Archive | February, 2012

I made a diaper cake!

24 Feb

When I was pregnant with Freestyle, the families in my  class, in cahoots with some of the teachers, threw me a surprise baby shower. It was very sweet (though when the office asked me to come down to “take a call from a parent” so the parents could sneak in and set up with the class, my reaction was: “Um, no I can’t take their call now! I’m teaching!” It took them a few minutes to kick me out of the classroom. Ha ha.).

A couple of the moms made me a diaper cake, which was such a cute gift. Even though we used cloth diapers, we did end up using the diapers in the cake, so it was pretty useful!

The funniest thing happened was when I walked back into the room. One boy immediately said, “Mrs. MM! Do you like the cake? (giggle) DON’T eat it though, (giggle) because it’s made out of…DIAPERS! (burst of giggles)”

So, a good friend of mine is expecting a girl in a couple of weeks and a few of us are going over to her place and bringing her dinner this weekend. We decided to be practical and get her wipes and diapers of different sizes instead of toys and clothes (though I bet a couple of them will end up getting her a dress or two as well!).

I got her a huge box of wipes and decided to try my hand at a diaper cake, to go along with the diaper theme! I know they’re done a lot and now they have diaper monkeys and a whole zoo’s worth of diaper animals, but I’ve never made one before so decided to stick with a simple cake!

I didn’t think it’d turn out as nicely as it did, so I’m pretty happy with it. If anyone else has a baby shower to attend and wants to give it a try, the instructions are below. The secret is ribbon. Lots and lots of ribbon to cover up all manners of mistakes!

 

DIY Diaper Cake 

Approx. Cost & Time: $40-50 & 1.5 hours (+ extra 30 mins. if you have a toddler running around!)

Materials:

  • About 70 diapers, Size 2 or 3
  • Rubber bands (about 140 small and 4 large- so just get a bag of them!)
  • Ribbon! A different 1″ ribbon for each layer (3) & a thin satin ribbon for decoration and to tie up the goodies
  • 4-5 baby items (I used a stuffed animal, baby socks, teething ring, and a small photo frame)
  • Scissors
  • Tape (scotch & masking)
  • Cardboard
  • Various decorations (I used felt flowers with a wire stem, self-adhesive flowers)- Optional

What to do:

1. Tightly roll up all the diapers and secure on both ends with elastics.

45 minutes and 72 diapers later...

 

2. Stack the diapers into three circular layers and double-wrap a large elastic around the layers. For the larger ones, I had to wrap up a smaller circle before I added more.

  

Top tier- 7 diaper rolls (1 in the middle and 6 surrounding it)

2nd tier- 20 diaper rolls

Bottom tier- the rest of the rolls!

 

3. Place each tier on the cardboard and lightly trace around and cut out. For the largest cardboard circle, make the circumference a couple of inches larger.  I also wrapped it in wrapping paper to make it prettier. You can also just use a regular cake plate for the bottom. I just like using whatever is in the house!

 

4. I’m sure there’s a better way to do this, but I just used painter’s tape (masking tape would be better but I didn’t have any) to tape the diaper rounds onto the cardboard, making it into a 3-tier cake shape.

 

5. Now for the fun part- decorating! First, wrap each tier with the ribbon. I used scotch tape to secure it onto the diapers, but again, there’s probably a better way. Then tape the thin satin ribbon around the middle of each tier.

  

 

6. Decorate to your heart’s desire! Use the ribbon to tie the baby things onto the cake.

  

 

7. Use cellophane to wrap it all up and add a ribbon to the top.

 

Now you have a gorgeous gift for the expecting mom that will also be a cute centerpiece at the baby shower!

 

p.s. I’m not sure why, but my photos are now so small here! Usually when I upload them they are a good size. I tried changing the size but they’re already at 100%! Help?! 

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Super Easy DIY Birthday Present for a Toddler

17 Feb

 

It was a bit of a whirlwind of first birthday parties last year. I met quite a few friends from a local playgroup (love this group of women!) and a few of our other friends also had babies around the same time that I did.

Usually, I like to give books as gifts to children (yep, I’m that “auntie”!), but recently I thought of a great (well, I think it’s pretty good, at least!) idea for a friend’s daughter’s first birthday party.

My friend had stated that gifts were not necessary on the invite, but I wanted to at least make something small and useful for her adorable little girl anyway, because we’ve had such a fun year hanging out on our mat leave year.

