Thursday, September 3, 2015

Montessori-style Toddler Activities

On my quest to find more structured activities for Weston, I've been putting together some activities he does at Montessori for home use. His teachers tell me that he loves the "practical life skills" shelf which includes pouring water from cup to cup, sorting beans and other things that involve tactile movement. He also loves these little animal figurines that they have in class.  So these are the first two activities I've put together.

Animal Matching Game

This has turned out to be one of Weston's favorite games.  I don't have any pictures of us actually playing it because I'm usually holding the flashcards while he picks out the matching animal and we don't have a professional photog following us around all day.  I found some free flashcards at KidzClub  and downloaded all of the sets. So far, I have only put together the Farm Animal and Wild Animal sets. I printed them out on some old cardstock I had laying around, laminated them using these self-laminating sheets (which are super easy to use), and cut them out.  I also purchased a Farm Animal Wild Animal and Woodland Animal set of figurines from Amazon.  Side note: the size of the animals in the wild animal set are much smaller, but other sets were a little expensive for what I needed them for.  When we play I usually hold up a card, ask Weston what the animal is, and then ask him to find it in his figurines, which I've laid out on the floor or table.  Of course he gets a lot wrong so Dennis and I work with him on identifying the correct animals and it's fun to hear him pronounce animal names.


I am sure this has an appropriate Montessori name, but I just call it beans.  I filled two empty containers with two different types of beans.  I also gave Weston a funnel and some other empty containers to play with.  This kid sat for almost an hour and just poured beans back and forth, picked them up and put them in the containers, and poured them into the funnel. I set up a little table with a tray to capture any bean spillage near the kitchen and I was able to make dinner while he played beans! When he was done, he promptly spilled the beans on the floor instead of the there is a little downside to this game. But he did help me clean them up. So there's that.

 This last one is so blurry, but I just love the look of concentration on his face! Hah!

Let us know if you try out one of these activities and how they work for you!  Happy Learning!

*Affiliate links used for figurine supplies.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Kids Book Club

I don't know about you guys, but my little guy is ALWAYS ON THE MOVE! If he's not bouncing on the couch he's bouncing on me or chasing the kitties, or dancing, or knocking down his 'choo-choo blocks (towers we build with blocks around his train track), or throwing pillows of the couch, or climbing on the chair, or.....this could go on forever so I'll just stop here.  I've been trying to instill some quiet time and/or more structured play, mainly so I can just have a moment to sit down and breathe, but also to help him develop his fine motor, practical life, and creative and critical thinking skills.  One of the things I've been trying to remember to do is set aside some time each day to read with Weston.  Part of what makes reading to a toddler so fun is that they really get into the story and love to play along to whatever you are reading! Some days this lasts a few minutes and others we can read for an hour!  He's even starting to pick up books and "read" on his own!

There are a million children's books out there and it can be hard to choose ones that you think will really resonate with you and your kids, so I wanted to share some of the books we love to read!

I love You as Big as the World by David Van Buren
This one of our favorites. I probably like it more than Weston does. A little bear and his parent wander through nature while telling each other how much they love each other.  Bears, nature, and love.  What more can you ask for? We also like have Weston identify things in this book, like "find the moon," "where's the birdy?" and we always find time to snuggle and do nose-kisses while we are reading this one.

I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak.
We love to make faces and demonstrate all our 'silly side, mad side, happy side, sad side' while reading this book.

Ten Tiny Toes by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak
This is such a fun read. It has definitely helped us teach Weston his body parts and we always end up in a tickle fight!

What are some of your families favorite books?
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Peck Farm- Hawk's Hollow- Butterfly Garden

Peck Farm (4038 Kaneville Road Geneva, Il 60134), is another one of our favorite places to go when we're looking for some outdoor activities that can't be done in our backyard. Peck Farm also contains one of our favorite playgrounds- Hawk's Hollow and a beautiful Butterfly Garden.  If you live in the area and haven't been yet, this is a must!  And it's definitely worth the drive if you live further away. Bring a picnic lunch and sprawl out on the shady lawn of the Interpretive Center or eat under the picnic shelter.  Check their websites or the Geneva Park District's Programs webpage  for interpretive programs too! There is always something going on!

