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What will you give? Prompting children to give and be generous. http://momistheonlygirl.com

What will you give?

Can you believe the stores are decorated for Christmas already? I don’t really want to think about it yet, but the grandparents have been asking what types of things to get the boys. It got me thinking about this coming holiday from another perspective.

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What are they going to GIVE?

Have you thought about asking your kids what they want to GIVE? I remember asking Cutie Pie (when he was five) what he would give if he could give anything at all.

This was his (5 year old) response…

“A brontosaurus and LEGOs to a boy with no toys.
To my friends I would give pets.
To a stranger, a piece of paper because I don’t know them and they could do a lot of different things with paper.”

What ideas do your kids have to give? Have you asked them?

Toy Train ideas at Mom is the Only Girl http://momistheonlygirl.com

Got a train lover?

(UPDATE: These links are not commission-based or affiliate-based, but are provided solely for reference. Please see the note at the bottom of the post.)

Have you got a train loving child and your short a Christmas gift or two? Or maybe you’re looking for ideas for a birthday present? Here are a few train toy ideas based on what my train-loving seven-year-old boy adores (or used to when he was younger)!

Toy train idea suggestions at Mom is the Only Girl http://momistheonlygirl.com

 

LEGO DUPLO My First Number Train Building Set  

This LEGO train toy set is big, making it easy for little hands to grasp, and has a learning component to it with numbers on the sides of the cars. My oldest had a hard time putting the cars in any order other than the correct number sequence! My youngest, just loved pushing it around the track! Of course, these pieces can be built into other objects as well. Great imagination builder!

 

Motorized engine train set with Lego Duplo Compatible

This train toy set isn’t LEGO but it’s compatible with DUPLO pieces. My youngest adored this set, and still some days pulls it out (he’s seven!) This set has basic wheel pieces that can be built upon, as well as pieces that assemble into a bridge. The engine has a button that, once pressed, makes the train go around the track.

 

Fisher Price Thomas the Train set

My sons still pull these wooden trains out to play with. These are wooden tracks and trains that we plan on keeping until we have grandchildren! The wooden trains are relatively inexpensive and are sturdy. The wooden tracks are sturdy as well, and you can purchase both the tracks and the trains/cars non-brand name as well as purchase expansion packs and pieces so this set can grow easily with your child. I, personally, loved putting these tracks together when the boys were very small. Their little hands could grasp the trains, but their minds couldn’t figure out how to build a complete track!

 

Playhut Thomas the Train

There are also bigger train items you can purchase for your little train lover! We had this fabric trainhut for a few years, handed down to us from a friend. My boys loved it! We had picnics in it, pretended we were engineers, packed it full of pillows and read, and of course set up our wooden trains and tracks in it! This was quite durable, considering it was made of lightweight fabric!

 

Power City Trains
This is a terrific option for a child who loves trains, but needs something slightly different than wooden trains or LEGO trains. These trains and cars are battery operated, with plastic track. Sweet Pea has several of these kits and always asks for more. They are not very expensive and make a great starter to see if your older preschooler/kindergartener is ready for something more than Thomas (but of course we all love Thomas!).

 

LEGO City Trains
My youngest can’t get enough of trains. The fact that LEGO has (a few) train sets just puts it over the top. Of course, the price is a little much, but it is for all LEGOs. (This one at the time of posting is $124 through Amazon.) This represents just one of their train sets. My youngest loves LEGO train kits because he can build per the instructions, or use his imagination and build what he likes. These trains are pretty sturdy once built, although they are made of LEGO, and can come apart easily. The tracks are also pretty sturdy and there are additional pieces available to purchase or small packs available. Sweet Pea has always has excellent fine motor skills when it comes to LEGO play, so he graduated to a LEGO train set right after playing a couple of years with the wooden set.

 

Step2 Thomas the Tank Engine Up & Down Coaster

Sweet Pea and Cutie Pie both loved riding on one of these when we visited the local recreation center every Friday during their preschool years when they would open their doors to children inviting them to come and play with their toys! I know this is a little more than most have space for, but definitely an awesome train gift for a little one!

 

These are just a few options of train toys you will find for your train-loving child! There are oh so many more if you do a quick search, but these definitely represent my child’s favorites!

 

*I am linking to these items because my family and I enjoy them, not because we endorse them or receive any commission based on your click-throughs or purchases. None of these links are provided based on commission. Please use your own discretion when purchasing through these links.

