Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bridge to Learning review - Part Two

Joanne van der Merwe, occupational therapist, takes a look at another feature of  Bridge to Learning, a set of educational games to promote school-readiness. If you would like to view the first part of this review, click on Bridge to Learning under LABELS in my sidebar. E-mail me for ordering information.

This week Joanne came up with fabulous ideas about

DESCRIPTION:   The child is expected to follow the logi shape cards and position the coloured logi shapes to make the same design as that represented on the card (either directly on top of the card or on the table).

SKILLS that can potentially be developed :

• Fine motor skills (hand grasps)

• Position-In-Space

• Visual-spatial skills

• Visual form constancy (A shape is the same shape even if it is a different colour, size or orientation)

• Visual memory

• Visual-motor integration

• Tactile discrimination

• Planning/organisational skills

• Number / colour / shape concept

• Sequencing skills

• Creativity


• With younger children: The shapes can be used to develop colour concept by grouping different shapes of the same colour. Alternatively encourage your child to make groups of the same shape. Of course, they can also be counted which develops number concept.

• Younger children also love to press the shapes into play dough to make different shapes (good for developing the muscles of the hand and strengthening little wrists, especially if you get them to do this on a vertical/tilted surface). Using the shapes to cut play dough encourages the development of the finer hand grasps.

• If you place a piece of paper over a shape, you can do great crayon rubbings of the shapes.

• Roll the colour and/or shape dice (part of the package) and let your child find a shape of the same colour or shape as seen on the dice. Start with only the shape or only the colour dice and upgrade to using both dice at the same time

• You can also play a game whereby you and your child each roll the colour and shape dice and see who can complete the design on the logi shapes card first.

• Instead of copying the logi shape patterns on a horizontal surface, get your child to roll little balls of prestik (also great for developing finger movements for handwriting), and then sticking the logi shapes on a window/wall/sliding door to make the design represented on the card. This also develops wrist stability (important for hand skills). (I LOVE this idea - Joyful Mama.)

• Creativity can also be tapped into by encouraging your child to create his/her own designs with the shapes.

• Sequencing skills (important for numeracy and literacy) can be developed through creating a specific sequence of coloured shapes which your child needs to replicate or extend. I use the shapes to stimulate visual memory by making a sequence of shapes and then covering it and asking the child to copy the sequence either with the logi shapes themselves or by drawing the shapes.

• To develop visual-motor integration, get your child to draw the design on the logi shape card after building it with the shapes.

Hide a few of the shapes in a sock or bag and get your child to try and guess what shape they are feeling (tactile discrimination)


The materials are very durable

Additional shapes and cards can be bought separately.

Logi shapes are a great investment as they can be used to develop a multitude of skills in a variety of different ways (the above list of alternative ideas is by no means exhaustive!)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pre-writing exercises

There are some well-priced and yet educationally very valuable little items in the Smile catalogue, one of which is the Dinkie  range of books. They sell at R25 each and there are eight books in the range, three of which are excellent for practicing pre-writing skills (scroll down to the bottom of the page  for HOW TO ORDER and to see the other books in the range!):

1. Dinkie Dots - 32 fun-filled pages of dot-to-dot activities for children 4 yrs+

2. Dinkie Early Writing Fun - 48 basic writing patterns to prepare your child for formal handwriting, ages 4 to 6 (Take note that this book is included when you buy a Bridge to Learning set)

3. Dinkie Mazes - 32 exciting and challenging pencil puzzles for children 4 yrs +

I came up with a clever way to use these over and over after a quick visit to The Crazy Store earlier today! I bought an inexpensive 'certificate frame' which is basically a hardboard backing to which a sheet of glass is attatched with four metal clips. I enlarged an exercise page from Dinky Early Writing Exercises and slipped it under the glass. The child can now trace the patterns with a white board marker and wipe the glass clean when she's ready to try again! You can do the same with any of the other three Dinky books, too!

Don't take the little book apart to do the copying, though. Let your child practice on the glass, but when he has mastered the movements, let him complete them in the actual book - just imagine how frustrating it would be if you kept practicing something but never have something to show for all your hard work in the end!

