Saturday, June 29, 2013

Toddler Activities: Week in Review 6.29.13 (2 years, 0 months)

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Scribbling with both hands at the same time is his newest thing

Damien was 2 years, 0 months old this week

Quote of the week, after he stole an entire red bell pepper off of my friend's counter:

"Oh, don't worry about it. He can have it if he needs it."
To which he interjects, "I need it!" (and ate the whole thing)

Here is our week in photos!

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Watching his flash card playlist during breakfast. This baby loves his flash cards!

Damien's flash card playlist included:

The playlist is 8 minutes long as he usually asks to watch it during breakfast, lunch, or snack, and sometimes before bed (good old delaying bedtime technique, no?)

He often asks to watch or listen to big brother's timeline song, too.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Presidents again, again please!

He was absolutely obsessed with presidents this week. He asked to watch the presidents video dozens of times, and begged me to teach him all of the names on his president placemat. Even though I only wanted to teach him the first row, he kept pestering me for the names of all the other ones, too.

Toddler Week in Review (2 years, 0 months) 6.29.13
When I first showed him the bones of the skull he wasn't very interested, but then he changed his mind and started asking for them over and over

His other encyclopedic knowledge for the week:

The Beatitudes (KJV, first verse only: I would say a few words at a time a couple of times a day and he would repeat it
Music by Chopin (during nap time, I would say, "This is music by Chopin" and the CD would play while he slept
The bones of the skull 
Counting to 40 on a number line 
Counting to 100 on abacus (did a couple of times the whole week)

We did the bones of the skull cards (it takes a few seconds to look at them all) during story time while we read board books.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Planet obsessed

He was quite obsessed with planets this week. In addition to regularly asking to read his planets book, he did this puzzle (can't find the link online - sorry!) over and over and over again.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Sudden interest in this board book

At this point he knows a bunch of states by shape and location. We occasionally point out states during meal and snack time. Although I didn't plan on using it, he has been getting out his state lift-a-flap book (from Target dollar section) a lot and naming (or asking me to name) all of the states.

Toddler Week in Review (2 years, 0 months) 6.29.13
Reading a homemade planet book

This week in reading we did:

The planets book (learning planet names, ordinal numbers
Color couplets (we used this to work on reading color word sight words
Pronouns (only did these for a few days, then he wasn't interested anymore)

We didn't get to the family verb book or the Spanish colors yet this week, but we'll probably do those next week.

We didn't do much in phonics this week, except the occasional self-initiated letter play, such as naming letter sounds with the foam letters in the bathtub (he does this on his own) and spelling out nonsense words with his alphabet puzzle (one day he was making a bunch of different words starting with HO, such as HOP, HOT, and lots of nonsense words likes HOF, HOS, and would ask we each time he spelled one, "How 'bout dis one, Mommy?")

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Spirals and swirls

For writing this week we intended to do shape copying, mazes, and journaling. I actually couldn't find our maze book so we didn't do that this week, and for some reason journaling fell by the wayside.

We did get to shape copying, where I drew a shape and asked him if he could draw it too, but he mostly just drew spirals when he attempted to copy the shapes I made. He really did seem to be trying to make the shape, but would kind of just keep going with it (hence the spiral rather than just a circle or other closed shape). Then he started to just make a bunch of swirls and spirals, so I rolled with it and let him do his thing! He loves scribbling.

He did name all of the shapes I drew and asked me to draw certain shapes (he asked for a triangle and a parallelogram).

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Back floating practice in the tub

One thing we have been doing to help with his swimming is to practice certain things in the bathtub. In this case, just back floating (or, at least, getting comfortable being on his back in water). All week he still wasn't a fan, but on Friday night (the third night this week we practiced) he finally was able to relax and actually said, "I like it!" and started singing the Scientific Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with me (our "back floating" song).

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13
Cross pattern crawling: good for the brain!

He has had a lot of fun with his active balance activities (somersaults, log rolls, and balance beam walking) and cross-pattern crawling exercise (through the tunnel). His big brother (age 8) loves to do these activities with him!

He can't quite do the balance beam without help yet. We did just get it out for the first time this week, and I think he will be able to do it soon, he just has to slow down, as he tries to go to fast and ends up with one foot on the ground. I'm also thinking about raising it (it is just a sanded, painted 2x4 laying on the ground) so the concept of walking only on the board, not on the floor, will be more apparent.

Of course, he spends 95% of his waking hours in free play! Here are some playing pictures this week:

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

Unexpected sensory "play" with blueberries.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

Last week I posted about how to teach your little toddler (ages 1-2) how to do jigsaw puzzles, well he obsessively repeats this one Mickey Mouse 12-piece puzzle, and doesn't need my help anymore! The techniques really do work. He chooses to play with this puzzle at least twice a day.

Toddler Week in Review (2 years, 0 months) 6.29.13

He gets out his shape matching game regularly (printable coming soon).

