

Also quite suddenly in the past week or two, she has jumped into imaginary play. In a picture book showing bears in an icecream shop, and she spends ages pretending that we're in the shop too, picking out which flavor she wants to eat, asking the sales-bear to give it to her, pretending to eat it, asking me which one I'd like and "buying" it for me, etc. In the car the other day, she was playing with a flash drive, and within the course of fifteen minutes it became a camera that she took pictures with (admiring herself in each "picture" after taking it), a phone to talk on, a Quran she was reading, and a bottle of juice she was drinking. She also has all kinds of adorable one-sided "conversations" with her friends and family while she's pretending to talk on my mobile phone. It was an amazing transition to watch: One day, each thing had its own name and purpose; the next day, her imagination had opened up a thousand possibilities.

She loves playgrounds, beaches, the garden and her paddling pool, but she's still a little more on the cautious side when it comes to gross motor activities, especially if they're new to her.

She loves bugs. Almost nothing is as fascinating as watching ants and spiders, and she's intrigued to watch them running around on her hand when she can persuade them to climb up on her (which she does with great enthusiasm: "يا نملة! يا نملة! تعالي! اطلعي! اطلعي على عيدي!").

She very much enjoys spending time with her three "best friends" (two little girls and a little boy, all almost exactly the same age as her). She still has a long way to go in terms of the whole "sharing" and "taking turns" concepts, but I can see her getting the hang of it more and more each week. After these visits, she talks endlessly about who she played with, what they said, what they did, and what their mothers said in reaction :) She doesn't run to make friends with new kids in the playground, but she watches them in fascination, and is starting to interact with other toddlers without being encouraged to.

And just a few other sweet randomnesses: her hair is just long enough now that she no longer has a "palm tree" sticking straight up out of the top of her head, and she's getting the most beautiful curls and ringlets masha'Allah - just like I always loved when I was a child. She's inherited her food preferences from both Mama and Baba: her favorite foods are ice-cream and chocolate (that's my girl!), and anything salty (bint Baba). The other day, to entertain her while I was doing the dishes, I gave her a grocery flier and a pen and asked her to circle anything that we needed to buy when we go shopping. I thought she'd just circle and scribble randomly, but she want through it page by page and circled two kinds of ice-cream, strawberries, chips, cinnamon bread, and a cleaning product that she thought was chocolate :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Long silence, back at last!

No posts since April! The last few months of being a working mom just got too hectic, but now, al7amdulillah, I have the glorious luxury of being a SAHM to Basbusa (and, in a few more months, her little sister insha'Allah), so more posts will be coming right up. The first few might be interesting more to me than to anyone else, because my sweet Basbusa just turned two, and I want to write a few posts on what an accomplished and entertaining little person she has become, masha'Allah. But I also have a post on the way reviewing the Ramadan story books we've checked out so far, plus one on all the tot-school Ramadan ideas I have planned. So, please check back over the next few days; new content is on the way insha'Allah!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is Basbusa reading?

I saw Kit Allen's Slide, Already! recommended on Elbows, Knees, Dreams. It's about a boy who eventually tries going down the big playground slide, despite all his nervousness, and ends up loving it. It isn't actually a favorite of mine in terms of the illustrations, or the story, really - I'm never quite sure whether it's an example of a kid being encouraged by his friends to venture out of his comfort zone, or an example of a kid who feels like he can't say no to the pressure his friends are putting on him to try something he's not comfortable with - but Basbusa loves it. The plot is simple enough that she can narrate it to herself, and she seems to totally understand the feelings of the little boy as he edges his way higher and higher up the ladder, each time increasing the numbers of "oh no"s in his "Oh no oh no oh no!" She also likes looking at all the different children and pointing out the tallest, the girl with pigtails, and the little boy who always goes down the slide upsidedown. Plus, it's about board-book-sized, which Basbusa always prefers, since it's so much easier for her to handle than a full-sized picture book.

What shall we do with the Boo-Hoo Baby? was another favorite this week. I chose it partly because Basbusa likes babies, and partly because we're likely to have a boo-hoo baby of our own joining the household later this year insha'Allah, so I figured it would do no harm to introduce a few examples of what life with a baby looks like :) The story is simple - baby is crying, and each of the animals in turn has a suggestion for what to do to console him. Basbusa likes being able to predict what each animal is going to suggest, and being able to predict whether it will work or not. She also likes saying "معلش, يا نونو" ("there there, baby") when the tears continue, and she likes looking at all the odd foods the animals bring when they think the baby might be hungry. Another fun read.

