Forcing the Bloom

Happy, Healthy Mommy Blog


Using Puzzles for Scissor, Sorting and Tracing Activities

Maybe you don’t need to consign those old puzzles just yet…

This Melissa & Doug puzzle is not a challenge for my toddler anymore.  It’s perfect for my 8 month old.  I found a way, however, to expand its use and let my toddler get more out of it.  Here are some ideas for this puzzle…


1.) We drew shapes on construction paper so that the shapes and colors matched the spots on the puzzle.  First we practiced cutting the shapes to match the puzzle pieces.


2.) Then we matched the cut out shapes with the puzzle holes.  (You can also count them as you go.)



3.) Last we used the big puzzle pieces to practice tracing shapes with crayons.  The big knobs were very helpful!

I wonder what else we can come up with for our other puzzles!

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ABC Sticky Note Game

My three-year old is working on mastering beginning word sounds.  As his vocabulary and speech improves, he is able to associate more words.  My toddler and his grandpa play a game where they take turns thinking of a word that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  We made up a new game today!

I gave my toddler a sticky note with a letter on it – “A” then “B” and so on.  He took the sticky note and together we looked for things around the house that started with that letter.  Then he “stickied” the object by placing the sticky note on it.  Some objects where a little challenging, such as the cat, but he tried!  This game could be expanded to word ending sounds, middle word sounds, rhyming words or the entire word.  Of course, in the end there are stickies all over the house but that’s ok with me!

Apples (decorative), coconuts (a lamp made out of coconuts), and eggs (hard-boiled)!  Just a few of the beginning sound words that were stickied today!

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Road Trip Ideas for Kids

Summers are all about the road trips.  Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?  

The real question is how to keep the kids busy until we are there, wherever there may be.  Beach?  Grandma’s house?  Camp?  We’re about to finish up our adventure in Washington, D.C.  Then we are off to the beach in a few weeks.  In the fall, we’re visiting St. Louis.  Whew!  I don’t even like to travel!  How is it that I travel more with children then I ever did before they were born?

Since I try to minimize screen time, I was very excited about this little find at the library – Playaway.  You can rent these all-in-one recorded book devices at the library or buy them online ( or Amazon).  The handheld devices are light and easy for my toddler to start and stop.  One device usually has one recorded book but some have a collection of short books.  You can get all types of books – children’s, young adult, classics.

My toddler has been enjoying listening to books via Playaway in the car and it’s a great activity for a long car trip.  Since your child uses headphones to listen, that means you don’t have to listen.  Sometimes I like to listen to music and stories with my child but sometimes mommy needs quiet time!  My favorite part is hearing my toddler burst out laughing in a seemingly random way when everything and everyone else is quiet.  It’s almost as good as hearing him talk to himself.  You could give your child an actual book to hold while they listen or just let them listen without any visuals.  Either way is fun.

What are some interesting ways to keep kids busy in the car?  Have any long car trips planned for this summer?

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Montessori Trays: Why they work

What’s up with the trays?  The first thing you will probably notice about a Montessori-inspired home or Montessori classroom is the TRAYS.  In our home, I use whatever is available – wooden trays, wooden bowls, woven baskets, plastics serving dishes, etc – usually picked up at a consignment shop like Goodwill.

I didn’t really understand the purpose of the trays until my three-year old had friends over who pulled everything off our shelves and threw things on the floor.  We actually didn’t mind but Boaz busily put everything back into their correct places.  Order and placement is ingrained into his habits and nature.

His learning experience begins when he enters the room.  How are things organized?  How are they grouped together?  The next challenge – can he pick up the tray with the activity and carry to his table or the floor to play?  This requires balance, coordination, and focus.  When he’s done, can he put it back without dropping it before getting a new activity?  Again – focus, attention, patience.

Don’t give up before they start!  At first, they may throw things on the floor.  After awhile they understand the process.  And this process – organizing toys and activities on shelves with trays or other containers – makes clean up quicker!  It also promotes continual learning development from the minute they enter the room.  That’s why we love Montessori trays!

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Interesting Articles on Parenting

Are you a free-range or helicopter parent?  How do you create a play space for your neighborhood?

I read two interesting articles on parenting this week.

1.) The first one, “What does it mean to be a good parent?“, addresses the issue of providing opportunities for your child’s independence without alerting the authorities.  Seriously – it happens.  What are the benefits of providing independence, such as walking to school alone?  Are our ideas of danger over-exaggerated?  Is it right to judge other parents and their parenting styles?  When is it okay to intervene?

