Monday, September 30, 2013

We're Back!

Did you miss us? After our week in NJ, my husband and I went on vacation for a week in Cancun and left M with my mother-in-law.

We had an amazing time, and it was so great to get a break and recharge. Now that we're back and I have a little more time (and energy!), I thought I'd pull together some of the pictures from the past few weeks to show what M has been up to.

We had a lot of unstructured learning due to all the traveling, but that can lead to new experiences and lots of fun. Here are a few of the things we did:

Finding Patterns

M made patterns with sunglasses and headbands while we got ready one morning.

Sink or Float

During a trip to the Butterfly Gardens, M wanted to throw some different objects (leaves, twigs, rocks) into the water feature to see what would float downstream and what would sink. We also saw tons of different types of butterflies, and talked to one of the volunteer gardeners for a long time about the kinds of plants that attract butterflies. He even went off on a tangent and told us all about raising rabbits as pets!



I honestly don't remember what prompted this conversation (maybe it was simple seeing her shadow?), but M wanted to talk about what makes a shadow, how shadows move and why some shadows (like mine) were larger than others (like hers).

Pretend Play - Safari

My cousin bought some toys from a consignment store for M to play with while we were visiting (so smart!!). One of the toys was a set of Safari Animals. M had so much fun with these toys, and it prompted her to make up her own safari stories while we were out playing at the park. The see saw was her safari jeep, and she was looking all around the playground to spot elephants, lions, zebras and snakes.

Pretend Play - Vet

My mom got us a family membership to the Children's Museum for M's birthday (aren't memberships the best gifts ever??). The museum is right next to the library (that we clearly frequent), which is really convenient. We stopped by in the late afternoon after picking up some new library books, and M spent the entire time playing in the Teddy Bear Clinic. (Did I mention that she loves Doc McStuffins?)

Here are some pictures of one of her patients - she searched for the right items from her doctor's bag, checked the dog's eyes, nose and heartbeat, gave it some medicine, and clipped its nails.


Exploring Simple Machines

Ok, she didn't really know she was exploring simple machines. But I could literally see her mind working as she figured out how to use the wheel to control the conveyor belt to move the bones up the ramp and into Clifford's bowl. Eventually she'll learn what it's called, but for now it was pretty cool to see her exploring physics in her own way.

Matching Shapes

The Children's Museum had a neat activity in the Clifford exhibit that used shape puzzles to construct a sand castle. You couldn't see the shapes from the top of the sand castle pieces, so it took M a little while to figure out how it worked.

Exploring Light and Colors

Giant lite-brite at The Children's Museum

Sorting and Recycling

I Spy Matching

This neat I Spy Game was another consignment store find that my cousin bought for M.  Each puzzle piece matched with just one other piece. One side had words and corresponding pictures of the objects to find (which allowed M to complete the activity without much help), and the matching pieces had scenes with hidden objects. Lots of fun!

Learning about Babies

M was amazing with her baby cousin. She was intrigued by the baby, and wanted to help as much as she could. She would get clean diapers for a diaper change, help with the baby's laundry, watch the baby while she slept, and she even got to feed the baby a bottle when we babysat one afternoon! There was also a good bit of jealousy, especially when I was holding the baby, and that gave us the opportunity to talk about feelings.

Animals at the Zoo

We visited the Turtle Back Zoo while we were in NJ. We visit the Greenville Zoo all the time at home (we have an annual membership), but this zoo had different animals than M was used to seeing (including foxes, llamas, kangaroos, eagles, etc.). She even made the time for a little dance party outside the Reptile House.

Music Appreciation

We caught the end of a local outdoor concert while we were in NJ. M played with some other young kids, danced, and picked flowers while she listened to the band.

Pretend Play - Transportation and Restaurants

M has duplos at home, but had never played with Legos before our trip to NJ. Something about the miniature size was so fascinating to her. Together we built a helicopter and truck, and she assembled a house / restaurant with a grill for cooking hot dogs. She loved the tiny figures, and created all kinds of stories (most of which I couldn't follow.... but it all seemed very interesting!).

Exploring Airplanes

The Southeast Aviation Expo was in Greenville this past weekend, and we had a lot of fun looking at all of the airplanes on display. They also had booths set up with all kinds of information about airplanes, and M collected quite a few souvenirs, including three different airplanes (a squishy foam airplane, a foam glider, and a balsa wood plane). She thought it was so much fun to look at the different airplanes and she even got to climb into a few! We also had a blast trying out the two little glider planes when we got home - I was impressed with how well they actually flew!

Gross Motor Development

Practicing balancing


I was on the phone and left M in her playroom for a few minutes. When I returned, I found that she had taken the plastic cups and utensils we used for a tea party a few weeks ago and was making different patterns and designs on the floor. I was amazed - she's not usually interested in building with different materials, and yet she put together this design completely on her own. Things like this always remind me that I need to give her plenty of time and space to explore on her own!