The other books in the Dinkie range are:

* Dinkie crosswords - 27 exciting crossword activities for children 8 yrs+

* Dinkie Colour by Number for ages 6+

* Dinkie colour by Shape for ages 4+ (R25)

*Dinkie Crack a Jack 1 and 2 - crack the mathematical code and use it to plot a picture! Ages 7+

How to Order:
E-mail your order to joyfulmama@telkomsa.net
I will then send you a confirmation and details about delivery etc.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A cot-free baby room

In a recent e-mail newsletter I promised to give you a little glimpse into the sleeping arrangements in our house, particularly about the baby room. I want to aknowledge three sources that inluenced me greatly in my decision to have a cot-free house: Firstly, my friend Linnie is a mother-extraordinaire and gave me good, solid advice about co-sleeping, especially in the first months. They have recently been blessed with another little boy, and she writes extensively about mothering this newborn on her blog .I also read two books at various stages during Sweetpea's baby days that helped me change my approach to sleeping issues. The first was Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen, and the second was The Good Behaviour Book by William and Martha Sears.

 These three sources all had different and even in a way opposing ideas about where a baby is supposed to sleep, but I read and listened and in the end borrowed a little from all three and came up with a solution that works very well for our family.

Sweetpea slept in a wicker crib next to our bed for the first six months of her life, and then moved, without any drama, to a cot in her own room where she had also been taking her daytime naps since birth. When she was about 20 months old, we put her on a single bed mattress in her room, and a month or so later moved her onto her proper bed.
Sweetpea's room in the days before we went cot-free!

ArrowBoy was a sweet little newborn but decisively different from his sister in his need to be near his mamma all the time. I very soon realized that this little man needed to be close to me just about 24 hours a day and having learnt alot about mothering since the birth of his sister, I was happy to meet his needs in any way I could. He slept for long stretches during the day in a sling or kango pouch against my body, and at night he was snug as a bug between his daddy and me. But at around three months he all of a sudden started waking up if either of us made the smallest of movements or sounds, and my husband suggested we see how it goes if he spends the night in his own room. Now, from my end of the bed in our room to where his cot stood in hs room, was about 7 meters, and yet I spent that whole night fretting that I wouldn't hear him! Of course, he practically slept right through, except for a little feed at around 3h00 am!!

From then on he spent the night in his own room, but I was still not happy with the cot arrangement. Having read Montessori from the Start and agreeing wholeheartedly with their approach to encourge mobility so that the infant can move around freely, I found the cot restricting, despite it being much larger than a standard cot.

The bed in a Montessori room is basically a single bed mattress on the floor. It is pushed into a corner of the baby's room and is therefore protected at 2 sides. A soft rug or pillow can be placed on the 'open' side in case baby rolls off during the night. (My husband made a simple wooden guard which slid under the mattress to keep ArrowBoy safe until his brain has had a chance to 'map'the size of his bed!) Because baby is not restricted, he is free to start exploring his surroundings as soon as he is capable. To help him along in his efforts, a mirror can be bolted to the wall so that baby can see himself when he wakes up. This will encourage him to lift his head, strengthening his neck and back muscles, which in turn will prepare his body to crawl!

(There's a lovely example of a Montessori room at Sew Liberated !!)I love how these rooms are designed with a baby in mind, with shelves at their height, making it easy for the child to access his toys, and giving him something to pull himself up against.

Our son started crawling during the last week of his sixth month, and I attribute this in part to the fact that he has had the freedom to 'roam'. When he wakes up and start cooing, his sister stands on tippy toe, opens his door and joins him on his bed. They spend a lot of time playing happily together there, crawling on and off and tickling and cuddling. Off course, it is imperative to make sure the room is safe: that there is nothing a child can pull over on himself, no uncovered wall sockets, no small toys laying around on which baby can choke, no cords from blinds hanging at a level where baby can reach it, etc.

