Fortune Cookie Messages For Outnumbered Parents At Kite Festivals

These Are The Days We'll Remember...At The Laredo Kite Festival.  By Critters And Crayons.

At The Laredo Kite Festival

 

One of the festivals we absolutely love to attend each year in Laredo is the Kite Festival in March.

Today, we attended our fourth.

This means that we have attended since our children were in diapers, nursing, learning to crawl, learning to walk, learning to talk….all the way up to this year.

This year is the first year both children are past all of those milestones, but they can also both hold their own kites, fly their own kites, and be genuinely interested in holding and flying their own kites.  

They can do these things after getting just a little bit of help by Mom or Dad to catch the wind, of course.

I have to say, though, there is one truth that appears to be self-evident and inviolable.

If I had a fortune cookie message to foretell my future or offer sage advice about taking more than one child to any Kite Festival alone, it would read:

 

“Winds Favor The Wise Parent Who Is Not Outnumbered By Children Or Kites.”

 

Another possible fortune cookie message might bring a different perspective while delivering the same message:

 

“One Foolish Parent With Two Children At Kite Festival
 Will Be Entangled In The Strings Of Crashed Kites.”

 

Each year, we pile into the mini-van on a beautiful, but very hot day, with our newly selected kites.  We walk to the festival from our distant parking spots.  
 
We find a plot of land that is not completely marshy and that is not so packed with people that we might get one of our kites airborne.

 

But, the unspoken and unfair Law Of Wind Dynamics For Parents ALWAYS kicks in.

 

That law, in case you have not experienced it firsthand is:

 

“Your Child’s Kite Will Only Fly When Your Other Child’s Kite Crashes Into Some Unassuming Picnickers.”

 

And this Law is also supported by a couple of Theorums:

 

“The Vertical Height Of One Child’s Kite Is Directly Proportional To The Vertical Drop Of Your Other Child’s Kite.”

 

“If You Rescue One Child’s Kite By Gaining Wind Resistance By Running,

You Will Surely Run Through A Mudhole Where You Sink 3 Inches Before Kite Still Crashes Into Some Unassuming Picnickers.”

 

(Seriously, I cannot believe they didn’t move the first time.)

 

But, do you know what?

 

I’m certain we’ll be back, again, next year.

 

We may have muddy shoes and ankles, and some tangled kite string, and maybe even some occasionally frustrated children who haven’t completely grasped how to keep their kites in the air for longer than a few minutes, but, overall, we’re making some serious improvement.

 

Next year, we may be able to break that Law Of Wind Dynamics For Parents and its supporting Theorums.

 

Maybe, our Fortune Cookie Message, if we had a fortune cookie with a message about the Kite Festival, might read:

 

“Outnumbered Parent At Kite Festival Will See Two Kites In Air Simultaneously.”

 

or, maybe:

 

“You Will Not Trip On Tangled Kite Strings This Year.”

 

That would be cool.

 

But, maybe next year this fortune could really happen:

 

“You Will Remember To Wear Crappy Shoes To Places Where You Know You Will Run Through Mud.”

 

And, maybe, just maybe, some folks will get this fortune cookie message:

 

“Picnicker Who Moves After Kite Crashes Into Face Finishes Rest Of PB&J In Peace.”

 

But, I want to wish “Cheers” to all of the families out during the pretty Spring Days doing these kinds of activities.

 

There is humor in them, and sometimes, a little frustration.  
 
Yes.  Sometimes, you cave to the frustration after that Law Of Wind Dynamics For Parents kicks you in the teeth and ruins your shoes, again…when those imaginary fortune cookies foretold the future you should have predicted yourself.

 

For instance, I FINALLY cut the streamers completely off of one kite, and even sliced clean through the strings from the kite handle to regain the circulation to my legs after a near tourniquet had been formed by an errant kite with a very strong and determined child yanking on the other end.

 

I DID offer to pay the screaming child for the damage but she ran off to find her parents before I could give her any money.

 

(Um…..Really Sorry About That If It Belonged To Your Kid And You’re Reading This Now After Wondering Why Your Wailing Kid Brought Back A Kite Frame, But I Couldn’t Feel Anything Below My Ankle…..)

 

Seriously, though.

 

Days Like Today Are Never Boring. The Never-Boring Days Are The Real Memory-Makers.

 

THESE REALLY ARE THE DAYS WE ALL WILL REMEMBER.

 

HAVE YOU BEEN TO A KITE FESTIVAL?
 
STORIES!

 

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Parenting Is Like Sledding. Sled Optional.

My kids often surprise us with the unspeakably comical things that they say.

They also make us pause when their questions require an honest and thoughtful answer.

We’re coming off of a holiday trip that bore some of the typical challenges of traveling during an already busy season.

Sometimes, reality didn’t match the idyllic scenes in a Hallmark Movie for the various tugs and pulls of life, and family, and obligations.

Essentially, it was a normal holiday season- one that many might relate to, and one that might lead a child to ask a simple, but very thought-provoking question of her parents like our six-year old daughter did tonight on the way back from a drugstore where we bought vitamins for immunity support to stave off any more festive seasonal illness-on-the-go.

 

“Mom?  Is It Easy Having Kids?”

 

I could have answered her quickly with a fleeting and dishonest, “YES! It’s Super Easy!”, but I’ve got a sort of rule about not lying about that kind of stuff. 

I don’t want to be the Army Recruiter who promises someone a job in a highly marketable computer field who then lands him in a basement working with dot matrix printers circa 1985.  That’s just bad Mommy PR.  So, I told her the truth.

 

“No.  Having Kids Is Not Easy.”