As much as I love the themes we choose to "study" together, and the Montessori activities I create for M to explore, I also love to have those weeks when M has the opportunity to just be a kid. Aside from the travel, we didn't really plan anything during the past few weeks. It was nice to go with the flow, but I have to say I'm ready to get back to a little more structure and rhythm to our days. Not knowing what to expect can tire you out!

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hey US Airways, Help a Mom Out!

I recently flew from Greenville, SC to Newark, NJ with a connection in Charlotte, NC. That was four US Airways flights. It was just me and my 3-year-old daughter. There were a lot of positives about our experience: easy online check-in, prepaid checked baggage, friendly TSA agents at security, on-time flights. I was pretty well prepared for the flights, and we have flown many times before (this was my daughter's 6th trip). I had my daughter in a woven wrap so we could get through security easily, and I had wheels for her car seat to make navigating the airport a breeze. We had just one issue - getting on and off of the plane.

I subscribe to the "better safe than sorry" philosophy. It's the reason my 30 pound 3-year-old is still rear-facing in the car, the reason I don't microwave things in plastic, and the reason we take my daughter's car seat on the airplane.

Here's what the FAA website says:
"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly urges you to secure your child in a CRS [child restraint system] or device for the duration of your flight. It's the smart and right thing to do so that everyone in your family arrives safely at your destination."

Here's what the American Academy of Pediatrics says:
"When traveling on an airplane, a child is best protected when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child until the child weighs more than 40 lbs. and can use the aircraft seat belt."

Here's what I found on the US Airways website:
"Reserved seating: If you want your infant to travel in his or her own seat, you must buy a ticket. Also, you must provide a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Child Restraint System (CRS)."
NOTE: The term "infant" refers to children under the age of 2.

According to this 2005 FAA Press Release, the FAA decided NOT to mandate the use of child restraints on airplanes because it would require parents to purchase an additional ticket for infants, which could be cost prohibitive and cause parents to choose to drive rather than fly. Because there are more driving fatalities than flying fatalities, this would cause an increased safety risk to families. They do strongly recommend the use of child restraint systems.

So, the FAA and AAP strongly recommend the use of child restraints on the airplane. The airline itself requires child restraint systems for infants. One would think that the airline would encourage their customers to follow these safety recommendations. This is not the experience I had!

Our Experience

My daughter and I breezed through airport security, grabbed a snack, and headed to our gate. I got a gate check tag for the car seat wheels, and prepared to board the airplane. I asked the gate attendant if it would be ok for us to board early so we could have a little extra time to install the car seat and avoid hitting other passengers as I maneuvered the giant piece of equipment through the tight aisle. I wasn't looking for any extra assistance, just a little time. "Sorry. The US Airlines policy is for parents traveling with young children to board after Zone 2." Ouch. (I got this same response prior to all four flights.)

So here I go. I get in line after the first class and Preferred Access passengers (you know, those who pay their way to the front of the line). Sure, I could have paid for Preferred Access too, but something about the whole "Oh you're struggling with that? For just $10 per person per flight we can let you on a minute early" just doesn't scream "great customer service" to me.

I was first in line for Zone 3. Our boarding passes are scanned and we're on our way down the jet-way. But wait, now I need to take the wheels off of the car seat and put them in the designated area to be gate checked. In the 30 seconds it took me to do that, about 15 passengers quickly slide by in front of me to get on the plane. I now have a backpack on my back, a small carry-on (and stuffed animal) inside the car seat that I'm carrying in my arms, and a toddler walking in front of me (who I can no longer actually see because of the giant car seat in my arms). "Follow that nice man in front of you!" I shout to her.

I step onto the plane, and now wait as the line of passengers in front of me load their luggage into the overhead compartments and get settled in their seats. We are moving painfully slow down the aisle, and my arms are starting to ache. A kind first class passenger offers to let me rest the bottom of the car seat on his armrest while we wait. "Don't they have preferred boarding for parents anymore?" he asks. "You would think," I reply.

We finally make it to our seats, where I sling our backpacks under the seats as quickly as I can to get out of the way of the rest of the line. I sit M in my seat while I wrestle the seat belt buckle through the back of the car seat. I buckle M into her seat, and then fall back into my own, sweaty and exhausted. Aside from the physical exertion, the stress of carrying everything through a crowd while trying not to disturb the other passengers is a lot, and it takes a good 15 minutes for my heart rate to slow back down. I say a quick prayer of thanks that my toddler is so cooperative.

When the plane lands, we wait quietly for all of the other passengers to leave so I don't have the added stress of trying not to take someone's head off as I blindly march my armload down the aisle. I reattach the wheels when we get off the plane, and we're home free!

