DOUGH-ble the Fun!

As you can see, play dough has been a constant component in our home. Today, I would like to share two other simple recipes and activities you can do with your kids.

After learning about the Solar System and memorizing them, I wanted to teach Micah the different things that men use to explore the moon. When I first presented the lesson, I noticed he wanted nothing to do with it. He got bored pretty quickly and wanted to move on. This is very unlikely because he is usually engaged in concepts that are new to him. I thought about how I can make this exciting.

Again, the sensory bin came to life. The next day, I got him involved in making cloud dough for the moon surface. It is really easy and fun to do. As we knead and played with the dough inside the bin, I started introducing the different space objects once again. It sparked his interest and he paid full attention.

IMG_9262As we manipulated these objects around the bin, he quickly learned the names and their functions. This activity kept his attention for over an hour and by the end of the first 15 minutes, he was able to articulate the lesson back to me. I left him alone, busy with his new found interest in space objects for another hour or so while I got things done around the house.

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To reinforce the names of the objects, I created picture cards for each one and had him play a matching game with them the next day. I had him bury all the objects in the “moon sand” and placed all the cards face down. He then had to flip a card, name it, find the object that matched it, and place it on top of the card.

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Once he got the concept, he started playing the game by himself. I think he got it because he created his own rocket with his magnetiles during his afternoon play time. He excitedly showed me his creation and said, “Mama, this is the Saturn V Rocket!” I realized that going an extra mile to make learning more fun for your child goes a long way.

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Creating the dough and making it an exciting concept allowed him to not only enjoy learning but also encouraged him to correlate his knowledge with his imagination.

Cloud Dough Recipe Cloud Dough2 cups of flour

1 1/2 cups of oil

1. Pour the flour in a bowl.

2. Make a hole in the center of the flour.

3. Pour the oil into the hole.

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4. Mix the oil and flour together with your hands. The nice and smooth texture makes it fun to knead with your hands.

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Another fun activity we did was the volcano eruption and dinosaur sensory bin. We made the volcano with an herbal tea play dough recipe. It was the best smelling volcano I’ve ever seen erupt! As we read and learned about the dinosaurs, I saw a volcano in one of the pages and thought how fun it would be to teach him what a volcano can do.

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We quickly got our ingredients together and made ourselves a volcano. I placed some cloud dough in the sensory bin and used it as the land the dinosaurs played on. I added the volcano on the side and created a hole to represent the crater. I placed baking soda inside the hole and sprinkled a few on the outside to extend the “lava” explosion effect. As I taught him about volcanoes, I poured vinegar into the crater and kaboom! It exploded! I think it caught him off guard but his shock was overruled by amazement. The volcano erupted a couple more times after that before it was time for the dinosaurs to evacuate.

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The three of us were entertained with this experiment, even though we’ve done it multiple times. Some things just never get old! It was fun to see both of them so engaged and entertained by this simple activity. Of course, I couldn’t reuse the tea dough volcano after the eruption but since it was so easy to make, I think we will be having it around again really soon. Micah already wanted to make a new one right after that! It made our kitchen smell really good too!

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Don’t forget to clean up once you are all done. 🙂

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Tea Dough Recipe

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2 tea bags (the more bags you put, the more vibrant the color)
1 1/2-2 cups of water
1 cup of flour
1/4 cup of salt
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
1 1/2 tablespoons of oil (you can add more if you want it to be softer)

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1. Boil the water and steep the tea bags for about 5-8 minutes.

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2. Remove the tea bags.

3. Add the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil into the pot. (Have you child help you pre-measure the ingredients.)

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4.Cook and stir over medium heat for a couple of minutes or until it forms into a ball. You can add a little water or oil if you need to.

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5. Once your ball is in the center of the pot, take your dough out and place it on a lightly floured surface.
(Warning: It can be hot!)

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6. Squeeze out the extra water from the tea bags unto the dough, tear open the bag and knead the tea leaves into the dough to add more texture.

7. Have fun!

I used raspberry tea for my volcano and it smelled really good! I should have added more tea bags but I just used up what I had. I will try with another flavor for our next one and see how that turns out. Don’t forget to share yours with me, too! You can always bust out those cookie cutters and make fun creations! Get your hands kneading and have fun!

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The Reading Habit

Even while I was pregnant with my firstborn Micah, my husband Chris had always expressed how much he wanted our kids to love reading. Not only that, his next goal was to make them understand and comprehend what they are reading. He would read a bible story to our boys while I was still pregnant. We admit and regret that we read more to Micah than Titus while he was in the womb. We kinda figured, Titus was “read to” a lot because he hears all the books when we read to Micah. Back then, we would either read a chapter a book that we go through as a couple or just a bible story to Micah right before bed. We wanted to get into the habit of reading to him every night even while he was growing in the womb. After he was born, we would continue to read to him every day. We practically memorized some of the board books because we’ve repeated it so many times! It was an investment worth making!

