Thursday, 11 June 2015

Paper Towel Suncatchers

 Little brother wanted to paint, so I took out our supplies of watercolour paper, food colouring  and cotton-tip sticks and we sat together. 

After painting for a bit he remembered that in Easter time we used pipettes (eye droppers) with our food colouring to paint eggs. So he asked for them. 

He had fun for a while dropping food colouring on paper and "drinking the drops back" with pipettes, and while cleaning the table from extra drops with paper towels I thought of the following activity. It has been going around internet for a while,  I thought of trying it  and now was a perfect opportunity!

What he created looked beautiful, I lifted it up and held against the sun - vow! 

So we put it on the window.

 Then he wanted to make another one. 

Paper towel had red and blue circles as a pattern,
 so he decided to colour the circles a bit brighter :)

Then he added yellow, green and pink in between.

Very focused little men :)

Every single white space had to be coloured! :)

End result on the window  :) 

(we let it dry a little)

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Playing With Rocks

Last days of autumn in Sydney. It was a sunny day and a friend invited us to catch up on the  beach after gymnastics class. 

It was totally spontaneous, we did not plan on going, so did not bring with us our usual beach gear (plastic buckets and spades and a dump truck). Well, we didn't even bring hats or shorts! 

We stayed for a while after a friend left, so what did we do? 

We played with rocks!

Little men is huge fan of rocks.

We found flat rocks of different sizes, sorted them in descending order, built a pyramid, counted, I got him to weigh them in his hand to feel which ones were heavier and which ones lighter. We drew a large circle with a stick and tried to through rocks in that circle. 

Great fun!  

Saturday, 23 May 2015

How to get kids to speak your language

Our kids are bilingual. They speak both English and Russian fluently and willingly. My 6 year old can now read books in Russian. 

So how did we get there?  I know that a lot of parents struggle with getting kids to speak their  language. I want to share with you a few things that, I believe, made it work for us. 

1st. There is a NEED for Russian language in our family, it is a part of everyday life. My kids speak Russian because they need to communicate with me, first of all, with each other, my parents, my sister  and friends. My prime goal for language at home is  that *I* need to speak with my kids in Russian, not because it is good for the brain or because relatives will be happy. Those things are secondary,  really. Good level of language is not going to happen unless YOU need it to communicate meaningfully with your kids. 

2nd.  I put a lot of WORK teaching language to my kids. In the beginning when my daughter was a baby I did lots of research on the subject of bilingualism. I'm very thankful to Multilingual Living site for all the helpful information they share.  I spend a lot of time with kids talking, singing, reading, explaining things,  searching internet, compiling learning materials, making power points,  printing, laminating. It is only now in Australia there are people with online shops that are selling Russian book (which helps a lot), but when my older child was a baby, good picture books were hard to find here. So I made them. I picked the songs that my daughter liked, searched for the words in the internet as well as relevant pictures, compiled, printed, laminated, put together, and we read and sang. I have a whole box of these books. As they are in large print they also became her first readers. I also worked full time back then, and made books on lunch breaks and sick days. 

3rd. We READ a lot. How much is a lot? I try to read to them at least for 1 hour a day EACH (well, younger brother often gets double time, depending on what I'm reading to my older child). Sometimes it is more, sometimes less. We try to read what they like. My 6 year old loves stories and fairy tales and doesn't like picture books much  (most likely due to her poor vision).  2 year old brother loves books with very detailed pictures and good illustrations. We invest a lot of money in quality books and buying books in such large quantities is not cheap!

4th. I speak my language to my kids IN PUBLIC.  You can often find us singing songs or telling stories on the swings on playground :).  That's because we are “One Parent One Language (OPOL)” family. Kids hear mostly Russian from me (with rare exceptions) and English from daddy. We have never, so far,  heard anyone saying negative things about us speaking another language, only compliments!  The exception is only when non-Russian speaker are part of the conversation or when we interact with them directly (like in doctor's office or teacher's meeting) - then we speak English. When we are together with my husband I tend to say important things twice in 2 languages - we took on board advice from our family doctor from a few years ago (he had bilingual kids himself).  It was strange at first, then I got used to it. Dinner time is a bit special though, it is time when the whole family tends to speak English.
My kids speak Russian to each other when they play by themselves and only switch to English when daddy or English friend is near them. 

My 6 year old loves Russian and she's great model for her younger brother. She had a slight speech delay, only starting to speak properly closer to the age of 3.  Younger brother started speaking early,  he spoke in sentences before he was 1.5, and by 1.5 already new what language to speak to mummy and which to daddy. I remember the breakthrough moment was "Papa - "car", Mama - "mashinka" and after that he new exactly what language to speak with Mama and which with Papa : ). 

