Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sensorial sorting

'Since feeling is first...'

Sorting games can be a wonderfully engaging sensorial task for children who are developing their desire to create order. Maria Montessori believed that sensorial experiences begin at birth, and designed exercise groups to classify the eight different types of sensory work. These classifications are visual, tactile, baric, thermic, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and stereognostic. You can read more explanation about these groups and their importance in child development here.

Beyond incorporating almost all of these sensory exercise groups, this sorting game also serves as an introduction to basic math concepts like numerical grouping and sets!

Here, I have selected three items which vary in size, shape, weight, color, and texture. These happened to be bottlecaps, sea shells, and floral beads. You can use almost anything, though, including bigger items for the children who like to explore with their mouth! I placed these items into separate jars and sat back while I watched her work.

First, she enjoyed taking the items out of each jar and moving them into the other jars. Eventually she became frustrated at the jars being too deep for her hand to easily reach into, so I helped her empty each one - that's when the real fun began!

She loved picking up the items and putting them in the jar. She focused intently on the different sounds they each made when dropped in, and really seemed to enjoy the differences in texture.

These smooth, blue floral beads were definitely her favorite. They were cool to the touch, heavier than the bottle caps and shells, and made the loudest noise when dropped into a jar. 
This is the face of an individual who is completely absorbed in her work - I love it! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A year in review

"One's not half two. It's two are halves of one"
Sweet Bee, today I paid close attention to how it feels to hold you in your sleep. Your warmth, the way your breath feels on my chest, your hand on my face, how soft your hair feels. The way you look, the way you smile and sound and feel. Like love. I know these days are fleeting. You are one now, and you are incredible. You have blossomed into such a spirited and strong willed toddler, and it happened so quickly! 
Your first year brought so much joy to your father and I. It was full of ups and downs, but most of all it was full of learning experiences. You've introduced us to each other all over, and of course to you. You've also reintroduced us to ourselves. We feel so complete with you, and so in awe of this learning experience. I could write an entire book about all of the ways we've grown, but I want this to be about you, and your first year. 

You are captivating and intense. Everywhere we go people comment on how beautiful you are, on your eyes, on how happy you are, or how clever you are. They're right, and they don't even know the half of it! You sat up for the first time at 12 weeks old, you started scooting just before 16 weeks, and you were an expert at crawling by 5 months. You were standing up and walking across lengths of furniture and walls at 6 months, and standing completely unassisted at 7 months. In your 8th month you started walking, and your steps were so wobbly and uncertain. You have since graduated to running, and you love to dance. 

For your first Christmas, you were given a beautiful doll, Penelope. We call her Penny, and she's one of your favorite things. You love to carry her everywhere, holding her close to you and giving her kisses.

For your first birthday we built you an activity tower so that you can work with me at countertop height, helping to wash vegetables and prepare meals.

You are completely sure of yourself and you are so independent. You have the confidence and security to walk away on your own without ever even stopping to look back!

You love to take baths with your dad at night before bed time, and he loves to spend that time with you. It's such a special way to share your evening together playing in the tub. I can hear the two of you laughing and splashing and it never fails to make me smile.

You love books, you bring them to us every day and want to read the same books several times. We never turn you down. You love to read 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar', 'Oh The Places You Will Go', 'The Cat in the Hat', 'Are you my Mother?', and 'Cuddly Animals'. You gasp with excitement at your favorite parts, point to the pictures and smile at the pages. 

You love music, and have all your life. Now you can join in and sing and dance and shake and play your instruments! Your favorite song is 'Someone Like You', by Doris Day. I've sang it to you since before you were born.

You love your dog, Violet. You clap excitedly when she's in the room, you read her books. You sign 'dog' every time you see a dog. You love to give her hugs and kisses, and she is just as taken with you. The two of you are best of friends, and I hope you will be for a very long time to come. 

You love your milkies, and I love to nurse you. I am so proud that we've made it to a year. 

You are one now, sweet bee. And you are incredible. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A seussical celebration on a budget, with FREE Dr. Seuss printables!