Peck Farm

Peck Farm has an interpretive center, nature and bike trails (both paved and unpaved), a sensory garden, a picnic shelter/amphitheater, a silo and a barn.  When Weston was a baby I used to love taking long walks around the lake while he slept. On the south side of the lake there is a wonderful overlook where you can sit and reax and watch the wetland wildlife (or catch a few Z's)!

Check their website for hours of operation as they change with the seasons.

Photo Cred: Geneva Il Website

Hawk's Hollow 

Hawk's Hollow located just

Monday, August 24, 2015

Red Oak Nature Center and Lippold Park

Hello friends!  We hope you are enjoying your summer!  Weston and I have been spending our days together blowing bubbles; throwing balls, playing in the sandbox; playing 'run', which involves running up and down the length of our yard well he yells "Mommy, run! Daddy, run!" and tackle, which involves Weston running around in a circle and then into our arms while one of us falls backwards; and exploring our side of the Fox Valley.  One of my favorite parts about living in this area is that there are so many fun outdoor activities to do.  We need to get our fix in the short 6 months we have before we batten down the hatches and hibernate during the Midwest winter.

One of our new favorite places to go is the Red Oak Nature Center and Lippold Park.  It's located on Route 25, just north of Route 56/Butterfield Road, in Batavia (2343 S River St
Batavia, IL 60510).  We love it here!  The Red Oak Nature Center

Monday Motivation

This week's Monday Motivation has been well played out, but if you haven't seen it yet, be prepared for a WTF moment.  I don't really understand metamodern performance art, but he's right.  We should all stop making excuses and just do it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Thinking Positive and Motivation Monday

Hello Friends. Sorry I've been MIA.  We have had a ridiculous month filled with chaos.  In the past month,we have had water in our basement 5 times. Carpet has been torn out. Walls have been torn down. Drains have been clogged and unclogged. Turns out our basement window wells are not properly waterproofed, so while we take care of that- everything from down stairs is upstairs. Toys are everywhere, tools are everywhere, beer and wine glasses are everywhere. The dog keeps escaping while we are trying to get stuff in/out of the house and backyard. It has rained almost every day in the past month and there is mud everywhere- EVERYWHERE!-  while we attempt to waterproof the window wells  (tutorial coming soon) in between rainstorms, work, and family functions.  On top of that, I was asked to come back to work full-time, only to be dropped down to part-time and told that the funding for my job may or may not be renewed come September- making it impossible to plan for childcare and our future; I dropped my cellphone in the toilet; and Weston has been running a high fever for a few days.

I'm pretty close to my breaking point. But when I write it down and sort it out- it's really not that bad, right?  So, we flooded. So, there is crap everywhere. For every crappy thing that has happened there are a million things to be thankful for.  My amazing, loving, smart little

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tips on how to talk to your friends and family about gun safety

A few weeks ago we were invited to a BBQ at a family members home. This couple does not have children and happen to own a few guns, one of which I know they keep in a pretty accessible place in their bedroom. The invite took place through a text and I replied that we would love come, but I asked if they could lock up the handgun while we were there. I was met with resistance and, long story short, I told them that we wouldn’t be coming if the handgun was not in the safe.

After looking back through the text messages, I realized that (a) my message probably seemed a little brazen- “Hey, we’ll be there, but only if you lock up the guns?” and (b) it was actually a group text message, so all of this family member’s friends had also been privy to the conversation. Knowing this person, I also realized that she probably thought I was attacking her or judging her for owning a handgun (which I wasn’t). So, rather than continuing the discussion over email, I called her. I apologized for sending the request through a text message and explained that I wasn’t trying to offend her and her husband, and that I realized what I had written probably sounded really rude, but I didn’t really mean it that way-- such is the nature of a text message. I explained that I believe in a person’s right to own a firearm, but I would appreciate it if that firearm was in a safe while we are there with our son. And if it wasn’t that we wouldn’t be attending the BBQ.