 

Our First Grader looked concerned so I elaborated,

 

“But….It IS Awesome!”

 

Our daughter was confused.

 

“How can something be hard and awesome at the same time, Mommy?”

 

I didn’t have any concrete examples to give in that second.

 

But, I told her that most things that are completely awesome

in our lives are usually not that easy.  

BUT, THEY ARE USUALLY WORTH IT.

 

I may have blanked on examples but our daughter threw one out.  She said,

 

“You mean like if we’re sledding

and we have to walk all the way up

to the top of the hill in the freezing cold

so that we can sled down super fast

and have all that fun

spinning all the way down?”

 

I didn’t think I could put it any better myself so I told her that was pretty much exactly right.

Really, that is about the best metaphor I could think of that I didn’t think of at all.

Maybe, to complete the parallel, I could have added a few crash-and-burns at the bottom of the hill, some broken sleds, or a dud slope or two to round out the analogy, but I felt pretty good she now understood that something can be TOTALLY NOT EASY while still being simultaneously TOTALLY AWESOME.

That’s Us.

We Parents.

 

We’re all trudging up a slope,

looking for a safe route,

eyes on the peak,

moving forward when it hurts,

striving upward when we fall,

willing onward when we’re cold,

and getting to the end

as honestly and happily as we can

so that the long and arduous trip

might all be worth it

for one magnificent launch,

followed by a brief 

and validating

soar to the bottom,

on a cheap, round sled

that spins you like a top

until you crash,

or fall,

or coast to a stop,

Hoping For The Coast,

Always Hoping For The Coast,

so that we might trudge back up

to do it all over,

Again.

 

That’s Us.

That’s Parenting.

It’s Not Easy Having Kids.  But, It IS Freaking Awesome.

 

It’s Like That.

 

 IT’S ALSO LIKE THIS.

 

Parenting.  We Got This. From Critters And Crayons.

 

Trusting Clutches, Giant Smiles, And Closed Eyes

 

 Astride Quiet Screams And Immense Hopes

 

 That You Will Coast,

 

Coast Without Crashing,

 

 Still Smiling, Still Laughing,

 

Without Breaking Anything,

 

After That Fervent And Amazing Ride

 

Hoping You Didn’t Lose Your Sled On The Way…

 

But Even If You Had,

 

It Would Have Been Worth

 

Every

 

Terrifying

 

 Moment. 

 

So, to wrap it all up in a nice, pithy little phrase:

 

Parenting Is Like Sledding.  Sled Optional.

 It’s  Easy  AWESOME!

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It’s All About Winning In First Grade Girls Basketball

One thing I am over the moon about is that our 6 year old girl loves to play basketball.

It is pretty much the only sport I know how to play.

I am nearly 40 years old and truly have no concept of what “fourth down” or “offsides” means. Basketball is IT.

It has been amazing to watch a team of girls go from not knowing how to simply dribble at the try-outs, to watching them practice fast break drills.

The hoops are lower and the rules at this early level of girls basketball can pretty much be boiled down to the following,

“You Are Allowed To Travel All You Want,
Just As Long As You Remember To Double-Dribble In Between!”

They often forget.

It is a real highlight to watch a little ponytailed girl fight for the ball, and with exuberant intent, take off down the court in a full sprint, protecting that ball like it’s the hot Black Friday Toy Of The Year.

One thing that all of our girls can do this year is protect the ball. We have come up with a drill wherein the first one to grab the rebound or the fumbled ball yells, “I’ve got it!” so that team-mates don’t continue to try to wrestle it from her.

WE ACTUALLY PRACTICE NOT STEALING FROM OURSELVES.

One of the funniest things to see in a game is how desperately and self-sacrificially these 6 year olds will throw themselves on a basketball, and how difficult it is to pull it from their grasps. The person who seems to have the most difficult time getting the ball out of a little girl’s hands is the referee.

You can often see the referees attempting to get the ball after repeated pleas for it. When they get ahold of it, they nearly lift the determined girl’s body up as a rigid unit since she has encased the ball in a tight fetal position, sealed with the resilience of Super Glue, eyes closed, and with a clenched will to NOT LET GO.

We may also not have our shots perfected, but they are generally headed in an upward AND forward direction.

This is a vast improvement from where we started 2 months ago.

Getting the ball INTO the basket, or simply NEAR the lowered basket, is on the long-term training agenda. Just you watch. We’ll be swishing soon.

It is helpful to remember that these are skills that are cumulative.

We’re going to get it.

Besides, these young ladies and future UCONN Point Guards and Forwards have already demonstrated a tenacious spirit and drive to WIN.

As you can see, they are a formidable bunch in pink.

Attentive. Driven. Ready To Go!

It's All About Winning In First Grade Basketball Humor-1

The diminutive hoopsters with matching pink hairbows (which will surely result in technical fouls in later years if worn during a game) are pounding the court!

Go Pink!

On those hairbows, the greatest problem with them is not that they are particularly hazardous in the under-the-basket brawls for the ball.

It is that they tend to fall out, and the little girls spend their time searching for the fallen bows on the court rather then focusing on their part of the zone defense.

It’s a little comical to watch. “I Got Her! I Got Her! Wait a minute. Where’s my hairbow? There it is by the boundary line!”

And a nice little hole is made for the fast break straight to the basket.

Often, the little girls end up tossing their hairbows to mom in the sidelines as they run up the court after a basket was made because they were obliviously searching for their lost hair bows.

It's All About Winning In First Grade Basketball Humor-2

Even so, the B Team is waiting with baited breath for the chance to go in and redeem that error!

We’re down by 2! Put Me In, Coach!