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Quiet time (bible reading) can be establish even at his age. 🙂

As Micah grew older, we noticed he was drawn to books more and more. He would choose to have some quiet reading time on his own after naps and before bed. He would look forward to reading time with Daddy after dinner and bible stories were a must before lights out. A few weeks ago, I noticed Micah “reading” to his little brother in the living room while I was making dinner. I heard him repeat the words on the page pretty accurately and I was totally caught off guard! I thought he was reading! But after a few minutes the words would dwindle down to something else. I realized he wasn’t reading the words but due to countless repetition of certain books that he absolutely loves, Micah has now memorized the words on the page. He was reciting the words (in surprisingly the right order) to Titus. As he turned the page, he continued on. He would even recite it with the tone or voice changes his dad would do while reading that certain paragraph. It made me realize how important it was for us to keep this great thing going. I admit, sometimes I am tempted to just say, we can just read tomorrow.

Micah and Titus reading together

Reading the book The Day The Crayons Quit!

I praise God for my husband’s wisdom and persistence in making sure we were intentional in making reading a priority in our home. More importantly we are delighted to see that he is so enthusiastic about reading God’s Word. He would not go to bed without reading a bible story no matter how sleepy or tired he is. Indeed, he is a great reminder of how we need to improve on our bible reading and the enthusiasm we put into it. If we want our boys to love reading God’s Word, we need to do a better job modeling it to them.

Bible reading before bed.

Bible reading before bed…

Here are some ways to help encourage a love of reading in your child.
1. Encourage and expand their oral language.
Depending on his or her age or level, your child can read a story, have a story read to him/her or even take turns reading and listening. As you read, ask your child questions about the details you just read. Keep them engaged by having the little ones point out the characters being discussed on the particular page.  When you are done, invite them to identify their favorite part is.

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The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

2. 1 to 10 and read them again!
The more exposed they are to different kinds of books, the more their love for reading will grow.  We have enjoyed several authors whose writing styles are completely different yet each of them bring something great to share. Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to understand the content. If you think some words are too “big” for him, explain it! Check out our list of favorite authors whose books are quickly filling up our shelves.

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3. Sing a song and recite a rhyme.
Name that tune to your favorite nursery rhyme! Rhymes and songs are creative ways to encourage memorization, rhyming, and melody. It’s a great way to introduce poetry and other creative writing styles. Sing together on trips, on walks, and even in the shower! Add hand gestures or dance moves or start a rhyming band to enrich the overall experience. My husband loves to make up words to familiar songs and Micah just bursts out laughing!

Sandra Boynton books are so much fun!

A family favorite!

4. Have a book nook and hang out there!
Micah can hang out here for 30-45 mins after he wakes up and just read all the books on the shelf. He would look at the pictures, make up words or recite the ones he has memorized and time just goes by, while I get my chores done. Make the area inviting and fun for your little reader. A couch or bean bag, a rug and a shelf make a great little space for some quiet reading time. Designating a “quiet reading time” encourages them have a special time with their books. You can do solo silent reading or reading aloud together there, too. Reluctant readers may be encouraged to read more in a fun and unique environment.

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The book nook in his room.

5. Be a literacy advocate!
I need to do this more! My dad is an avid reader and so is my brother, but for some reason, I didn’t get that gene. I only read about the things I am interested in. I need to learn to broaden my literacy choices so I can encourage my boys to do the same. If you have an older child, you may want to encourage your child by setting reading goals and when they achieve them, recognize and reward their efforts. Get the other members of your family to read with your kids too!

Auntie Kim reading with Micah

Auntie Kim reading with Micah

6. Add creative intonations!                                                                                                                                                  Intonation refers to the rising, or falling pitch in a person’s voice as one says words or phrases. Stress the different ways you can read the questions, commands or conversations in the book.  Make different sounds or change your voice or accent as you read aloud. We noticed that Micah would copy our intonations when he reads the books to himself or to his brother. Echo reading is a great way to encourage paired reading as well. (Paired reading can mean alternating sentences while you read aloud together.)

7. Make it a habit! 

The reading habit is one of the best things we can pass on to our children. In an age where everything is digital and kids can easily get sensory overload from media, books have a way of opening their eyes, increasing their imagination, and making them appreciate some down time in those magical pages amidst this fast-paced world. Read on! AND don’t forget to teach your child about the author and illustrator of the book he is reading too.

Titus enjoys reading time too!

Make it a part of your routine!

Our Top 13 Authors & Their Books
1. Kevin Lewis & Daniel Kirk: My Truck Is Stuck-This is the first book Micah memorized.