It's my decision to fly with a toddler. It's my decision to follow the safety recommendations. I'm not asking for any crazy accommodations. I don't care that the flight attendants smile sweetly at my daughter as I fall onto the plane, and offer absolutely no help in getting us to our seats. I don't care that the flight attendants don't offer to help install the car seat (I wouldn't take their offer anyway). I don't need anyone to baby me. I just want a little dignity. Give me an extra few minutes to get on the plane. Let me carry my load without 10 rows of onlookers gawking at me. It's a simple request, and one that would have so little impact on the other passengers, but such a huge impact on moms (or dads) traveling with young children.

Come on US Airlines, HELP A MOM OUT!

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience. 

Linking Up With:
Suitcases and Sippy Cups - Travel Tips Tuesday
Tales of a Ranting Ginger - Travel Tuesday

When traveling on an airplane, a child is best protected when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child until the child weighs more than 40 lbs. and can use the aircraft seat belt. - See more at: traveling on an airplane, a child is best protected when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child until the child weighs more than 40
When traveling on an airplane, a child is best protected when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child until the child weighs more than 40 lbs. and can use the aircraft seat belt. - See more at:
When traveling on an airplane, a child is best protected when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child until the child weighs more than 40 lbs. and can use the aircraft seat belt. - See more at:
When traveling on an airplane, a child is best protected when properly restrained in a car safety seat appropriate for the age, weight and height of the child until the child weighs more than 40 lbs. and can use the aircraft seat belt. - See more at:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Transportation Update Week 1

So... there wasn't much Montessori happening this week. We had a couple of days at the beginning of the week before we flew up to NJ to help my cousin with her newborn. On Monday we had a playdate with some friends and tried a lot of our transportation activities. On Tuesday we were preoccupied with packing, but we got in a few more activities. Wednesday was our travel day (see here for details on how I pack to fly with a toddler), and we spent the rest of the week helping my cousin. We'll definitely do a second week with this theme so we can spend a little more time with these fun activities!

Here's what we did get to:

Practical Life

Clothes Pin Airplanes
We made one of these clothes pin airplanes from Somewhat Simple as a sample before our playdate. M liked helping with the glue, and assembling the wings and propeller to match the picture. A couple of M's friends made them, but M wasn't really interested during the playdate since she already had some new airplane toys to play with. These were very easy to make, and could easily become a more involved activity if your child painted or decorated the clothes pin and popsicle sticks before assembling.


Car Wash Sensory Bin
 Check out the full post to see three ways to make a Car Wash Sensory Bin.

Mini Airplane Sensory Bin
Since we were traveling, we didn't have our normal larger bins. I used the small baking pan that I packed to use with magnets, and filled it with a some water beads and cotton balls. M flew her airplanes through the "clouds." This later turned into a lake for her cars and safari animals.

Cars and Tunnels

We built a tunnel from a piece of construction paper, and M spent a lot of time pushing cars through her tunnel, around the porch, under the tables and chairs, etc. She compared how fast the different cars could roll, what kind of sounds they made on different surfaces, and made up stories as she drove them around the house.


Transportation Flannel Boards
M created her own story with the transportation flannel board pieces. We were at the beach a lot over the summer, and spent some time hiking at Paris Mountain recently, so she told me a story about people driving from the beach to the mountains. I think she would also enjoy playing with these flannel board pieces as we read a related story.

Tracing Letters
I put out M's Magic Board and the letter T tracing plate. She did this for a little while, but she's not really into writing yet. We used this board again later in the week to trace pictures from a magazine - that was a lot more fun!


Pay the Toll Coin Sorting
M loved this activity, and enjoyed learning the names of the different types of coins. She watches Mickey Mouse Clubhouse a lot, and they always pay for things from Clarabelle's store with coins. She sorted some of the coins, then started counting the pennies. When we did a sorting tray with beans, I had her close her eyes while I put some beans in the wrong compartment. She thought that was so funny, and she wanted me to close my eyes while she did the same this time.

Number Parking Lot
M liked this parking lot numbers game from B-Inspired Mama. We're working on identifying numerals, and this was a fun way to talk about what the numbers mean and to practice matching.

Science / Cultural Studies

Transportation Timeline

I pulled together a very basic timeline based on the different forms of transportation covered in one of our library books. I printed google images of different forms of transportation over time (feet, early boats, cars, planes, trains, etc.). After laminating the images, I added velcro to the back of the images and to some dry erase sentence strips. I thought I would use a dry erase marker to add dates to the strips, but it was really just too much information, so we just put them in order from oldest to most recent. She liked showing all of the pictures to Goofy after we displayed the timeline on her wall.

Balloon Racer Car
I bought a Balloon Car Racer at the dollar store to take on our trip. My cousin's dog was not a big fan, but M really liked it. She couldn't figure out how to blow up the balloon, but I showed her how to put her finger over the hole on the car after I blew it up so she could take the car where ever she wanted to race it. She wanted to know why it worked, so we talked briefly about action-reaction forces that propel the car forward. I love her questions!

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There's a lot more to come next week when we return from our travels. Check out some other ideas on the T is for Transportation post.