Well, Sorta.

It's All About Winning In First Grade Basketball Humor-3

I have absolutely no idea why we lost.

It's All About Winning In First Grade Basketball Humor-4

Killer Instincts.

We’ve got ‘em.

We may have lost the basketball game, but some of these girls were TOP DOG in Rock Paper Scissors.

My daughter can often be overheard after a hard-won Handsie-Game on Sidelines as saying, “ROCK ALWAYS WINS! I LOVE ROCK!”

And, don’t get me wrong, we didn’t just lose because second string likes to play Say Say My Playmate.

Lots of parents want to know what the Red Shirt Policy is.

Some of those opposing team kids look like they’ve already started memorizing multiplication tables.

They probably already know how to tie their shoes and keep their letters facing the right direction. I bet their lower case “b’s” don’t look like “d’s”, anymore.

Just saying.

It can’t possibly be this.

It's All About Winning In First Grade Basketball Humor-4

Just give us a couple of years.

Cumulative.

It’s All Cumulative.

We’re working on dribbling without looking, fast break drills, a crippling man-to-man defense, and a very cool double-back-hand-reverse slap for Say Say My Playmate, in the meantime.

DO YOUR KIDS PLAY SPORTS IN EARLY ELEMENTARY?

ANY FUNNY OBSERVATIONS?

PLEASE DO SHARE!

** HUMOR DISCLAIMER: I am by no means implying that there is any wrongdoing by any teams in the league we play in. That snippet about the Red Shirt policy was thrown in for comedic effect. I’m sure there are lots of reasons for 5 ft tall 1st graders with uncommon hand and eye coordination to abound on some teams.**

 

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Kids Play In The Same Language

 

 

Kids Play In The Same Language

 

Kids Play In The Same Language.

 

They just a find a way to get over the minor obstacle of competent verbal communication.

One of the best aspects of living on the US/Mexico border is the opportunity for our children to experience a different culture and language.

I was reminded of this today as my children played at an indoor play area.

I posted about it on the Critters And Crayons Facebook Page and realized that such a great thing really warrants its very own blog post.

Our 6 year old daughter ran around playing tag with a new friend.

She ran up to me and said,
 
 

“Mom! I made a new friend!  She doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish!   So we made up a game!”

 

 
 
I asked how they played that game.  And our daughter answered,
 
 

“I teach her English and she teaches me Spanish!
It’s called Speaking Different Languages!”

 
 
I noted how brilliant that was.

It is, isn’t it?
 
 

When you have so much in common,

like the need to be gleeful in the moment

for the sake of loving that moment,

then language is not a worthy foe.

 
 

That’s something children have figured out.

A reader commented on Facebook, “And a child shall lead them.”

Yes.

 

Kids Play In The Same Language

 

And So They Shall.

And So They Do.

 
 

For more posts on bilingualism and culture with kids…..

 

But, She Doesn’t Like Me….

 

Bilingualism, The Border, Dora, And Kids…

 
 

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The Cheer Up Gift

A friend of mine was having a tough time.

She was feeling like the world was just one big toilet bowl.

We knew this from her graphic descriptions of just the kind of stuff her days seemed to be filled with.

She also has a broken toilet paper holder in her bathroom.

I know this because she said so when I ran THIS post about our very essential alligator toilet paper holder.

So, I knew what the most efficient gift would be to fix two problems at the same time.

The Best Cheer Up Gift Ever

She says it was the best Cheer Up Gift Ever.

She laughed.

Mission Accomplished.

HOW DO YOU CHEER FRIENDS AND FAMILY UP?

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The One Hundred Board In Our Montessori Kitchen Corner: The Opportunity Learner’s Series


The Hundred Board In Our Montessori Kitchen Corner

 

Back in April, I ran the introductory post for the Critters And Crayons Opportunity Learner’s Series and I broke down how we had structured our kitchen corner to host Montessori-Style learning materials for the kids to access at any time.

It’s been a busy, busy couple of months, but here is the first part of that series featuring The Hundred Board.

We purchased our Hundred Board via The Montessori Outlet.

But here is a great post by We Can Do All Things that teaches you how to make a Hundred Board  yourself!

 

Montessori Hundred Board

 

The picture above was taken several months ago in our kitchen.  Our son had taken out The Hundred Board and tiles after lunch.

When the kids take out an activity and work for awhile, but do not complete the activity, we will generally allow the board to stay “as is” on the kitchen floor or table so the kids can come back to their work (or play) when they want to.  This differs somewhat from what you’d find in a traditional Montessori environment.  The tiles and the board would be put away at the end of the activity.

(  If the activity is in the way, or is not attempted for a period of time, the children will put the activity away once they confirm they are not interested in pursuing it further.  Unless we are working on a specific lesson for our Summer studies, I do not force them to complete the full Hundred Board activity if it’s pulled out.)

They usually do!

You can see how we were using The Montessori Hundred Board tonight with our four year old pre-school son in this YouTube Video.

 

 

When you watch the video, you’ll see that there is room for some fun and humor as your kids use the board.

 

“What’s That?”

“Ten.”

“What’s That?”

“Ten-TEEN!”

Love.  That.

 

You might have noticed that the video shows our older daughter showing her brother how to look for number patterns.

 

One of the aspects I really enjoy watching in Montessori

environments is how

children assume leadership roles

when teaching the younger children

how to do tasks and use materials…  

 

There are many ways to use The Hundred Board in a Montessori classroom or homeschool environment, but we use it for very basic purposes right now as our son is beginning to grasp simple math concepts:

  • Number Recognition
  • Number Sequencing From 1-10 
  • Number Pattern Recognition (1, 11,21,31,41,51, etc…)
  • Counting By 10s (10,20,30,40,50, etc)

This means that we don’t fixate too much on whether or not he knows all the number names up to 100 just yet.