We got Dig Dig Digging out of the library partly because a new pharmacy is being built down the street and there are lots of fascinating big machines for us to watch, but also because it is one of the very few board-books left in our local library that we haven't already read! Actually, though, I'm sorry we didn't choose it sooner, because Basbusa really enjoys it. The illustrations are colorful and detailed, with lots to talk about in addition to the machine featured on each page. We look for people wearing helmets, or look for the animals (birds, a rabbit, a ladybug and a worm) in the field with the tractor, or the different kinds of trash-cans in the page with the garbage truck. Plus it was a good vocabulary-builder for both of us, because I didn't know most of the words for these things in Arabic before we started reading this book! (I'm still not sure of one or two of them, actually - does anybody know if ببور الزلط is really the right word (in Egyptian dialect) for a road-roller?) I thought the text was pretty disappointing, but we just ignored it and talked about the illustrations in Arabic instead. That's what we do with all books in any case, unless they rhyme in English or unless the language is particularly fun.
Hide-and-Seek Duck was a used-bookstore find. The story is not too exciting - Duck and Rabbit are playing hide-and-seek, and Duck is looking for Rabbit - but the nature illustrations are lovely. There are all kinds of little details to look for and admire, including lots of insects and plants that we can look for in real life when we go out for walks. Definitely worth the $0.59 we paid for it!

If you'd like to see what books other people have enjoyed with their children this week, please see the link-up at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

tot school: Arabic alphabet puzzle

Parents of kids learning the alphabet in English might not appreciate how overjoyed I was to find this toy/puzzle for sale for only $15 at an Islamic bookfair near our house last week!
You can pick up similar things in English at any dollar store, but Arabic is a whole other story. I'd seen these online in several places, but the only size that seemed to be in stock anywhere was the large size, with 12"x12" squares, for the insanely ridiculous price of $40. So, I had pretty much given up and stopped looking. But the ones on sale at the bookfair were 6"x6" - a much more manageable size for a toddler in any case - and although $15 is still ridiculous since they probably cost about $0.10 to manufacture, I still snapped one up.

And Basbusa loves it! Her new puzzle-doing skills transferred right over to these mats, and she also loves that you can use the squares to build cubes, towers and "houses" as well as just lying them flat on the floor. I pulled out only the eleven letters she already knows, and I'll add to them as she learns new ones (so that she knows which way up they're "supposed" to go and doesn't accidentally confuse herself by getting used to seeing them upside-down or sideways).

And another bonus: dip them in water, and they stick to the wall!
Basbusa was thrilled, and spent way longer than I expected trying to get all the dots in just the right places beside their letters. Lots of fun!

It looks like these things are now back in stock online, too! NoorArt has them here, and they also have a cheaper, smaller version (4"x4" squares) for $9.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Muslim tot-school: masjid artwork, and a question for other Muslim moms

Umm An-Nu'man over at A Muslim Child is Born has a lovely set of three downloadable templates for masjid-based art.
I picked one, shrank it down quite a bit, printed it out and laminated it, and since then we've been trying to use it. Umm An-Nu'man and her kids used paints to fill it in, but Basbusa hasn't had much practice with paint yet, and is still far too fascinated by "exploring" it to be able to use it in a real "art project." (Much more interesting to find out what happens when she sticks her fingers in it, paints her feet, mixes colors together, etc etc :)

So, we tried scribbling in it with markers, outlining it with crayons, and even putting it underneath the paper and doing "rubbings" of it. They all worked in the sense that Basbusa got the general idea, but I think she's still a bit too young for a structured project with a pre-set goal, and I don't want to do anything that might teach her to think that there's a "right" and a "wrong" way to do artwork. So, I put the template aside until she's a bit older.

But I guess something sunk in, all the same! This morning Babusa was scribbling on her magnadoodle while I finished off some work on the computer, and she suddenly said, "Mama! Masjid!"

Well, I'm sure a mother's rosy-eyed view is influencing my interpretation, but you can kind of see what she means, right? :)

And a question for other Muslim parents: have you tried - or even seen in real life - any formal Islamic Studies "curriculum"? Do your children use one in Islamic School, and if so, what do you think of it? The ones I've heard of are IQRA, ICO Islamic Studies and Goodword, but I have no idea how good they are, and there seem to be millions of other options too. Basbusa is still too young for these, but I want to start investigating the possibilities so that I have some sense of direction when she's older. I'd like something that concentrates mostly on Islamic values, using examples from the Quran, seerah and ahadith, rather than just presenting simplified versions of stories from the Quran or getting tied up in the technical details of exactly how to wash your ears in wudhuu'. I'd really appreciate any input, even if it's just, "My kids did fine without any formal curriculum," or "I have no clue either, but I heard from my friend's aunt's sister that X is no good..." Jazaakum Allahu khayr!! :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

tot school: A puzzle! Finally!! and nature exploration

As I've mentioned in a few previous posts, Basbusa has so far shown no interest in puzzles of any kind. Jigsaws, simple wooden ones with big knobs, greeting cards cut into two - all complete flops.

