29 February 2008

More Bento Supplies

SILICONE MUFFIN CUPS


I've been looking everywhere for these little gems. I finally found them at one of those mondo super stores. They are great for keeping little foods separate in Spud's bento lunches. They are flexible so they can squeeze in anywhere. They are washable which makes them more useful than the plastic lined paper cups I've been using [although those are high on the cute factor with their little illustrations all over them]. And they are inert, they say, so we don't have to worry about toxins leaking into our little foods. Nice.

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28 February 2008

Wee Train Travel

KID FRIENDLY TRAVEL | JAPAN
Trains that are nicely designed and for the family too.




And the conductor is a cat. How cute is that?


There are two of these beauties in fact, the Toy Train and the Strawberry Train. Each sporting features such as a crib, toys, TVs etc. Check out Deputy Dog for more pics and information and daddytypes for a more critical view.

27 February 2008

Travelling with Child

OUR LISTS REVISED... WHAT'S YOURS?


Where we've travelled with our wee one so far:
1. Montreal [3 months]
2. Panama [13 months old]
3. Toronto [2 years old]
4. Cuba [2 years old and 3 years old]
5. PEI and Nova Scotia [3 years old]

Places we want to go next ... this changes all the time ... here is the current list:
1. Morocco (tick! 2011)
2. Paris and Vienna
3. India
4. Cambodia
5. Brasil

So where are you going?

26 February 2008

Learning How the Body Works

MAGIC SCHOOL BUS | GOOD KID TV
"My lungs were talking to my liver and they said they wanted to play computer games. My brain said that too." This was my 3 year old's declaration last night, conveniently timed at bedtime. The little guy is learning about body parts and how they work. We have 2 books on the subject. He also loves to watch the Magic School Bus, a show that often delves into the inner workings of human beings. It seems he has a little more to learn ... you know ... before getting into med school.

25 February 2008

Tub Froggee

MAKES CLEAN UP FUN
It's a shower caddy. It's bath toy storage. It's a scoop. It's a toy. And it's cute! We bought ours at Chapters but they have them Amazon too. It's called Frog Pod by Boon. Spud and I like it a lot.



24 February 2008

Come Sail Away

MAKING STUFF FROM THE RECYCLE BIN


Sailing, sailing, over the ocean
Sailing, sailing, over the sea
Sailing, sailing, over the water
Sail back home to me



MATERIALS
· Lids, large and flat with a lip
· Straw, for the mast
· Playdoh or putty, for securing the mast-straw
· Scrap paper, cut into sail-triangles
· Scissors, for cutting the sails
· Single hole punch, to make holes for the mast-straw



This lid was particularly good. It came from a large jar of nuts. The lip of the lid is pretty high so it can withstand significant bathtub waves. The rounded handle acts as a pretty good keel too.

23 February 2008

Stained Glass Cityscape



The Materials I Used:
· Heavy Paper from a sketchbook, tabloid size
· Watercolour paints and paintbrush
· Pencil
· Felt pen, black, grey, or brown
· X-acto knife and self-healing mat
· Tissue paper, various colours
· Double-sided tape

STEP 1
First I drew the cityscape in pencil and outlined it in black. I think using a brown Indian ink and pen would have given it nice quality too as the varying line width would have been more interesting.




STEP 2
I wanted the paper to look a little more antiqued or natural so I simply put a rough wash of a darkish yellow over the drawing. It would have been good to ink after this process. Next time.

STEP 3
I roughly cut out each window and door, trying not to make it too precious.


STEP 4
Next I taped the tissue paper to the back of the paper, using a few layers of each colour to give the windows and doors a richer hue.



STEP 5
Finally, I trimmed the outside of piece and put it in the window. Next time I'll measure out the width of the window to make it span across the bottom.

20 February 2008

There's a Party in my Tummy

YO GABBA GABBA | GOOD KIDS TV
A buddy at work hooked me up with these little gems (hey hey MK) and now it's Spud's favourite show!

Spud especially loves the part in this scene when the carrots and green beans cry because they want to go to the party in his tummy too. The music isn't sucky and it has a good old fashioned "eat your vegetables" moral. Good stuff.

18 February 2008

Music Wonderland

MUSIC SCHOOL | YAMAHA METHOD
We've signed Spud up for music lessons because he talks incessantly about his desire to play certain instruments. "Let's go to the store and buy a violin that I can play. And also a trahbone and a saxophone". Well, funny enough, the music school we went to says he's too young at 3 and half. Poor little guy was a little heartbroken when we told him we were going to learn to play the piano first. He's warmed up to the idea since then but continues to quiz us on how many more years he has before he can play the instruments he really wants to play.

The class, called Music Wonderland, is interesting in that it promotes the idea of the parent and child learning together. There is also less focus on learning the mechanics of music by rote and more focus on developing an ear for the different elements and expressions.

I just found this little blurb about it right here:
"Students are exposed to a wide variety of music. An appreciation for all forms of music is strengthened by the various activities that take place between the children and their parents ... Keyboards are used in the course as tools for expression of concepts such as high/low and loud/soft sounds, as well as teaching students various rhythmic patterns. They learn to play a part in music-making with parent, friends, and teacher. The use of different fingers is also introduced in a way that is natural for 3 and 4 year-old children ... by the end of Music Wonderland, your child will have learned how to listen and react to song and sound, and enjoy making music with others. You will see the start of little musicians who can appreciate and express themselves through an international language — music."