For instance, tonight, he emplaced all the tiles properly from 1-50 on the board before we finished up our “Summer Bridging” homework.

While his sister and I worked on word endings and high frequency words, he sat quietly matching tiles to the board looking for number patterns.

To not overwhelm him,

I only issued him 10 tiles at time

to work on properly sequencing one row of 10 at a time.

 

After he completed one row, say 11-20, I issued him the next 10 to match up.

If you’re a trained Montessori Guide, you’ll probably notice that I haven’t done the lesson exactly as you might find it done in a formal video of instruction where the tiles are slid up the proper column slowly and methodically.  :)

I give our son ten tiles out of order and he sorts through them to find the numbers he wants to fit into the patterns on the board.

There IS one thing that has stuck in my mind since speaking with a Montessori Director  that I find fascinating and try to remember when working with my kids.

It’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me.
It’s actually very hard for me to remember and implement.

 

A lot of the interaction between Montessori Guides

and children can seem to be…

very smooth,

very methodical,

very slow,

and at times,

even elegant. 

 

Our Montessori Director said that Montessori Guides move slowly so kids could see “clear snapshots”.    It makes so much sense.

 

If we are hurried when talking,

 

or teaching,

 

or listening….

 

something is going to be missed.

 

It’s not the easiest thing to do

 

or remember when doing anything “instructional”

 

as a parent, or otherwise.

 

Not at all.

 

The Hundred Board was one of our daughter’s favorite Montessori Materials in the home and I can see our son really enjoys it, too!

This photo was taken over a year ago in our play area….full of lots of conventional toys that she chose to by-pass to “play” with this educational material.

Isn’t Montessori cool?  :)

 

Montessori Hundred Board Critters and Crayons Opportunity Learners Series

For more articles about how to use the Hundred Board,

you can check out the following links!

 

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Laundry & My Summer Outfit: Better Together

This is a sponsored post written by me as part of The DailyBuzz Moms Tastemaker Program on behalf of P&G.

 

 I received a Target Gift Card to purchase products to review and have chosen to post about our experience which will result in monetary compensation.

 

 Even though I have received products and compensation, all opinions are 100% honest and my own.

 

*****

 

I have a small confession to make.

 

I have never, ever, never-ever-in-my-entire-life-EVER used…

 

Fabric Softener.

 

It’s True.

I actually had no idea about how to even put it into the washing machine.

Do I add it after the wash cycle?

Where do I even put something like that?

It turned out that our machine actually had a handy little receptacle labeled, “Fabric Softener” and I could add it right at the same time as our detergent.

Well, that was a score!  (These Kelly Ripa-endorsed washing machines WERE worth what we paid for them, after all.)

fabric softener p+g post

Look At That! A Place For Fabric Softener Built Right In! WHO KNEW? :)

If you’ve read my blog before, you need but to run a search of “laundry” to find out that it’s not something I’m very good at staying on top of.

I can do a lot of stuff, and to a pretty high standard.  I mean…I do a lot of stuff-  like most moms.

But, LAUNDRY?

Hmmm….  Let’s recap, Shall We?

You can see my laundry failure in…

    • THIS POST where the pile keeps coming back and back and back,
    • OR THIS POST where we learned how homemade moon sand turned into laundry super glue if you don’t wash it all out of your kids’ clothing first (tiny, itty bitty detail to remember),
    • OR  THIS POST where I flooded the kitchen with my sister’s dishwasher and nearly burned the house down cleaning the oven (wait, that’s not about laundry, but it’s close enough),
    • OR THIS POST where we learned how a really huge laundry pile actually encourages children to play,
    • OR THIS POST which ran on Scary Mommy about The Myth Of The Super Mom and my monstrous laundry pile was The Star.

 

Critters And Crayons  Life And Parenting In Before And After Photos 14

 

So, knowing that laundry is not something that I normally get very excited about, and having never used fabric softener before in nearly four decades, I was looking forward to trying out the P&G products together which I had read were “BETTER TOGETHER“.

 

IMG_9645

 

I tried the Tide ® Free & Gentle Detergent with Downy ® Ultra Silk Touch followed by the Bounce ® Free & Sensitive Dryer Sheets on a Summer outfit  of a simple cream-colored top and fitted jeans that I planned to wear on a family outing to the movie theater.

I was really happy with the outcome!

All of the clothes, and especially the towels and throws, that were washed in the loads of laundry I did using the P&G products did come out much more soft to the touch!

Here’s that outfit that was washed with all three.

 

P+G Post Summer Outfit

 

I actually SORTED my laundry this time, too (since I’m breaking with routine and going all out!)

No pink or gray top for this Momma-

I think all three products DID work “BETTER TOGETHER”.

 

P&G Summer Outfit Post 2

 

For anyone who is “Laundry-Challenged” (like me), anything that helps you look forward to doing it is a major plus.

I’m pretty happy about the results of this product review.

I not only know how to combine some effective products, but I also know where the fabric softener receptacle is in our washing machine.

This experience MAY be enough to convince me to start sorting our laundry regularly so the color “white” is not simply implied, anymore.

I mean….WHO KNEW????!!!!

:)

I feel that I can definitely recommend P&G’s Tide ®, Downy ® and Bounce ® as “BETTER TOGETHER”.

And, I also recommend sorting your laundry.

You Are Welcome, Folks!

 

So, I’m wondering….Have You Tried Tide ®, Downy ® and Bounce ® Together?