What's in the box? -a sense of hearing Christmas game using simple home materials {shared from Mom is the Only Girl http://momistheonlygirl.com}

What’s in the box? – a sense of hearing {Christmas} game

When my boys were smaller we used to play a sense of hearing game called ‘What’s in the cup’ or some other derivative I would come up with when we were ready to play it. (I’ve written about this here and here.) This year I’m calling it ‘What’s in the box?’

What's in the box? A sense of hearing experiment with Christmas items for an extra challenge! (at Mom is the Only Girl http://momistheonlygirl.com)

Sense of hearing Anytime version:

Basically, I’d put a few objects in a container and they would shake and tilt and tip it trying to use their sense of hearing to figure out what the object was. Usually familiar objects were used…paperclips, LEGOs, beads. These items would be placed in a plastic container – think old butter containers with lids taped on!

Sense of hearing Christmastime version:

At Christmastime this game had a fun twist built in to it. The day after we brought out the Christmas items and decorated, I would place smaller items in unbreakable, covered containers and the boys would try to guess what they were. I would use things like extra ornament hangers, a small (unbreakable) ornament, a candy cane (which they would later have as a special treat).

The twist – I have a few special boxes that I had planned on using to help tell the Christmas story (think the three wise men) and most recently used these in our little sense of hearing game! These boxes are made of wood! Think it changes the sounds the boys would hear if the containers were plastic?

The added challenge of using somewhat unfamiliar items usually only seen, touched, and possibly heard ups the ante for children my kids’ ages (seven and just about nine.)

Since I’m using wooden boxes this year, we haven’t done the written portion of the experiment I wrote about here, as it is just too cumbersome trying to involve numbers and recording hypotheses and still keep this a quick activity, although it is a definite possibility if I prepare this activity ahead of time.

Bonus:

We’ve also played this game placing the items in a sock (or stocking at Christmastime) and tried guessing what the object was by sense of touch only, turning it into a sense of touch game!

thankful garland

Thankful garland

Just a quick idea to share with you as you contemplate Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Tradition Thankful Garland

A few years ago we made what we call Thankful Garland. Every day in the month of November we wrote one thing we were thankful for on a strip of paper and made a paper garland with them as they were written. (Make a loop with the first paper and staple, then make more loops stringing the paper through the first and stapling those until a garland is formed.)

We left this hanging over the doorway into the family room until we took our Christmas decorations down, making sure to read it when we did as a great reminder of what we are thankful for and reasons to be thankful for Jesus’ birth!

 

rainy day indoor puddle play momistheonlygirl

Rainy Day Puddle Play

As the weather gets cooler and its just too cold to play in the puddles outdoors (like we talked about last week!), we stay indoors to play a puddle jumping game! Its really simple and can be modified for any age-range. (Yep, we sort of made it up and it changes every time we play!)

My boys love this for an extension to their outdoor rainy day puddle play! Read more

Dinosaur Books for Dino loving kids at http://momistheonlygirl.com

15 Great Dinosaur Books – needs pic

Cutie Pie loves his dinosaur books still, even though he’s really into dragons. With so many books about dinosaurs on our shelves, I thought I’d compile a list of the dinosaur books from our ‘little’ collection for you. I’m sure most of these are in your public library – maybe some are more popular than others.

15 Awesome Dinosaur Books for Dino loving kids at http://momistheonlygirl.com

I’ve only linked to a few books, just so you can check a few out (I’m not an affiliate). Most of these will be available from your local library!

As Cutie Pie started to read on his own more and more, he gravitated toward Graphic Dinosaurs Comics by Rob Shone. Our librarian showed us these books in the comics section. These are laid out in more of a comic book style, and he really liked that about them.

I think to some degree dinosaur books will always be on our shelves! What about yours?

 

Marbled Easter Egg Decorations

Have you decorated for Easter? (Do you even do that? I only ask because we never really decorate for any holiday other than Christmas – and of course birthdays!)

Marbled Easter Eggs

 

This is a simple activity that you can do with kids of any age. We first made Marble Art about 5 years ago, when Cutie Pie was three, so with a little supervision young ones will be able to create. The older set might like to experiment by taking this large (and probably outdoors! This could become a gross motor activity!) Read more

Coffee Filter Flowers

Coffee Filter Flowers. Simple creative fun for any day.

Sweet pea loves playing with water and color, so we used some medicine droppers and water with food coloring added and had some fun just playing. We got to combine colors, experiment with how we used the medicine droppers, so much to explore!

Then we made our flowers! This isn’t something I came up with, rather a quick search on Pinterest for simple coffee filter flowers will bring many results for how to manipulate the coffee filters into pretty flowers with chenille stems.

This is such an easy craft. But something about scrunching up the centers of these coffee filters when they are dry and wrapping them with a chenille stem to resemble flowers always melts the heart!