2. June Sobel: The Goodnight Train– love the rhyme and sounds in this one

3. Alice Schertle: The Little Blue Truck; The Little Blue Truck Leads the Way- Who doesn’t love Blue? The sounds the characters make just adds to the fun.

4. Drew Daywalt: The Day the Crayons Quit– Brings back great moments with Crayola box! My husband and I were laughing while he was reading it to Micah.

5. Sherry Dusky RinkerSteam Train, Dream TrainGoodnight Goodnight Construction Site- She does a great job teaching the different kinds of trucks and trains

6. Mo Wilhems: Elephant and Piggie Series: These are just hilarious!!! You will just fall in love with these two!

7. Amy Krouse Rosenthal:Little Pea; Exclamation Mark; Spoon; Chopsticks- Simple concepts, great points, fun & entertaining for the whole family!

8. Chris Van Dusen: Circus Ship; Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit; If I Built a House, If I Built a Car (our first one); Camping Trip with Mr. Magee, Down by the Sea with Mr. Magee, and more- I think we have all his books! We love all of them! Illustrations are great and the rhymes are just incredible! His characters are funny & the conversations are witty.

9. Watty Piper: The Little Engine That Could– A great classic and must have on the shelf!

10. Maurice Sendak: Where the Wild Things Are– Micah just loves this! Let your imagination lead you to the wild things.

11. Eric Carle: We read through a lot of his books for different stages in their lives. The shorter ones like Polar Bear Polar Bear, What do you see?, Head to Toe, etc- we read from 0-12 months. The longer ones like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Busy Spider are great for 18-24 months and up and perfect for lessons & activities.

12. Sandra Boynton: Dinosaur’s Binket is our favorite. We have a lot of her books too! We read her board books when Micah was 0-12 months. He still enjoys them when we read them to Titus. Who wouldn’t fall in love with her adorable illustrations?

13. . Audrey Wood: Silly Sally: He memorized this book and loves reciting it to his little brother. A fun, silly and entertaining book. I first read this with my 3-6 old students in my classroom and they loved it. I knew it was a must-have for my own kids.

What’s in your shelf?

Apple and Banana

Find out what’s on your baby’s mind! 

      Every parent keeps their ears open for the magical day when their little one utters his or her first recognizable word. In the meantime, we all relay on the cute cooing or the sweet smile or the loud cry or the desperate scream to understand what he or she is trying to say. Gestures and nonverbal sounds function as your child’s means of communication. It is his or her first language before the spoken word. These facial expressions, body movements and sounds are precursors for baby sign language. Baby sign is a great way for parents to bond with their children as well as to ease their frustration.  It is a perfect introduction to a lifelong communication that occurs between parent and child.

I was compelled to write this tonight, despite it being late and me being tired. I had to share my joy as a mom when my dear Micah signed back two words that I would randomly teach him during meal time. I started signing with Micah when he was 3 months old. I knew at that time he wouldn’t respond but I just did it anyway. (Please know that I did not know how to sign prior to having Micah. I just knew the alphabet and the potty sign. I read books, had flash cards and recorded Signing Time on TV so I can watch it during my free time.) But because I wanted him to learn how to communicate with me when the time came, I kept signing words as we went along. We even went to signing classes while we were in Manila. At 8 months, Micah signed milk for the first time. I was very excited! It encouraged me a lot and my sweet husband joined in the signing wagon! He started watching Signing Time with me and he would go through the flash cards while he ate breakfast right before he went to work. From milk to more, light to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, from bath and water, to signing 3 Little Ducks as we sang the song, words just kept coming. We found ourselves looking through flash cards and watching Signing Time on Saturdays to learn more signs to keep up with all the words he can learn.

Today, as Micah and I went through the fruit aisle at the local grocery store to gather our list of fruits, he started signing apple as I picked one up. He kept signing as I added more into the bag. He popped the banana sign as we walked by the banana stand. He signed want because I didn’t get the bananas. (They were too ripe.)  He looked at me as I got strawberries, unfortunately I didn’t know what the sign for strawberry was. I know it was just 2 new signs today but I was so encouraged because sometimes, I do feel like he is not learning anything and I will just wait till he can speak for him to communicate with me. But God in His sweet way encouraged me to keep signing because it is paying off.  I came home and tried learning how to sign grapes, avocadoes and strawberries. The veggies will come next. Micah is now able to sign please and thank you, ask for water, he asks us to come, let me know he is sleepy and wants to go to bed, play ball and other random simple words. From mealtime, to bath time, to playtime, to bedtime, Micah is able to let us know his needs using the signs he knows. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes, screaming is still involved but equipping him with the appropriate signs allows us to understand him the next time he may need or want something. He politely signs “please water” during meal time when he would like a glass of water or he would say yes or no when he is asked to make a choice.

We were in Cabo, Mexico last week for a family vacation and my in-laws were so impressed with how many words Micah could sign. They started learning some and by the end of the week, they were signing too. It was neat to see them want to communicate with their grandson.