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

Banging on pegs.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

Wrestling time with Daddy and brother.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

Snuggling on Mommy's lap while she makes my books.

Toddler "School": Week in Review 6.23.13

And of course, trains! This baby loves, loves, loves his trains.

Here is the link to last week's activity plans. We got to most of it, including water play, which I didn't take pictures of. Still writing up my activities for next week (about half of the materials will probably be repeats from this week, with some new ones added).

Damien is currently 24 months old

This post is linked up to Tot School, For the Kids Friday, Preschool Corner, Montessori Monday, & Show & Share Saturday!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Outsourcing Swim Lessons: Our Less Than Stellar Experience (7 Years Old)

Outsourcing Swim Lessons: Our Less Than Stellar Experience (7 Years Old)

I was a bit horrified, to say the least, when for the first almost half this "intermediate" class, the kids didn't even actually SWIM (by themselves, without floatation aids)

Last fall, I wrote a glowing, hopeful post about how I was going to sign up my then 7-year-old for swim lessons. He already knew how to swim well, but I wanted someone to perfect and refine his skills to that of a decidedly advanced level, for him to have a fun group experience, and maybe by the time he graduated from the available lessons for him to be at the point of joining an athletic swim team.

Well, they really didn't go as well as planned.

Signing Up

Last fall I found a facility near where we were staying at the time that was offering swim lessons.

The lady in charge of sign-ups told me that there would be no swim test to determine what level to start him at. All I had to do was look at the provided chart and pick the level I thought he was at.

No pressure, she assured me. If I ended up picking the wrong level, the swim instructor could easily move him up or down to a level more appropriate to his skill.

Ok, sounds simple enough, right?
  • This particular program had 7 different levels
  • The levels went from "beginner" (afraid of water, no experience) to "advanced"
  • The program was meant for 6-12 year olds (in my mind, I am picturing advanced 12-year-old swimmers who are at the highest level of this program)
So, based on that information, and reading the (extremely brief) descriptions,
  • I put Hunter in the level that was labeled "intermediate"
  • It was level 4 out of 7
  • According to the description, by the time children were ready for this level, they were supposed to already know how to swim the crawl stroke, the back stroke, the elementary back stroke, the side stroke, the breast stroke, rhythmic breathing, and somersaults at a rudimentary level (he could do all of those things with pretty good skill, but could use some refinement)
So far, it seemed pretty good.

Outsourcing Swim Lessons: Our Less Than Stellar Experience (7 Years Old)

Hanging out at the end of the pool while the instructor worked with the other children

The Lessons

The lessons turned out to be not the right level, at all.

Half of the kids in the class couldn't even swim by themselves yet (I later found out that it was a mixed class, and half the kids were only at level 3). The other kids (who were supposed to be level 4) mostly dog-paddled (apparently, being able to do all of those five strokes at a "rudimentary" level means something a lot different than what I thought it did).

I mean, he is not a swimming superstar by any means. But the kid has been swimming by himself underwater (for several feetsince he was three. He has been able to swim independently across the pool (coming up for airsince he just turned five. At a few months shy of eight, he was swimming all of the five strokes with pretty decent skill, multiple lengths of the pool.

He did not need to use a noodle.

When I tried to change his level (he needed to move up at least to level 6, based on my observations of the level 6 class that was going on at the same time as his), it wasn't as simple as they said it would be, and in the end (after weeks of unreturned phone calls and talking to several different people), the swim instructor decided not to move him up to a different level (and apparently, the instructor is the only person who can make that decision).

Why she refused, I don't know. He's not a swimming prodigy or anything, but he at least needs to be in a level with other kids who can actually swim and do the five basic strokes with more form than a dog paddle. The worst part was, she made this decision after not even ever seeing him swim, as after three weeks in the program, they still had not even been asked to swim without a noodle or kick board!

I didn't make a big scene about it, and tried reasoning and talking (I'm not the confrontational type), but for some reason she just decided, after never even seeing him swim, that he was indeed in the "right" level and he should just stay in the class.

Week four, she finally got to the point of asking Hunter and the other children in level 4 to swim without noodles. She would tell them, "Ok, do the back stroke to the other end!" and then as they were off swimming, she would turn around and help the other kids who couldn't swim yet.

She did not even watch them, much less help them improve their technique or, you know, teach them. Why was I paying for this again?

Outsourcing Swim Lessons: Our Less Than Stellar Experience (7 Years Old)

The one good experience in this was that he learned how to dive off of a diving board, and he is actually really good at it (pictured, they started him off with a kneeling dive; he later did standing dives off the board)

The Change

Exasperated, with the class already halfway over, I just decided to switch him to a class at that same level but on a different day. At least that way, he could get a different instructor who might actually teach him something.

