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.

totschool: brown-bear size sorting and number-jumping

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? I don't get the appeal, but Basbusa does! So, I printed out the five different-sized Brown Bears from 1plus1plus1equals1, and Basbusa and I did some size-comparing.

The idea is for the tot to line up the bears in order of size, thus learning about big-bigger-biggest and learning to spot and fix things in their work that didn't go quite according to plan. For Basbusa, that task was a bit too complex taken as a whole, but she had no trouble with it when we broke it down a bit. We went through it a few times with me asking her to hand me the biggest of all the bears (or the smallest, etc), and then I'd put him at the head of the line. Then could she give me the biggest of the bears that were still left? And the next one? She enjoyed it, and I think she'll gradually get the hang of how to work through it herself if we take it out again every so often.

Next up, some very fun number review. I made several of these numerals - 0 through 10 - by taking two sheets of craft foam, cutting the number out of one of them, and sticking them together (this was cheap, since you get 16 sheets of craft foam for $1 at Dollar Tree or Walmart). We chose three numbers she knows well and one that she's a bit shaky on, and spread them around the floor. The basic idea was to identify a number, call it out, and run to jump up and down on it:

We played a few different ways - I asked her to find particular number, and we'd both run to it and jump; I asked her to choose a number to run to, then we'd jump on it and say which one we were jumping on; and then at the end when she was getting tired, she asked me to pick her up but still wanted to keep playing. So I let her point to a number, and ran over and jumped on it with her in my arms. Much hilarious giggling ensued. And much wheezing and panting from Mama by the time we'd done it for about three minutes!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The smartest, politest, wonderfulest little cupcake...

...and just in case anyone should think that those are the highly-biased words of an over-infatuated, doting mother (surely not!), then allow me (yes, please do allow me!) to give you just a few examples of my little sugarcake's latest brilliance:

Yesterday, Basbusa picked up one of her current favorite books (Uh-Oh! Gotta Go!), and brought it over to me enthusiastically. "Uh-Oh!", she said, as she pointed to the right words on the cover with her teeny little index finger. Then she turned to the title page and did it again: "Uh-Oh!" Point point! My smart little munchkin, reading already! (Well, yes... it may also be because we had fun doing lots of dramatic pointing a few days ago, when she was showing me the words in big font in her book. But it certainly looked like reading, and sounded like reading! Such an exciting glimpse of things to come.)

A recent conversation with Basbusa:
Me: Basbusa, would you like milk or juice?
Basbusa: Juice please!
Me: Sure, sweetie! Here you go.
Basbusa: Straw, please?
Me: Of course, my angel darling sweet child! Here, choose a color!
Basbusa: Thank you!

Such heart-meltingly good manners! She still needs reminders more than half the time, but she's getting there, and never has there been anything so beautiful in the universe as her little please-and-thank-yous.

And last but not least, may I report with great pride (and relief) the accomplishment of four straight days with no accidents, where potty-training is concerned? (Well, ok. One accident. Two. But they were very minor and counted as mere blips rather than start-overs.) Today, she's back with the babysitter she doesn't listen to, though, and had three accidents within the first hour, so we still have a long way to go. But it is just glorious to be moving away from endless washings of diapers (and carpets) at last!

tot school update: woo-hoo! flower-letter sorting!

Remember this post, where I bemoaned Basbusa's tremendous disinterest in my lovingly-made flower-letter sorting game? Well, today she caught sight of it on top of the dresser, and asked to play it. Ten whole minutes of very enthusiastic letter-matching! With all the right sounds! And just the kind of chat that I had been hoping for about sounds and matches!

She loved it. My sweet little angel munchkin.

tot school: alpha-fishing and caterpillar-making

Today's main tot-school activity was another one of those where the time, effort, and dreamy-eyed imaginings on my part far outweighed the amount of value Basbusa actually got out of it! The basic idea was to make some flashcards with the letters she knows on them, attach paperclips to each card, and then go fishing for them with a magnet on a string. Like so:

I was imagining all kinds of excited conversations along the lines of, "ooooh, look, you caught something! What is it? Yes, you're right, it looks like a sssssssss! It is, it's a red ssssssssssssss!" It kind-of worked, for eight cards, as in these photos:

("ooooooooo! oooooooooooo!" and "g!", said Basbusa), but after eight cards she was all done with the game, with a very definite "been there, done that!" air.