Would signing interfere with a child’s speech development, a lot of parents ask? No. In fact, the opposite is true. It actually improves your child’s language and vocabulary. It enhances the language and not replace it.   Signs allow your child to make the connection between the spoken word and the gesture.  In time, your child will say the word or sign it while you say it. As your child’s spoken vocabulary grows, you can stop signing those words. However, you may still want to add signs to the new words you introduce. Although your child may be pronouncing certain words while signing, sometimes only one consonant or one syllable is clear. This is why modeling the sign is still useful—it will help you figure out what he is trying to say! Micah says “wawa” for water. We didn’t know what “wawa” meant but when he signed water right after, we figured it out!  Now, we know that “wawa” is water.

Top 10 Baby Signs Tips

(I’ve gathered these from book and personal experience; feel free to add more if you have any!)

1. Be patient and persistent! It takes a few months for your infant to sign his or her first one.

*It took me 8 months to get Micah to sign milk and more.

2. Get your child’s attention before you sign. If he is not looking at you, don’t sign. You are wasting your time.

3. Start with simple words or words your child can relate to: milk and more (It worked for us!) please and thank you, eat, water, light, cheese and bye-bye. You can eventually add to the list as you go on. As you both get more comfortable signing, you can add more words to the list especially those that interest him or her.

*Micah loves to drink milk and he loves to eat so milk and more worked quite well for us. He likes cheese a lot so he picked that up quickly too. My in-laws have a dog named Oreo. Whenever Micah would hear the word Oreo or dog or even see a picture of a dog, he would sign “dog”.  Now that Micah is interested in cars, trucks and balls, he has learned the signs for these as wel

4. Pair each spoken word with a sign and REPEAT it!

*Each time he asks for something, we sign please and say the word please, now he understands that he has to sign please when he asks for something. (repetition is highly encouraged!) Consistency is key!

5. Pay attention to your child.

*Sometimes your baby will create a variation of a sign, so just be flexible and follow your baby’s lead. It’s not as important to do the correct sign as it is to convey the correct message.

*The sign for water is a W and going to your mouth, Micah’s version is only the pointer finger to his mouth because he can’t form the W with his 3 fingers yet. Once you start becoming familiar with your child’s signs, you will be able to determine what he or she is trying to tell you.

6. Praise your child’s first attempts, this encourages him or her to continue to sign to you!

*I was shocked when Micah signed apple today at the store and I clapped and hugged him excitedly! He smiled and did it again as I placed the apples inside the bag. As I excitedly shared it with Chris, Micah pointed to the apple and signed it again for daddy! (daddy’s heart melted!)

7. Sign during daily routines and playtime (and anytime you know the sign for a word)

*Because I sign sleep and bed to him as I say, “Micah it’s time to go to sleep in your bed.”, he started signing sleep and bed when he got tired and wanted a nap during the day. He would even sign bed when he sees his bed.

8. Make signing fun!

Sign with your body, his body, with the doll’s or the teddy! Be creative and laugh while you are signing. Singing helps a lot especially when the words are repetitive. Make it interactive, engaging and exciting!

9. Get the whole family involved!

*You don’t have to do this alone! Get everyone in on the signing fun! This will give your child more opportunities to practice! This will help you with getting them to babysit too because they will know what your child needs!) That’s why my in-laws are signing too!

10. Don’t’give up! Don’t get lazy!

*Sometimes, you will get discouraged (especially in the beginning) but hang in there! Your baby will sign back to you (eventually). Once your baby masters a few words, he or she will be encouraged to do more and more! It’s a snowball effect of signs and words! It will be worth it!

More signs, less frustration for you and your baby!

Come sign with me! 
This is my favorite sign! Micah signs pray as we get ready to thank Jesus for all His blessings! His cue to sign pray is when we say "Dear Jesus" or "let's pray".

This is my favorite sign! Micah signs pray as we get ready to thank Jesus for all His blessings! His cue to sign pray is when we say “Dear Jesus” or “let’s pray”.

Micah has to sign "All Done" before he can be excused from the table.

Micah has to sign “All Done” before he can be excused from the table.

Micah signs “water” as he asks for a glass of water at the dinner table.

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Micah’s favorite mealtime signs!

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Our CHEAT SHEET! These are the flash cards my husband uses during breakfast.

I have one set upstairs and one set by the dining room! :)

I have one set upstairs and one set downstairs!

Rachel! She's a mom of 2 and the founder of Signing Time! We watch her on TV!

Rachel! She’s a mom of 2 and the founder of Signing Time! We watch her on TV!

I use this book as my sign dictionary during reading time. It has a lot of easy to follow signs for everyday things.

I use this book as my sign dictionary during reading time. It has a lot of easy to follow signs for everyday words.