Have a wonderful time sharing love to those around you with pretty flowers!

 

Jax – a snow day treat

Have you ever made Jax? Oh, it is delicious and only takes a fresh snowfall and some maple syrup to make. Well, I guess a bowl, a spoon, and someone to eat it! I thought after all of the snow falling in the northeast some may be looking for a snow day treat!

Snow and Maple Syrup Jax at http://momistheonlygirl.com

Jax is something my dad used to ‘make’ for us when I was a kid. I have no real idea where the name came from, he just always called it that! It’s a great memory!

After a fresh snowfall, when the snow is clean and white, scoop some into a bowl. Pour maple syrup (real or fake, but real is delicious!) over the snow. The syrup will get just a little gooey – and that is the tasty part! Sit back and enjoy!

Jax is a simple, fun, snow day treat for your sense of taste!

Ice ornaments

I don’t know about where you are, but in my area it is sooooo cold! Cold enough for people to be doing those experiments you hear about every winter like throwing boiling water outdoors and it turning into snow.

It’s also a dreary time. Everything seems grayish white unless there is fresh snow in the air or it is bright and sunny, but too cold to go outside. Today is, thankfully, one of the sunny days, however, it is below zero!

Ice at http://momistheonlygirl.com

It seems like the perfect day to share a fun, easy little activity we do when it gets this cold. Ice ornaments! (Adult supervision is a good idea!)

Ice ornaments at http://momistheonlygirl.com

First, get out some tins, cupcake tins, empty yogurt containers, anything you’d like to use as a mold for your ornaments. (Any size will do as long as it isn’t too big to fit flat in your freezer and hang by a string/rope from something!) Outside one house a couple of years ago I saw large ice wreaths with cranberries inside, made from an angel cake mold. It was beautifully big!

Read more

Separation Anxiety Resources

Five year old Sweet Pea has been going to Kindergarten Camp for three weeks and still has not gotten over his separation anxiety. The first several days was very excited to go to camp so I thought ‘finally he’s over this.’ However, today he was still clinging to me and screaming when I left. This is really stressful for this mom, although I try very hard not to show it, especially to him. Read more

Dr. Seuss Book Fun

Dr. Seuss’ birthday is celebrated practically everywhere on mom blogs. It’s also celebrated in preschools and elementary schools. This pretty much sums up what I’ve heard about all last week from my kiddos, so it was hard not to extend this focus to some of the things we did here at home, too.

Each night last week we read a different Dr. Seuss book. I had thought about making gloppity glop (flubber) after we read that, but sweet pea had a lot of playdough action last week and didn’t seem that interested, when normally he does, so we didn’t.

We read The Foot Book once at night and as always the boys loved it. I pulled it out again one morning and Sweet Pea and I did it ‘action style’. Meaning we found, or tried to find or act out, every kind of foot described in the book.

It was so much fun doing the motions with him…high feet, low feet…we even went on a search for furry feet and 24 feet! (He still has a little trouble counting to 20, so 24 was hard!)

It’s been a long time since he was this giddy doing something ‘educational’. Of course, he didn’t really see it as educational, so that was probably part of it!

Did you do anything silly and fun for Dr. Seuss’ birthday at your house? What was it?

Easy Last Minute Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day! Just thought I’d share this really quick and easy Valentine’s note that you or your preschooler can do in a jiffy! I’m sure you haven’t forgotten to make all those cards for your kiddo’s classmates, but sometimes we all forget someone in our lives that could use one or who deserves a special one from your child.

Quick and easy (look here for other ideas, too!)

Sweet Pea’s preschool class has integrated simple sign language into their everyday learning. I thought this was perfect for Valentines for his classmates, and it took a very short time to make 20 of them!

  • Cut as many small hearts out of construction paper as you need.
  • Trace your child’s hand (or yours if this is from you!) onto construction paper of a different color.
  • Cut out the hand you just traced.
  • Glue the heart onto the palm of the hand, then bend the middle and ring fingers down over the heart, forming ‘I love you’ in sign language.

So simple, yet it can communicate so much!

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day, and remember to show love to everyone on this day that it is completely acceptable to do so (at least, within reason!)

Playground Letter Search

Have you ever gone on a tangible letter search? It’s sort of like Hidden Objects, but in real life rather than on paper and with a much larger area to search in! Sometimes when we visit parks we play this, mostly with the child least entertained by the park.

Tangible letter searches are very simple and involve no preparation! Simply look around at the equipment, benches, fences and whatever else is at the park and search for letters of the alphabet!

 Can you see the letter P? Its part of the railing.