They gladly switched him to a class on a different day. Ironic how easy is was. His new instructor was quite a bit more attentive: she would actually walk or swim next to him while he swam, and give him tips about improving his technique, and show him how to do things better, and so on. The other kids in that class could actually swim. But the level was still way too simple for him. They were not even working on all five strokes at all, mostly just two strokes, and a lot of time was spent teaching the other kids simple stuff like back floating and diving for rings in four feet deep water.

He didn't really learn anything new in the entire seven week class, besides getting to dive off a diving board for the first time. The other kids were still mostly jumping (not diving) just to overcome fears, and some of them still needed noodles, but the instructor did actually let him dive off of the board, and he did really well (his body was actually straight rather than the L-shape that is more common).

The Ultimatum

To say the least, we did not sign him up for the next session.

While I thought lessons would have been a great experience and a new chapter in our lives (I suppose they could have been, with a different instructor) I realized in all of this that I actually do know a lot more about swimming than I give myself credit for. I know all of the strokes quite well, I know how to do racing turns, I know first aid and water rescue, I know the basics of diving. We can look up YouTube videos together and watch the real pros if we want to tweak our techniques. And we have been doing lessons again, with his skill improving a lot just with me.

I think that the next time we do outsourced "lessons", it will be to join a swim team. I'm not going to bet my money on hoping to get a good instructor in the YMCA's apparently not-so-rigorous program.

Do you have any experience with swim lessons? Were they great or did you feel like it was something you could do at home?

Hunter, at the time, was 7 years, 8 months old

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Toddler School: Plans for Next Week (6.23.13)

Plan for Week 6.23.13 (toddler, age 2y0m)

Hopefully we'll get to most of this (we'll see).

  Plan for Week 6.23.13 (toddler, age 2y0m)

Damien is currently 2 years, 0 months old


Other Resources: Patriotic Songs Playlist Learn the 50 State Locations Math: +1's video & game Notes of the 4th Octave Presidents song Planets reading book Color couplets book (coming soon) Family verbs book (coming soon)

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Truth About Using Floatation Aids (in learning to swim): Helpful or Counterproductive?

The Truth About Learning to Swim using Floatation Aids: is it helpful or counterproductive?

Are floatation aids helpful or counterproductive in teaching your child how to swim?

Arm band "floaties", bodysuits with built-in floatation pads or rings around the chest, waist, or arms, jackets, straps, noodles, seats, pads. The products abound.

All of these items artificially keep your child afloat in the water and many times tout names such as "swim trainer", "learn to swim", "swim school", "swim instructor", and more.

But do these products really help teach your child how to swim?

Doman says no. Why?

"They prevent the brain from receiving real information about the water environment. Floatation devices create an artificial environment. The baby's brain only receives information about breathing, balance, coordination, tactility, etc., based upon the influence of a floatation device."

Learning any physical skill is simply the process of your brain receiving sensory input from the environment. Your brain then processes that sensory input and sends signals to different parts of your body to adjust, coordinate, move, and compensate in order to achieve the desired action or movement. Eventually, with enough sensory input and practice, your brain will have mastered how to maneuver in the desired way in that specific environment.

Floatation devices create a fake environment. With the floatation aid:
  • The child is held up by the device (obviously, because that is its purpose) so their brain does not receive the information about how to hold themselves up in the water (swim by themselves)
  • Since the child is being held up by the aid, all the child needs to do in order to move about in the water ("swim") is kick or wiggle their legs in any random motion. The arms are not even necessary with the floatation aid (and they are very necessary in actual swimming), and the leg movements they learn to use are random, sporadic, and will be completely ineffective in actual swimming. They learn the wrong motions and build non-functional habits.
When you use floatation devices, you are actually wiring your child's brain with the wrong information.

This is not only a waste of time since the time in the water with floatation aids didn't actually teach your child anything about swimming, but it is actually disadvantageous because your child has built wrong habits, and it is much harder to break a bad habit than it is to just start from scratch and learn something new.

And who wants to do that?

Products That SLOW Your Child's Development in Learning How to Swim By Themselves Images via products on

Don't buy into the hype about "learn to swim" aids.

Do you know what do you need to teach your child how to swim?

A safe, clean body of water, a loving parent, and a little insight on some simple techniques. And, well, a child.

End of list.

Please note: this post is about swim lessons and teaching your child how to swim while in a safe environment, not about safety devices and their appropriate use. You and your child should always wear a coast-guard approved life jacket when boating or participating in similar water sports and activities, no matter how well any one of you can swim.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kid Quotes: Toddler's Concept of Time

Kid Quotes: Toddler's Concept of Time

Damien (24 months) has known how to sing the "Happy Birthday" song for a while now, and a few days before his birthday, I started having him sing, "Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday to Damien, happy birthday to me!"

He caught on quickly, and it was adorable, but I don't remember ever getting a good video of it. So a few days after his birthday, I tried to coax him into singing it for the camera.

He replied, "No Mom, no happy birthday to me. My birthday all gone."

Was surprised he understood the concept so well.