And….How Do You Sort Your Laundry Loads?

BrandLogos_BTEquationTag_125x125

This post is sponsored by P&G. With Tide ®, Downy ® and Bounce ®,

you can keep your summer fashions looking new up to 50% longer.*

Text CLEAN to TARGET (827438) for mobile coupons.

*vs. leading value detergent alone

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The Opportunity Learner’s Series: Our Montessori-Style Kitchen Corner

 The Opportunity Learner's Series

This post is an introduction to a new series on Critters And Crayons that will explain how we made a couple of corners in our kitchen into Montessori-inspired learning stations.

The Critters And Crayons Opportunity Learner’s Series is about:  

Easy, Affordable, DIY Montessori-Inspired Learning Materials 

that you can incorporate into your most frequently used family spaces

(even if those spaces are relatively small).

Why The Kitchen?  Montessori-Style Kitchen Corner 

It wasn’t on purpose!   We have a pretty traditional play space, full of toys and books and learning materials…upstairs.

But, it seems like we spend the vast majority of our time downstairs IN THE KITCHEN.

Materials and activities seemed to migrate down to the table because I was cooking or cleaning, we were eating or snacking, the kids were doing art or building legos…

I realized one day that if I made some of the fun learning materials available to the kids, that they would play with them.

But, I needed the space to stay organized and to be visually-appealing.

The kitchen is not only where our family hangs out, it’s also where our friends come over…so I bought a 20 dollar shoe rack I liked at the local bulk warehouse and our Kitchen Montessori Corner was born.

Why Montessori Style Kitchen Corner?

I need to state that I am not a Montessori Guide or Teacher.  I’m a mom who has enjoyed watching her children learn some pretty nifty things in their pre-school years using some of the non-traditional learning materials you’ll find in a Montessori environment.

Our kids do a lot of playing, building, pretending, arts & crafts, and nature exploration in their daily activities, but they also seem to enjoy the hands-on, sensorial method of learning inherent in Montessori Materials that reinforce learning of concepts through experience.

I use the term “Montessori-Style” because some of the materials in our “Kitchen Corner” are actual Montessori materials and others are INSPIRED  ( in concept or similarity of function) BY authentic Montessori materials you can purchase through places like The Montessori Outlet.  (A good example of this would be our twist on doing Math Sums using blue glass beads in a tray and strips of paper with written sums on them instead of the traditional numerical counting rods you’ll find in a Montessori classroom.)

In many cases, we use recylables (like empty spice jars), re-purposed items (like ice cube trays), or inexpensive options (like dollar store metal napkin holders to hold boards and paper tablets or muffin tins) in order to compose the learning materials to make them more affordable.

It’s never mandatory that the kids “play” or “use” any of the materials in the kitchen.  

We don’t force them to sit to do work.  The items are there for when they want to use them.  

Days or weeks may go by and nothing is picked up.

And, then, for some reason, a tray with a map and little replicas of world monuments catches our pre-school son’s eye and he’s “playing” with the geography tray.

Critters And Crayons Montessori-Inspired Geography Tray

 In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting about how we made

some of the materials you see below.

I hope you find the information helpful!

Our Kitchen Corner Shoe Rack With Montessori-Inspired Materials

Tong & Chopstick Transfer Activity

Pattern Rubbing Plates & Writing Pads

 

Chopstick Transfer & Creative Pattern-Making

Assorted Flash Card Basket

DIY Sensory Letters

The Prism

Sensory Sand-Writing

Tangrams

The 100 Board & Number Tiles. Click This Image To View The Post And Video About The Hundred Board In Our Montessori-Style Kitchen Corner!

Homemade Flash Cards Supporting School Curriculum

Hands-On Sums Activity With Glass Beads

Water Transfer Activity & Color Mixing

Popsicle Stick Shape-Making

Bead Counting & Snake Game

10 Wooden Squares of 100

DIY Snack Station

Art & Creativity Station

 

Sensory Whole Wheat Coconut Oil Cloud Dough In A Craft Box

Flower Arrangement Station

 

You can find Critters And Crayons posts about Montessori-Inspired Activities, Lessons and Materials (often with some humor) HERE.

Also, some of my favorite Montessori Blogs and Resources are listed below!

Living Montessori Now

Confessions Of  A Montessori Mom

Montessori Tidbits

Carrots Are Orange

The Montessori Outlet

The Montessori Print Shop

 

HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE LEARNING AND DISCOVERY AT HOME?

 

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Saint Patrick’s Day Origami Sun Catchers With Kids: Shamrocks, Rainbow Stars And…Batman {Shamrock Tutorial)

It’s Spring Break and Saint Patrick’s Day is right around the corner!

I was looking forward to spending some time with the kids in the morning doing something creative and remembered we still had the origami sun catcher kit full of translucent origami paper that we could use to make Saint Patrick’s Day Shamrock Sun Catchers.

What I learned, again, is that craft-time with kids, like most things with children, doesn’t always go as planned.

Here’s our St. Patty’s Day Sun-Catcher window.  :)

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I had a vision of us decorating a window with a bunch of green four-leaf clover “shamrocks” like the one you see below.

By modifying a star-pattern, I figured we could just make a bunch together for a festive, green, Irish window.

suncatcher shamrock

 

 

Our son was much more interested in building a Bat-Plane!

So, I helped him make one.

don't force a craft on a kid

And, he wanted help making a Batman Symbol Sun Catcher…

So, I obliged.

batman suncatcher

The symbol came out pretty cool, I think.

Not very festive, but it made our son happy, and that was the point of this crafty session, anyway, right?