Until... hooray for the Dollar Tree ... the arrival of this puzzle in her toy collection!
She's not obsessed with it, but she does (a) get the concept (finally!!); (b) enjoy it; and (c) is able to do it! Woo-hoo! Plus, it's been very helpful for increasing the number of numerals she can recognize. And the six-versus-nine issue, which has long been a point of confusion, has been greatly helped by being able to compare the two numbers, one in each hand, while we discuss how six has the circle at the bottom and nine has the circle at the top.

With the weather finally becoming more Spring-like, I've been trying to make sure we get outside every day we possibly can. Running and exploring is fun, of course, and also helps a lot with earlier bedtimes! But I also want to try to encourage a love of nature and an appreciation of its wonders. Good for science later on, good for the environment, and will also tie in well with all the nature-appreciation in the Quran, insha'Allah. One thing that we've found helpful is the little nature-treasure-baggie, above. We take it with it on most walks, and when Basbusa finds something she really loves - stones, flowers and acorns are her favorites - she puts it into her baggie. She likes the treasure-hunting aspect of it, and it also gives us a chance to talk about the objects again when we get home.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Muslim tot-school: al7amdulillah for mini prayer-rugs!

A wise and insightful friend, having read my last Muslim Tot-School post, said that she had found that her daughter suddenly started loving to pray alongside Mama after they bought her her very own mini prayer-rug. Well, a solution that simple has to be worth a try! So we bought Basbusa a little prayer-rug of her own ($5 at a local halal butcher-and-random-Islamic-stuff store)... and al7amdulillah! She loves it! At least once a day, and usually more than once, she goes and gets her rug and puts it beside mine while I'm praying (spending forever to get it spread outjust so, but hey, I'm not complaining!). Her "praying" consists of an opening takbeer and then lying face-down on her rug, tapping her index finger, but she hangs out there for at least a ruk3a or two. She also loves the salaams to each side at the end. I'm sooooooooo happy - it makes me feel so incredibly lucky to see my tiny munchkin there beside me while I pray!

Two other things have also been going well for us lately, al7amdulillah. If Basbusa doesn't feel like joining in at prayer-time, I never push the issue, but I do ask her to do a quick takbeer instead, and she now does so quite happily. What I'm hoping is that she'll get the idea that although drawing/jumping on Baba/pushing her doll in a stroller are very fun things to do, it's normal to expect to put them aside for just a moment when we hear the athan. So far, so good on that one.

The other is something I should have been doing since she was born: saying Ayat al-Kursi last thing at night as she's going to sleep, followed by dhikr. The main reason why I took so long to get around to this is that I hadn't yet memorized it myself. (I should have done so years ago, of course, but somehow, until I realized that Basbusa was also missing out due to my negligence, I never got around to it. Astighfir Allah. But better late than never.) So now our new bedtime routine is teeth, bath, glass of warm milk, goodnight to Baba, long chat in bed with Mama as Basbusa discusses everything we did that day and any other random thoughts that cross her mind... and then, as she starts to get sleepy, Ayat al-Kursi. It has been amazing - after just a few days, she began to associate it with time-to-go-to-sleep, and now she snuggles up close as soon as I start, and is out cold before I get to the end of the dhikr. Sub7an Allah :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

tot school: Arabic words!

One thing that I've been - well, not *worried* about, but very aware of - for a while now is that Basbusa just doesn't see much Arabic writing in the world around her. We only have four books in Arabic (we have a few more stored away for later, but they're not really toddler-oriented), and a flimsy Egyptian kindergarten alphabet book. Basbusa sees Arabic when we're memorizing Quran together, but that's about it.

All those easy activities you can incorporate into daily life if you're teaching your child the English alphabet are just not available while we're living in the US: there are no Arabic street-signs, store names, advertisements on buses, labels on grocery shelves, etc. And particularly since Arabic script looks so different from the stand-alone Arabic letters which we've been learning, it seems all the more important that Basbusa would just have some general exposure to what writing "looks like."