I was also very interested in the shorter article joined with it entitled “How to create play spaces.”  This talks about creating a safe, playful community with play spaces – not just playgrounds – in your backyard.  Very cool examples and video!

2.) The second article, “The Overbooked Generation“, questions whether families are overburdened with extracurricular activities.  I can answer that.  Yes, we are.  But is that okay?  What are the benefits and the alternatives?  Is your (meaning your kids’) schedule out of control?  Is that how you like it?

Read any other good articles this week that you want to share?



God’s curriculum is Nature

Do you ever need a theme other than nature?

We have been enjoying our playtime in nature during the recent warm, spring weather.  It’s difficult to tell who enjoys it more, me, Noah (5 mon), or Boaz (3 yrs).  I can’t say enough good things about my toddler’s reactions to nature.  I enjoy incorporating nature (sand, ocean animals, more animals) into our shelf work (Montessori-inspired).  Sometimes my toddler needs a little encouragement as we drive by the playground and head to the beach, woods, or water areas.  The playground equipment calls to him.  We go there too, after we play in nature.  Since I talk it up so much, I thought I’d show some pictures to prove we really do it!  You’ll see some pictures of a scenic park off of a lake where you can walk along the water, through the woods, and down to a beach.  We discovered a pair of ducks and built (rather destroyed) sand castles.  At home, I made activities with sand and toy animals – matching games, words games, and sensorial activities – to bring nature into the house and continue the theme.

I think that God’s curriculum is Nature.







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TV for Babies?

Yesterday (3/30/15) the Wall Street Journal reported on a new TV channel just for babies called BabyFirst.  According to the article, “It’s Really Here: TV for 6-Month-Olds” BabyFirst reaches 50 million households.  Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO TV for children under the age of two, this is apparently not the trend.  The article stated that children 2-4 years old average about 34 HOURS of screen PER WEEK.  Yikes!  It’s not like we’re missing the recommended target (zero screen time) a little bit.  We are way off.  That’s more than a day and a half each week or 73 1/2 days a year!

Interestingly, I read this article right finishing a two-week experiment.  I recorded the number of hours my toddler (3 years old) and I spent in nature and the number of hours of his screen time.  I did this mainly because his temper tantrum rate had increased to about 1 tantrum a day, lasting well over an hour.  I was unsure what to do so I prescribed some nature therapy.  What I found was that the more time we spent in nature and away from any screens, the less tantrums.  Now I admit that there could be many other variables involved, such as not feeling well, travel, food, sleep, weather.  Although I can’t conclusively prove it, I sure seems like more nature and less screen time has significantly reduced tantrums.  I was so happy and inspired by the result that we weaned off of screen time almost completely.  He still watches some TV here and there, such as March Madness with his Dad, but it is SO much easier to just say no – no screen time.  Otherwise, I completely lose track and without even knowing it screen time slowly increases until it’s out of control.  If, however, the idea of NO TV or screen time seems too extreme then you could still keeping a chart and track screen time.  Post it on the refrigerator and try for some time with nature.

My heart goes out to parents and I know all about the TV temptation.  My favorite screen time is at a restaurant when my toddler finishes his food in about 5 minutes.  If I hand him my iphone and he becomes engrossed in YouTube or games, my husband and I can almost have a real conversation.  It’s almost like a date!  But at what cost?  The last time we went out to eat I resisted pulling out my phone and we survived just fine.  We talked more with our toddler and did not stay as long but I think it was worth it.  And there were no tantrums.

How do you limit screen time?  Is screen time out of control?  What do you think about the new TV channel for babies?


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Pictures of Spring – Nature Walks

Are you starting to see signs of Spring?  With the warm weather, the boys (4 months and 3 years) and I have been taking nature walks.  I like to think of it as nature therapy.  Nature according to my definition does not include playgrounds or backyards, although those are nice and fun too.  My requirement for a nature walk is that it does not include anything man-made as much as possible.  I prefer a trail through the woods.  It’s almost magical.  After the first 30 minutes, my toddler stops asking about other things and seems to become aware of the environment.  During the next 1/2 hour, he lets loose and runs or frolics.  During the second hour, he becomes absorbed in nature, oblivious to time and me.  He’s relaxed, energized and very, very happy.  It’s difficult to describe and yes, we take 2 hour walks.  I put the little one in the Moby Wrap and off we go.  Sometimes we get lost.  These have been my favorite hours of the day and week.  There is something magical about nature and SPRING!

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