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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Why's: reasons why we love Busy Bags...

Reason #481 why we love Busy Bags:
Hearing my child exclaim, “I did it!” with such pride after completing a task using the items in the activity.

What are the reasons you like Busy Bags? What is your favorite activity for your child related to their age or skill-level? 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Use a tray to contain Busy Bag contents

Since activity bags have small parts, it’s recommended to dump contents of each bag onto a large cookie sheet at the start of play. The lip of the pan will help corral the items and facilitate easy cleanup.  

Also, encourage the child to make the busy bag their own activity – everything from cleaning up on their own, to selecting which bag to use and even allowing them to dump the activity contents into their tray. What child doesn’t love to dump?!?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Learning about pink…

I have to share a story about one of the preschool activity bags recently posted, the Match Me Cards.

As noted, we made 12 cards for the matching activity with six cards having ‘boy items’ (foam vehicles) and the other six having ‘girl items’ (the jewels). This was intentional because I think it is important to expose children to a large variety of colors and shapes and so forth, no matter if the items are ‘made for’ a certain gender. If it were up to my oldest, he would never touch anything pink or soft or feminine.  I don't know why he is like this; he's just decided that he really only likes what he considers 'boy things'!

Two years ago I realized the importance of being aware of what my kids are exposed to in life.
My oldest was learning his colors at the age of two and it was common practice to talk about colors of anything and everything we touched or saw.  I tend to like bright primary colors so most things in life are basic colors of red, blue, green and yellow....from our toys to house decor and our clothing colors and so forth. 

One day we were at our neighbor’s house playing with sidewalk chalk. They have a young daughter and most of their toys are very ‘girly’ colored; even the chalk was mostly shades of reds, whites, and yellows.  My neighbor asked my 2 year old son what color he was holding and he said, “It’s red”.  She corrected him and accurately noted that it was pink.  I commented that “pink” isn’t used in our vocabulary much because there are very few pink items in our house.  ….but that really got me thinking….  My son truly wasn’t exposed to certain colors because they weren’t displayed in his everyday items.

Speed up to present day….as I was assembling several Busy Bags with newly purchased items, my son (now 4 years old) found the gems and informed me that they were “for girls”….and I suddenly had a flash back to the 'pink conversation’ we had years earlier. 

example 1 of match me cards

That’s when I realized how great these Busy Bags really are!  They are a wonderful medium to expose my boys to the world of ‘girly things’ without forcing them to use girl toys. And for my ‘all boy’ 4 year old who shys away from anything girly at this stage in life, these activity bags allow him to explore a host of items in a way that he feels is safe and fun! Plus, it allows Mom to get to use the word ‘pink’ and ‘sparkly’ and ‘pretty’ from time-to-time!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reminder: Educate for safety!

Here is a quick, basic disclaimer regarding items suggested for play on this blog...

Please use these activities in a responsible way.  Always take time to educate children on use of all products included in the activity bags.
Plastic bags never go over face or head.
Rubber bands and yarn never get wrapped tightly around fingers, wrists or toes.
Small items, like beads, never go into the mouth ears or nose.

...There you go.  *wink*

Every child is different.  Knowing my own kids, I know that I can trust my 2 year old with small parts because he does not put things in his mouth anymore. And I know I can let my 4 year old play with less supervision because he is responsible for his age. But I also know some 4 year olds that you can't take your eye off of and some 2 year olds that are tactile learners and still love to put things in weird parts of their body!

Some of the Busy Bags we'll be posting this next week include items like a fabric tape measure and nuts & bolts. There are some parents who try to hide many small, household items from their children but what happens when the child finds a tape measure at Grandpa's house -- if they weren't taught how to correctly use it, there's a much greater chance of slicing a finger!! Plus, once you get to the 2nd and 3rd+ children, it's hard to keep small items out of reach.  (Hot Wheels or Barbie shoes, anyone??)

My view is:  I would rather allow my kids to play with small parts in a 'controlled environment' so I can educate them on appropriate use; making it less likely that they'll end up with a bead up their nose or eating magnets.  The first time my toddler reached for his big brother's scissors, I froze, then swallowed back my fear and taught him how to correctly hold and carry scissors...and then put them away quickly. *wink*

By providing time to play with various Busy Bag activities, you are fostering a positive learning environment that will result in smart play and, hopefully, less ER trips. Thank you for playing with your preschooler!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Creating a good “Busy Bag Time”

Example pic for later post - Classy Colors
Something I hear over and over is that children love routine.  I know this but am not very good at creating routines. I am always trying to multi-task and accomplish things while at home all day with my kids. My older son understands my ‘flighty’ personality and seems to be able to still successfully complete the task at hand.  A lot of the basic skills learned about focusing start at a very early age and I think good attention habits were built before he turned three while he was still in daycare.