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The mind of a child is quite amazing, though.

Where I saw a sort of failed holiday crafting session and lots of unused origami sun catcher paper, our son saw an opportunity to build something for his blue Bat-Plane….

don't force a craft on a kid 2

A GARAGE, of course!   (Techically, it would be a HANGAR, but our son calls it a garage, and he’s in charge of his own imaginative play, so I’m going with it).

I would have never thought to do that with that square piece of paper.

don't force a craft on a kid 3

Our daughter was more interested in doing her own rainbow star using a simple fold in the origami sun catcher book that came with the kit.

rainbow suncatcher

To do this, just fold the square in half so that it forms a triangle (not a rectangle).  Then, fold the sides into the center so that it looks like a kite!

This is about the most simple fold for a child, probably best for pre-schoolers and kindergarteners, if they really want to do this on their own.

rainbow suncatcher 2

She glued the pieces together in the center after making 8 “kites”.

An adult might be inclined to intervene and make sure that the colors are balanced or that the lines are glued together perfectly, but I think it is important to let the kids do what they will (unless they ask for help in making things line up perfectly).

rainbow suncatcher 3

And here is the result of our kindergarten daughter’s individual effort.

She, like her brother, had no interest in making Shamrocks with mom.

They wanted to do what they wanted to do with the materials in front of them.

Our son’s innovative “Bat-Plane Garage” and our daughter’s rainbow star with an imperfect “octagon” in the center show their little minds and hands at work.

So, I made my own four-leaf clover….all by myself. :)

If you think that your kids want to ever make a sun catcher shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to go ahead an include the tutorial below:

How to make suncatcher shamrock for st patrick's day

Step 1) Start with the square green piece of paper. You’ll need 4 of them and a glue stick to finish the origami sun catcher shamrock.

How to make suncatcher shamrock for st patrick's day 2

Step 2: Fold the square in half. And then fold each of the ends into the center so your paper looks like this

How to make suncatcher shamrock for st patrick's day 3

Step 3. Fold ends of the paper into the center. Then, fold the top corners into the center so that it looks like a very tall house. (That’s how our kids refer to shape that results). Do the same folds at the other end so your paper looks like this.

How to make suncatcher shamrock for st patrick's day 4

Step 4. Make four of them.

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Step 5. Using gluestick, glue two of the “petals” together in the center. You can align the edges as a guide, like you see here.

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Step 6. Glue the remaining petals on.

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Step 7. Use clear tape to adhere to a window and you have an origami sun catcher shamrock!

We hope that everyone has a wonderful Saint Patrick’s Day!

If you do decide to do a Saint Patrick’s Crafting session with your kiddos, good luck!

I hope that it comes out just as you’d hoped!

But, really, the more that I look at our Saint Patrick’s Day Sun Catcher Window, I am starting to think that it could not be more… PERFECT.

 

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You can read a little about how Saint Patrick’s Day is different for us now that we have kids by checking out this post:

Saint Patrick’s Day Then And Now

And for A LOT of Saint Patrick’s Crafting Ideas, check out Mom To 2 Posh Lil Diva’s Collaborative Pinterest Board for the holiday!

St. Patrick’s Day Pinterest Board

WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING FOR SAINT PATRICK’S DAY?  

ALL GOING AS PLANNED?

US, NEITHER.   IT’S ALL GOOD.  

:)

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How To Avoid Being A Piñata Event Failure

One thing I have noticed about living on the U.S./Mexico border is that people take their piñatas seriously around here.

No, really.

This is serious business.  You’ll see what I mean.

Growing up, I’d seen images of piñatas and even whacked a couple, but I remember they seemed much smaller than the ones we’re accustomed to seeing nowadays.   The little rainbow burro piñata I remember swatting was probably the height and width of the bunny ears on the gargantuan piñata you see below.

That photo was taken at a party last year and that’s our daughter getting ready to go to town on the thing.

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 1

To show the scale of these behemoth piñatas,  here’s a Dora The Explorer piñata that towered over another party’s diminutive guests.

 

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 4

 

And, here’s another:  a Cinderella piñata taller than the 6 year old birthday-girl.

 

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 6

Do you see?

People in these parts actually make these things!  With vigor!

But, back to that giant bunny piñata…

I recall a note I received from a friend of mine whose son became distressed because the head of the paper mache giraffe he’d been playing with for weeks leading up to his birthday party had been summarily whacked off with violent zeal during the party.

It was the first party he’d ever had with a piñata.   That giraffe had become his buddy.  And, just like that!  BAM!!!  It was missing a head.  Forever.

My friend wrote to me and said that she now always recommends that young kids receive piñatas in “non-living shapes” to avoid potentially stressing the child out.

This reminded me of some parental banter about the logic and messaging of the piñata event for a young child.

In conversations with another mother, I learned that there are parents and even psychologists, that are uncomfortable with the encouragement-to-violence embodied in a piñata.   You can read about that HERE.

Basically, the idea that a young child would be encouraged to hit something by authority figures, who routinely discourage the hitting of anything in any other circumstance, coupled with expectation that the child should aggressively decimate something made in the image that he or she loves WOULD seem to send a sort of mixed signal to a kid.

That may be true for some.

My friend’s son’s experience with that poor, decapitated paper giraffe DID SEEM to support that theory.

But, again, let’s get back to that giant bunny piñata and our very girl-y, very fashion-y, very dainty 4-year old.

She didn’t seem to struggle too much with hurting that massive crinkly bunny.

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 2

 

She didn’t seem to bear any of those afflictions or psychological aversions to executing something in the image of  living thing.

I don’t know.

