Saturday, September 29, 2012

Crafty Rainy Days

It has been raining for the last 2 days. I do love the rain very much so that was just fine with me.  I was also very tired from my week at the office and wanted only one thing: to relax at home, with my feet up and read books, and not go outside this weekend.  I gained 14 lbs since the start of my pregnancy but I do feel a lot heavier and it is now more difficult to move quickly around compared to before.

But my nephews were bored out of their mind.  I had no energy left to do anything with them so I took out my stash of cardboard box, paper towel rolls, scissors and paints and let them have a crafty rainy day.

Well it turned out just great.  They kept themselves busy and quietly worked on their project!  They looked up many photos of airplanes from the internet and used those models as base.  The oldest helped the younger ones quite a lot so they were able to learn new tricks and create these very interesting airplanes.   

This is a B-17 Marine Bomber.  It's not painted yet because it took so long to finish.

This is apparently a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter. The glue wouldn't work so they used tape for this one.

This is a WW2 bomber ...but I am not sure as the kid wasn't sure himself :P

To avoid the eventual mess after each crafty activities, I usually cover the table with a plastic tablecloth (sold in the party/birthday section of most stores). So after they finish, all you need to do is just gather up the corners of the tablecloth and throw away whatever trash is left on the table.  That saves me a lot of time cleaning up paint stains or throwing away itsy bitsy pieces of cardboard and paper.

I previously taught the kids how to clean up the table and how to use a broom and dustpan so they can take turn cleaning up after each messy activity (crafts, playdough, painting, etc).  I thought at first that they would not like that extra responsibility but it turned out that they actually love to clean up now that they know exactly what to do.

And the best part, I don't even have to assign the chores: they talk among themselves and decide who will clean up the table, who will sweep, etc.  And they do a pretty darn good job too. This sure taught me to never underestimate children's willingness to learn and improve.  With the sense of accomplishment for having done something useful, comes also the sense of pride for being able to do it well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

House mouse, field mouse... and wind-up mouse

My boy and nephews/nieces have to maintain a book log each day for school.  They basically have to read at least one book a day and record it in their book log for their teacher to see.  Once a week they write a book report. Since they do their homework after school under my supervision, I decided to get a bunch of books at the library.  

This week I got some books from Leo Lionni.  He has received many awards already for his work. His stories are captivating and his illustrations are adorable! 

Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse

Among the books I borrowed, this book is the children's favorite and mine too. It tells the story of Alexander, a little house mouse who becomes friend with Willy, a wind-up mouse.  The illustrations are very cute and the story is simple but beautiful.  The power of friendship has been told before but this story has a magical and mysterious twist to it! 

Theodore and the Talking Mushroom

Another book the kids liked was this very short story about Theodore, a field mouse, who is afraid of everything. His friends do not seem to be very nice as they laugh at him for his lack of "special talent".  But Theodore may be small and easily frightened but he sure is very clever. He discovers a blue mushroom that can apparently talk and he plays a trick on his friend!  The kids thought it was a funny story but I personally did not like it because of a very silly reason: the talking blue mushroom freaked me out big time!

The fact that it could utter a word without having a personality was creepy and I really thought it was going to eat Theodore at some point (have no fear, it did not happen). I know it's so silly but to me the mushroom was not cute; it was monstruous!

Nicolas, Where Have You Been?

I have mixed feelings about this book. It tells the story of field mice and their search for sweet berries.  But the problem is that the birds ate all the sweet berries and so only sour or unripe berries are left.  Nicolas, one little mouse, goes on a quest to find sweet berries and is kidnapped by a big bird... but he escapes and falls into the nest of a nice family of birds.

The moral of the book is great and the storyline is well told. But... and that's a big BUT, it has also two full pages of illustration depicting a fight scene of incredible violence between the mice and birds.  The mice look terribly angry, and chase after the birds with sticks, one mouse even stands on top of a bird and is shown stabbing the bird who is bleeding!

I wished I had seen this illustration before my kid read the book because we were both very shocked and the boy was upset afterward. Which reminds me to read the books or at least the reviews before giving the children any books to read.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mid-Autumn Festival

It's this time of year again!  Mooncakes, Dragon dances, and paper lanterns! Have you guessed yet? Well yes, it's the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival!

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which usually falls in September or October in the solar calendar.  This year it will fall on September 30th.

I love the eat the sweet mooncakes with some hot tea! My friend just gave me the mooncake below! Can't wait to eat it tomorrow for dessert!

I went to the library to find some books to read to the kids about the festival.  I was quite excited when I  found one about the festival and also a few more books about Chinese culture.  I am showing a few below that I like very much.

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

It's written and illustrated by Grace Lin who is the author of quite a few books. There are not a lot of text but the pages are filled with colorful illustrations. It's simple enough to read to a toddler but yet the older kids can learn a few basic information from the books as well.

Dim Sum for Everyone!

The kids love to eat Dim Sum so this book was very liked. The children especially enjoyed reading the name of the dishes they have tried when they went to eat at the restaurant.

Fortune Cookie Fortunes

Who doesn't like Fortune cookies? It's such a fun way to end a meal and we all share and giggle at the fortune we read in our cookie!  The kids like to read this book (though not as much as the Dim Sum book).

Bringing in the New Year

Another fun book frrom Grace Lin. This one is about the Lunar New Year.  There are some cool illustrations of paper/fabric dancing dragons and lions but it is my least favorite among her collection though because I felt so much more could have been said about the Lunar New Year.  But then again it's really a book for kids so I think she wanted to keep it simple enough for them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

French Bingo

A few years ago I saw this French Bingo Game by Eeboo while browsing for French language books for kids.  I was looking for alternative ways to introduce more French vocabulary and this looked cute and fun.  There were French flash cards made by the same company as well but the idea of a bingo game was appealing and different for the kids so I opted for the game instead.

It comes with 6 game/bingo cards made of sturdy and glossy cardboard.  The themes are :
  1. La nature (nature)
  2. Les moyens de transports (vehicles)
  3. Les couleurs (colors)
  4. Le marché (market)
  5. Les animaux (animals)
  6. Les vêtements (clothing)

Each bingo card shows 8 cute pictures with the French word printed at the bottom of each picture.  The middle space is the lucky space.

There are also tiles matching the picture on the bingo cards.  Those tiles are made of the same cardboard material as the game cards.  A lavender drawstring pouch is included to hold the tiles.

If you don't speak French, there is a pronunciation guide on the back of the cover box along with the playing instructions.

All the children love to play this game and it's been holding up for quite a few years now.  It's a colorful and good quality game. Worth the high price for just a bingo game.