"…And she smiles at the future." ~Proverbs 31:25

Posts tagged ‘learn’

Cold corn and contentment

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”

Can you guess who said that? It’s a proclamation that kind of puts me to shame. After all, if Helen Keller could be content, can’t we all? I can’t imagine living in a world of darkness OR silence…much less both. Yet, she was not only content, but found wonder in her situation. Amazing!

What jumps out at me in her statement is that she learned to be content. I don’t think it’s natural to feel that way. But, we can learn! And I’m not just talking about being content with the things we have, but with our circumstances in life, too. We’ll never have every situation just the way we want it, but we can learn to be happy wherever we are, with whatever we have.

Ms. Keller’s surprising assertion reminds me of another declaration I need to remember, this one from Philippians 4:11-13.

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Are you content today? Let’s work on it together!

*********

I handed my three-year-old sweetie a plastic piece of corn-on-the-cob I’d found on the floor, and said, “Here, Remi, go put this where it belongs.” Later in the day I opened the fridge—the real fridge, with the real food in it—and found this sweet scene:

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This boy

Just yesterday I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful, bouncing baby boy. Well, OK, maybe it wasn’t yesterday…but it sure doesn’t seem like it was fifteen years ago! The calendar tells me it was, though, and the fact that I can no longer “bounce” him seems to verify that fact.

{age 6}

I guess there’s other evidence of his age, too. He doesn’t play with toy cars anymore; he’s much more interested in real ones. We no longer own Lincoln Logs or Bionicles for him to put together; he’d rather be listening to music. He no longer catches frogs; he’d rather be catching fish.

I learn something from him just about every day. He is taller than me, but sweet and gentle. He’s a hard worker with a quick wit and a unique sense of humor that keeps me laughing. He’s a great cook and a fantastic big brother. Most importantly, he loves the Lord, and he’s trying to live for Him.

I am so thankful for Connor!

Thanks for stopping by!

Teaching (and being taught by) our daughters

While going through some old paperwork I came across a little piece I’d clipped from a church bulletin some time back. I read it again and thought it worth sharing. (There was no author listed.)

We need to teach our daughters how to distinguish between

a man who flatters her and a man who compliments her,

a man who spends money on her and a man who invests in her,

a man who view her as property and a man who views her properly,

a man who lusts after her and a man who loves her,

a man who believes he is God’s gift to women and a man who remembers woman was God’s gift to man.

Hopefully our girls are seeing this in the way their dads treat their moms, but I appreciated the reminder to actively teach it as well.  And, it’s never too early!

In our house, I often feel my daughters are teaching me way more than I’m teaching them. Here are just a couple of the lessons I learned from my girls this week…

Yesterday, I woke up to this lovely sight:

A girl with a servant's heart

Our sweet Addison brought me breakfast in bed. There was no special occasion—she simply said, “I know you must be really tired from…” and proceeded to list all my current activities. The fact that she notices and appreciates my efforts is enough to warm this mom’s heart, and her attempt to do something for me in return was even more touching.

I learned from Addy that expressing appreciation for what others do makes them feel good, and makes them want to keep doing what they’re doing. I’m going to put out more effort to encourage others this week, especially those who just might be tempted to give up.

Then, there was the lesson I learned from my newly-three-year-old daughter, Remington. Her favorite activity these days is playing teacher. Her “lessons” go on and on and on and on…

Little teacher

But what she doesn’t realize is that our everyday interactions are actually teaching me a lot. This latest lesson came from a conversation we had when she found a bag of items I was planning to return for a refund.

Me: No, Remi, don’t open those. We’re going to take them back to the store.

Remi: But why? Why don’t we just keep them?

Me: Because we got too many. We don’t need them.

Remi: But why do we have to take them back?

Me: Because if we give them back to the store, they’ll give us some money instead.

Remi: But we already HAVE some money. Why do we need more?

Me: Ahem…

This sweet little one’s words have sure stuck with me. What a great reminder that we have enough. No matter what we have, it is enough, and I’m thankful I had the innocence of a little child to point that out to me. I am going to work on being content this week—not just with what I have, but with the situations I find myself in and the work I need to do.

