Monday, July 25, 2011

In Your Own Backyard

The dog days of summer are here.  On the beautiful days we rise with nothing before us but promise of what the day might bring.  On the rainy days we ponder how to while away our time.

Summer holds a unique challenge for us.  The city is alive with school children, no longer are they tucked away by day within the confines of the school walls.  They are out, they are free, and they are everywhere.

Favoured playgrounds now house summer day camps.  The play equipment is lost beneath swarms of climbing, jumping, playing children.  The shops, the local attractions, all of the places to go are filled.

Everywhere is crowded.  Everywhere is full. 

If you parent a child who does not thrive in crowds, you will understand the problem.  We are left feeling that there is nowhere to go.  Our backyard becomes our sanctuary, the platform for all of our outdoor fun. 

Finding places to go, and things to join is a continuting challenge.  One I expect will only become more difficult over time.  Small group activiites are hard to come by.  Specialized programs are not always what you would hope they would be.

So we will wait out the crowds of the summer.  When the kids go back to school, we can once again reclaim the plagrounds.  I will continue my search for the right place for us.

I so often wish that the discussions about inclusion were extended beyond money-saving gestures of jamming all our kids into the one classroom.  Instead we could work as a community to find places for all kids to play and to thrive.  No more waiting on the side lines.  No more waiting out the crowds.

Until then I will  just be thankful for our backyard.  And my children who play so joyfully there.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Two Years of My Yellow Apple

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of My Yellow Apple.

Funny how so much can change in two years, and how much can stay the same.

This little blog has been a wonderful place for me to come to vent, reflect and feel like I am reaching out.  Being heard.
Thank you to all of you who take the time to  listen.  Thanks for dropping by, and thanks for coming back.

Your encouragement and kind words over the last two years have been a gift.

Welcome to year three of My Yellow Apple.

Monday, July 18, 2011

One of the Reasons

Out in the backyard this morning, my two sweeties were swinging on the swings and running in the grass.  Revelling in the glory of a beautiful sun- filled morning.

I sit on the patio, enjoying my first precious cup of coffee, silently planning the day before me, and listening in on their back and forth conversation.

And I hear my little boy gently offering his sister a freshly picked dandelion, as bright and yellow as the sun.  She couldn't be happier had he given her a new pony.  She graciously accepts, thanking him 100 times over.

A small offering from a boy to his sister.  A huge gift to the listening-in mommy.

And that`s just one of the reasons I love him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Recipe for Success

Boiled Raisin Cake
 I have always enjoyed baking, and now that I have two little ones, I find it to be an excellent rainy day activity. Yes, there are times they ask to bake, and I am just not in the mood, or have just finished cleaning the kitchen…but once we get going, I’m always glad I said yes. Why? Not only because the children really enjoy baking, but also because this time together offers me a wealth of opportunity to work on key academic, sensory and social skills.

It is often the goal of us homeschooling moms, and us autism moms to use every experience to our advantage, to merge play into learning so that our little ones find it hard to tell one from the other. And what better way to do this, than while whipping up something sweet? With baking, there is always a reward at the end.

How can you make baking work for your little ones? Here are a few tips:

Academic Skills in Baking

• Following a recipe is great practice in following directions.

• Depending on the age, or reading skills of your child, reprint your recipe with key words, so that your child can feel like they are reading alone. Or, use clip art, or your own fancy art work to make the recipe visual.

• Measurement skills: baking is a great way to learn about fractions. Use the standard measuring cups to learn basic fractions, or double or triple recipes to work on other fraction skills. Be creative, if a recipe calls for ½ a cup of sugar, ask your child how they could get this amount without using the ½ cup.

• Estimation: children can estimate how many cookies the recipe will yield, record their guesses, and count to check at the end.

• Skip counting: if you are making a larger batch, have children count the number of cookies by making groups of 5 or 10.

• Division: create story problems while baking. For example, you have 5 kids coming to a party, and 24 cookies. How many will each child get? How many will be left over.

• Patterning: for roll out cookies, use different cookie stampers to create patterns on the baking sheet.

Social Skills in Baking:

• Turn taking: children can take turns reading from the recipe. adding ingredients, using the mixer, fetching needed ingredients or tools, etc.

• Settling disputes: Do your kids fight over who gets to crack the eggs, or lick the spoon? Before you get into the action, have children agree upon who gets to do what. Try to let them sort this through on their own, and once the baking begins, they can work on sticking to their bargain.

• Being helpful: children love to feel helpful, not only are they helping to bake, but they can help to clean up, put away ingredients, even sweeping the floor!

• Conversation: talk about what you’re doing, ask lots of questions, reflect upon the activity, what was your favourite part?

• Paying compliments: have children compliment each other on their hard work. Maybe take turns saying what everybody did best!

Sensory Opportunities in Baking:

• Hard work of stirring stiff dough

• Rolling out dough using roller, or their bare hands.

• Kneading dough

• Get their fingers dirty! Baking has oodles of opportunities to get your child’s hands into something soft and icky.

• Lots of smelling! Experiment with calming scents (almond extract, apple, banana, butter, cinnamon, vanilla extract) or arousing scents (chocolate, coffee, lemon, orange, mint)

• Tasting

And if all this doesn’t give you enough incentive to whip out your apron and preheat the oven….perhaps the thoughts of some delicious baked goods will do the trick