 What about all of the Os?

And you can play with numbers, too. See the 0? There are several on the wall by the steps!

I usually find myself playing this with Cutie Pie when Sweet Pea has a lot of energy to burn long after Cutie Pie is ready to leave, but recently found Sweet Pea getting excited about seeing and touching letters on a recent trip to our favorite park without Cutie Pie!

As an introduction to letters for some of the younger set you can point out letters that have been formed and trace them! The large size of the letters seems to capture their attention and makes a great ‘aha’ moment to witness!

About the Absence

Did you wonder where I was for those few weeks? Even a little bit curious?

Well, back in the beginning of March my knee began to be pretty painful to the point that I couldn’t work out or run and play with the kiddos due to the pain. I went to the Dr., was dutiful and went to PT twice a week for about 5 weeks, had my MRI and was found to have a small meniscal tear and was told my femur is rubbing against the (rough) underside of my patella. I’m not in pain now, thanks to a very painful cortisone shot – I did not respond well to it at first – but I’m at about 99% now and doing a lot of strength training which will hopefully do the trick to ‘undo’ the problem and avoid another cortisone shot!

I’m not sharing this for a pity story, rather to explain why I took a little breather and to give a friendly gentle poke to go to the Dr. if you have pain in any of your joints. It could help avoid major work down the road. (I’m now looking at a knee replacement in about 20 years. Yick!)

Anyway, the oddly positive thing about PT was getting the ice for 10 minutes at the end of each session. The first time I laid there wondering what to think about. Isn’t that crazy? I mean, when do I have time to just think outside of my own home, to let my mind wander to things other than what around me needs to be ‘done’?! I actually was wondering what to wonder about!

I loved it, however, I realized I kept thinking about my kiddos and how quickly they have changed this past year. Time to think made me realize I needed to take time to just ‘be’ with my kiddos, drinking them in before they change too much.

So there you have it. A gentle nudge to get that little pain you’ve been consistently experiencing checked out and a gentle reminder to sit back every once in a while and truly drink in the joy of your kids. They grow up so quickly!

Encouraging Writing – Fine Motor Activities

encourage writing

Last week I posted about Cutie Pie having a little difficulty with his writing. Today I thought I’d share a section of a basic list of fine motor activities that Occupational Therapy sent home for us to work on for a month to work on coordination, concentration.

Please remember, these aren’t something I am taking credit for, rather something I’m sharing as I’ve seen it has been beneficial for Cutie Pie, age 6, who is having a little difficulty with writing with his left hand, although they aren’t necessarily for left handers.

These are also great activities for younger children developing pre-writing skills!

  • Play with play dough – cut, squeeze, use cookie cutters, squish an object inside to be found
  • Pinch and pop bubble wrap – great pincer grasp work!
  • Use of eye droppers – with water or other crafts
  • LEGO play
  • String beads
  • Cut paper
  • Use tweezers to pick up objects, or play games like Operation
  • Practice zippers and buttons, snaps and shoe tying
  • Squeeze water out of squirt bottles (water plants or clean the driveway this way)
  • Stickers
  • Tearing paper for crafts – my 4 year old loves this!

There are lots of ways you can make these activities more interesting if your child already does fine motor work like this often, however I think most kids just like doing these simple tasks without mixing it up.

If you’d like something different because you’re bored (hey, we’ve all been there doing the same thing over and over with our kiddos), look for resources on the internet. Simply look up “fine motor” and you’ll get a lot of results, make that a ton of ideas! You can also add an age in there, or a school term like preschool or early elementary to get more refined results.

I will share some of the activities Cutie Pie is partial to later this week.

Jack Wax How to

Monday I told you about our trip to a Maple Sugaring Festival. They told us about a treat the Native Indian and early American children used to have during maple sugaring time. They would take a bowl of snow and drizzle the boiling syrup over it to create a toffee or hard treat (think hard like peanut-brittle).

As a child my dad used to give us a bowl of snow with nice warm pure maple syrup over it. I don’t remember it getting stretchy like taffy or hard like peanut brittle, but I remember it being a delicious slushy treat. I think the trick for it to become true Jack Wax is to get the pure maple syrup to the ‘soft ball’ candy stage, if I remember what they told us yesterday correctly.

If you don’t have snow around you, maybe try this with finely chopped ice? If you try it please let me know how you liked it! I’d be interested in seeing what your kids think the science is behind it!

Maple Sugaring Festival

Cutie Pie and Hubby trying to tap a log

Do you live in an area where there are maple trees and maple sugaring festivals?