So, here’s my encouragement for you today:

1. Teach your daughters, your sons, and your grandchildren what to look for AND give in relationships.

2. Look for ways to encourage the endeavors of those around you. Make an effort to notice. Let them know you see and appreciate.

3. Be content. Focus on what you already have, and find a way to share it with others.

4. Learn from those around you—even your little ones. They can make you a better person just by watching and listening to them.

Who’s up for the challenge?

Thanks for stopping by!

Tot School Fun (Tiny Tots Week, Day 2)

Young children LOVE to learn new things, and I love being there to watch my little one’s eyes light up as she discovers and experiences new things every single day.

{DISCLAIMER}

Before I go on, I need to get one thing off my chest. As far as education goes, I strongly believe that there are only two things that you really NEED to be doing with your toddler:

1. Read to her. A LOT.

2. Play with her. A LOT.

Young children learn by playing. This isn’t just my opinion; there is a ton of research to back it up.

Our hula girl doing her funny little dance

My own experience with my oldest children also validates this position. They are both excellent readers and communicators and have done well all through school, although we did very little in the way of formal schooling when they were toddlers and preschoolers. We read A LOT, played A LOT, and interacted A LOT, and learning took place naturally, as it does with all young children.

So, if all you do with your tot is read, read, read and play, play, play…you are doing enough! (Read that again and again until it sinks in.)

I adamantly insist that you not feel guilty if you are not doing any type of formal education with your little one. Having said that…I also know that some little ones–especially those who have older siblings who are “doing school” at home–are more than ready to get in on the action and have their own “school.”

My youngest falls into this category. Her whole face lights up at the mention of the phrase, “tot school,” and she’ll drop whatever she’s doing and come running the instant she hears the words. If I don’t bring it up, SHE will ask ME. She is only two and a half, but with three older homeschooled siblings in the house, she wants her special learning time, too.

Of course, I am using the term “school” very loosely here, in reference to short, simple, FUN activities that my toddler and I can enjoy together when we have the time and inclination. There is no schedule. We don’t do it every day. Sometimes we do it more than once a day, IF she wants to, but never for more than about 15 minutes at a time. So please, if you take away some of these ideas to try with your little one, let him be in the driver’s seat. Enjoy the activities only until he loses interest (or ideally, before), then switch gears and do some more another day. The learning will happen; just have fun!

{END OF DISCLAIMER}

So, what do we do at our house when it’s time for tot school?  Well….in addition to reading zillions of books, working lots of puzzles, and doing the typical toddler play activities like scribbling, dancing, singing, and pretending with dolls and animals, these are a few of the more structured activities our toddler enjoys:

Transferring

Transferring objects from one container to another is always a hit with young children. You can see from Remington’s smile how much she enjoys this activity!

On this particular day, Remi started moving the marbles into the empty water bottle with her fingers.

Eventually we moved to transferring them with a pair of kitchen tongs.

Both activities are great for promoting hand-eye coordination. (I think next time we’ll try a spoon.) And she had just as much fun pouring the marbles back into the original container.

In the end, she wanted to play with the marbles–examining them, rolling them around, and making a LOT of noise with them!

Here’s another transferring activity Remi enjoys. The idea is to use the scoop to move a pompom into each indentation of the paint tray. (All these pieces came from Dollar Tree.) You could do the same with your kitchen tongs and an empty ice tray.

It’s not as easy as it looks…at least not when you’re two… and at first I was a little afraid that she’d get frustrated when she “missed.” But, I needn’t have worried. Look at her reaction:

Each time a little pompom rolls away, she gets more tickled. I have priceless videos of her laughing hysterically every time she messes up. (Yes, it’s just one more example of HER teaching ME. What if that were my reaction to all MY mess-ups?)

You can also have your toddler try to transfer beads with a scoop, or cotton balls with a clothes pin, or dice between plastic cups. Don’t worry about success–just let him have fun! (In this case, that IS success.) He will get better with practice.

Stringing

Stringing beads is another great way to “work on” hand-eye coordination.

We have wooden beads, plastic beads, giant buttons, foam pieces…She loves to string them all!  Lacing cards serve the same purpose and are also fun. Or, try stringing loop cereal or tube pasta. Once the concept of stringing is down, you can start working on patterns.