Not a great photo, but it shows how easy my boy gets off his bed

Another benefit of his comfy, big, baby bed is that I get to lay down with him if he is fussy at night - nothing like Mamma's body to comfort a little one! And I don't have to worry about my child tumbling out of his cot as he tries to climb out. (read more about head injuries caused by falls from cots and bunk beds here). We strive to enable our children to do things for themselves - thereby empowering them to not be so utterly dependant on others. ArrowBoy doesn't have to stand in his cot crying for someone to take him down so he can play. He can just slither off the side and find his toys, or, as is mostly the case, make his way over to the door and 'knock' on it to let us know he's awake now!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The best toy money can't buy

A while ago a lady came to visit and hearing that I sell toys, asked about a birthday gift for her little boy, whose favourite things right now are farm animals. I had just the thing - a set containing a sticker book, dry-erase pen and activity book, and a colouring book with crayons, all of it about farm animals. I was still opening the box to show her when she stopped me and said she was not interested - she was looking for something that the child - a toddler of nearly 3 - could do on his own. She said she works hard all week (she's a very successful business woman at a large international company) and that she just doesn't have the strentgh or inclination to have to sit down with her little one on a weekend to do the kinds of things that she is trusting the day-care lady to teach him.

And my heart just broke for the sake of this little boy.

I am aware that daycare centres and playschools these days offer a variety of 'extra-mural' activities, where trained people come to the premises to teach children all kinds of skills. I was at a playschool just yesterday to drop off a catalogue, where a very energetic young lady from one such outsourced company was doing some physical exercises with three little toddlers. She was dressed in shorts and a pretty T-shirt with the company's logo embroidered in fun, bright colours, and even had a little whistle dangling around her neck. She was friendly and I am sure she is very well trained in what she does. But...she's not the mother, and the children were jogging up and down  in what looked like the front hall, distracted by the care givers tending to about 5 or 6 younger babies in baby seats and high chairs. The young instructor was trying her best to engage the three little ones, but by the looks of it, they were just going through the paces.I felt sorry for the instructor, who wasn't really getting anywhere. And I felt sorry for the children, who probably didn't have much choice in whether they felt like jogging up and down on a sweltering hot day or not, because their parents paid for the lessons. And I felt sorry for their parents, who were working hard so they could give their children the best, and probably thought that the trained young instructor from the reputable company could do a better job at teaching their child than they could.

Dear mother, I have some pretty amazing toys in my catalogues. And I can show you some very impressive educational games that has the potential to really stimulate your child's brain and develop his or her skills. But none of these are intended to replace YOU. The very best toy in my collection will be just about useless unless an loving parent takes time to show a little one how to use it, or to play the game with them, or to help little fingers that still struggle bit with threading the large beads.

Please understand that I am not saying children should be entertained at all times. They are part of a family and as such have to learn that they are not to be indulged all the times or  be the centre of the universe. (I like what Kevin Leman says: "No one in the family is more important than...the family!) It is important that children are encouraged to play independently and keep themselves occupied. But we teach them this not because we want to be rid of their demands for while. We show them how to be engaged in focussed. independent play, because we want them to grow into well-adjusted, resourceful, contented people who will contribute meaningfully to society.

Sweetpea can play on her own for very long stretches of time. But I believe she is able to do so firstly, because she knows I am close by when she needs me (I'll stroke her head in passing or she'll look at at me for a reassuring smile and resume her play), secondly, because she is doing something stimulating and pleasant that I have shown her how to do, and thirdly, beacuse she doesn't have to vie for my attention. When our children are used to us frequently spending time with them, their 'joy cups' remain full and they don't feel anxious. This in turn creates a very pleasnt atmosphere in the home!

So where did the high flying, over-tired career mom I mentioned at the beginning lost the plot? In the first place I think she just doesn't realise the value of together time with her little boy. Our children shouldn't have to choose between quality time and quantity time, by the way. They want, and need, both. If this mom could only see how important it is for her to sit down on the carpet with her little one and guide his hand as he traces the dotted lines with the dry-erase pen. Or to share the joy her toddler derives from pulling the sheep stickers off a sheet and sticking them on the picture of the green pasture. And sharing in his enjoyment and seeing the world through her child's eyes will go such a long way in releasing the built-up tension from her stressful work week!

