Still Playing School: May 2013

Where I Am Right Now: One Year, Six Months, Twenty Seven Days

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 13 Comments
This post is part of the Right Where I Am Project.  

One year, six months, and twenty seven days without Violet.  An eternity and a blink of an eye.

Yesterday, my husband and I were driving together.  We had lots of time to talk, just the two of us, without answering the endless 3-year-old inquiries from the backseat.  D was sleeping, hot and sweaty.  E was riding in a different vehicle with our family, entertaining them with her Gangnam Style dancing.  I don't remember the initial context, but Violet came up.

We began by talking about her heart.  It was turned incorrectly and in the wrong spot in her teeny, tiny chest.  He asked me to remind him of how much she weighed.  We marveled about the fact that one chromosome could mess up so much about her.  We recalled our reactions to the worst news of our lives, both from our own perspective and witnessing it in each other.  But most of all, we discussed our survival.

Reflecting back, it seems so foreign that we drove to the hospital that morning, knowing our girl would be born and begin to die.  It was a death sentence for us as well.  We knew what we were facing, yet we calmly drove together just as we were doing yesterday.  Looking at it after, we can almost imagine what our friends and family felt watching us from their slightly removed perspective.  We are just as astonished at our survival as you must be.

Yet here we are, one year, six months, and twenty seven days later.  The inevitable happened.  She took her last breath in my husband's arms with me sitting in front of her facing the both of them.  Somehow we prepared her to go to the funeral home.  Somehow we gathered our things and ourselves and left that room the next day without her.  Somehow we picked up her ashes two days later and welcomed her back into our home.  Somehow we've navigated a rainbow pregnancy and welcomed her little brother into our hearts, so different, yet so entwined with her that it takes my breath away.

I am pretty certain that I have PSTD but I have no official diagnosis yet.

I want, more than anything, for others to speak her name.  The desire for this aches inside of me.

I find her everywhere.  Just yesterday, a violet scented car air freshener for sale in a seaside souvenir shop.  The day before that, the deodorant I selected was sweet pea and violet.  My daughter has become a flower and a fragrance and a memory.

She is still my daughter.
read more " Where I Am Right Now: One Year, Six Months, Twenty Seven Days "

Show & Tell: Adrienne Mohn, Massage Therapist

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 2 Comments
Adrienne Mohn has been a massage therapist for seventeen years.  She is nationally certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork and licensed through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Adrienne is also my regular massage therapist (after trying several) and I cannot recommend her highly enough!

How did we meet? 

I remember us first being introduced via Carol Anne Friesen when she thought that perhaps you may be interested in a pregnancy massage. I believe we corresponded briefly via email about questions you had regarding pregnancy massage.

Yes, I was having a difficult time finding a therapist when I was pregnant with Violet and in desperate need of some stress relief!  

We first met in person a couple years ago when I was offering free chair massages at a Kindermusik Christmas gathering/class.

I remember leaving the room of the chair massage and telling a friend you had a new client for life!  That massage sample had me hooked!

What is the most important thing we should know about you? 

Most important thing to know about me is my belief that we are all here on earth to serve each other through our passions and gifts that have been given to us. I truly believe everyone here matters and has a purpose. I believe I am here, at this period of my life, to serve people by offering them what I know best and what I love to do and that is massage therapy and bodywork therapies.

I LOVE that.  Who do you share your life with?

My life is shared with my son Ryan and my husband Gustavo. We live in Hershey where my sister Sue lives with her family as well. My parents Mary Ann and Charles and Aunt Dolores live in Fleetwood, Berks County PA. These are the most important people in my life and they have been a great support system for 

What inspires you about your career?

I am in a career that doesn't feel like work to me. I am just doing what I love to do everyday and I never tire of it. I meet the most fantastic people and feel blessed to have them as customers. Every day I learn something new. Each and everyone of my clients are individuals and are unique so I customize their sessions based on their needs. Their is no cookie cutter treatment that I give across the board.... so every customer gives me the opportunity to do something and learn something new every day.

I can definitely tell that is true from personal experience.  You take the time to get to know your clients and really listen to their input about what their bodies are telling them, what treatments they want/need, and what works best for them!  