Counting Games

Personally, I think children should be taught about shapes, colors, letters and numbers  through fun and games, NOT flashcard drills. Here’s one example of how to make that happen:

Some days at snack time, I will draw a simple blue oval on a piece of paper and tell Remi that’s the pond. I give her some Goldfish crackers and she counts each one aloud as she places it in the pond.

However many fish she can move into the water…i.e., however high she can count…is how many crackers she gets to eat for her snack (although we’ll soon have to discontinue this as her ability increases!)

This is a good motivation for a hungry toddler to practice counting higher, and a fun way to learn one-to-one correspondence as well. To change things up, you could draw a simple tree and let your little one add Cheerios as “fruit,” or have her add raisins to an animal for “spots.”  Let your imagination run wild and see what games you can come up with.

Sorting

Learning to sort by color, size, or other similarity is a valuable skill for toddlers and preschoolers. Counting Bears are great for this…

…but your little one could also sort blocks, beads, marbles, buttons, Skittles or jellybeans, colored paper or felt pieces, plastic coins, Fruit Loops, Unifix cubes, crayons, game pieces, pompoms, colored pasta, Legos, foam shapes…You get the idea!  She can sort the pieces into a muffin pan, an egg carton, paper cupcake liners, an ice-cube tray, or whatever other divided container you can find. Just put one item of each color (or size, etc.) into each compartment to get her started, and let her figure out what goes where.

Small spaces

Poking an item into a small hole requires concentration and dexterity. There are lots of ways to practice this. I love these pictures of Remi inserting dry spaghetti strands into the holes of a shaker jar…

…because so many of the pieces ended up in her mouth!

(No, she’s not holding them in her mouth…She actually crunched them up and ate them.) Putting plastic coins in a piggy bank is another good activity of this kind.

Messy art

I know, I know, you were hoping I wouldn’t say it. But making messes is what little ones love best, so we might as well let them do it artistically! I don’t know any small child who doesn’t love to squish Play-Doh or plop paint.

As you can see, Remi’s style is great, gloopy gobs of pink paint…always pink…on top of more big pink globs. She’s very consistent! I have learned to let her do this on the tile, even though that means lugging the easel down the stairs. It’s worth it to me not to have to worry about cleaning paint spills out of carpet, especially since she sometimes “forgets” to stay on the paper…

(Ummm….Maybe we need bigger paper?) The immense pleasure this experience brings a young child is worth the mess and trouble…at least every once in a while. (Remi would do this EVERY day if I let her. I don’t.)

On days when you can’t handle the potential mess, try putting some thick paint into a zipper bag for your toddler to squish around in his hands.

Stickers

Simple sticker books are big with my little one right now, too.

She also loves just placing random stickers…on paper, her clothes, and her skin. (It’s a good time to teach where stickers do NOT go, too.)

Independent play

In addition to the activities Remi and I do together (where I’m not teaching, as much as playing along, giving guidance, and encouraging), our tot school also includes some solo activities that can keep her busy while I’m working with the other kids. Toddlers and preschoolers are busy little people. If not provided with safe, fun activities to keep them engaged, they’ll find something else to get into! During this time, it’s good to have some parameters for your little one. We do this either by strapping her into a chair near the table where we’re working…

…or by giving her “blanket time.” Which of those we choose just depends on the activity (and how antsy she is at the moment). If it requires some space, I’ll put the building blocks, animals, Little People, play food and dishes, dolls, or whatever she’ll be doing on a blanket and she must stay on the blanket with the toys.

Reading to her babies during blanket time

Other blanket-time activity ideas might include cars, trains, Duplos, and stacking items like cups and boxes. If the activity is messy, I put her on a felt-backed plastic table cloth on the floor to play.

Often these independent play times produce a lot of NOISE…but this way I always know she’s safely occupied and within sight and reach.

I’ll be sharing lots more ideas during the rest of this week’s posts, so please come back daily and feel free to share your own ideas in the comments. I’d love to hear what keeps your little one happily learning. And don’t worry, tomorrow I’ll tell you how to enjoy the process without breaking the bank! Here’s what’s on for the week:

Monday: Helping our wee helpers

Tuesday: Tot School fun

Wednesday:  Tot School on a shoestring

Thursday: Tot School organization

Friday: My favorite toddler resources

And, the bonus post…

In the meantime, you might want to check out this site where I got some of my activity ideas.