Why, exactly, did I think it was so important to glue on letters that I had cut out of craft foam, in three different colors, rather than just writing the letters with a pen?! There was some logic to it at the time, I swear, but I no longer have the slightest recollection what it might have been. In retrospect, in the light of all the tracing, cutting and gluing I did, and the four-minute activity length, "mild insanity" seems like the best guess.

Next up was an activity which I found here, to go along with one of Basbusa's current favorite books, The Hungry Caterpillar. Here's what we ended up with:

I drew the face, and cut the big green strips. Basbusa did all the tape-pulling, tape-tearing, and tape-trimming with the scissors (when four miles of tape ended up stuck to each link of the caterpillar). She loves both scissors and tape, and she understood the connection between the book and the finished product, so she enjoyed the activity. Plus, since the whole craft took only about five minutes at most, we could easily finish it before her attention-span ran out. Mr. Caterpillar survived as a toy for another day or too, before ending up in a sad crumple on the bathroom floor.

Friday, February 12, 2010

tot school: flower-letter matching and do-a-dot letters

Look at the pretty activity sheet I made for Basbusa as a review of the five letters she knows so far!

Isn't it colorful? The idea was that she would take the little circles with the letters on them, and match them up to the corresponding flower-middles. The letters and flowers were helpfully color-coded, too, in case she needed any extra hints. It took me a while a billion hours to put together, what with finding a good image of flowers, adding the Arabic letters, printing it, coloring it, laminating it, and cutting out the letter-circles. But I was all excited about how much fun we'd have (and, of course, about how proud of her I'd be when she got the hang of it - sounds like I need to re-read my goal statement yet again), so I didn't mind.

And the outcome? Well. On the bright side, she got the idea right away, and immediately matched up two circles with their flowers (while saying the correct sound). On the less-bright side, two circles is all she did. Then she flicked her hand airily in the manner of a monarch dismissing some poor wretch from his presence, and said, with great finality, "بح" (Egyptian baby-speak for "all done!" or "no more!"). Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Well, so much for that brilliant idea! I've uploaded the files here in case your tot is any more receptive (the sheet covers س, ب, غ, و and ج).

Next up (this wasn't actually in the same session, but in the following one, to avoid aliph-ba overload), we used round magnets to fill in the dots on giant letters:

(Please excuse shockingly filthy-looking baking sheet. It's not really filthy, just prehistorically ancient.) Being a cheapskate, as usual, I had also opted not to fork out the $15 or so for a set of real magnets like these ones, so instead I bought a $3 pack of magnetic "paper" and cut some circles out of them.

How did it go? Well, not bad. Basbusa got the idea, and we had plenty of opportunities to talk about the "g" and the "gh" (I'm doing sounds rather than letter names), and to discuss green versus red. And I guess it was good for fine motor skills, putting the magnet onto a dot? We got this far...

.... until she came up with a much more interesting use for the dots:

"g" and "gh" might be mildly entertaining, but clearly they can't hold a candle to the joys of sticking things between your toes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

tot school: blot-pictures and hot-vs-cold

My brilliant plan for this activity was to try to teach Basbusa the difference between "hot" and "warm." At the moment, she usually categorizes anything from lukewarm on upwards as "hot! hot!" (accompanied by much dramatic blowing and pointing), so I thought we could have a cup of ice-water, a cup of warm water, and a cup of hot water, and she could practice identifying which was which.