5th. We have SUPPORT from family. Although my family lives overseas and they can’t visit often, they send us books and talk to the kids on Skype for hours. My husband, although not speaking Russian much himself, is very supportive of kids speaking the language. He is bilingual himself in English and Portuguese, however chose not to teach his language to kids. 

6th.  We visit COMMUNITY events. It is very important, I think. At least some of them - to show kids how many people in the community speak the language. . I take kids to multiple Christmas parties, often to the other end of the city, school holiday workshops, we went to Russian family camp for a week not too long ago. I also used to organise Russian story time for kids with puppet shows and music in the library and a local Community Centre. 

7th. I'm teaching my kids how to READ & WRITE.  My kids currently don't attend Saturday school, but they might in the future. My daughter used to go once a week when she was 1-2  year old and then when she was 4 to Russian language kids studio.  Now I homeschool them in Russian on my own on evenings and week-ends. For instance, I taught my daughter to read myself using some materials I bought online. 

8th. We use TECHNOLOGY and it is set up in our house to support language learning. Our TV is actually a computer monitor and nearly all Russian kids cartoons, lots of kids shows and movies are available on YouTube. Now there are also plenty of iPad applications in Russian. We also have CDs with songs and audio books in our car. 

9th. It might sound like hard work by now :). Well, it is, but also very FUN  and rewarding! I enjoy reading to my kids books from my childhood, new books that I never read as a child. We use Russian as our secret language at times  (better be careful with that though :)). Needless to say, my kids can have meaningful conversations with grandparents. 

10th. Now we are up to the NEW CHALLENGES. Apart from teaching younger brother to read and teaching grammar to my older daughter, there are a few worries.  Since my older daughter is at school and younger brother is starting preschool full time in a couple of months things could change a bit since my influence will weaken and English-speaking peers and teacher's influence will strengthen. 

I'm also planning to go back to full time or nearly full time job.  For kids to actively speak the minority language, they need to hear it at least 30% of the time. With full time job and other parent not speaking the language getting 30% is tough. Let's say, you have 16 waking hours a day 7 a week = total 112 hours a week. If you spend 1 hour a day in the morning and 2 hours in the evening, that's 3 h per day on week days. On the week-ends, let's say, spending 10 to 12 hours is nearly realistic. So, if counting by maximum, (3*5+12*2) /112= 39/112 we get 35%.  It is theoretically realistic,  provided that all you do is spending time with kids, but tough. Kids do sports on the week-ends, birthday parties, playdates, other things not involving you. Also you need to spend time with your English-speaking husband. How much time will be really left?  

 Working 4 days a week instead of 5 will help a lot with getting more time for language, or, perhaps, getting a flexible  hours job. 

What are  your thoughts on the subject? 

How do you manage to keep the language, and, perhaps, work at the same time? Please feel free to share in the comments.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Number Machine

This week we made this awesome Number Machine!  First found this idea on Imagination Tree blog (love that blog by the way).

This is what ours looks like:

Alicia decided that her machine is "a house where numbers live" and decorated it with numbers.


You can do additions with this things, just need to set the number on each pipe and put that number of counters in each, then you have your total coming out in the bottom. Such a fun way to learn math!

                                         You can use hands or you can you use pincers to put the counters in. 


Little brother Mark had a play with it too.  He loved to put the balls in the pipes and see them coming out.



Accidentally, there was an orange on the table. Can it fit through? 

                                                            From thinking to action. Let's experiment!

                Ha-ha! It doesn't fit!  True happiness of self-discovery.


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Icy Eggs

We finally did ice painting! It was Easter and we needed to turn it into some kind of eggy activity so we decided to make icy eggs painting (the idea of freezing ice in the balloon came from Growing a Jeweled Rose blog, I think, but can't find exact post to link it). This is what our "final products" looked like:

The activity is quite simple: all you need is ice and some liquid paints, food colouring in our case.

Below are some pictures of the process: Alicia would paint icy egg, then water it down, then paint it again.

The paint was getting inside the cracks in the ice creating interesting colours. This is my favourite one: yellow colour was glowing from inside with blue colour on top. Very pretty!

Another piece of ice ...

Some sensory experience for our baby too (he is 8 months old here)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Lorax play

Alicia brought Lorax book from her school library. She loved the book and we watched "Lorax" movies (both old and new) a few times, actually. Then we decided to make some Truffula trees - I remember seeing this on In Lieu of Preschool blog and I thought she'd like the idea. She loved it! We actually didn't paint the tree fluff - just used some craft wool I got on sale a few months ago. It came in a few different colours.  Alicia glued the fluff to the craft sticks and we stood them up in a box of rice. We also made Barbaloots and Lorax himself from felt and pompoms and Once-ler was one of the HappyLand characters (he actually looked a bit like Once-ler from a movie!).
Alicia loved acting on characters while I was reading that book. (My English is not that great so it was a bit of a challenge for me).