This girl painted for the first time at our house, so I thought it would be meaningful to make her a yearly art portfolio. This would be a sketchbook for her to draw or paint in each year, so that by the time she’s an adult, she’ll have a neat, all-in-one package of samples of art from every year of her life.

I know that parents accumulate a lot of artwork over the years and that organizing and storing it is a challenge already, so this would be one way to keep some of her art together that would represent each year of her life. I also thought it would be nice for them to look back to see how her art skills have changed and developed over the years. It would be fun for the child to look back on her own progress as well.

 

How to Make a Yearly Art Portfolio for a 1-Year-Old (or 2, or 3…)

What You’ll Need:

  • A high-quality sketchbook with at least 20 pages
  • Photo(s) of the birthday child for the cover or your own creative spin
  • Instruction page for the inside cover
  • Glue stick
  • Clear glue sealer (i.e. Mod Podge) & brush or sponge
For the cover, you can just do a simple title (“My Yearly Art Portfolio”) with the photo of the child, a photo collage, or decorate it however else you please. I made a cover for the book by using Word Publisher. I had a photo of the bday girl painting at my house and changed the look of each photo to give it an Andy Warholish feel. I used the Mod Podge to seal and protect it…because I’m assuming that it will be saved and treasured as one of her most prized possessions for years to come! Ha!

 

On the inside cover, I used a photo I took of the child painting with her mom and just included a message to explain how the yearly art portfolio works:

 

My First Art Portfolio

(Child’s name, date)

How to Use

Happy 1st Birthday!

This is a yearly art portfolio for showcasing your (future) masterpieces created during your life as an artist. 

Every year, draw or paint a beautiful picture on one of the pages. Don’t forget to sign and date your art!

You’ll have a great keepsake of your artwork throughout the years to look back on and enjoy! 

Love from, 

MM, Biker, & Freestyle 

What I like about this gift is that it’s budget-friendly. Depending on your budget and the child’s age, you can include one or a combination of the following art materials/accessories: crayons, pencil crayons, watercolour set, paintbrushes (shorter, thicker ones for toddlers), art smock, non-toxic paints/fingerpaints, etc.

Et voila! A very simple, inexpensive, and useful gift that will (hopefully!) be enjoyed for years to come!

Montessori Madness Video

9 Feb

Found this neat “fast draw” video about Montessori education. It seems to be written by an enthusiastic Montessori parent. It’s entertaining (the fast drawing is pretty mesmerizing!), only a few minutes long, and a nice basic intro* to Montessori education.

Enjoy!

* I say basic because you don’t get to see the amazing, innovative Montessori materials!

P.S. I’m absolutely pro-Montessori, but not necessarily anti-public schools. Montessori education (lessons, materials, philosophy) was purposefully created to inspire and cultivate children’s exploration and learning! However, there are many great teachers in the public system who are innovative, creative, and passionate about education and bring out the best in their students too. So not all children who are not in Montessori schools will have their “flame extinguished.” Just wanted to be clear on that!

I don’t want an “obedient” kid.

5 Feb

These girls will scare you...with their cuteness!

Photo Credit 

 

This interesting parenting article about obedience appeared in on The Guardian website a couple of weeks ago.

I think she makes a good point when she writes:

“But actually is an obedient child cause for concern or celebration? The more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became by this question. Telling someone their child is obedient is (usually) meant as a compliment. But an obedient adult? Not quite so attractive is it? We have other words for that, doormat being one of them.”

I remember a particularly challenging student that I had in the past. She almost always wanted to know why she had to do this or that and would watch you like a hawk to see if you meant what you said. As her teacher, I was frustrated at times, but she was also pretty hilarious, mature, and always ready to help out.

One day, another teacher was commenting on how “stubborn” this student was, and before I could say anything, an older, more experienced teacher said, “Stubborn doesn’t always mean bad. Lawyers are stubborn. Activists are stubborn.”

I liked that a lot. That statement shifted my way of thinking and made me appreciate that student much more. I knew that I had to recognize this student’s stubbornness not as a “good” or “bad” trait, but just as a part of her personality that could be honed, like any other, to help her be successful (whatever her definition of that is) in life.

Do I want Freestyle to be obedient? Yes, of course. But I also want her to question and challenge authority and the rules in appropriate ways when she is older and really beginning her moral development (around the age of 11 or 12 years).

(I can hear parents of teenagers thinking, ‘Ha! Just you wait, sweetie. Come back to us when Freestyle is 15 and then we’ll see how you feel about it!’)