So, when some friends gave us a whiteboard that their daughters had outgrown, but which is still too tall for Basbusa to use comfortably, I thought I'd use it to add a tiny bit of random Arabic script into our environment:

I change the words on it every so often, although "Allah" is usually up on top. (For non-Arabic-speakers, it currently says "Allah," "Mama" and "Baba," as well as Basbusa's real name, whited-out for the purposes of the blog :) My goal with this is definitely not to try to push her into reading! I'm in no rush at all about that. She's usually watching while I change the words, and I tell her what each one says, but that's it. We don't dwell on them or study them or really pay them any attention at all - they're just part of the environment. I'd just like her to have the opportunity to become aware that there's something called "writing" and that this, more or less, is what it tends to look like. It's an awareness that I'm sure she'd gain without any effort at all if we were working in English, just from seeing words all around her.

So imagine my surprise (and delight! and huge fountains of maternal pride and goofiness! and calls to the grandparents!) when it turned out that Basbusa had actually picked up on every single word I've ever written up there? The other day, she brought me her magnadoodle and said, "write something! write something!" She uses "write" for both writing and drawing, and what she almost always wants is a picture of a cat, but this time, just for the heck of it, I wrote her name. "Basbusa!", she cried, pointing to herself. What?!? Really?!? So I went through all the other words that have been up there, and she called out "Allah! Baba! Mama! Basbusa!" (couldn't resist throwing her name in again!), and even her best friend's nickname, "Raspberry!", which was only up there once, ages ago, for only a few days. She wasn't even stopping to think about them.

Of course she's not really reading; she has just memorized what those particular words look like, but you can just imagine how proud of her I was!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

tot school: ice-cube scooping and bead-threading

Another hit-and-miss tot-school session today, as usual!

First up, ice-cube scooping, inspired by Chasing Cheerios:

This is another one where I'm not quite sure what the point is, as far as "education" is concerned, but Basbusa certainly loved it! I added a bit of red paint to the water before freezing the ice-cubes, just to make them a bit more visible. I thought it would be tricky for her, but actually she had the icecubes transferred into the bowl in about twelve seconds using the big slotted spoon. So we tried again using a teeny-weeny teaspoon. Done in maybe 20 seconds, followed by several repetitions. But she enjoyed it a lot, and I think she was also interested in the coldness of the icecubes (which she has never really played with before) and the way the changed shape and dripped pink water as they melted. So hey, let's call it a science experiment :)

And, yet another fail in the beading department:
(Please note, when I say "fail," I don't mean Basbusa!! I mean failure on *my* part to come up with activities that she finds fun and interesting.) A nice, easily-grippable new shoelace, and some beads that fell off a broken abacus. Fun threading activity, you'd think, right? But no; Basbusa, who finds nothing more interesting than inserting flash drives into USB ports and cell-phone-chargers into cell-phones, apparently thinks that putting a shoelace through a bead is a waste of time. No interest whatsoever. Maybe she'd be more into it if we were "making necklaces"? Get some pink and sparkle involved? She does seem to have inherited (from her Auntie, not from her Mama!) a love of girlie bows and ribbons... Hmmmm....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

tot school: number-recognition and pom-pom placing

Please note: I link to TotSchool once a week, but I actually post our activities one day at a time rather than in a weekly wrap-up. You can see all our Tot School posts by clicking on the "Tot School" link on the right.

Apologies for the long silence! Work always gets crazy at the end of the quarter, so blog-updates fell by the wayside for a while there.

This tot-school session was our usual mix of successful with giant flop. It's odd; Basbusa has been picking up new (Arabic) letters in the blink of an eye, but with numbers, which she sees much more often in the world around her, recognition has been coming much more slowly. Zero, one and six are still the only ones she has completely down, with a few others possible depending on the day. It's lucky we live in an apartment building, or even one and six would probably still be pretty vague! Yay for the joys of elevator-button-pressing :)

So our first activity was to get some use out of the vast number of supermarket fliers that arrive in our mailbox every Thursday:

Lots of pictures of food, which Basbusa always likes to talk about! And numbers of all kinds sprinkled around the page. In the example above, which is the first time we tried it, she was finding the "3"s and I was circling them, and then she found the "9"s and I put a rectangle around them etc, but she wasn't too enthralled, and needed a lot of encouragement and prompting. Since then, however, we've evolved a bit: Now she gets to hold the pen, and we put "stars" (in other words, enthusiastic scribbles) on whichever number we're looking for . We also mix it up a bit by putting stars on the strawberries, or on the noses of the models in clothes-store ads, or on the letter "S"s (the only one she knows so far in English), and she's much more interested. We've had fun with this quite a few times.

