Monday, February 28, 2011

Wooden Waldorf blocks

I love the wooden blocks from Waldorf stores, like these ones, they are just so natural and open-ended but are also quite expensive. I thought it should not be too difficult to make my own and was right! The most difficult part was to find the right wood. Here in Texas you just don't so easily find smooth-barked trees in a park like the ones up north. But I finally found a couple of nice dry juniper sticks and set to work. My husband taught me how to use a power saw (I loved it!) and I created different length blocks. I did not think it necessary to do them in increments like the ones in stores but I could have. Next I sanded the cut ends and removed sharp side branches. I finished cut ends with an oil-beeswax mix (directions I used can be found here) and polished them with a cloth. They smell divine and I just love how they turned out. Now I need to find other diameters and also make some longitudinal cuts to create long narrow pieces. So many possibilities with these! Below are some ways we have already used them.
 Building structures and furniture
Nature table

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cheburashka and macaroni

Meet Cheburshka, Kitten's new beloved toy. He is a Russian cartoon character and when pressed he sings his song from a movie. Usually I don't approve such toys (from Waldorf's standpoint) but Kitten saw him at a friend's house, fell in love with him and they offered to let him visit for a couple of weeks. I was hoping she would get over him fairly quickly but it is taking longer than I expected. At least now she is not constantly listening to him sing! Anyway, back to the point. I gave Kitten a new sensory box, this time with just elbow macaroni as I find that she gets distracted and overwhelmed if I add too much stuff. Of course, Cheburashka had to join the fun!
 He was taking a macaroni shower...
 hiding in it...
and even when Kitten was spooning on her own he could not stay aside and not help. I left for a minute and when I came back I saw this:
Apparently he filled the whole cup on his own! What a good little helper!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

eeBoo Nature memory game review

My friends often ask me about toys and games I buy for Kitten, so I decided to throw in a review once in a while. These reviews are not sponsored by anybody, they are just for things that we own and love so that somebody may enjoy them as well. So, today's review is for a memory game by eeBoo. I love that company, we have quite a few games by them and they are all of exceptional quality.
Of course Kitten, being 22 months old is a bit too young for a memory game, so we just find matches. There are 10 pairs in the game and I thought it would be too much to do them all at once. But Kitten had no problem with it whatsoever and found all matches 3 times in a row. She really loved it.

 The pieces are big and colorful and are very sturdy.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sticker play

Very easy but very satisfying for toddlers, who have an urge to peel everything off (or at least Kitten does!). Also good for fine motor, circle recognition and discussion of colors. I just bought a big pack of dot stickers in primary colors and let Kitten have a go at it with some paper. She loved it and after transferring all stickers to paper kept peeling them off and repositioning them.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mama-made overalls

These overalls are not new, I made them last fall, but Kitten just started wearing them, so I thought I'd share.
(sorry for the blurry photo, Kitten usually starts running towards me when I try to take her picture standing still and looking at me) 

These overalls are made of quilting cotton flannel, so are really soft and a bit warmer than just plain cotton. I love this fabric for fall/spring kids clothes.
The pattern is from The Children's Year: Seasonal Crafts and Clothes. I love this book but projects which require a pattern (thankfully not very many) are a big big pain since they are hand-drawn on a grid paper and one square is 2 inches, which makes it difficult to copy. Plus, there are mistakes in patterns. But if you know how to sew clothes you can work around them, I made these overalls narrower and longer. I am also planning to make them much shorter and from light cotton gauze to have a summer outfit.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Painting for the first time

I was cleaning my shower with cotton swabs and bleach and Kitten was SO interested and excited that I let her help me and paint the shower door but quickly decided that bleach is probably not the best artistic media and switched her to painting with diluted tempera paint.
Of course she immediately wanted to know if it is OK to pour all the paint onto paper (notice that she did not just dump it herself but asked me, what a good girl!) and of course I let her, so that's what she did.

Then she needed more paint, so she tried to pour it directly from the bottle but the paint is kind of thick, so she was unsuccessful.
What's a girl to do? She started dipping cotton swabs into the narrow hole in the bottle, developing that fine motor control all by herself!
I am a strong believer in letting children explore their world without much instructions from adults other than initial demonstration, I do not make her follow my directions and encourage her to touch, taste, smell and manipulate anything that is not dangerous for her. She usually comes up with lots of interesting variations on a theme that I have not even think about and most importantly she is much more willing to do something if it was her own idea.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The story of my life or one-to-one correspondence

Nothing grand, really, just a new activity for Kitten :) I bought this mini ice cubes tray and had perfect glass marbles to fit the holes. I showed Kitten how cool it is to put a marble in each hole (and how good it is for fine motor and also one-to-one correspondence establishes base for math :P ). And what do you think she did (this is where the story-of-my-life part begins)?
Yep, you guessed it, she was not one tiny bit interested in doing it the right way. She decided that it is more fun to just put marbles on the floor.
AND it went even further…
Now she is satisfied :)
After she showed me that my silly activities are not worthy of her attention, a couple of days later she took the bowl and the tray and started putting marbles in the holes. I guess not all my efforts are wasted on her :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pigs and Bunnies