Maple Syrup and sugar is made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees in colder climates, which store starch in their trunks and roots before winter. This rises in the sap in the spring, providing nutrients for new leaves. Sap can be harvested from the trees at this time by boring holes in the trees to collect the sap (called tapping), which is then boiled down leaving the maple syrup!

Listening to a description of how sap
was collected in hollowed
out logs while the sap boils behind us.
Cutie Pie experiencing how kids his age helped collect the sap

The Native Indians and early Americans in the colder North American areas used to boil this down even further creating maple sugar (hence the name Maple Sugaring Festival) which was used in trading as it was very valuable. Since the maple sugar was the only sweetener, and therefore very valuable on it’s own, tapping trees and collecting sap to make maple sugar was a major family project and very important to their welfare. We were told approximately 16 gallons of sap turns into 1 gallon of maple syrup, so it was also a very large project!

How do I know all of this? We live in central New York, where maple sugaring, as it is called, is common in early spring, and so are Maple Sugar Festivals. We spent Saturday about an hour away at Cumming Nature Center (an extension of Rochester Museum and Science Center) for their festival, where we enjoyed a delicious pancake breakfast, learned about the maple syrup making process, a treat called Jack Wax, walked the snow-covered trails, found lots of animal tracks and picked up lots of ‘specimens’ (read ‘twigs’). A perfect way to spend the day as a family! It was a bit nippy, too cold for the sap to be flowing, but truly fun learning history and how pure maple syrup was and is now made. The free samples weren’t bad either!

If you live in this area, you’ll have to watch for the Maple Sugaring Festivals next year, or possibly there will be some in the coming weeks during the thaw. It is a great opportunity to learn and to get outside and into nature!

Listening to Patterns

The boys love to sit with their daddy after dinner and take turns drumming out patterns and copying what their daddy plays. We used to do this with our fingers on the edge of the table or on our knees, but it’s more fun with our drums!

This is something we all love, sort of a family music activity. I love listening. Daddy loves playing – both with the drums and with the boys. The boys love drumming, copying their daddy and their daddy copying them!

You can do this, too, no matter what the age of your kids! Simply by drum on the table or floor with your hands or play patterns with toy drums, a xylophone, spoons, really anything you can use to thump out a noise!

What they are learning: patterning, listening skills, drumming skills, coordination, steady beat, counting

In a future post I’d like to discuss patterns a little more in depth. In the meantime check out this great, simple resource about patterns.

Miniature Horses

Cutie Pie got to take a ride on a cart driven by a miniature horse, Shooter. What an awesome experience for a preschooler!


There is a mini horse farm up the road from my dad’s house. We made sure to take the boys up to see them one visit. We had no idea their owner would be out with one getting some practice for an upcoming show. The gentleman, a friend of my dad’s, invited Cutie Pie to take a ride with him! He wasn’t sure at first, but quickly agreed.

While Cutie Pie enjoyed his ride, Aunt Lisa, Hubby and I talked with Sweet Pea about the miniature horses, what they eat, how tall they are, how strong they are. He didn’t talk much, but it was obvious later that it was because he was so intrigued with them!

When Cutie Pie returned he was elated! He’s very excited to visit the horses again!

Color Game (repost)

This is a repost of a simple color game! Since this was posted last year we’ve played this game in stores with black and white floors, too!

Our church basement has a color pattern on the floor. One Sunday I was delayed after church and they were getting antsy. I found them playing a game that Hubby had created.

He’d call out a color and the boys would have to jump to it touching as few other colors as possible. They had a blast and wanted to play again the following Sunday. I love simple games that keep our boys occupied!

More Texture Fun

Do you have a Cuttlebug or something similar? For some texture fun, get it out!

Have your child feel the textures on each side of the folders. Are they smooth? Bumpy?

Help your kiddos make a texture on some paper or cardstock. Ask them what they think will happen to the paper. My boys thought they would make the smooth cardstock bumpy when we used the machine with a texture folder. We ran the cardstock through and, sure enough, the cardstock was made bumpy (texturized)! This took some coordination, but the boys loved being helpers!

We experimented with texture like this initially when we were learning the letter T, but have had fun with it several times since then!

Texture Painting

Have you ever roller pin painted? I call it Texture painting, since we first did this while learning the letter T. (idea from Strong Start website.)

Materials needed:
rolling pins
sponges
rubber bands
textured cloth (kitchen towels?)
kitchen utensils
forks
paint
trays
paper

Wrap the rolling pins in rubber bands and the textured cloth and poured some paint into the trays.
Gently roll the rolling pins in paint and roll onto the paper. (This creates a texture on the paper.)
Do the same with the sponges and utensils.
Show them how to pull the fork tongs through the wet paint to make a design.