Next up: using a teaspoon to put pom-poms into a little tray which used to line a box of chocolates.

Why? Well, I'm not quite sure. The entire tot-school universe and its mother seems to do this kind of thing, whether it's using tweezers to put erasers into egg-cups or using tongs to put marbles onto upside-down bath-sucker-thingies, so I'm sure there must be a good reason behind it. One-to-one correspondence, maybe? Fine motor skills and finger-strength? Their kids also seem to love it, so I thought we'd give it a try, but it didn't really work out. First of all, Basbusa, lover of all things pink, picked out all the pink pom-poms and spent quite a while trying to cram them all into her pocket. She was momentarily intrigued when I started putting one pom-pom into each spot on the tray, but clearly thought it was silly to be using a spoon when fingers were so much easier, and soon lost interest anyway. I held her attention for a few seconds longer by engaging her love of giving orders and letting her dictate which spot I'd put each pom-pom - I figured that if the point is one-to-one correspondence, she'd still be getting some use out of it this way - but we were done pretty quickly. Ah well. Whatever the point was, I don't think we got it!

To see what everyone else and their tots have been up to this week, please check out Tot School headquarters over at 1+1+1=1.

Monday, March 8, 2010

20 months!

My sweet angel-cupcake is getting bigger by the day - after wearing her 12-month clothes until she was about 17 months, she's suddenly stretching all the way to the very end of her 2T PJs.

She's starting to give us long descriptions of what's happening in the world around her, with pseudo-sentences instead of just single words. She also suddenly plunges into complicated narrations of events that happened days or weeks ago, so it always takes me a few seconds to catch up and figure out what she's talking about! For example, we went to visit a neighbor with a (very timid) cat a few weeks ago, and although Basbusa only saw the cat for about three seconds before it vanished under the bed, she has been talking about it ever since, at all kind of random intervals. It goes something like this (while gazing intently into your eyes to make sure you're following the communication): "Cat! ... Auntie Aisha... cat... Auntie Aisha carry cat... Cat in arms... Cat, meow, meow... Run! Run! Cat run! Cat afraid! Cat all gone! Basbusa saw cat..."

She also takes a few seconds to gather her thoughts as she adds more detail. For example, "Gloves!.... Black gloves... Auntie Nancy's black gloves... wears them... hands... Auntie Nancy wears them [on her] hands... outside... wears them outside..."

She's becoming so smart and helpful about remembering where things are and bringing me things I ask for! Yesterday my mobile rang while I was busy in the kitchen. I asked, "Basbusa, could you get me my phone, please?" and off she trotted to the bedroom, where she hunted around until she found the phone, and brought it to the kitchen for me. She also has a fantastic memory for where she left things. If I'm tidying up the bits of Baba's toolkit after she's been playing with it, and find a screwdriver missing, I can say, "Basbusa, do you remember where you left the screwdriver?" Even if it's fifteen minutes later, she'll stare at me with her head tilted slightly for a few seconds, and then trot off to fish it out from under a cushion on the sofa or between two books on the shelves. May this skill stick with her, insha'Allah! It often seems like one of the make-or-break criteria for being a successful Egyptian housewife is being able to Find Things, and I fail just lamentably at it. Basbusa seems to have inherited this one from two of her Baba's sisters, because she sure as heck didn't get it from me!

Talking of screwdrivers: there are very few things in the universe which are as fun as trying to unscrew things with Baba's screwdriver. And even fewer things cuter than watching her do it, masha'Allah :) My little engineer.

She takes such good care of her doll, reading books with her and holding the doll's hand to point to things in the books.

She adores cats, not that she's ever actually petted one.

She still follows me around all day with books for me to read to her.

She's getting a bit braver with physical activities like slides and jumping (she's not generally the world's most rough and tumble tot, so far). She's going up and down stairs with no help, and even lets go of the banister sometimes.

We're making progress with the potty training. It doesn't feel like tons of progress because she's still mostly dependent on me for reminders, but we don't have more than one or two misses per day.

She knows her colors, and adores pink, which she points out wherever she sees it. She hasn't gotten the hang of purple yet, but that's four syllables in Arabic, so I guess that's reasonable :) She knows ب, س, و, غ, ج, ق, ش and sometimes ك, ف and ت.