But I also think this mother has been taken in by the lie that our children need constant entertainment. I am sure that if I visited her house, I would find a myriad of toys that make an impressive array of sounds and light effects and are sold as 'stimulating' or even 'educational'. If you are a parent that believe a toy should make a sound in order to capture your child's attention, and if you are going to spend a little fortune on such a toy, may I suggest you rather spend that money on a solid brass bell? It will be a much better investment in your child's education, because, as opposed to the plastic thingamabob, she will be able to SEE WHY the bell makes that sound! Our children do not need hi-tech electronic, flashing toys. Let them sort the cutlery tray while you do the dishes, instead. This way you get to be in the kitchen TOGETHER, which is a great time to chat about the week or teach her a new song or tell her about things you used to like when you were her age. At the same time she'll be doing something useful and contributing to the smooth running of the household, AND..ta-daaaa, her little brain will be engaged in an essential pre-maths activity!!

As Easter time and Freedom day and Worker's day draw closer, let's turn off the TV and rather build a puzzle as family, or go for a long meandering walk with your toddler, stopping when he stops and really taking an interest in that stick or leaf of beetle. Let's do WITH them...! YOU are the best toy your children could ever ask for!!

Visual Discrimination

As promised, a quick post on visual discrimination, as mentioned in the earlier post when I told you about the launch of Colour Code.

The shortest way to describe visual discrimination is to say that it is the ability to look and see the similarities and  differences between things. This involves visual ananlysis (breaking something up into its parts) and visual synthesis (putting it back together again) and then coming to a conclusion about it.

This is an important requirement for reading. To illustrate this, have a look at the following pairs of letters:

c  e
t  f
b d

All of these letter pairs have simmilariteis in shape, and a child will only be able to distinguish between them if he/she has had ample opportunity to develop visual discrimination. Waiting for the child to be of reading age to practice and hone this skill, will be too late. Good pre-reading excercises would be to spot the differences in pictures!

A product which  encourages visual discrimination through pictures, is Same Different. The game consists of four playing boards, each with a set of twelve matching picture cards, and a transparent control sheet. The simplest way of playing is to give the child a playing board and its picture cards, and have him place the correct card on top of the appropriate picture on the board. Mom or teacher can quickly check for accuracy by using the control sheet.

Or turn it into a team game: give each team a board and its cards. One player shields the board from her team mates and starting with the picture in the top left hand corner, asks them for the corresponding card by using descriptive language. The rest of the team has to listen very carefully and watch closely, as the differences on the cards are subtle. They are also not allowed to ask questions! When both teams have covered their boards in cards, Mom or teacher uses the control sheet to add up the score. The team with the most correct matches, wins!

Another game that practices vocabulary, listening skills and visual discrimination, is I SPY. Each team receives a playing board that contains a wealth of visual information through very detailed illustrations. A grid divides the board into 6 rectangles. Players spin the spinner and has to quickly find something on their board that starts with the letter on the spinner. The first team to spot such an item, places a card on top of the appropriate rectangle in the grid, and gets another go at spinning . The first team to cover their enitre board, wins!

Off course, Colour code (see previous post) is an excellent tool for practicing visual discrimination, from pre-school to 99!

New Product Launch!

Two new products were launched into the Play2Learn range, about which I am just super excited! Both are still a bit advanced for my two sprouts, but I am quite willing to 'break it in' until Sweetpea and ArrowBoy are old enough.

The first is a perrenial favourite with educational and occupational therapists, and is called Color Code. (Years ago there was a Smile product called Line Up which was very similar, but had been discontinued).  Color Code is great for logic thinking, spatial awareness and visual analysis and synthesis. (OK, I had to go look that last one up myself...And here is the short explanation: It is the ability to break a visually presented item into its component parts (analysis) and then to put the component parts together once again (synthesis)).

        *As I was typing that just now, two other products came to mind which does the same.
          I'll write a post about it when I'm done here and call it Visual Discrimination, so keep
          a look out for that!*

It is also excelent for problem solving!

So here's how it works: You get a tile stand, a pattern booklet and perspex tiles with coloured shapes on them. You then have to copy the design in in the pattern booklet using your tiles. Easy? Yes, the ones in the strater section are quite straightforward, but keep in mind that the game is designed for ages 6 to 99 (So if you want to become 99 years old, buy this game!), so the problems become progressively more difficult.