My boys started staying at home with me at the ages of 2.5 years and 5 months.  Since my second son really didn't go to daycare long, he never had to deal with the structure and routines usually learned at daycare…which is the fortunate part because we are also all much healthier since we’re out of the daycare environment.  But the unfortunate part is that I'm noticing that my second son (now 2.5 years old) doesn't have the same ability to focus and complete basic tasks like my older one could at this tender age. And it’s sad because I think it is somewhat due to my inability to foster strict routines. 

BUT….  I am starting to see improvements since we're incorporating more structure in our day. Now that we’re introducing regular play with Busy Bags along with exposure to consistent chores as well as play with other “projects”, I am hopeful this will greatly benefit all of us!

In speaking about creating “Busy Bag Time”, here are a few suggestions for use in your home:
Announce to the child that “It’s busy bag time” and have the child sit at a solid work surface. Present the new activity bag and spend a few minutes reviewing contents as well as the instructions sheet*. This should be sufficient for the contents to turn into a self-directed activity from then on. Set the timer; start with 10 or so minutes and let them play. As they play with the busy bags more regularly, try setting the timer in longer increments. Always supervise the child but encourage them to play independently.
One of the rewards of this type of play is that the child will learn to pay attention for longer periods of time if you regularly provide these learning tools.  They will also learn to build creativity -- as they complete the original task, they may explore new ways to play with items in the bag.
In the beginning, stick to your guns about waiting for the timer to ding before for activity cleanup.  Focusing is a skill and, like any skill, some people find it easier than others as well as requiring repeat practice to develop.
*An ‘instructions sheet’ is included with all items purchased from Busy Bag Central.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Classy Colors busy bag

Classy Colors busy bag
The bright colors of this activity bag definitely draw me in! …I don’t know about my boys, but at least I want to do this game! Ha!

There are several versions of this activity and there are several ways to play so that it is best suited for your preschool user.

To start, we took a paint chip strip and selected the main color and one shade lighter then chopped off the other ends. 

Then, we took a duplicate of the paint chips and cut them down to size to fit onto the tip of a wooden clothes pin and glued it down.  And ta-da!  The game is ready! It does take a little while to cut and paste but it’s easy.
shades example - classy colors

The game is titled “Classy Colors” because it’s a game of CLASSifying colors….sorting and putting into like groups and same orders. When you look at a paint chip strip, it’s easy to see differences in the shades of color.  When you take away the point of reference and just have a small piece of color on the clothes pin, it’s actually somewhat hard to differentiate the color!

To play, hand the child the strip of colors.  In this case, we are starting with a strip of just two colors.  If you want to challenge an older child, say 4 to 6 years of age, and you have a lot of clothes pins, you can simply use the entire strip. Plus this will result in longer game play.
sample of Classy Colors

Next, hand the child the clothes pins.  If it’s their first time playing, I strongly suggest that you model your thinking pattern so they fully understand what to do. Hold the color chip on the clothes pin tip down to a paint strip and literally say "Does this color match? Yes. Does this shade match? No." Then repeat until they can see how to classify the colors.

Once the colors are matched and their "Busy Bag Time" is up, the activity can have a very quick clean-up! Yay for kiddo and yay for Mommy!

For more photos, go to the Facebook page under "BusyBagCentral" and be sure to "Like' us so you can get in on the fan-only giveaways!  Orders can be taken on Facebook or by emailing from the blog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Match Me Cards busy bag

Match Me Cards Busy Bag
This preschooler activity is developed off of a similar activity suggested by the Parents As Teachers program.  The concept is to have the tot match like-items and use the colors and shapes as a tool for communication.  Our Parent Educator suggested the use of a file folder with pictures of the images taped to the inside of the folder. Then the toddler holds an object and attempts to match the shape by placing the item on-top of the image (i.e. place a round koosh-ball on-top of the flat circle shape on the folder).

This game was modified so that it all fit into a baggie...a file folder is just too big for most bags. I just love the fact that all these busy bags we've done so far are neatly contained in zippered baggies that can all be packed away into our Busy Bag Box (more on that - click here).  Each of our activities fit into their own quart-sized baggies except for one activity that requires a gallon-sized baggie -- the Alphabet Match Up Busy Bag (more on that - click here).