What are your other passions?

Other areas that I'm passionate about are nutrition and holistic therapies especially the powerful benefits of herbs and plant medicines. I study herbalism as a hobby and incorporate herbs into my practice via Steamed Herbal Compresses and am always reading on areas of health and wellness and alternative therapies. I believe we were given everything we need here on the earth in order to be well physically, mentally and spiritually so that we can complete our purpose for being here.

What are your challenges?

I don't really view myself as having challenges but just simply put; opportunities. We encounter scenarios in our life and some may be easily understood by us and the ones that aren't easily understood are opportunities or puzzles to figure out or learn from.

So well said, Adrienne!  Who else inspires you and why?

Who inspires me? Both my parents are inspiring to me. They are good hearted people who showed me patience, kindness, and unconditional love from birth until this present moment so I think that is why these traits are so easy for me to show others. Truthfully most people inspire me. Everyone has a story and in those unique stories you will find miracles, strength, inspiration. It doesn't matter what you do, how much money you make, where you have been. Everyone is unique and inspiring somehow if you just take a minute to talk to them and listen.

That's why I love to do this feature and share people like you with our readers!

What advice can you give regarding the field of your expertise?

My advice to your readers if they want to pursue massage and bodywork therapy or any type of therapy is to research it first and ask questions. I encourage my clients to ask questions about treatments that I offer so that they are a part of and take responsibility for their wellness. I am nothing more than a catalyst in their quest for health and wellness. It is up to them not anyone else to heal or to improve their health. I offer a variety of therapies including various massage modalities such as Deep Tissue, Swedish, Orthopedic, Prenatal massage. Some integrated energy based bodywork therapies I offer are Thai yoga Massage, Hawaiian Lomi Lomi Massage, Aviana Touch Therapy. I offer Reiki as well and this would be considered solely as energy work. I always consult with my clients prior to each session so that we can together come up with a treatment plan that will best suit them and their needs. I will usually incorporate multiple modalities into one session.

Where can readers find you to learn more?

My website, Facebook, and I co-host the Think World Peace Facebook Page with creator and co-host Alan Jordan, owner of Intuitive Bodywork and Massage in New Cumberland.

Adrienne has generously offered to hold a giveaway for our local readers! Enter the Rafflecopter contest below for a chance to win her Trio Sample Spa Package which includes massage, bodywork, and spa service all in one appointment!  You'll receive a sugar foot scrub, reflexology, and a full body relaxation Swedish massage!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Read more about our Show & Tell feature.
read more " Show & Tell: Adrienne Mohn, Massage Therapist "

We Love Starfall

Since the days when I taught in public and private classrooms, has been the hands down favorite for educational activities.  If you don't know about Starfall, you'll want to and if you do, I might be able to show you a few things today that you didn't realize were available (because I've just discovered them, too)!

With my kindergarten classes, we always worked on the ABCs section until they were proficient in their letters and sounds, then we moved on to Learn to Read.  Both of these sections are complete free.  The ABCs page works on letter naming, letter sounds, and both uppercase and lowercase identification.  Learn to Read provides sight word practice, phoneme blending, and word family games.

I had E first try out Starfall when we got our home theater PC.  She was 2 1/2 years old.  Lately, we checked it out again and I stumbled upon new (to us) sections (that actually published about a year ago) called More Starfall.

 In addition to literacy and reading, there are sections for math and songs/rhymes.  Like the other sections, it was easy for me to level E to what she needed to work on like numbers 11 to 20...

...and sorting by several attributes.

Starfall offers one month trials to anyone who requests them.  When ours expires, we'll definitely be subscribing.  To get your free trial, just email Starfall and ask (and let them know that Still Playing School sent you, please)!

In addition, their homeschool kits are very tempting!  If I didn't already have tons of supplies, I'd definitely be starting with one of these!

read more " We Love Starfall "

Sparkle Dough for Fine Motor Practice

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 3 Comments

Our latest sensory play was with what we are calling Sparkle Dough!  I found the recipe for foam dough, but instead of using food coloring, we added glitter!  