On January 1st, while everyone was busy ringing in the new year with resolutions, black eyed peas, and fireworks, I was watching my sweet bee start her first day as a one year old. It's unbelievable how fast that can happen! Of course this monumental milestone came with so many things to celebrate, and deserved a fabulous party. We decided that a Dr. Seuss theme would be perfect and reinforce Bee's love for all things whimsical. Or mine, at least! So, where do we start?

Everything you see here was prepared the day of the party, and was all do it yourself. Lets take a closer look at the details:

Paper banners are such a fun way to decorate, and you can't beat the price! I went to the craft store and selected some scrapbooking paper for $0.15 cents a sheet! If you're using a standard paper size, here's a template of how to cut it so that your banners are the same size, with the gray sections becoming scraps for other projects:

When you're done, poke some holes in the top and string along different lengths of ribbon to hang all over! 

We used this great book as a guest book for people to sign, and Bee is so lucky to have so many thoughtful signatures. I plan to mail the book to family who was unable to attend so that when she's older she will be able to cherish everyone's first birthday wishes. The pen is simply wrapped in ribbon, and topped with a section of a string of feathered boa. I bought about one and a half yards of this boa string in different colors from the fabric department of my craft store for only a few dollars! You can also see how it went to use with those adorable truffula trees in the vase. Just roll them into a ball shape, hot glue in place, and secure to a paper straw. 

Before the party I was able to find a few Dr. Seuss books in terrible condition at a garage sale for a quarter each. They were written on, had pages ripped out, torn up, and absolutely perfect for tearing out the few intact pages to use in frames as inexpensive decorations.

Here you can see more truffula trees behind the delicious cake and cupcakes that are sitting on top of some fabulous DIY cake stands. I used dollar store glasses in different sizes for varying height, turned them upside down, and hot glued plates on top of them. They turned out fantastic and only cost me $2.00 each! 

I designed these adorable cupcake toppers which I am delighted to share with you all at the end of this post. I also used some of the paper scraps from the banner to make a mini banner for the cake, which I think was a really special touch. 

I bought some coordinating containers from the dollar store to serve snacks in. In keeping with the color scheme we served fruit skewers, chocolate covered marshmallows, and chocolate covered strawberries all held up by lollipop sticks from the craft store that I stuck into floral foam at the bottom of the containers.

Another way I added height to the table display was by using shoe boxes as platforms. I was able to find 3 different sized shoe boxes and wrap them in this great chevron wrapping paper which I found at Target for $1.00! I added some extra ribbon and labels and they looked wonderful! The tissue paper in the other containers was also an inexpensive target find and really helped tie everything together, as well as hide the floral foam in the bottom of the containers. I also used the left over tissue paper to cover the paintings above the kitchen table. When everything was set up they just really seemed to clash, so it was an easy fix to just tape the paper over them.

 These super cute 'One Fish, Two Fish' jello cups were the only thing I had to prep the night before. Mix your jello and allow it to set in the refridgerator until it's almost solidified, then drop a couple of swedish fish on top.

Aren't these mason jar cups the cutest thing?! I found the idea on pinterest. It's just a cupcake wrapper in place of the original metal lid. So easy to do, and what an awesome impact it makes! I was able to easily poke these paper straws through and tie the labels onto each jar with ribbon. I purchased mine from this etsy seller, but I've also seen some at my local craft store. 

One of the splurges for the party were photo props from another etsy seller (who is phenomenal, by the way). I printed these props onto card stock and taped them to wooden dowels. I also bought 2 yards of fabric to use as a backdrop for some impromptu photobooth pictures. I really loved how these turned out, and the kids had so much fun with it!

Happy birthday, sweet bee! As promised, I am thrilled to share these printables. Click for full size. You can print these on your own printer, for home use, and cut them out with scissors or use a large hole punch to do the work for you. I left some spaces in the cupcake toppers blank so that you can customize them with your child's name and age. The font I used is called Doctor Soos, and you can download it for free here. Enjoy!