My kids love making textures this way!

 

Pom Pom Fun

Materials Needed:
Pom Poms
Bowls
Tweezers or tongs

Set out the materials, on a tray if you wish to try to contain the Pom Poms, or on the floor.
Wait for your child to come play! (The first time or two you might need to show them how to hold the tweezers or tongs and grab the Pom Pom.)

Sweet Pea prefers these tweezers that we have – they have a scissor-like handle and since using them he’s become good at cutting paper, too!

Sometimes we sort by color or size. Other times Sweet Pea just likes to transfer from one bowl to another. (fine motor, coordination, math)

Lacing Fun

Are your kiddos fidgety with their hands? Or maybe you just like to make them work for their treats? (kidding!) Or maybe you just need something simple that doesn’t require anything fancy to set up so you can finish that project?

Try some lacing!

Stock Image - Colourful cereal
© Photographer: Iperl | Agency: Dreamstime.com

My kiddos like to string fruit cereal, O cereal and sometimes colored uncooked noodles onto yarn. A simple, fun, low-mess activity to keep little hands busy! (My kiddos don’t get to string with this sugary cereal very often, but it was a nice colorful picture for this post!)

Orchestra at Mom’s Club

My MOM’s club invited Hubby and a group of students to come play for our recent MOMs club holiday dinner. They also held a ‘petting zoo’ for the children when they were done entertaining us! This was a neat opportunity for both the children attending and those playing.

Cutie Pie and Sweet Pea helped Hubby out before the event by going to each child in the orchestra to see how their instrument worked. Each orchestral student was very patient while letting them strung the strings and draw the bow across the strings, and they were all open to suggestions from Hubby as to how to relate to the little ones.

After our delicious dinner and entertainment provided by these talented 5th graders, the little ones in MOM’s club got to walk around to each student and try their instruments ~ the violin, viola, cello and bass. Both groups of kids did great! There was no bickering, no pulling needlessly on strings, everyone was so well behaved! The parents seemed to have a great time, too, and I think it might have been a new experience for some of them as well! (coordination, concentration, gross motor, fine motor, social skills)

It isn’t every day that children preschool age and younger get to try out an instrument and even more infrequent to find them getting their hands on a stringed instrument with permission!

What instruments do you have in your home? Any budding musicians out there?

I only posted one picture because I wanted to protect the privacy of other children at the event, but I assure you there were many smiling kids checking out the instruments!

Train Station Field Trip

Sweet Pea was in his glory the day we visited The Utica Children’s Museum because the train station was right next door! Cutie Pie was pretty excited, too, and when Grampa asked if they wanted to see the trains and a real train station it was like they won the lottery!
Outside of the train station is a big, old steam engine. The boys were so excited to see this, but when we walked up to it and heard the train sound they could have cared less about it!
A train with three diesel engines started past and they were mesmerized! 
Three engines can only mean one thing…a very long, heavy train! Talk about excited! The boys hardly moved the entire time the train was going by. It was so neat to hear them talking about the parts of the train, the types of cars going by, just sharing all of their train knowledge with their Grampa!
The inside of the train station was just as I’d always imagined a train station to look, except with a farmer’s market going on. The boys kept looking up and all around them, commenting on the tall ceilings and asking why their were windows in the ceiling! 
This train station seems pretty old with the marble pillars, arches and other traditional train station architecture. The boys just kept looking around, asking who was going on the next train and all sorts of other questions about what the building is used for and where all the doors lead! 
I doubt we would visit the train station here, simply because friends and family tend to drive to visit us and there really isn’t anything near the station that would bring us to visit it. That said, I’m so glad the boys got to see this train station when we did. We happened to get to see some Menonites just after they disembarked their train as well as some at one of the farmer’s market booths. I’m always wondering what sort of questions my boys will ask when they see people who are “different” than they see themselves. In this case they simply noticed they were wearing black and that they had big hats! This gave me another great opportunity to talk with my boys about different cultures and what we can all learn from each other.

Utica Children’s Museum – Review (revise with updated info)

Grandpa has been wanting to take the boys to the Utica Children’s Museum for a while now and our visit this past weekend was the perfect opportunity to go. We had a beautiful, sunny day to drive there and it afforded us the chance to see some trains as well, since it is across the street from the train station (much to Sweet Pea’s delight!) Being regular visitors to The Strong National Museum of Play here in Rochester I wasn’t quite sure what the boys would think and was hoping it was going to be fun for them. Boy, I had nothing to worry about! They didn’t want to leave!