The other new product in the Play2Learn line is called Zoob. This is a very intelligent construction toy, and what I like about it is that the things you build, can MOVE! At a consultants meeting we put together a man called Zoobdude and because of the way the pieces fit together, we had him walking, bending and even doing gymnastics on a bar built out of a string of other pieces. The particular set I'll be marketing is the Zoob75. They come in sets of 15, 20, 35, 55 and 60, but when you buy the 75-piece set, you get the instructions booklets for all the other sets as well.
Zoob giraffe

And here is the really nifty part: There is great Zoob website at infinitoys.com One of its features is a Gallery with pictures sent in by children from all over the world. Click on KIDS, choose the Zoob 75 Kids Galley and see all the amazing things children are doing with Zoob. And THEN......


Until the end of April 2010, you can win a set Zoob 75. Here's how:
1. Place an order with me for Zoob 75 between now and 30 April 2010.
2. Built something exciting with your set.
3. Send in your picture for publication on the infinitoys website 
4. If your picture is accepted, you are entered into a draw to win...
Another brand new, super cool set of Zoob 75!
5. ALL entrants whose photos are featured on the website receive 10% discount on the next set of Zoob 75 they purchase before the end of May 2010.

Only one entry per household.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Best!

I found the following little piece in a wonderful study manual by Nancy Campbell called "The Power of Motherhood - What the Bible says about mothers." This book had a tremendous impact on me and my approach to motherhood. (You can get more information on this book and details on how to order it, at Linnie's blog, Back to Ancient Ways ). The original version appeared in a copy of LLL News. May this inspire you for the week ahead!

"With all the gadgets and labour-saving devices on the market for babies nowadays, I thought I'd try to find the best of each. I was not surprised to find that:

The BEST infant seat is mother's arms.
The BEST baby swing is mother's lap in a rocking chair.
The BEST stroller is mother's body.
The BEST nursery record is mother's own heartbeat.
The BEST lullaby record is mother's singing, and of course,
The BEST food, pacifier, electric warmer, and tranquilizer can be found at mother's breast."

Written by Sally Simmons

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Joyful Mama's Favourite Finds from the plastics shop!

I LOVE shops selling plastic ware! I like to think of them as creativity incubators, because everytime I go there, my mind starts racing to come up with innovative ways to use the really well-priced little tools and containers they sell. So, I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite buys for Sweetpea!

1. Plastic scoops

They come in a variety of sizes and are excellent for scooping anything from sand to dried beans when playing, or for practical life excercises like scooping sugar from the large storage container into the sugar bowl.

2. Boxes with compartments

A plastics shop stock item, they come in ALL shapes and sizes and the sky is the limit when it comes to uses for these! Right now we are using this particular small box for organizing wooden beads with different shapes that I got from a craft shop.

The larger ones, like those used for fishing tackle, are ideal for storing craft supplies. I am now searching for a long rectangular one with about ten compartments. I'll mark each compartment with a number from 1 to 10. Sweetpea can then place the corresponding number of popsicle sticks into each compartment. (Similar to the spindle box in Montessori method)

3. 5 liter ice cream containers

LOVE LOVE LOVE these for organizing toys! I stuck a sticker with the day of the week on the front and divided the children's toys into them. (I kept similar toys together, eg. finger puppets and hand puppets in one, musical intruments in the next, farm animals in another). This way the toys get rotated from day to day and the bambinos don't get bored! I have separate sets for each of the children - the baby's contain sqeaky toys, unpainted wooden blocks, a collection of rattles etc. They stack very neatly on top of each other and gives me a wonderful sense of being on top of things! Look out Martha Stewart!

4. Plastic Tea set

Stored very neatly in another stackable plastics shop container, this gets taken out nearly daily and Sweetpea loves colour matching the cups, saucers and teaspoons and then spends hours pouring water from teapot to milk jug to cups and back again. And she squeals with delight when I drink my 'tea' and pretend to take bites out of the felt cupcakes I made for her. She loves stirring, so I get offered endless spoons of air 'sugar'! I encourage her to bring me full cups which she carefully carries by holding on to the saucer with both hands, meticulously trying not to spill. A great practical life excercise!

5. Long-spouted watering can

We don't have a very large garden, so most of my plants grow in large pots on the patio. Sweetpea really wanted to help with the watering, but the large watering can was just too big and heavy. So I bought her this one and showed her how to hold onto the handle with one hand, and the spout with the other, to help her with control. She rarely misses and knows that the smaller pots are especially hers to water! Oh, and from the first time she used it I also showed her where we keep it. Now when I ask her to quench some potplants on sweltering days, she knows where to get it and always replaces it in he same spot. Do this with every new toy or tool you bring into the house and you will soon have a pint-high co-worker who'll make your job of picking up much easier!