First, we gathered our ingredients on a blanket.  I had a bowl of water and a towel nearby for easy clean up.  Dollar Store shaving cream is the best!  
read more " Sparkle Dough for Fine Motor Practice "

Ages & Stages Questionnaire from ODE

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
The ASQ survey is a resource that I used this week to assess E and D's current social and motor skills.  It gave me insight on some growing suspicions I had (more on these later) regarding different areas of development.

Created by the Oregon Department of Education and Early Intervention Programs, the test can be taken by residents in any state with results emailed to you.  There are 20 different surveys available, depending on your child's age birth through 6 years.

After you fill out the initial information, be prepared with your child nearby so you can check some of the responses to questions.  With E, it was helpful to have paper and pencil, a ball, and stairs nearby.  With D, I could answer all the questions based on what I've observed recently.

It can take several days to get the results, but we received ours within the same day!  You will also have access to PDF files of age appropriate activities to try with your child.
read more " Ages & Stages Questionnaire from ODE "

Staci Murray, Origami Owl Independent Designer Review & Giveaway

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 19 Comments
Staci Murray introduced us to Origami Owl which allows you to personalize beautiful lockets with unique charms.  As soon as I started browsing the jewelry a few months ago, I thought of my mom.  We just had to make her a locket for Mother's Day!

It was so meaningful to pick out the charms that reminded us of her.  We chose a Nana charm, a Mom charm, and one that says "I love you" in sign language.  I would sign this to my mom from the school bus window as it pulled away from the bus stop in the morning!

We can add to her locket later with more charms, plates, and dangles.  She loved it and we loved gifting it to  her!

Staci told me of a fellow Trisomy 13 mom who had made a necklace to remember her baby:

The beauty of Origami Owl also came up in discussion among one of my baby loss momma groups.  I would like to share with you how a few of my friends have remembered their sweet babies with these lockets.

My friend Sarah says:

Here is my necklace for Kash McKinley. The crystal K & M charms are for his initials. I have a crystal star charm just because he is my star. I can't help but wonder what he's doing when I look up at the stars. I also have the heart with angel wings because he has my heart & he's my angel. Then I have the heart charm with the blue baby boy foot prints. I picked the ball station chain & the medium crystal locket, & then added the angel wing dangle.

Kash was born April 11, 2011, & passed away April 19, 2011, from complications of severe Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn.

My friend Kelley (who lost Collin, then her triplet boys) says:

I have a letter C for all my boys and the new owl that has the blue rhinestones. Owls became my sign for Collin. I was contacted after I lost Collin by a friend I hardly ever see. I found out talking to her that she had also lost a baby almost full term and a husband all within a year of each other. I never knew any of this and my heart just broke. She had contacted me because she felt so bad that we lost Collin and wanted to gift me an Origami Owl! I had never heard of them until then. Well, that was my first sign from Collin. After that every time I went to Pier 1 that card with the big owl on it and the 3 lil ones in the nest would be staring at me every night. Then every time I turned around a new owl would come in so I just knew that had to be my wink from Collin.

My friend Tanya lost two boys, Noah and Joshua, to placental abruption.  She says:

My Origami Owl locket was given to me just recently by two friends of mine. They got the birthstone charm for each of my sons including my stepson along with a set of angel wings, a cross, and a  Forever 
Family charm. The background inside the pendant says Mama. 

As you can see, there are endless possibilities for personalizing these lockets for whomever you choose.  Staci Murray is generously giving our readers a chance to win a $25 gift certificate for her shop!  Please refer to our Rafflecopter tutorial to make sure you entering correctly!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Staci Murray, Origami Owl Independent Designer, allowed us to purchase our locket at a discount in exchange for writing this review. As always, the opinions and enthusiasm are 100% my own!
read more " Staci Murray, Origami Owl Independent Designer Review & Giveaway "

Why My Children Will Never Attend a Circus

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 4 Comments

My children will never attend a circus.  As the show rolls into town, I thought it might be a good time to summarize my thoughts of this type of "entertainment" since I'm pretty vocal about it.  Some agree with me, some think I'm over-reacting, and some (the ones I hope to reach most through this post) just haven't thought about the implications.

read more " Why My Children Will Never Attend a Circus "

Cowie's Accident

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: 3 Comments

Have I really never introduced you to Cowie?  That's astonishing.  Cowie is E's go-everywhere-with-us lovey.  Cowie has such a rich history, all created by E.  For example, she told the owner of Five Stone Kids that Cowie's grandparents are Scandinavian.