I mean, obviously, I’m not looking forward to those times when she is rebelling and yelling about how much she hates me and that I’ve ruined her life (ooh…just got a shudder!). What I mean is that I want Freestyle to grow up and not blindly follow the rules and unquestioningly do what people tell her to do, like a “good girl.”

I hope that if something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t feel right (morally, emotionally, physically), that she will stop and come to me or Biker (or another adult that she trusts and feels comfortable enough with to talk to)– which will take considerable patience, open-mindedness, and trust-building on our part, starting now!

I hope that when she is in a situation where she will have to make a tough decision (and possibly be ostracized by her friends for it), that she will have the strength to say no (or at least, “not now” and run like heck in the other direction!).

I hope that even if an authority figure is asking her to do something that she believes is even a tiny bit wrong, she will be able to trust her own intuition and recognize her own self-worth enough to refuse. I hope she will have the eloquence, respect, and tact to explain why she is refusing (unless it’s something really bad and urgent- then screw eloquence and get out of there!). I hope that she develops the resourcefulness and knowledge of where and how to get help in those situations.

How am I going to do all this? I have no idea! It’s going to be so hard to “let go” when she’s older and I can’t be there by her side. I think that we’ll have to work to make sure that Freestyle learns to think for herself as well as the welfare of others and encourage her to develop good critical thinking skills (which is very evidently missing in children’s education today). I do believe that the Montessori philosophy, when properly applied, does naturally allow and encourage the child with those issues.  Just reason #253 why I love Montessori education. 🙂

One last thing. The writer also said:

“There seems to be a real fashion for taming children and the reason seems to be fear: it’s not that most people are worried about one incident of wall-scribbling, but that they seem to fear what this behaviour will turn into if it’s not kept in check, as if all children are just waiting to grow up into sociopaths.”

I’d argue that another fear is the fear of judgement from other people, especially other parents. Hey, I both judge and have the fear of being judged by other parents. It’s hard not to feel that way, especially in our North American culture of Hyper Parenting.

However, I am really working on not judging because I realize that I’m only seeing a few seconds of these people’s lives.* And honestly, while it might be their child today, tomorrow it could easily be Freestyle having the meltdown.

I’m also trying not to worry so much if Freestyle is staging an in-store protest by lying on the floor when she doesn’t want to leave because I know that this is not her common behaviour, even though those two clucking old ladies staring at her, openly tsk tsk-ing, do not.

"Seriously, no ice cream? Okay. Initiating scream sequence in 5, 4, 3..."

Photo Credit

 

So, how about this. If you’re a parent (or not!), join me in pledging not to judge other parents purely on a passing 3-second observation. Let’s make support the first reaction in those situations for our fellow parents.

This could be anything from an understanding smile for the dad who is trying to wrestle his crying 10-month-old into a snowsuit to an offer of help to a mom who has three crying kids in the shopping cart and has just knocked over a display of cereal boxes while trying to placate the kids by ripping open an unpurchased box of cookies with her teeth. Hey- remember, no judgement!).

Raising kids is tough enough. Let’s make things easier for ourselves by doing that whole “It takes a village” thing.

 

What did you think of the article? 

 

*However, I do not think this applies to some parental behaviour that I’ve unfortunately witnessed. It hasn’t been enough to call Children’s Aid  (as a teacher, I’m obligated to report signs of child abuse, though it must be said that EVERYONE has a duty to report it.) but still pretty appalling and sad. Also, if you’re interested, here is their Positive Parenting package.


Potty Training Under 2

4 Feb

 

Potty training was probably the one thing I wasn’t looking forward to when I found out that I was having a baby. It sounded messy, hard, and just plain gross.

(Man, how quickly your concept of “gross” changes when you have a baby! AmIright, moms & dads?)

Also, the thought of my baby girl sitting on a public toilet, maybe even touching the sides of the toilet with her bare hands(!)…I’m all for exposing kids to everyday germs and the like, but public toilets are my limit.

For the record, I’m a Hoverer.

Around 16 months, I started casual potty training:

  • Putting out a potty in the kitchen and introducing Freestyle to it.
  • Talking about going to the potty (“Mommy needs to pee so she’s going to the potty. When you’re ready you’ll pee in the potty too!”)
  • Occasionally leaving her diaper-less and sitting her on the potty every hour when we were home.
Then December came around and we took a break with all the Christmas craziness. But this week I decided that it was time to really go for it because she began showing more and more signs of readiness (she’s 18 months now).