6. Small dustpan and brush

If you show them how to use it, you encourage little ones to take ownership of their messes and to become your allies in cleaning up! (There's a whole lesson on training in that sentence! Maybe I'll explore it a little further in a future post!) Sweetpea cannot sweep up crumbs on her own yet, but she knows where the dustpan is kept and will fetch it and hold it for me while I do the sweeping with the brush.

7. And my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE: The Two-step stool!!

This is by far the most uitlized piece of 'furniture' in our home! I bought it when Sweetpea had outgrown the kitchen sink (she used to sit in one ink and rinse the clean dishes in a tub of clean water while I washed in the other sink).

I was looking for a nice wooden one that would complement my decor, but the only one I could find was ridiculously expensive, so once again it was the plastics shop to the rescue! Not only could she now reach the sink without effort, but in the mornings and at night it gets dragged to the bathroom for brushing her teeth. (In retrospect, the pretty wooden one would have been too heavy for her to move around by herself).

If she asks for a banana and I give permision, she uses her step stool to open the basket drawer herself. She stands on it when she packs the clean cutlery into the drawer (yep, the cutlery orgnizer is another plastics shop find and letting her do this gets the job done AND is a lesson in organizing - a good pre-maths exercise!)

I have seen some wonderful ideas all over Blog-ville of other mums using inexpensive platic ware for teaching early childhood skills. And there's a bag with a few new purchases waiting in the hall closet to be re-purposed as exciting learning tools - I will keep you posted! I'd love to hear about YOUR favourite finds - please e-mail me!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Review: Bridge to Learning (Part 1)

I am thrilled to be publishing the first product review on this blog!

About the reviewer:

Joanne van der Merwe [BScOccTher (UCT) and MOccTher (Stellenbosch University)]
E-mail: mj3@telkomsa.net
Cell: 072 218 3667

Joanne is an occupational therapist and mother of two precious girls. I met her at one of my recent exhibitions and since she waxed lyrical about Bridge to Learning, I asked her if she would be so kind as to contribute a review on it. She agreed and a while later I received an e-mail from her, asking if it's OK if she does it in three parts, because, in her own words: "There is so much I want to share about the product that I fear the review will turn into a 500 word essay!" Thanks, Joanne!!

(Part One: Peg board)

Price: R175

This is what you get in a Bridge to Learning set.


AGE GROUP:  SMILE recommends 5+ years (but there are uses for even younger children)


Bridge To Learning contains :

Pegboard with coloured pegs and pegboard cards

Logi shapes (different shapes in a variety of colours) and logi cards

• 1 colour dice and 1 shape dice

• Laces

• Touch and count cubes

Dinkie Early Writing fun book


Description : The child is expected to follow the pegboard cards and place coloured pegs into the pegboard to make the same design as that represented on the card.

Skills that can potentially be developed

 • Fine motor skills (hand grasps)

• Position-In-Space

• Visual-spatial skills

• Eye-hand coordination

• Planning/organisational skills

• Number and colour concept

• Left-Right discrimination

• Sequencing skills

• Creativity

Some alternative ideas

• With younger children (under supervision of an adult to avoid choking on small parts): The pegs can be used to develop colour concept by matching the same coloured pegs. Picking up the pegs between the thumb and index/middle fingers develops the grasps needed for pencil manipulation. If the child struggles to place the pegs into the pegboard, let him/her drop them in an ice tray or egg box. Let them place pegs of the same colour in the different compartments (colour concept). Let them place 1 peg in each, then 2 pegs in each etc to develop number concept.

• Roll the colour dice (part of the package) and let your child find the same colour peg and place it in the pegboard as another idea for developing colour concept. You can also play a game whereby you and your child each choose a colour and see who can get a certain number of pegs in their pegboard first. If you choose ‘red’, you must roll a red on the dice in order to place a peg in your row.

• Creativity can also be tapped into by encouraging your child to create his/her own designs with the pegs.

• Sequencing skills (important for numeracy and literacy) can be developed through creating a specific sequence of coloured pegs which your child needs to replicate or extend.