Sometimes Cowie is E's baby, sometimes she is four (older enough to be admirable, but still young enough to be a playmate), and often Cowie is a "brone-up" who retaliates when I reprimand E.  If I tell her she can't sit in D's bouncy seat because she is too big, she'll say, "Weeeeeeeeeeeeell (a la Antoine Dodson), Cowie has a pink and purple bouncy seat and YOU can't sit in IT."

The other day, Cowie fell down the steps.  E applied about 20 band aids and I let her, thankful for the distraction and fine motor practice it provided her.

What I failed to realize is that band aids are NOT the same as stickers (which Cowie has had applied and removed more times that I can count).

I tried to pull the band aids off gently, but I quickly realized that Cowie would be left with a Brazilian.  I had to carefully pull back the band aids and cut them off.

This was my progress halfway through.  E noticed around this time and was very concerned about the fur that Cowie was losing.  She decided that Cowie needed a break.  Thankfully Mr. SPS took over when he got home and finished the job.  Cowie is fully recovered now, but get well cards can continue to be sent c/o E.
read more " Cowie's Accident "

Cloth Diapering: A Tutorial on Prepping Hemp Inserts

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!

When we decided to start cloth diapering with mostly pocket diapers, part of the draw for me was being able to change what we stuff them with to increase absorbency at night and nap times.  Besides the microfiber inserts that the Charlie Bananas come with, we tried Babykicks hemp inserts

We bought a set in both medium and large.  Keep in mind that hemp will shrink significantly once prepped and washed.

The great thing about these inserts, as someone on a message board pointed out, is that while two are sewn together, if you'd like to you can carefully seam rip them apart.  So much more stuffing versatility!  

Hemp needs to be boiled (or washed separately several times in hot water and dried completely in between washes) to remove all the oils before use.  

Boil a large pot of water and add a squirt of Dawn dish soap.  

Add your hemp inserts and stir occasionally.  (If you have a gas stove, be sure not to let the water boil over or splash out.  Since it will contain oils from the hemp, it is flammable!)  I boiled mine for about 30 minutes.  Some people rinse and boil again, but I boiled once, dried in the dryer, then washed them solo once in hot water and dried again before using.

After the hemp is prepped, you can wash them with your regular diaper laundry.  I hang them with the rest of our diaper stash, but then I usually throw them in the dryer for a bit, too, because they get very stiff when they air dry.  

While I initially used the hemp only for naps and at night, I am starting to transition to using at least one hemp insert for day time diapers, as well.  We have an order in with Angel's Rainbow Bottoms for more night time absorbency solutions!  
read more " Cloth Diapering: A Tutorial on Prepping Hemp Inserts "

Sweet Potato Puree for Baby

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!

We are waiting until D is six months old to start solids (in June) but we had these yummy, local grown, organic sweet potatoes from our CSA waiting to be used up!  I just had to prep a simple baby's first puree for him to freeze for next month.

Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes.  Pierce with a fork, then rinse again.  This way a bit of water gets in the tiny holes you just made to steam the potatoes from the inside out!

Wrap with foil and bake whole at 400 degrees for an hour.  Alternatively, you could peel and cube the sweet potatoes, but that was just too much work when you see how easy this way can be!

Let cool, then unwrap, cut in half lengthwise, and scrap out the yumminess!  The skin basically peeled right off at this point.

Blend in a blender or food processor with a bit of liquid of your choice.  I used 2 oz. of breast milk to get the four small sweet potatoes to the consistency that I wanted.  

Freeze in an ice cube tray for easy portioning and blending with other foods later.  Once frozen, I pop the cubes out and transfer to a Pyrex container for freezer storage but you can use freezer bags or any containers that you typically use to freeze your food.  (We've recently decide to swap out all of our plastic storage containers fpr Pyrex!)