Maybe I’m just too subjective in my reading of her body language and facial expressions as her mother.

What do you think?

 

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 3

But, back to the seriousness of the piñata event.

You can see that the sheer size of these things and the creative work that goes into them is big business.

I hear that along the Mexico side of the Rio Grande, one of the reasons that there is not an abundance of the invasive specie of cane that plagues the U.S. side of the Rio, is because the piñata-makers actually use the abundant cane to supply the recurring demand.

But, when you live in a place where piñata events are a sort of party-rite for children, it is not surprising that many venues actually have built-in piñata cages like this one at a local pizza place.

There are even signs on the cage letting patrons know that the party place may provide the cage, the rope, the pulley system and the pizza, BUT you better remember to bring your own piñata stick, Buddy.

 

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 5

 

Piñatas are so prevalent that they are even considered to be a sort of nuisance for many venues whose contracts for use explicitly state what TYPE of piñata can be used.

For instance, contracts for use of HOA-run pavilions (also known as palapas) and city-run parks specify that piñata messes must be cleaned up or that confetti-filled piñatas are not permitted.

But, enough about that.

Let’s get into the real meat of this post- and that is to describe the many, empirically-defined ways that you should (or more importantly, how you should NOT) run a piñata event should you decide to give it a go.

For many people who grew up in a piñata culture, running the event probably doesn’t seem like a logistical or logical nightmare.

If you grow up around piñatas, you probably know what you are doing.

It really IS probably  a no-brainer.  It’s probably like remembering to bring spoons for the ice cream and forks for the cake.

Even if you lack a hook, a stick, or a rope, you’ll probably know how to improvise, adapt and overcome in a way that makes you still emerge a Piñata Hero.

But, I will also show you in photos and pictures, that for those people who do NOT grow up attending piñata events every few months of our lives, that throwing a seamless piñata event is actually a sort of science.

Seriously.  It’s like the mystical-type of science that almost looks like voodoo magic to the ignorant pupil on the first observation.

Let us begin with some of the things you need to watch out for, shall we?

First and foremost, you should be sure that you do not purchase cruddy, little, pull-string piñatas from the local party or grocery store.

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 7

 

Let us please forget what it appears that Batman is doing to Spiderman in the photo.  That is just a snickering aside for the juvenile adult males at the party.

The REASON that there are two piñatas, in the first place, is because we realized that just one would be insufficient for the number of clamoring children who would be there.

Do you see the little ribbons dangling from the bottoms of the piñatas?

Those are NOT decorative accessories like I, and other moms and dads as you will soon see, believed when we purchased them for twenty-five bucks each.

Those are “pull-strings” intended to be yanked so that kids don’t need to beat the crap out of the things.

This goes back to that discussion of the parenting philosophy of non-violence.  If you know you are buying a pull-string piñata and you do so for moral reasons as a piñata-event conscientious objector, then “Rock On, And Good For You For Sticking To Your Figurative And Non-Violent Water Guns!”

But, if you have children older than the age of 3, the odds are not good that you really meant to buy a pull-string piñata.

And the reason I know this is because even a 4-year old will look at one of these things and think, ardently and out loud, that you are a lame parent.

Furthermore, these particular types of pull-string piñatas also come with a handy little opening receptacle in the back that facilitates rapid candy flow with the slightest tap.

This means that when a child DOES hit the pull-string piñata because you didn’t know you bought a pull-string piñata (forget that we bought TWO), that all the candy will start to fall out by the time the second kid in the 30-kid line gets to even step up.

 

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 8

The photo above was actually taken recently at another birthday party.

You should note that the mother of this little boy purchased THE EXACT SAME Batman pull-string piñata that I had a year earlier.

When I saw it sitting on her table, I told her about what we’d learned the year before.

“Oh!  I thought those ribbons on the bottom were for decoration!” she laughed.

I know, right?!!??!

So, the time came to hit it, and they strung it up by the little tab the piñata came attached to from the store to a limbo bar because no one had a rope.  Or a hook.

The birthday boy was first in line.

He hit it once.

 

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 9

Another piñata fail, folks.

The funny thing is that I was standing next to a couple of hispanic women who had lived in Laredo their entire lives.

I told them that we had made a similar mistake the previous year, and we bought the same piñata, and the same thing happened.

They said, “Ha!  We were just talking about that!   We were laughing about the pull-string piñata.  And the limbo bar.  And the missing rope. And…”

I’m going to get to the part where I tell you how to run a successful piñata event.

But, first, I am going to tell you what else has gone wrong at our piñata events, and here goes:

  1. We forgot to buy a piñata stick.  Actually, we didn’t know they made sticks expressly for that purpose, but we see them everywhere now for about 10 bucks.
  2. So, we brought our daughter’s plastic, electronic Snow White broom.  It played “Whistle While You Work” as you made sweeping motions.  Well, it DID play that song until it broke in half on the second swing of the Batman-Spidey piñata event.
  3. Someone’s kid played tee-ball so a friend retrieved a BASEBALL BAT from his car for us to complete the event.
  4. This is not recommended.
  5. Ever.
  6. When the second child in line got up to swing the baseball bat (did I tell you that was a bad idea?), the piñatas crashed down because the HEMP TWINE that I took out of my craft kit BROKE in half. Apparently, you’re supposed to use rope or something.
  7. So, while the kids waited in line for another 5 minutes (with 28 more kids left to get a whack and we were on kid number 2 still) and my husband quadrupled up that craft twine and re-hung the piñatas which continued to shake out candy with every movement.
  8. We got to Kid #3 and one fell swoop later with that baseball bat that, thankfully, did not cause any prolonged concussions, those pull-string piñatas were COMPLETELY OBLITERATED.
  9. One girl started bawling.
  10. I mean, REALLY BAWLING.
  11. When I asked her what was wrong, she wailed, “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!!!!!!  YOU’RE DOING IT ALL WRONG!!!!!!!”
  12. Wailing.
  13. More Wailing.
  14. Essentially….we sucked at that piñata event.
  15. I mean…A LOT.