It turned out, I was right, she did feel like I was attacking her, or somehow implying that she was a hillbilly who kept guns all around the house. And she was also a little embarrassed that it went to all her friends on the text message. After my apology, I clearly laid out why we wouldn’t be able to attend the BBQ if the handgun was not properly locked in a safe. By age 1, a toddler can squeeze your finger with 7 pounds of pressure, approximately the same amount needed to pull a gun trigger. He’s curious. He’s smart. He wants to know what everything is. He wants to touch everything. I could think of at least ten ways my son could find his way into that room where the gun is stored and easily pull that trigger if he were to find it. It’s absolutely ignorant to think that it couldn’t happen to you or me. And I’m not just worried about him shooting himself- what if he finds it and shoots another person? If a person wants to own a gun- that is their choice and their right, but along with that right comes responsibility. I was still met with some resistance, but I continued to firmly, but politely press my point. By the end of the conversation, I had convinced her that the best place for the handgun to be while kids were over was in the safe.

It was an incredibly uncomfortable conversation to have, but it was necessary. I held my ground and I didn’t back down. It was one of the first times I felt like a threatened Mama Bear! Since then I’ve had conversations with other couples who have found themselves in the same sort of situation with their family and friends, and they too felt it an incredibly necessary conversation to have. I don’t expect our friends and family who don’t have children to run around and childproof their homes when we come over, but I do expect that if they invite us over, they take into consideration the potential dangers in their home...especially if one of those dangers is a deadly weapon. We move the knives away from the edge of the counter, we make sure access to pools is limited, we make sure dogs are friendly with kids, we remind parents of food allergies, we move harmful chemicals away from reach, and we should start making sure that guns are locked up.

If you are struggling with ways to talk to friends and family about gun safety this is one of those times where it’s best to just do it. Don’t over think it. Don’t worry about offending anyone. You’re not the bad guy for wanting to keep your kid safe. If you are still a little unsure about how to broach the topic- check out the Mom’s Demand Action For Gun Sense in America Be Smart Campaign. They offer a short video and downloadable PDFs with tips on how to talk to friends and family about gun safety.


The main thing I learned from this situation is that it’s not the question but how you ask the question. It’s probably not best to try to have the discussion over text message. There may be some information you are trying to clarify that is difficult to convey over text. Try to have the conversation in person or over-the-phone. Text messages can seem dry and rude, especially since the person cannot hear the inflection and/or concern in your voice. If you have a regular checklist you go over before play date- include the question “do you have any firearms and how do you store them?” as a checklist time. You may be nervous the first few times you ask, but it will get easier with time. If they indicate that they own a firearm and are not willing to store it safely, you may want to rethink your visit.


If you plan on having children over, offer the information before other parents have a chance to ask. This way you take the pressure off of them to ask what they may think are uncomfortable questions and they will realize things like safe gun storage are on your radar, so they may not be as surprised when you broach the topic before coming to their house.


Ask nicely and don’t judge. Some people hunt. Some people would like a firearm because it makes them feel safe. It doesn’t matter why they own one, it only matters that it is stored properly while your child is over.


The Be Smart campaign suggests using technology to your advantage and texting or sending email if you think it would make it less uncomfortable. I think that this would work in many cases- you just have to know your audience.


Don’t forget to talk to anyone for that matter. If you’re child will be in someone else’s home- make sure you know how they store their firearms.

Has anyone else encountered a similar situation when talking to friend or family about gun safety?  Do you have any tips to help navigate this subject?  Let us know in the comments below!

Additional Resources:

Be SMART Campaign
Every Town for Gun Safety
Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense
Guns Within Reach- Parents Magazine
Before the Play Date, the Gun Talk - CNN