Well, the general idea worked, but there were a few hitches. It was really quite hard to tell the difference between "hot" and "warm" by touching the outside of the little plastic cups, so I was worried that I'd only increase her hot/warm confusion rather than decreasing it. However, Basbusa helpfully solved this problem for me within about five seconds, when she picked up the cup of warm water and drank it. Well, that solves that problem. So we just played with the "cold" and "hot" cups instead. I would mix them up and circle them around on the tray ("they're spinning! they're turning!" said Basbusa), and then ask her to find the cold one, or the hot one, etc. She would carefully test them with her finger, and point it out for me. I don't think she learned much (since she already knows the difference between hot and cold), but she enjoyed it, and was very cute to see her experimenting like a little scientist to test her materials with her tiny little finger :)

Since we had water conveniently to hand, we next did some scribbling on paper towel (she definitely knows green and pink now! yay!) and then used a dropper to watch what happened when we added water to the scribbles. Basbusa didn't really get the hang of using the dropper, which isn't surprising, but plenty of water got transfered in one way or another. It wasn't a life-altering experience for her, but she was interested enough to keep doing it. Good enough for me!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

19 months, and long blog-silence

It's been forever since I updated, despite the fact that I'm now working part-time. It's partly because, although I do have more time than I used to, it's not actually all that much more time, since most of the reason for cutting back on work was to leave more time for the joys of housework (hmmmmmmmmmm) and childrearing (yay). Plus, actually making these Arabic-language tot-school activities is taking longer than I thought it would. So it's the documentation of all these activities that is falling to the wayside. Oh well, I'll keep trying.

Basbusa, my sweet little munchkin, is getting more and more articulate. She can almost always use words to give you some idea of what's upsetting her when she's having a melt-down, which makes it much easier to help her process the latest trauma of not wanting to come out of the bath, or of wanting to eat Baba's chewing-gum. She's still mostly on one-word communications, but she's starting to put a few pairs together, as in "white headscarf" or "cookie first" (as opposed to the milk I was offering her). Oh, and of course, the ever-present "I want a _____" (which in Arabic is just two words, عايزة _________")

She's becoming more self-aware emotionally, too. When she's getting over an upset, she often observes, "Basbusa crying. Basbusa crying." I've been trying to give her the vocabulary to describe moods, which seems to be sinking in: the other day, as she lay on the carpet howling because I wouldn't let her play with Baba's laptop, she said pitifully between sobs, "angry! angry!"(She doesn't really have full-blown tantrums - they never last long, and she's pretty easy to distract - but she certainly has a mind of her own and objects strenuously and dramatically to having her plans thwarted). Oh, and of course she's known "scared" for quite a while too (she invented her own baby-sign for that one a long time ago, and now knows the word to accompany it). She can communicate her worries quite effectively, as in, for example, "Vaccuum cleaner. Vroooooom. Basbusa scared. Vroooooom. Vaccuum cleaner. Scared," which she reminds me whenever she catches sight of it sitting in the cupboard.

All that playing with rice has paid off hugely - yesterday I was cooking two dinners at once (one for yesterday and one for today), and Basbusa asked to play with the rice after I had taken it out to add to the kosheri. I thought I'd chance it, and would you believe, my angelic little cupcake played with the huge tub of rice for half an hour, without spilling *any* of it? She was scooping and digging and pouring from hand to hand, and didn't make the least bit of mess.

On the "academic" side of things, she now recognizes 7, 8 and 3 fairly reliably, in addition to her favorites 0 and 6. (She has no clue what they actually represent in terms of numbers, of course, but she can find them on elevator buttons and cell phones etc.) She now knows س, و, غ, ج, and ب, and I have a whole bunch of fun activities all laminated and ready to go (and hopefully post about) to reinforce them before we add a few more.

She is loving books more and more every day, to the point that we don't often go more than half an hour without a break for some reading (that's mama's little bookworm!). She's finally gotten into the classic toddler-mode of wanting to have her favorites read to her over and over again, so that The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Owl Babies are now permanently seared into my memory.

Meanwhile, though, she also seems to be picking up Baba's love of computers. She vaguely gets the concept that waving the Wii controllers and pressing the arrow keys causes some kind of motion in computer games, and is getting the hang of the laptop mouse. She's a huge fan of YouTube, which we use to watch animals ("Rooster! Coo-coo-cooooooo! Putin! Putin Baba! Coo-coo-coooooo!"). We hear so much about Putin over here (her pronunciation of "computer") that you'd think we were living in Russia.

She also seems to pick up three or four new English words every time we go over to Mum's, even if we're only there for an hour or two. It's amazing how fast it happens.