In theory it sounds great. I love the idea of the non-coercive nature of it. It just seems a little slow for my liking. Spud also pipes periodically trying to get things going "When are we going to try the high notes?!". It may be a lesson on deferred gratification as well ... for both of us. I'm wondering if anyone out there has any positive [or otherwise] experiences with music lessons for the pre-K set. I'm curious to know what else is out there.

16 February 2008

Photography Tips

CAPTURING THE WEE ONES
I'm by no means a photographer. Not in anyway. But my kid has taught me a few things about taking some usable shots of him. The following are a few principles I keep in mind when digitally capturing the shenanigans of my wee one.

1. Lighting is king. Sunlight is an angel. Dawn and dusk light are magic. And, to me, the flash is the devil. I use natural light as much as humanly possible.





2. Asymmetrical composition. Always centering your subject is, well, boring. And, of course, it breaks the rule of thirds.






3. Establishing a visual hierarchy.
Typically I want my Spud to be the first thing you notice when you first glance at the photo. I do this by having a clean and simple backdrop. I also achieve this by using a low depth of field which is easy-peezy with our new swishy camera and hot lense. I'll post about this later. Finally, I simply just get in really close.






4. Trying all the angles.
I like to try out all sorts of different angles. Shooting from the top, the aerial, can be good. But I want to avoid consistently using the adult's perspective (i.e. my eye level). It's just dull; that's the view we all have, everyday. So I also try shooting from the hip or the knee or even my feet. Why not?








5. Taking risks.
I like adding an element of randomness to my shots. I'll hold out my camera at arm's length and shoot without being able to preview the shot. I end up throwing a lot of the images out but sometimes there's a keeper. There can be beauty in innocently capturing a random moment. And worth the risk.





6. Taking a million shots. It's the law of averages really. When you are as amateur as I am, it's wise to take 100 shots in hopes you get lucky. And eventually you will.




7. Edit your face off.
If I take 100 shots. I want to keep 20. Maybe even 10. This is especially important when I'm showing them to friends and family. If the photo needs too many words to explain it then I chuck it.

Sometimes after a session with Spud I strike it lucky and get 50 usable shots. That's when I get ruthless. Because I know that any beauty will be lost if it's surrounded by visual noise. If there are 10 of him smiling I force myself to pick the best one. This strategy gives me permission to take a million shots without being burdened with truckloads of mediocre digital data.

Well. That's all I know. For now. I'm still learning.

10 February 2008

Away from the Resort

TRAVELLING WITH KIDS | DESTINATION CUBA
Things I would consider if travelling independently with child in Cuba. Or if venturing away from the 3 star hotel.

1. For the Road: an all-terrain, large-wheeled stroller for the very potholed and cobble stoned streets of Trinidad. We took our small wheeled stroller to Trinidad and daddy ended up carrying it a lot, across streets, over large holes, with a sleeping child in it. Maybe not so good for the back.

2. For the Tummy: food and snacks.

3. For the Loo: disposable diapers and wipes as they are difficult to find or expensive.

4. For the Room: flashlights, batteries, candles, lighter in preparation for the pretty common power outages.

06 February 2008

Don't Forget the White Glue

TRAVELLING WITH KIDS | SIMPLE SAND ART






This was a little project we did on the beach on our last day waiting for the bus to the airport. We will use the stop action images for our trip video and we left it as a simple thank you for the maid.

01 February 2008

Food and Cuba

TRAVELLING WITH KIDS | DESTINATION CUBA
Let's face it. Cuba has a lot going for it. Its stunning beaches, great weather, friendly folk, rich culture, spicy music and dance ... but food is difficult. Getting away from pork, rice and beans and all your really left with is a ham sandwich. The resorts do their best. But in our experience, having been there 3 times, Cuba is not about the food. So, whether you are travelling around the country or staying put in an all-inclusive, it's a good idea to have some back up for your little ones. What follows is a list of food related items that we either brought or would consider bringing if we went again.

1. Bento Lunch for the airplane. In my experience food on the airplane has become a decreasingly important part of customer service. I just don't rely on it anymore especially when it comes to my wee one. This time I packed a little bento lunch which was a big hit: salad pocky, turkey meat balls, tomato/feta cheese skewers, cucumber and red pepper car shapes, grapes, craisins, cashews, and chocolate pudding.



2. Crackers or some other familiar snack food that you can leave in the room or throw in your beach bag. We brought Stoned Wheat Thins and Salad Pocky. With so much new food or familiar food prepared differently, it was nice to offer him something he knew from home.

3. A power bar for each day. These were a huge hit. But no wonder, most of them were covered in chocolate. This by the way is a silly thing to bring to a warm climate. I kept them in our mini fridge but by the time we made it to the beach the little bars were a big mess. Next time I'll look for some healthier and cleaner options too.



4. Peanut Butter. I would bring a small container if we were to go again. It's got protein. It's easy to keep food safe. And it's a comfort from home.

5. Dried fruit. Raisins are easy to find in the shops there but I didn't see any other variety.

6. Cans of tuna. I would consider bringing some tins if I was venturing off the resort for more than a few days.

7. Milk. My little guy barely touched the milk for the entire week. He said it was "too creamy". We drink 1% at home. If we were going for an extended trip I would consider working him up to whole milk a couple of weeks before the trip. If you are travelling away from the big hotels then consider bringing powdered milk or get everyone used to UHT milk (shelf milk) before you go.

8. I suspect that you aren't allowed to bring in fresh veg or fruit but if I could, knowing I had a fridge on the other end, I would have brought a red pepper, cherry tomatoes, grapes, and apples. But that's just specific to my kid's preferences.
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