I was reminded by my helpful sister that there are still quite a few Kitten's New Year presents that I have not shared yet. Well, I thought, if I wait long enough I can keep it going till her birthday in May :) But seriously, I have not forgotten, it just takes me time to photograph everything (my least favorite part).
A family of pigs. They are made of 100% wool felt and have embroidered faces (or how do you call it in pigs?), so that there is nothing for kids to pull off and choke on. This is a beginning of what I hope is going to be a whole farm of animals. But for now this is it - Mama pig, 2 baby piglets (Kitten likes to make them nurse from Mama pig :) ) and an in-between one (how sad is that?!). Or may be it is a Papa pig, Mama pig and two kids, I'll let Kitten decide, how about that?
OK, only one bunny, really, knitted with cotton yarn. He does have button eyes, one of which I already had to reattach, but thankfully Kitten does not take things into her mouth anymore. He became our reading bunny, whenever we sit down to read he has to join us! And one more picture to show off his super-cute (if I say so myself) pompom tail.
OK, only one more handmade New Year present to go!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fedora the Waldorf Doll

I promised to show the gorgeous Waldorf doll that my Mom made and here she is! Her name is Fedora (with an emphasis on "o", a traditional Russian name). Mom made her almost 15 years ago when we lived in Germany and my sisters attended a Waldorf school. For one of the school markets all willing mothers made Waldorf dolls for sale. They gathered in school after  classes were finished and were taught proper techniques as well as provided with traditional materials, such as sheep wool for stuffing and cotton knit fabric for skin. They were free to create any clothing for the dolls. The doll came out so characteristic of Mom's personality! Mom got so attached to her in the process of making, that she could not even imagine to part with her. So the doll was named Fedora and Mom bought her herself. She still took her to the market and Fedora sat on the shelf. Everybody who walked by wanted to buy this doll and this only :) When my daughter was born I asked Mom to make us another Waldorf doll but she said she could not remember how and offered to give us Fedora instead as all her daughters are now grown and nobody plays with her. I totally agree that all Waldorf dolls deserve to be loved and played with, so she is with us now and Kitten adores her.
My Mom gave me a wonderful book Making Waldorf Dolls, which I use to make my little Waldorf dolls (like these snow children) and some clothes for Fedora:
Fall outfit
Summer outfit (sorry, the colors on this picture are not very real)
I am planning to make a friend for Fedora for Kitten's 2nd birthday, so stay tuned if you are interested :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Winter Seasonal Table

I know this is kind of late, winter is almost finished (at least here) but I wanted to share our winter seasonal table, which I only recently made anyway :) I had much bigger plans for it, but decided that for this winter it would be enough, next year I will add more. Basically it is three snow children chatting around a branch. I added rice to the bases, so they can stand on their own. They are about 4 inches tall and made of cotton velour.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Making Welsh cakes

I usually try to bake something simple about once a week as I don't ever buy ready-made desserts except for cookies. And I like to try a new recipe every week (may be I should make it a weekly post?). I wasn't really planning to include Kitten in cooking these, like I normally would, as she was happily busy with something else but as soon as she saw me take out eggs and a whisk she insisted on helping me. She LOVES her own little whisk and was very concentrated on mixing the egg.

She also very much enjoyed adding stuff and mixing everything with her hands (I thoroughly washed them afterwards as there are raw eggs in the mix).
Here is the recipe:
2 cups self-rising flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chilled butter (recipe called for 1/4 cup chilled margarine and 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, but I don't use these)
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup dried currants (if you use raisins like I did, the smaller they are the better as I found out)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp milk (optional)
Mix flour and salt, cut in butter until coarse crumbs form, stir in sugar and currants. Add egg and a little milk if necessary to form soft, but not sticky dough. On a floured surface roll it out to 1/4 inch thickness. Using a 2-1/2-inch round cookie cutter cut out 16 circles (here is where you will have problems if your raisins are too big). Heat a greased (I used butter, which made them smell like pancakes :) ) skillet and cook cakes over low heat about 3 minutes on each side until golden-brown. Sift with powdered sugar (I ate mine with butter, like scones, which is what they resembled).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Easy matching game

I was lucky to notice this bingo game on the low shelf in Walmart for just $1. I liked that it had realistic animal pictures, so I bought it. That's how it looked when I unpacked it.
 Then I cut out big shapes and one of the sheets with small animals.
First we carefully examined the small pictures with a magnifying glass. I don't think Kitten really understood why we are doing it but she was very focused on taking out a picture, flashing a magnifying glass over it and reaching for the next picture :) She did not stop until every picture was looked at!
After that it was time to match small pictures to big ones. I loved how she called all big animals mamas and little animals her name.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

All snowed in in Texas

Look who got some snow last week! I know this is laughable for those of you up north, but for down here it is a pretty big deal, so much snow that, hold your breath, remained there for the whole day! :) We stomped all over that little patch, experiencing the sounds snow makes, drew in it with a stick and scooped (or scraped :) ) it into the bucket. It was pretty fun!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New pants

Kitten is growing so fast, most pants that I bought for this winter season are already too short, so new pants were in order! I whipped these up in a couple of evenings using leftover jeans material (I had just enough for the pants, don't you just love it when it happens?) and a pattern from Making Children's Clothes: 25 Stylish Step-by-step Sewing Projects for 0-5 Years. Next time I will make them narrower and raise the waist at least 1 inch but overall I am really happy how they turned out. It is pretty hard to buy well-fitting pants for my tall skinny girl, so I see a lot of these in my future :) 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Valentine Sensory Box

 I used small and large beans as a base, added heart confetti, red pompoms, large and small glitter balls, several heart boxes, fake roses and window gel stickers. I usually add extras gradually, when Kitten gets tired of playing with basic stuff. She liked beans the best.
 Scooping and transferring big balls to little cups was a hit as well.
 We also discussed the concepts soft/hard and fluffy/smooth/rough, arranged flowers and even learned letters "O" and "X" (same as "H" in Russian). She kept saying "h" holding a letter "X" and would find an "O" when asked, I guess we should move onto learning letters ;)