If you are a visual person, here’s a picture I drew of what it was like.

Screen shot 2013-03-07 at 11.56.36 PM

 

 

But, no worries.

I recently polled Critters And Crayons readers for suggestions about how to run a successful piñata event.

You can see their excellent suggestions HERE.

In a nutshell, make sure you:

  • Buy a REAL piñata
  • Lay a tarp down for easy clean-up
  • Use a real rope
  • Make sure you have a piñata stick
  • Hand out treat bags before the event
  • Have a person manage the piñata line and safety zone
  • Smallest kids go first
  • Give the kids just 3 strikes
  • Sing the “Dale! Dale! Dale!” song
  • Have extra bags of candy to shake out in case you need more or little ones don’t get enough

Easy right?

But, probably one of the greatest challenges to any piñata event is always going to be where to hang the thing.

There aren’t always trees with sturdy branches, or large hooks and pulley systems for parents to use.

Some people attempt to overcome this challenge by standing on a chair and they actually hold the piñata themselves for a child to indiscriminately swing at it.  The Batman in costume in the photos above ended up trying that.   He was saved because the candy all fell out of that pull-string piñata by Kid #3.

Regardless, The Stand-On-A-Chair-And-Hold-The-Piñata Solution is a bad one.

It’s a bad idea because even a giant by human proportions would not have sufficient arm-reach to ensure a safety zone that could prevent the  sterilization or shattered knee caps of any male victim who agreed to stand on that chair with arms outstretched holding that candy-filled demon.

The bad-idea-ness of this “solution” is further exacerbated if the child is either 1) wearing a blind-fold, or 2) swinging a baseball bat (Um.  Again.  See above image based on true events).

If all of those factors have been brought to bear, then really, a merciful party-goer should just summon the paramedics as soon as the first child starts swinging.

But, let’s get back to where and how to hang a piñata when there really doesn’t appear to be any place to suspend the thing.

We have learned that, around here, there really are NO EXCUSES for messing this tiny detail up when you are a seasoned piñata event do-er.

And, here’s how I know that.

Look at this photo.

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 10

That gigantic cowgirl piñata is hanging from a rope that has been stretched to a rooftop up on the left.

Do you see that?

People, that rope is not secured by a nail, or a knot, or any other inanimate thing.

This photo was taken at a friend’s birthday party and  that gargantuan piñata is suspended from a rope that is stretched between a rooftop and an 8-foot cement wall in my friend’s backyard.

My friend sent PEOPLE (as in Willing Human Beings) up on that roof and on that wall to HOLD THAT ROPE so that they could make that piñata event happen.

Don’t believe me?

 

How To Not Mess Up A Pinata Event 11

 

Seriously, there were dudes yanking on both ends of that rope, one wearing shoes with excellent traction up on a slanted rooftop, so that they could provide a child with a real and successful piñata experience.  They made the thing bob up and down as the kids swung at it WHILE LITERALLY DEFYING DEATH ON BOTH ENDS OF THAT ROPE.

Every once in a while we’d see one of the guys  look like they were going to lose their balance and careen to the ground.  As arms flailed and eyes widened to see how it would end, party-goers cheered when the rope-holders regained their balance to start yanking and pulling that piñata for the next kid to start pounding on it.

Is this not serious stuff?

 Again, for the folks who are better with visuals versus reading verbose blog posts, here’s my artistic rendition of that “really happened and there were witnesses to prove it” event:

 

How To Not Mess Up The Pinata Event 15

 

And do you know what?

Do you know whose party that was?

Remember the little girl who was wailing at our awfully-executed piñata-event?

It was totally her party.

No wonder!

It all made sense!

She must have been, like, “LOOK, MAMA!  THERE ARE LOTS AND LOTS OF PERFECTLY GOOD ROOFS FOR THESE PEOPLE TO POSSIBLY FALL OFF OF  TO STRING THAT THING UP PROPERLY!   WHO USES PULL-STRINGS???  A TOY BROOM?  A BAT?  NO ROPE??   WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?   WAIT A MINUTE……ARE THOSE RAISINS????  BAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”

I’d have wailed, too, if I had known we were being measured against this rooftop/wall-balancing event standard.

Do you see what I mean about piñata events being serious business around here?

Death-defying.  They are death-defying.

It doesn’t get more serious than that.

But, now, I think we’re ready to try again and maybe, armed with all of this non-intuitive and pain-forged knowledge, we’ll pull off a piñata event without issue.

The good news is that even if you run a bad one, the end state generally is the same.

 

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Unless you or one of your party guests comes from a family where all the uncles are trapeze artists, rope walkers or who are otherwise simply unafraid of dying in order to make the piñata event a booming success.

Then, there may be tears and wailing and you should just wear a badge that says “Yes.  I’m A Piñata LOSER” .

Wear it with pride that you were also the best.

You were the best failure at the piñata event imaginable.

Congratulations.

Congratulations that you sucked so bad that you made a little girl cry.

We’re all supposed to be good at something in this life.

May as well be that.

 

GOOD LUCK TO YOU, PARENTS!

LET US KNOW HOW YOUR ADVENTURES WITH THE GIANT PAPER MACHE BEASTS GO!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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