Saturday, December 18, 2010

Help your child get in the spirit of giving with salt dough ornaments

Asking your children to make something special for loved ones on the holidays is something I consider necessary.  With so many gifts coming their way, it's always nice for them to reciprocate.  Plus, I think little ones get a big kick out of the "ooo-ing" and "ahh-ing" that inevitably comes tumbling out of the mouths of relatives. 

These salt dough ornaments are something that your child will love to make and to give.  The dough is also great for just using like play-doh, too, if you aren't in the mood to go all the way with this activity.  This recipe comes from PaintCutPaste, one of my favorite go-to blogs for crafty ideas.

Salt Dough
4 cups flout
1 cup iodized salt
1.75 cups warm water
Mix and knead for 10 minutes

Roll out your dough on a floured surface. 

 Use cookie cutters to make shapes.
Use a straw to poke holes for your string.
Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour.

Let them cool on a wire rack for 12-24 hours.
When ready, use a water-based paint like tempera or acrylic to decorate.
I like to use glitter and stickers to make them look even fancier.

There is just something so special about a child's artistic touch, isn't there? 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sand from the moon puts me over the moon

I have a love/hate relationship with Moon Sand.  For those of you who haven't encountered this strange substance, it feels like sand with some properties of play-doh.  Unlike the real deal, you can mold Moon Sand without adding water.  Although it doesn't quite hold a sturdy shape (it is sand, after all), little ones love to roll it into balls, cut out shapes and use their imagination to make all sorts of creations.  It also doesn't dry out which gives it a one-up over play-doh in my book.

It is for all the above reasons that I love Moon Sand.  I do find myself cursing Moon Sand once play is over.  Bringing sand into your home leads to a mess - on the table, on the floor, in my child's case - in the hair, down the shirt... you get the picture.  But, I have to remind my anal-retentive tendencies that this is "messy" play.  It's okay to get the house messy and the child messy.  It's easy enough to clean-up and the fun your child will have makes it all worth it.  (Remind yourself of this when you find sand in your child's eyebrows.)

The Moon Sand people make a plethora of sets to choose from.  They all come with a plastic sheet to make clean-up easier and, depending on the set, sometimes even an inflatable tray with raised sides to assist with the mess.  The sets are nice because they lend to some symbolic play, but with a free form material like this your children will love letting their creativity show.

Here are some of my favorite sets:

For a budding Bob the Builder -
Moon Sand Demolition Kit

For a future Julia Child -

For the aspiring Lancelot or Guinevere -

You can also just buy the Moon Sand and use your own sand toys that are taking a break in storage for the summer. 

Here is a sand toy set that I had at home that makes ice cream cones.  Your little ones will love bringing the beach indoors on a cold winter day!

I, of course, encourage you to get in on the fun and join your child in some messy play.  I, frankly, find some catharsis in playing with sand.

If your child has any tactile defensiveness, this is a wonderful activity to help ease your child into a new tactile experience without the unpredictability of sand from the beach.  There are no surprises with Moon Sand and what better way to support your child in, what is to them a scary tactile experience, by doing it with them? 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2 serious links and 1 seriously fun blog

Since starting this blog I have been forwarded a ton of articles and links which I completely appreciate and adore.  Here are a few things that I received this week:

The first is an article on how MRIs are being used to diagnose children with autism.  In working with many children with autism and their families over the years, I can definitely see the use of MRIs for early detection thus leading to earlier treatment and better outcomes.  I know a number of families who did not receive treatment for their child for years because a pediatrician told them their child was just a bit delayed and it was nothing to worry about.  However, I do worry about the effect of an autism diagnosis on a family when it leads to parents and caregivers lowering expectations for a child.  This particularly concerns me because I see so many infants and toddlers with autistic-like symptoms who never need a true diagnosis beyond a developmental delay because, when given intense early intervention, they can completely reverse these symptoms and become typically functioning, bright and engaging children.  The most important part of this early intervention is coaching parents on how to address and treat the individual needs of their children.
Ah...I digress...  Here's the article so you can form your own opinions:

The second link comes from a mom with a son that has severe food allergies.  I've read a few articles on how children that have food allergies can be bullied in school because of it.  This article just provides some research, but two things are really troubling to me - 1) Children are bullying by throwing the allergen or touching the child with it.  Some kids even reported having their food contaminated.  Many of these children could die from exposure.  Super scary.  2) Teachers are doing the bullying. ?? Really??!!  Come on.

The third link is to a blog that a good friend turned me on to.  Meal times can be such a struggle.  Here is one mom's way of combating it by serving lunch in muffin tins and making bento boxes for her kids.  She goes a little overboard on the artistic end, but much of is easily reproduced in your kitchen and embraces the spirit of "play."  The novelty of it may even get your child to eat some veggies.
Bento Lunch