I asked on our Facebook page if there was interest in me writing about the foods I made for D as he starts solids and the response was overwhelming!  With E, we used the Wholesome Baby Food website as our primary resource, but we also have several baby food recipe books that I'll be sharing with you.  Just like we did with E, when we start D on solids at 6 months, I will print out this chart to put on the fridge and introduce a different fruit/veggie every 3 days to check for allergies or sensitivities.  We skip baby cereal entirely at first, adding it later when the baby is ready for more complete meals.  
read more " Sweet Potato Puree for Baby "

Show & Tell: Jeda Symonds-Poynton, Diabetes Mom

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
Jeda Symonds-Poynton is my Australian friend.  She is a fellow baby loss momma, but I've asked her to come to share with us today primarily to talk about her daughter Emalee's recent diabetes diagnosis.

Jeda, can you tell everyone how we know each other?

Our angel babies bought us together. Sometimes through a tragic loss you meet some amazing people!

Who shares your life with you?

My family consists of me, my husband Anthony, our daughter Liana (10), Emalee (5), Logan (2), and Maya (1). A crazy and busy family but an amazing one!

You inspire me because you are such an advocate for your daughter Emalee who was diagnosed with diabetes. Can you talk a bit about what that has been like for you and for her?

Emalee having diabetes has changed our whole families lives! When I lost Kayla I felt like I died too.  Liana didn't just lose a sister, she also lost a mother for a while. The day Emalee was born breathing was the day I was reborn, she saved me, she fixes my broken heart and she is my hero. When Emalee was diagnosed with type 1,  it killed me all over again. I wanted to be able to fix her as she did me but there was nothing I could do.  I still cry and ask why her, why me! I just want healthy children. Emalee has 4 needles a day, 2 in the morning and 2 at night before she eats. She also has to have her finger pricked every 3 hours and it doesn't stop in the day. I also have to check her through the night every 3 hours to make sure she doesn't hypo in her sleep which can be deadly! But everyday we fight with and for her and we get better at managing it as well. It's only been 9 months since she was diagnosed but it feels like forever!

Ideally, how do you see Emalee handling her diabetes in 5 years? 10 years? How do you plan to help her accomplish this?

In 10 years from now, I'm hoping for a cure. They are saying something amazing will happen in about 5 years. We plan on doing what we are doing now! Teaching her the foods she can have and can't have too much of. She has always been an active and pretty healthy child but now sometimes we have to tell her she can't have too much of fruits as they make her sugar levels rise high so it's just all about how much she can have!

What inspires you about Emalee?

Well, I can certainly say she is stronger then me. She has taken to her new life amazingly. With her starting kindergarten this year, I really thought it would be so hard on her, but she has been so great with doing her own level testing at school.  She sees all her friends being able to go up and get whatever they want from the canteen and she knows she can't do that, but she is okay with it. When we go to birthday parties, when we tell her she has to stop eating she does. She is only 5 but my god she is so grown up. We do have our bad days and days where she doesn't want this and doesn't want that but like I said, she is 5 and kids will be kids I look at her as my inspiration!

She sounds like an amazing little girl!  Who else inspires you?

My mother inspires me. She is a very sick lady but still stands head strong. She has had many heart attacks, strokes and also suffers from MS. My whole life I've seen her work hard for my sister and I. She lives for helping others. At the moment she is waiting to have an operation on her legs as she has no circulation in her legs what so ever and lives in pain but still manages to always come over to see her grandkids. My kids are what are keeping her alive! If I can grow up and be half the mother she is then I know I have done my job.

What are your passions?

My passions- WOW, having four kids I really don't get much time to myself these days. I've been a mum since I was 17 so everything I've done has involved my children but I do love going out for dinner and watching a movie. I love going out on the weekends to families house and sitting around chatting and watching the kids play with their cousins. So I guess when it comes to it all of my passions all come back to spending time with family and my kids.