• To develop position-in-space and left-right discrimination, give your child specific instructions to follow e.g “Place a red peg in one of the top holes, a blue peg underneath it, a green peg in the bottom right corner” etc

• Uses the laces (provided in the package) to thread through the holes of the pegboard.

• Put some playdoh (rolled flat) under the pegboard and then get your child to copy the design on the pegboard. Pushing the pegs into the playdoh will help to strengthen little fingers. Once you lift the pegboard up, the pattern made by the pegs can be seen in the playdoh. Younger children can even just push the pegs directly into the playdoh


 The materials are very durable (I’ve had my pegboard for many years!).

Additional pegs can be bought separately.

Take precautions with younger children to prevent choking on small parts.
I love pegboards and use it all the time in therapy as there are so many different things you can do with the activity. It is a ‘must have’ in any home.

PS: Just to add a footnote to Joanne's great review: The pattern cards for the peg board has a column on the right which tells you WHAT the exercise is about, the SKILLS the child will master by doing it, and then it has some very good QUESTIONS for LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT. The crad for the flower design featured above, reads as follows:

Basic Shapes: Circles

1. Recognizing and naming circles.
Tracing circles.

Language Development:
1. How many flowers are there?
2. If you take one of the flowers away, how many flowers will you have left on your pegboard?
3. Where is the stem of the flower?
4. Point to the leaf.
5.What colour is the leaf and the stem?
6. What is the shape of the flowers?

To order your child's Bridge To Learning, please e-mail me at joyfulmama@telkomsa.net

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Not just a peg board...!

(I meant to publish this post last week, but ended up in hospital with kidney stones..ouch! I have posted a testimony of the miraculous healing that happened on my other blog: http://www.magrietjie.blogspot.com/ You are welcome to read it! In the meantime, enjoy this one!)

Sweetpea and I had the most delightful time this morning. As soon as Arrow went for his first nap, she made a bee line for the living room and requested that I take down the Mega Peg and Play.(an Idem Smile product). Now, first of all, I had a painting activity planned for today, and second, she's not supposed to play with that particular set as it is part of my stock kit...but I decided to flow with her enthusiasm and see where we would end up. Boy, am I glad I did!

We started out in the conventional way, placing the design card over the peg board and matching the giant pegs to the pictures (she's really good at this and knows her shapes very well, so she finished the first card in two ticks). I was reaching for the second card when she very decisively told me that she wanted to thread the pegs instead.  We've been threading quite a bit lately, but I was hesitant because the shafts of the Mega Pegs are quite long, making it less easy for little hands to get the threading lace through. Again, I let her take the lead and was delighted when she easily threaded all the blue pegs onto the blue thread (we've been working on that colour lately). She then threaded all the red pegs onto the red lace, and added the green and yellow ones, too. I took this opportunity for an impromptu lesson on 'short' and 'long' and we had fun pulling the peg-'worms' accross the carpet in a race of sorts.

On the spur of  the moment I fetched some snack bowls from the kitchen for Sweetpea to sort her pegs according to colour. We used the discs I made for a coloured paper clips activity last week, to label our bowls.

Seeing that she hadn't lost interest yet, I returned to the kitchen for a plastic ladle. Sweetpea scooped the pegs one-by-one into a mixing bowl and got into a fit of giggles stirring her 'Peg Soup!'

I've been eager to try a sensory tub activity since reading about it recently, and the soup idea had me running to the kitchen for a third time. I found half a bag of black beans and some lentils and we had a jolly time mixing the peg soup ingerdients with our hands!

When I produced a small plastic scoop I got from the plastics shop yesterday morning, I struck gold. For the next 45 minutes Sweetpea was engrossed in scooping the bean/lentil mix from the mixing bowl to the snack bowls and back. (The pegs were too big for the scoop and were finally abandoned, but maybe they deserved a break after being so utterly useful all morning long!)

All in all it was a really successful morning: Sweetpea had fun AND practiced a nice variety of skills, and I had a good lesson in the value of letting the student be the teacher!