Thanks for stopping by!

They’re teaching us

You’ve probably heard me say it before: I’m sure I learn way more from my kids each day than they ever learn from me. And, if you’re a parent, you’ve probably experienced the same. It seems every day I observe something in them that I should be emulating…a sacrificial attitude, the ability to change moods quickly, or the knack for finding joy in the everyday drudgery of life.  I watch them and become motivated to do better.

Recently, however, I experienced a more direct lesson.

Our nine-year-old daughter came to me to let me know she’d made up her first devotional talk. It wasn’t really FOR anyone or anything in particular…she’d just been thinking about it. She had a sparkly little box in her hand, and this is what she said:

“This box reminds me of what Satan tries to do to us. He wants to distract us from what’s really important by showing us things that LOOK really exciting.”

“But, once we get into them, we see that they’re not all we thought they’d be. They’re EMPTY.”

“And sometimes, by the time we realize it, he has TRAPPED us in whatever he’d used to attract us.”

I asked Addy to share those thoughts with the rest of the family that night during our family devotional, and she did. The next day, our two-year-old, who never wants to be left out of anything, said SHE had a lesson, too. She’d found a stack of fun-foam pages and started banging them on the table, saying,

“In the beginning, when it was DARK…

(Flips black page down to show white…)

“God said, ‘Hey! Let’s have LIGHT!”

I’ve always hoped my kids would grow up to teach others what they know. Praise God, it looks like they’ve already started.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sweet creativity

I love the way kids are so naturally creative!  I especially love it when they use their creativity to encourage others. Our daughter, Addison, does this every day. If her little sister requests a puppet, Addy will drop everything to make her one. (Like this fly-catching felt frog…)

She made Remi this fishing game, too–complete with crab, seahorse, and paper clip hook–just to give her something fun to play with:

Sweet Addy never wants anyone to feel left out. When she got a new locket, she decided that Remi needed one, too, so she made her one of her very own (complete with love notes inside).

Once I told her how cool I thought her new diary was. The next day I found this sweet gift on my pillow…

…complete with paper-clip hooks and a combination lock. BEST. DIARY. EVER.

She saw her brothers playing Wii Tennis and decided they’d probably have more fun playing with rackets, instead of the plain old remotes. But, no need to go out and buy them…

I love that she even cut holes in all the right places (for the wrist strap, etc.)

One day she heard Remi crying and rushed off to design the cutest lion puppet ever to cheer her up.

And when Chandler was sick, she knew a puppet would make him feel better, too, so she went all out on this one. (You can imagine how long it took to glue on all those sequins!)

A while back a tiny kitten showed up at our back door. Addy fell in love with it and decided to nurse it until we found its mother, so she made a little cat basket from a plastic tote and a washcloth. Then she went to work creating clothes for it from an old sock.

kitty sweater = adorable

I hope Addy always gets joy out of using her creativity for the benefit of others.

I could learn a thing or two from this girl.

Thanks for stopping by!

Service with a smile

I was sick, and I was sick of being sick. Then my daughter bounded into the room with this sweet, homemade card in hand and a big, proud smile across her face.

If you’ve spent any time around me, or even if you’ve just browsed my blog posts, you’ve probably heard me say these words: “I want to be like Addy.” And it’s true; I do. While she’s only nine years old, Addy inspires me every day to be a better person.

Usually, it’s her sunny disposition and her ability to find joy in just about every situation. But now, I’ve found another of her qualities I know I need to emulate: her willingness–no, her DESIRE–to serve others.

While I was sick, she literally begged me to give her “slave jobs.” She insisted that I stay in bed while she brought me drinks, food, and whatever else she thought I might need. She presented me with a bell to clang whenever I needed something so I wouldn’t hurt my throat calling her, and she later added a paper towel tube that I could use to project my voice…just in case she didn’t hear the bell. She left a two-liter bottle of Coke Zero right beside me, but then insisted I call her each time I needed a refill so she could pour it for me.

At first I tried to talk her out of waiting on me hand and foot, but eventually I realized that she was happiest when I was letting her serve me. How much I need to learn from this child!

What if we all went through life that way–begging others to let us serve them, and being happiest while doing so? Wouldn’t it be great to find out?

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