So how did the potty training go?

Actually, so far, so good! I think I really got lucky and caught Free at the right time when she was willing and able to potty train. She is doing very well (go, Freestyle!) and a lot of the time will go to the potty on her own (or when I remind her)! There are some times where she doesn’t make it on time or forget (usually because she’s distracted or too excited).

I know every child is different, but I thought I’d share some of what I did with Freestyle in case it helps anyone else.

 

What I did:

  • Diaper-less behind, all the time (except naptime, of course)! Freestyle wears a shirt, her leg warmers, and socks. That’s it. Thus the towels spread on the floor (though I was confident enough that she would make it to the potty in time by mid-week that I took the towels away). Right now she will wear pants but no diapers, but we have to keep practicing how to pull them down in time!
  • I’m asking her if she needs to “go” every once in a while. Before, if we asked her if she has peed or pooped, some of the time she would tell us. Recently, Freestyle started to take off her diaper and sit on the potty on her own. This week, she went to the potty by herself when she felt the urge, some of the time.
  • She sits on the potty every hour or so (with a basket of books next to her to keep her sitting for a bit!) in the beginning of the week. By the end of the week, I had a better idea of when she usually had to use the potty and would ask less.
  •  We’re at home the entire day (for a week so far) to keep consistent and close to the potty! We have a little potty in the kitchen and a training toilet seat on the toilet upstairs so that no matter where we are, there is a potty nearby.

So far, this week of Potty Training went well (other than the Code Brown that occured on Day One while seated at the table for lunch!). Who knew how exciting urination could be?! Last year, I would never have imagined frantically calling up Biker at work and having the following converstation:

 

Biker: Hel-

MM: HONEY! Guess what? Freestyle peed in the potty!

Biker: Oh, that’s…

MM: PEE in the POTTY!

Biker: That’s great, I…

MM: PEE! In the POTTY!
Good times, good times!

Actually, if this keeps up (fingers crossed, hands in prayer, knock on wood), it’ll be GREAT times for me, Freestyle, Biker, and the poor old washing machine (we use cloth diapers).

We’ll see how Week 2 of Potty Training goes! Wish us luck!

 

Any potty training tips or success stories to share? Anyone reading this at all? 

Make a Simple Puzzle Box

2 Feb

Here’s one of the first Montessori-inspired activities that I made for Freestyle. I got the idea from the great book, Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard & Lynn Lillard Jessen.

 

DIY Puzzle Box

Age: 15 months + (variations for younger children below)

Purpose: At this age, the child has more or less learned to connect her brain and her hand movement. Now that she can coordinate her hand movements and is ready (and wanting) more challenging work. This activity is great because it allows for

  • Concentration (repeatedly putting the discs through the slit)
  • Eye-hand coordination (accurately placing the disc into the slit)
  • Practice of the pincer grip (holding the disc between her thumb and forefinger)
  • The understanding of object permanence (the discs disappear once dropped into the box and then found again when the lid is lifted up)
  • The satisfaction after a challenge is met!
Materials:
  • box (I used a shoebox)
  • 4-6 discs (I saved up a few frozen juice lids, but you can use anything you have, such as poker chips, bottle lids, etc.)
  • utility knife

What to do:

To make: Using the utility knife, make a slit in the lid that is just big enough to fit the discs. Voila!

1. Take out all the discs and put them to the right of the box. Show your child how to pick up one disc and fit and drop it through the slit.

 

2. Allow her to try this on her own. Help guide her if needed, but if she is getting frustrated, that’s okay. Just redirect her to another activity and put this away for another time.

 

Go further:

  • For younger children (8 months +), they can try putting a small wooden egg into a cup or a small wooden cube into a box that just fits it. The child should be proficient with the egg and cup before trying the cube and box because it is much more challenging.
  • If you have wooden blocks at home (triangular prisms, cubes, sphere) you can trace those onto the different sides of a box (make sure that it is just large enough to fit the shape). Many people have a toy like this at home too. They work the same way, but are usually made of plastic. Montessori materials are natural materials (wood, wicker baskets, glass, real flowers instead of fake) as much as possible to cultivate an appreciation for the world. These natural materials also add to the sensory experience (weight of glass VS lightness of plastic, smell of wood, etc.).
  • Wooden puzzles with knob handles on the pieces are a great activity and are readily available. Fitting the piece properly gives the child the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. When they are younger, the knobs will make using the puzzle easier.