PS: you can order a Mega Peg & Play from me! They sell at R185, excl postage. Order via e-mail at joyfulmama@telkomsa.net.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Exhibiting my educational toys

A friend of mine had been a consultant for educational products, but recently moved to another part of the country since her husband was promoted. Before they left, though, she introduced me to her supplier and I then became a consultant, too. Now, I am NOT a salesperson, but I thought I would give it a try anyway, and if it didn't work, I would still be able to buy discounted products for my own children.

Well...on the very fisrt night after joining, I was paging through the product catalogues to familiarize myself with 'my' products and soon as I was too excited to go to sleep. I felt like I had struck gold! See, I had been reading about teaching Montessori in the home for quite a long time by then, and have made several Montessori-like activities for Sweetpea, but the real, bona fide Montessori materials were just too expensive for me to buy. But now I had discovered quality, locally-made products which could very easily be adapted to Motessori activities! Things like a rubber 'moveable alphabet' (one side smooth, the other textured), number builders, sensory shapes and the like had me churning out activities for my toddler in no time!

Just to be clear, though, the products I sell do not assume to be official Montessori tools AT ALL, and many of them are plastic, but with a little creativity and a good knowledge of Montessori priciples, they can be very useful indeed. And then there is a whole stack of other products, too, that are really good, educational toys and games, but not related to any Motessori activities.

Anyway, back to my lack of selling skills. I suppose my enthusiasm has compensated for that, because I just had two successful exhibitions in the past two weeks, and received several orders from primary and pre-schools this month! I am so excited!

As I needed some focussed time with the moms attending the exhibitions, I arranged for my new friend Nicolene to bring over her super-cute tables and benches for a bit of cookie decorating with the children. It was a huge success, as you can see!

a tasty sample

oh so proud!

busy bees!
Nicolene offers classes for children from age three up, every first Saturday of the month, from her house in De La Haye, Bellville. Send me an e-mail if you are interested, and I'll pass on her contact information to you.

If you missed the past two Saturdays' workshops, watch this space for upcoming events. And send me an
e-mail me if you'd like to receive my monthly newsletter with specials, updates and new product information (Just put "Subcribe to newsletter" in the Subject line).

Friday, March 5, 2010


A few weeks ago I spoke to the mother of two grown children, who is considered to be one of the pioneers of homeschooling here in South Africa. We were chatting about questions I had about the social skills of homeschoolers and after she had laid my concerns to rest with wise advise that was born from experience, I asked her when is the best time to start home schooling. She gave an endearing chuckle and said: "My dear, you started the day your first baby was conceived."

In that moment, something 'clicked' in my head as I realised just how true that is!

Sweetpea, my gorgeous two-year old daughter, was conceived on the way back from a missions trip. During an eight hour drive earlier that day, her Daddy and I prayed what we called Two Kilometer Prayers: we would chat about something that was on our hearts and then pray about it for the next two kilometers of the drive. One of those prayers was to ask our Heavenly Father to bless us with a little baby girl. As I think back on that conversation, I realise that we had started what would become the training of our children in the car that day. We were laying the foundation for their education as we spoke about our ideals for and beliefs about child rearing. We were already setting up boundaries and formulating game plans and chiseling out a model for teaching and training that would eventually mould our family's own, unique character.

Off course, after Sweetpea's birth, some of these preconceived ideas were altered as we grew as parents and got to know the character of our little girl better and better And that process of 'alteration' happened easily and quite naturally at times, and on other occassions this tiny little person would just mercilessly smash our half-baked parental philosophies with a good dose of reality!

We listened to seasoned parents and read authors that we respected and studied God's Word for guidance and truth abour raising our children, and all the while we were training and moulding them already. I see now that education is not an event that starts on a specific day when my child turns a ceratin age or walk through the doors of a school. Training them and teaching them happens in every moment of every day.

My purpose with this blog is to document a little bit of the the learning that happens in our house. I love learning and borrowing inspiration from the thousands of very wise and creative moms out there who readily share their ideas on their blogs and websites, and I will give recognition to them whenever due. Since I am also a consultant for Idem Smile educational products, Play2Learn toys and games and the Suczezz range of educational tools, I will feature these products here, too. Especially those I use in teaching my own children. For the rest, I'll just be sharing my own experiences as I 'train up my children in the way they should go.' May you find my musings edifying and inspirational -  I look forward to receiving your feedback!


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