For activity bag creation of these Match Me Cards, we used several colored index cards as well as a variety of matching items.  Most items are relatively flat so the cards will stack well and be easy to handle for little fingers. Our activity includes 12 cards that have six 'boyish' cards using foam vehicle shapes and six cards that have a variety of jewels that are considered ‘girly’ per comments made by my 4-year-old son. Use of both items was intentional because I want my boys to be exposed to a lot of crafty items, even if they are girly. *wink*

Truly, this bag could be tailored to girls or boys and the 'match up' items can be anything from buttons to pasta or whatever is on-hand. Plus it can be tailored for any age by offering one item to match for 1 – 2 year olds or offering a pattern of items for 3 – 5 year olds.
upclose of Match Me Cards

There are a host of ways to play this game also.  You can simply ask the child to find the match.  If they have good motor control, you can also ask that they lay the matching piece so it mirrors the permanent item or even have them place the match on-top!

For more photos, go to the Facebook page under "BusyBagCentral" and be sure to "Like' us so you can get in on the fan-only giveaways!  Orders can be taken on Facebook or by emailing from the blog.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Small & Large motor skill activity: BOXES!

When young children receive a present, many times the box the present came in suddenly becomes more interesting than the actual gift!

As noted in an earlier post, we’ve been busy playing indoors this week and we try to build upon a variety of skill sets using different items around the house. Since we received several large boxes this past week from packages that were delivered, we decided to use the packaging as part of our motor-skill development.

For the small motor skills, Little S colored all over the box.  I created with him and showed him how to draw basic shapes and wrote our names to emphasis letter memorization.

And then it became a fun large motor skill activity when he played with his creation!  At first it was a car then it was a train and then a spaceship and finally used as a good hiding spot.
imaginative play
It was also good entertainment for the baby who was having fun just laying on the floor watching his big brother play!  Now that he’s 5 months old, the little guy is learning ‘object permanence’ and really got a kick watching his brother play peek-a-boo with him and the box! 

Today, we’ll get big brother J in on the fun and have him push around Little S in the box to wear off some energy. Yay!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Small motor activity: Valentine’s Day card box

My 4-yr old is in preschool and their schedule noted trading V-day cards on Tuesday, Valentine’s day. So I thought it’d be fun to make a box for his cards based off an idea a friend posted on Facebook.

Using an empty soda pop box, we first wrapped red cardstock paper around it and taped it securely. Then I cut out hearts from a pink cardstock and we taped the hearts and the cutouts as well as decorated with puff paint per instructions from the one in-charge (my 4 year old).

{One of my ‘parenting bag of tricks’ is to present scenarios during craft time or playtime as if the child is leading all choices.  I provide narrative situations in which they get to give their decisions with decision-based play. This way, when it comes to chore time or bed time, and it's my turn to tell them what to do, the child is less likely to fight my lead since they’ve been encouraged to lead another part of their day. Many toddler outbursts are due to a need to show control; and what, really, does a youngster get to control in their world?!? I’m a pretty strict parent and know that my kids behave better if they are taught how to lead and when it's appropriate for them to be in-charge.}

Since this became a choo-choo train, the last step was to tape construction paper onto a toilet roll and tape it down and then add fuzzy yarn for our steam stack….and whala!

The craft was very quick and a majority of the time was spent learning how to operate a tape dispenser.  Learning to tear tape is a hard skill at the beginning…not folding the tape or tearing it too short or too long, not touching the teeth/blade, etc. There are so many things to learn in life!

What did your household do for Valentine’s day? Please share in the comments below.  Anyone have a great family tradition that you have done? We’re looking for ideas!

Small motor activity: Valentine's Day play ~ We Love You prints

V-day card 2012
Since my last post referred to a pause for time to play, I figured we might as well post some  photos of the activities we’d had in our household!
With the weather taking a turn for the worst this week here in Missouri and with my boys STILL fighting sinus colds, we are staying inside as much as possible. The print art photographed is what we did this at our monthly playgroup. As shown in the photo, we used craft paint on hands and toes to make a fun Valentine for Daddy and the grandparents.  This was an idea found on….their post pictured handprints and footprints with alternate text.
Since I wanted to include all three of my children on the one page, we did handprints of my oldest to make the heart, toe prints from my middle boy (along the bottom) and then a thumbprint from the baby boy (in the center).
This was really quick and fun plus it could make for a nice gift for any occasion (a birthday or father’s day or anything of the like)!
p.s. If you’re not already on Pinterest and want to be invited, let me know and I’ll send you an invite.  If you’re already on, feel free to follow my kid activity posts (user: “RachelMayBailey”)!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Posting pause for play...

Hey all....I apologize for the delay in new posts.
We've had several nights where I'm getting only 2-3 hours of sleep due to the baby waking a lot to nurse (a growth spurt??) and my 2 year old waking from coughing due to a cold or the 4 year old waking from bad dreams; the list goes on....  :(
And we have had several play dates recently taking away from free time during the day -- birthday parties and a new playgroup at church and taking a meal to a new mommy; to name a few.
The good news is that I have several more Busy Bags to post so look forward to photos later this week!
Thanks for reading,