And, last milestone, she's finally weaned, about two weeks ago. She was totally ready - she was down to just once a day anyway - and she hasn't missed it at all. Sweet little munchkin. Nursing was all I hoped it would be.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

arabic printables: س picture-book page

Basbusa and I finally started a project which has been in my mind for months and months! You know how there are lots of board-books in English which just have a bunch of nice pictures for words that start with A, and then a bunch of nice pictures for words that start with B, etc? I've searched high and low for something like that in Arabic, because Basbusa loves those kind of books (even at the ripe old age of one and a half), but the closest I've been able to find is My Arabic Alphabet Book. It's nice, but there's only one picture per letter. And also, it uses fuS7a - so, for example, for the letter س, it has a car. Ok, س is for سيارة, but we're Egyptian, so we say عربية for "car." I think that would make it harder for Basbusa to get the link between the sound and the picture.

So, we're making our own. With help from Basbusa in the pasting and sticking, we put together the first page of our own Arabic Alphabet book:

I've uploaded the file here if anyone would like to print it out. There's one page with just the letter س, one page with the pictures, and one page with the words for each picture. You cut out the pictures and words, and add them (collage-style) to the page with the big س on it. I also laminated it when we were done, to make it a bit sturdier, and because Basbusa sees anything stuck to anything else as an invitation to pick, peel, pick, peel until she has it completely disassembled.

The reason I didn't just assemble all the words and images onto one sheet before printing, and avoid the work of the collage-making, was partly that I only have Microsoft Word to work with. I've always found it annoying and time-consuming trying to get Word to display images and text together without doing odd things to the placement. Also, I was hoping that if Basbusa had helped to make the book, she'd be even more interested in reading it. We'll see, insha'Allah :)

The file I've uploaded is slightly different from the one in the photo above. We know a little girl whose name starts with س, so I included her picture on our copy, but I replaced her with something else on the copy I'm sharing with the world in general. Hope this is useful to someone, insha'Allah!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

tot school: bears and puzzles

[Please note: I put the official "tot school" logo on one post per week, but actually, I don't do a weekly compilation of all our tot-school activities - I cover one tot-school day in each post, and upload them as we go. If you'd like to see more of our tot-school days, you can click on the "tot school" link on the right.]

Basbusa was still not 100% over her virus during today's tot school, but all the same, I think the activities I had planned for her didn't really catch her interest. Remember these bears, whom I had been hoping she might sort a few weeks ago? Well, now that she really does know her colors - well, most of them - I thought we'd have another try. And sure enough, while I was setting things up, she did hunt around for a few blue bears and put them in the blue cup without my even suggesting it. But the activity itself wasn't much of a hit. Here's what I had been planning:

I took a big green foam dice (two for a dollar at Dollar Tree), covered the faces with white labels, and colored them yellow, red and blue. Then I got out the red, blue and yellow bears and cups. I had been thinking we could incorporate plenty of running around: we'd put the cups in three different corners of the room with the bears in the middle, toss the dice, pick out a bear that matched the color on the dice, and then run-run-run to the matching cup to put the bear in it. Sounds fun, right? I thought so, but Basbusa wasn't convinced. She got the idea, and understood that she was supposed to pick out a bear that matched the dice, but she didn't seem to think it was a very fun thing to do. And as for going to put it in a cup, well, she saw even less point in that. She did maybe four or five, with much encouragement, and then was all done. She put the yellow dice into the yellow cup and got up and wandered off.

Right. Well, next up were some puzzles. Basbusa has yet to put even so much as one piece into a single puzzle, and I've tried all kinds - those big knobbed ones, ones like the ones below, and even super-simple ones like pictures of animals just cut in two with a straight line, so all you're really doing is matching the heads to the tails. She has no interest in any of them. I keep reading about tots all over the blogosphere who thrive on puzzles, so I thought I'd keep offering them once every so often just in case she changes her mind. So I brought out these (a set of 8 for $4 at the Christmas Tree Stores):

As usual, she had no interest in putting them together, and only mild interest in taking them apart. She did enjoy mixing up the pieces from several different puzzles, like this:

... and then fishing out the three parts of the pig, or the three parts of the cow, but actually assembling those three parts was not on her agenda. Ah well.

Our last activity was just playing, really, with a bit of discussion of colors and clothing thrown in. I made this felt dress-up bear for Basbusa as an activity to keep her busy on the plane for our last trip to Egypt, but she was still a bit young for it then. She enjoyed it for a few minutes this time, but kept wanting to pick up the bear after dressing her, and was discouraged by how the bear just flopped (I've since glued her onto a cardboard backing to make her a bit more robust). So this was yet another not-so-successful activity. Zero for three in tot school today! Oh well. Better luck next time, insha'Allah.