Read more about our Show & Tell feature.
read more " Show & Tell: Jeda Symonds-Poynton, Diabetes Mom "

A Rafflecopter Tutorial

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: Be the first to comment!
We've been so fortunate to be hosting giveaways every other week (at least) for our readers (with more offers coming in) so I've been using Rafflecopter to maintain the entries.  I've received questions about how to use Rafflecopter, so I am writing this tutorial to help you enter each and every giveaway we host correctly!  Let's get started!

1.  The first thing you need to do is log in!  You can either click the blue Log in w/Facebook box or the Use Your Email box below that.  This is how Rafflecopter will let me know who you are and how to contact you when you win!  

2. You can see now that we're logged in because it says, "Hi, D!" (That's me!) above the green box on the right. Let's look at the other information that we can tell from the giveaway from this picture.  At the top left, there is a countdown to let us know how much time is remaining in the giveaway.  It ends in one day and 9 hours.  In the top center, we see how many entries the contest has so far.  170 entries so this is a popular giveaway!  Then on the top right, we see how many entries you have chosen out of how many are possible per person.  This let's you know that you can put your name in the "hat" for the drawing 8 times, but you haven't completed any of them yet.  You need to click the green +1 (which means that this activity counts as one entry for you) where it says "Click to Enter."  The task that you need to complete is listed to the left.  You must be a fan of Angel's Rainbow Bottoms on Facebook.

3.  Here is what comes up when you click on the green +1.  If you aren't a fan on Facebook yet, you'll need to click LIKE under Angel's Rainbow Bottoms.  If you are already a fan, it will look like it does above with the like button grayed out since we've already become a fan.  But you still have some work to do!  It is asking you for your Facebook name, if it is different then the one you've logged in with (mine would be since Rafflecopter knows me as D and my Facebook name is my actual first and last name).  Then you MUST click the green button where it says I'm a Fan!

The great advantage of using Rafflecopter is that it will simultaneously manage two things:  It will track all of the ways you've entered, but it will also verify for me, the giveaway host, that you have done what you said you would.

So, for example, let's say when I pick a winner, the entry where you liked Angel's Rainbow Bottoms on Facebook is what is drawn from the "hat."  Then, as a responsible giveaway host, I also need to go and check to make sure that you ARE in fact, a fan of Angel's Rainbow Bottoms on Facebook.  That's why I need your Facebook name.

4.  You've now completed the mandatory entry (liking Angel's Rainbow Bottoms on Facebook) which has unlocked seven more ways for you to enter the same giveaway!  You can see at the top right that you've completed 1/8 of the potential entries so far.  Your other choices are listed here as well as how many entries they are worth to the right.  First, you can Leave a Blog Post Comment for +3 entries.  You can also share this giveaway on Facebook, Like Still Playing School on Facebook, Tweet about the Giveaway, or Follow us on Twitter.  You can stop now or you can do a few more of these activities to increase your odds of winning. We'll look closer at some of these other options.  

5.  You probably want to leave a blog post comment since that will get you the most entries, right?  You will click the +3 next to that choice and this text box will pop up.  It tells you specifically what we would like you to comment on.  For this giveaway, we'd like to know what kind of custom diaper you'd be interested in ordering.  You will click the green box that says I Commented!  WAIT!  Don't forget, you still need to go comment on the blog post.  Let's do that together.

6.  You need to scroll alllllll the way to the bottom of the post to leave a comment.  You can choose many options from the drop down box shown above.  If you have a Google account and you're signed in, that will be easiest.  You can also choose Name/URL to manual input your name for your comment.  Regardless of which way you choose, make sure you DO leave a comment using a name that I can identify you with when I'm verifying entries (anonymous is not a good idea)!  When you are done commenting, you can scroll back up to the Rafflecopter again to enter in more ways.  

7.  The last entry we'll look at together is Tweet about the Giveaway.  If you click the Tweet button (next to the number 8 which means 8 people have done this already) a tweet that I've already written about the entry will come up.  After you've tweeted, you'll have to paste in the tweet URL and Rafflecopter offers a handy tutorial about how to do that where the link says How do I find it? 