Now, I have to say The Strong is a fabulous children’s museum, with grand funding from a variety of sources as well as recipients of grants and therefore is the wonderful place that it is for kids. The Utica Children’s Museum doesn’t receive funding of this magnitude, if at all (I talked with the wonderfully nice woman who runs it with her husband, but cannot honestly remember if they receive outside funds, but I know she said they don’t receive anywhere near what The Strong does.*Revision: I heard from the director of Utica’s Children’s Museum and she made this comment: We don’t receive any operating funds from the City, County, State, or Federal governments, relying wholly on our visitors, field trips, and sponsors of our annual Fundraising event, held every year the 3rd week of November.) That said, you can see some of the lack of funding in the quality of some of the exhibits (which I know they are working on!) However, I hope you don’t hold that against them…this is definitely a children’s museum worth visiting! You can check here for the City of Utica says about the museum.

This entire museum is kid-friendly and just about everything is hands-on and packed with sneaky learning opportunities. Everything is at kid level and some of the experiential rooms are even built to kid-size, so watch your heads if you go into the grocery store or into the lab to learn about germs!

As you walk into the first floor you are greeted with a variety of hands-on areas. In the center of the room you’ll find a working traffic light, a gravity experiment with a ping-pong ball, a light board that works by flipping switches to create a picture and a few other things just as attractive to little hands. My boys, of course, spent a long time at the plastic Thomas train table which was located just outside of a few experiential rooms. A few of these had themes like eating healthy, set up like a small grocery store, a room with a microscope decorated with germs that teaches how to keep germs at bay and at the end of the kid-sized rooms was a plastic tube that was a little science experiment in sound. On this floor this was also a very large wooden train for the kiddos to climb all over, located near the exploration area just for beginning walkers.

The second floor housed a great musical hands-on area. There were several marimbas, including one made of 2x4s, one of pipes, and another of wrenches. Up on the stage were several pianos. I loved this area, because the kids loved just making music and checking out the instruments in a whole new light, and they loved having spectators! This floor also housed the dinosaur exploration area (see the pics above). There were a lot of toy dinosaurs set out for the kids to play with as well as a big dinosaur dig pit. In this pit were wooden fossils, each numbered for the older child to assemble a large dinosaur, but also for the little ones just to feel and explore. Cutie Pie loved guessing where the bones he found might go on a skeleton. Grandpa seemed to like the dinosaur puppet theater the most and entertained Cutie Pie by trying to put on a show for Sweet Pea and I!

The third floor had a wide open area with tables and chairs on which a couple of science experiments were taking place while we were there as well as huge tables of Legos, another train table and several bikes of different sizes set up for kids to try. (They were set up as stationary bikes.) There was also a construction pit on this floor, filled with all sort of construction toys, hard hats, safety vests and little pellets of rubber for the kids to use their imaginations! And I can’t forget to mention the nature room which the boys loved! There was a snake, several bones and skeletons which the kiddos could touch and examine with magnifying glasses as well as a turtle, gerbil and bees (in the warmer months). I think it’s important to note students from the local college were in charge of the slime and sensory experiments and they related really well to the kids and had a really good knowledge of what they were sharing with the kids.

The fourth floor won over my boys almost equally as the paleontologist exploration area. This floor housed the model train sets that were donated and recently put on display. The children can step on little gas peddles to get the engines moving and there was a small unit for the sound effects. Sweet Pea could have stayed there all day as there were many trains set aside just for display and he loves looking at trains! Plus there is a small plane that the kiddos can actually climb into and move the instruments. Cutie Pie loved this, even letting the aid close the cockpit so he could get the real experience. This plane was actually flown for 10 years and was donated to the Children’s Museum. What a neat experience!

As you can see (from the length of this post and the multitude of pictures) my children loved their visit to the Utica Children’s Museum. They had some very unique experiences there and have asked several times since for us to go back. Even if you feel your kiddos might be a little too old to visit this museum, check out their school break camps activities- they look pretty interesting! This museum is a wonderful resource for the community it is located in and I truly hope funding finds it’s way to them so they can be around for years to come. It is a museum that is worth the effort to visit for the unique experiences and the sneaky learning through fun activities! (math, science, language, fine motor, gross motor) And remember the added bonus of the train station being right across the street! More on that soon!

This post is the compilation of my family’s experience and opinions after having visited this museum. The Utica Children’s Museum has in no way compensated me for this post or influenced our opinions.