To see what everyone else is up to in tot school this week, please check out the Linky over at Carissa's 1+1+1=1.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Muslim tot school: umm... progressing cluelessly...

I've been happily Muslim for about seven years now (seven years already? where did they go?), but still, since I never had a "Muslim childhood" and have never even stepped inside the Sunday School sessions at the masjid, I'm always worried that I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to Basbusa's upbringing in Islam. I certainly don't know what the "normal" milestones are, in terms of when kids usually start memorizing Quran etc. (I've seen lots of little three-year-olds on YouTube, who have memorized the whole thing already - does that mean most people start their kids at birth?!?) All comments much appreciated on this one!

So far, my main theory is just to make sure she sees plenty of the things I'd like her to do some day, in the hope that she'll start copying me. She knows a few of the motions of prayer, but she's usually more excited about trying to put on one of my scarves than about the prayer itself. (Totally her own idea, by the way - I would never even suggest that such a tiny baby wear a scarf, for prayer or for anything else. She's just copying Mama.) I'd love to have a way to make the actual prayer seem like a super-fun activity that she can't wait to join in with, but no brainwaves yet. (Suggestions? Anybody?)

(And in a random cute aside, I bet you didn't know that these guys are actually praying, right?

"Boy! Akbar! Bear! Akbar!", said Basbusa, as we read about Kanga and Roo's arrival in the forest :)

On days when I'm not working, I always make a point to sit and read Quran before we get caught up in whatever activities and outings we have planned for the day, and she really enjoys that time. I set up two of those wooden Quran-holders on the floor, one for me and one for her, and she goes and gets "her" little Qurans to put on it. While I read aloud, she sits beside me and flips through them, sometimes running her little finger along the page and making random droning noises (cute!). Usually she ends up sitting on my lap, watching me read.

She knows we say "bismillah" before we eat, and "al7amdulillah" afterwards... She knows we don't leave the Quran on the floor... And that's about it, really.

I guess I could start her with stories about the Prophets etc, but for some reason, I'm hesitant to do that. It somehow feels kind of like indoctrination to me, when she's so little. Astaghfir Allah if that's wrong! I think maybe it's because I think the stories of the Prophets are actually pretty complex, in terms of the challenges they faced and how they dealt with them, and that's the important part, rather than the details of the plots of their lives. If I started telling her their stories now, when she's far too young to grasp anything but the most simplistic plot-lines, I feel like I'd be emphasizing the least important part of the whole thing by focusing on plot. And I'm also worried that in an effort to simplify those plots down to toddler-level, they'd all end up sounding something like, "The nice Muslim prophet tried to help the mean non-Muslims, but they didn't believe him, so they all died." Not, not, not-not-not-not-NOT the message I want to be giving her, on so many levels. So I think I'll keep away from those stories for now (unless someone has a brilliantly insightful reason for why I'm misguided? I'm all ears!)

Am I missing anything? Doing anything wrong so far? I'd be hugely grateful for any and all input on this one. Jazaakum Allahu khayr :)

tot school: introducing the Glue Stick

Today's tot school was a bit of a failure, really, but that's most likely because Basbusa has been miserably sick with a virus for the past few days. I thought she might like a bit of very-low-key crafting while her fever was down, but she just shook her head miserably when I tried to hand her bits of paper, and said, "Mama do it." She even shook her head at her beloved scissors and just snuggled on my lap instead, whereas usually she likes nothing better than chopping up strips of paper.

So, the following crafts are all me, not Basbusa. I persevered even though she was just watching me, because I had an Ulterior Motive: I'm hoping to start making an Arabic Alphabet picture book with her soon, with lots of pictures for each letter for her to glue onto each sheet, so I wanted to introduce her to glue sticks and how they work. We (well, I) made this:

using her two current favorite colors, pink and black, with a few bits of orange thrown in. She wouldn't hold the glue stick at first, but eventually, after watching me use it, she picked up a second one, wound it up and down a few times, and then started scooping bits of glue out of it with her fingernail, and smearing it on the paper. Well, that works too, I guess! She did enjoy doing a bit of "I Spy" with it afterwards, looking for the hearts and the circle among all the random shapes, but that was about it.

So we moved on to this (hideously ugly) little guy:

Know what it's supposed to be? Basbusa did, much to my astonishment! As soon as I had the eyes glued on, she said "Owl! Owl!" and was all excited. I chose him just for a bit more glue-stick practice, and also because her favorite book in the universe is still Owl Babies, so anything owl-related is usually a hit.