8.  To summarize, the most important thing you need to know about Rafflecopter is that you not only have to log in and let Rafflecopter know which actions you are choosing to complete to enter (by commenting, liking on Facebook, tweeting) but you also MUST then remember to go complete those actions, too.  If you don't and you are chosen to win, I won't be able to verify your entry and I'll be forced to choose a different winner.  That's just sad for both of us, isn't it?  

One last small detail about Rafflecopter: It allows me to add additional entries as the giveaway host.  That means when I occasionally offer my Facebook fans extra entries for a future giveaway (for taking a survey, proofreading a post for me, etc.) I can then manual enter them myself (which is why you should LIKE us on Facebook).  I can also delete entries that don't make sense (like if someone accidentally comments anonymously, or the entries I demoed to show you this tutorial, since I'm not going to win my own giveaway, of course)!

Any further questions?

Psst, now that you've learned all about Rafflecopter, you can enter one we're currently running only for our Facebook fans here!

read more " A Rafflecopter Tutorial "

The Purpose of Sensory Play

By Devany LeDrew | Labels: , 2 Comments

If you're a regular reader, you know that we've been doing sensory bins since E was a year and a half old.

With D, we started a bit younger at 4 months old!  Baby's first sensory bin (With close supervision, of course, but he wasn't successfully getting things to his mouth yet!):

When I posted a picture of this corn sensory bin recently, I had a friend ask for an explanation.  Invite me to talk about the importance of early childhood sensory play?  How long do you have to listen?!!  

Incorporating as many senses as you can into any play or learning is always the best way to retain information.  The more senses that are engaged, the more connections are made in the brain to help us retrieve information later.  For example, scents have always brought back some of my strongest memories of Violet.

Sensory play is built around this same concept.  Let's look at how we can engage all senses.

Sight - All sensory bins seem to be visually appealing!  They can be hard to resist for both children and adults!  We frequently add magnifying lenses to our bins so we can investigate our materials extra closely.  Mixing colors, transparent or reflective objects, and light tables are all great ways to engage and vary sight experiences for sensory play.  

Sound - The sound of pouring and dumping can be so soothing!  Sensory bins can also be loud (E likes to put the corn in a container, put the lid on it, and shake it up to make "popcorn!"), whisper quiet (cotton balls) or crunchy (breaking pasta).  

Touch - The textures of sensory materials are one of the biggest motivations for kids to dig in (literally)!  We love running our hands through water beads, uncooked lentils, and sand.  We've also played with both warm (water, water beads) and cold (snow, ice) sensory bins.

Taste - Especially with little ones, it is important to occasionally fill sensory bins with items that can or should be tasted!  We've played with pudding and jello and tasted clean snow!

Smell - Some materials smell great themselves (cake mix) but you can also add essential oils or spices to other sensory play experiences (gingerbread play dough).  

One of the most valuable parts of engaging children in sensory play is the multiple ways they will be using the small muscles in their hands and wrists.  This fine motor practice gets them ready to use their hands for other specific tasks like eating with utensils, writing, cutting, dressing themselves, and using a computer.   Every time they pinch, pour, stir, twist, fill, dump, and use tweezers they are working these valuable muscles!

Sensory play is messy by nature which is part of what makes it so great!  If this bothers you (like it sometimes worries Mr. Still Playing School in our house) just remind yourself (or him) that there is so! much! learning going on!  It's a worth while mess, I promise.  We also have done tons of modeling desired behavior (another great excuse to play WITH kids) and talking about sensory bin rules.  If materials spill out, we put them back before continuing our play.  If we throw or spill on purpose (and we are indoors) after being asked not to do so, that means it's time for the bin to take a break.

We've used sensory play to learn about holidays, sorting, patterns, vocabulary (think of all the words you say as you describe everything your senses are taking in), measuring, counting, and colors. We'll be creating several bins this summer to learn about specific themes as we continue to home school preschool.  I am grateful that sensory play has been large portion of E's education so far.  I look forward to continuing these bins that we all love and watching D grow with them as well.

What sensory bins have you created with your kids?   Which ones have been their favorites and yours?
read more " The Purpose of Sensory Play "