Sweet Pea loves Sunday School

For the longest time Sweet Pea has needed our presence in the room for Sunday School class. I guess it depends on the teacher for the week (our church is small and Sunday School includes all children between the ages of 5 and 10 a
– all 8 of them!) This particular week a dear friend and another sweet lady were teaching. They invited the boys in and then just sent us away! In a way I was a little put off, but then I thought this was the perfect offlortunity to see how Sweet Pea did in class without us.

Another Sunday I had a meeting during the Sunday School time while Hubby had worship rehearsal and when my meeting was over so was Sunday School. I went to the room, snuck a peek and saw him sitting so politely listening and participating in the class! It makes me feel good that he can sit with the older kids and not really need special attention from the teachers, at least, not that I saw. He was even raising his hand with the other children in response to questions!

I suppose this won’t happen every Sunday, but it felt good for it to happen a few times! And of course, he’s now entering his separation anxiety stage and won’t let me leave him in Child Watch so I can work out, but we’ll get there…

I Beat “The Hill”

The Forecast: Light snow, little to no accumulation

The Task: Drive with the boys to see Grandma and then stay overnight with Grandpa

The Reality: Light snow became huge accumulating snowflakes about 30 minutes from our destination (Grandma’s) and continued for several hours until slowly melting. One warning phone call from Grandpa came in mid afternoon saying “The Hill” was snow-covered. A few hours later the boys and I left Grandma’s, picked up pizza and headed for “The Hill” while the snow around Grandma’s house continued to melt and rain fell all drizzly from the sky.

I approached the road leading up to “The Hill” and started wondering just how much more snow could possibly be up at Grandpa’s house, only 10 minutes away from where we spent the day, all the while remembering being laughed at in junior high school for wearing a winter coat on a spring day (it had been snowing at my house up on “The Hill”). As I turned onto “The Hill” I knew immediately I was in serious trouble as there were only tracks of 2 cars that tried to drive up it ahead of me and no signs of any salt or dirt on the road. Slipping and sliding we headed up, slowly.

A few minutes later I found our little yellow car at the curve that would determine our destiny for the evening. I knew if my driving skills were spot on we’d be enjoying hot pizza with Grandpa. If not we’d be sitting in Grandma’s driveway eating cold pizza and trying to stay warm while keeping two boys entertained waiting for her to return from her date. We had passed that curve by the time the thought finished in my mind.

The Outcome: I shot up a quick prayer to God, “Please let us make it to Grandpas!” The car crawled, spun, crawled, barely moved, the the wheels caught and started to pull us, slowly, spinning. I decided to gun it about 50 feet below Grandpa’s driveway. I thought I was really done for, heading for the drainage ditch, but the car lurched forward and catapulted into the driveway! I hooped and hollered, high fived Cutie Pie, thanked God and looked over to Sweet Pea, who had been awake at the bottom of the hill and saw him sound asleep!

My boys and I quickly then found ourselves inside Grandpa’s house in front of the fireplace with freezing cold feet as a result of walking in the 5″ of wet, soggy snow that had accumulated. The hot pizza was delicious!

Instrument Petting Zoo – Cello

Hubby brought home several instruments for the boys to try over the course of the summer and back in the spring. Most of these instruments were stringed instruments, but of course, he is a string teacher, so that’s what he has the most access to.

Two and a half year old Sweet Pea seems especially enamored with any string instrument, sometimes even trying to sneak into his daddy’s instrument cases when we aren’t looking hoping to get to at least strum the strings before we catch him!

This summer Uncle Craig even got into the act! He’s always wanted to play the cello, so Hubby gave him a short lesson and let him experiment a bit!

Strong National Museum of Play Train Day

Last month Hubby and I took the boys to The Strong National Museum of Play Train Day. We took them last year, too, and they loved it! The difference between this year and last was this year Sweet Pea was more mesmerized with the model trains than Cutie Pie!

The Strong does a nice job with this train show each year. Of course, since their audience is mostly children (it is held in a play museum after all) it is rather small, but that is part of the charm! In a large hallway they had a model train set up at which the kiddos could press several buttons and various things would happen on the model, such as logs rolling and containers being sent up a conveyor belt to a train car. Another display in this area was at eye level for the children and was an engine and two train cars on a track. The kiddos were given the controls and the task of coupling the train cars and engine together and making it back to where they started. this consisted of turning a dial to control speed and changing the direction of the train several times. This appeared to be a big attraction!

In a separate room there were several large models set up. The detail of these models was amazing! I never knew how many sizes model trains came in or the amount of money one can spend on scenery alone! The men interacting with the children did a great job talking with them, which is worth mentioning because at some other shows we’ve encountered some who definitely didn’t relate to children.

We had a great time again at this yearx’s train show and are already looking forward to the show in 2012!