So, I'm not sure how much of the whole gluing process really sunk in, but hopefully she picked up some kind of idea. We might have one more try before we move on to making her alphabet book.

Friday, February 19, 2010

tot school: jar-closing and rice-excavating

The first part of today's activities was completely accidental, when Basbusa grabbed some of the materials I was unpacking for the Rice Excavating, and went off on explorations of her own. So here, I present the highly technical Bits-Of-Straw-In-A-Little-Jar lesson:

The jar is from one of those teeny weeny miniature jams you get with room-service in hotels. It turned out to be the perfect size for her little hands, because it was small enough for her to grasp firmly and not too heavy for her to manipulate easily. She spent about ten minutes putting the five bits of cut-up straw into the jar, angling the lid so that it squashed down the tallest bits (which were too tall for the jar, really), and then twisting it closed. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. She was so fascinated that I'm sure she must have been learning something, even if I can't quite put my finger on what it was!

Then we moved on to the "real" part of the session. Remember the hunt-for-coins-in-rice activity I posted about before? This was a repeat of that activity, with a few new twists.

We were still aiming to find the four coins and put them on their spots on the index card. But rather than just poking around with her finger, Basbusa first fished out all the pom-poms and put them into the empty cream-cheese container, and then used the mini-jam-jar to scoop out some rice on top of them. She found it absolutely fascinating to watch how the pom-poms gradually disappeared under each new scoop of rice, and it gave us plenty of chances to talk about colors, saying things like, "oooh, look, the green one disappeared! Now we can only see the blue one and the yellow one!"

Once the rice-level had fallen sufficiently, she could pick out the coins more easily and put them on their card.

It was also fun to put various things into the little jar - one coin, two coins, two coins and some rice, one coin and a pom-pom, etc - and jiggle it next to our ears, to hear what kind of sound it made. It was so funny to watch her try to figure out how to coordinate her movement to get the coins to jingle beside her own ear! At first she could jingle it, but miles away from her ear. Or get it up by her ear, but not be able to coordinate the jingle without spilling everything. But she got the hang of it eventually!

Basbusa loved this whole activity, and it kept her engaged for about twenty minutes.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What is Basbusa reading?

We absolutely loved Cheep! Cheep! by Julie Stiegemeyer. Short and cute, this is the story of three chicks watching a new sibling emerge from his egg. There is only one word on each page, always rhyming with "cheep," describing the chicks' reactions to the widening crack in the egg. This is one of the first books that Basbusa started "reading" back to me, pointing to the pictures and mimicking that the chicks were asleep, or tiptoe-ing (creep!), or landing on top of each other (heap!). Plus the big hug at the end when the chicks meet their new brother. You can't beat a book that inspires your tot to give you lots of hugs :)

Llama Llama Mad at Mama was a recommendation from Chronicles of an Infant Bibliophile, and it was a huge success! So much so that we bought our own copy. All the text rhymes (for example, "Llama llama out with Mama, shopping at the Shop-O-Rama!"), and after a read or two, Basbusa was chanting along, saying something along the lines of, "Mama llama llama mama rama rama" :) The page where Llama Llama throws a giant tantrum in the store made a big impression, as did the following page where he and Mama Llama kiss and make up. Plus, we've been quoting the book ever since. The other day, when I told her that Baba was going shopping, she said "Shopping! Llama!", and when I asked her to help me push the shopping cart with me - something which Llama Llama also does in the book - she said, "Basbusa. Cart. Llama. Cart."

Since llamas were such a hit, I picked up Is Your Mama a Llama when I spotted it in the library. It's another one we're going to have to buy a copy of! The text rhymes beautifully, and yet uses language that isn't the ultra-simplistic vocabulary of most baby books. (For example: "Is your mama a llama?" I asked my friend Jane. "No, she is not," Jane politely explained. "She grazes on grass and she likes to say 'Moo!' I do not think that's what a llama would do.") There's lots to look at in the pictures in addition to the baby-mommy pair in each couplet, and Basbusa (for reasons best known to herself) absolutely adored the illustration of a mama seal eating a fish. Oh, and all kinds of interesting animals are included, like bats and kangaroos, rather than the usual dog-cat-sheep of many baby books.

And lastly, one we've gotten from the library several times: Mommy Hugs. This book just shows pairs of animals, with each page showing what the mommy does in order to hug her baby, but it's very sweet with lovely illustrations. And it provides you with endless excuses to snuggle your tot as you demonstrate each kind of hug.

To see what books other mamas recommend, go browse through this week's links at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.