Friday, December 31, 2010

A sheet holding confetti and balloons

The girls went over to Trixie and Vivian's house for a Disco New Year's Party.  Sarah and Scott Miller have been doing this for a few years and the kids love it.  At 7pm there was a huge countdown and then balloons and confetti hung in a sheet from the ceiling rained down on the kids.  They loved it. 
 A disco ball and tunes from the 80's played for a couple hours.
 Let 2011 begin!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Simone's on the cover of Life Magazine in Shanghai

Peter Lundberg, the sculptor of massive concrete works, and Graceley, the curator for the Chinese Olympic sculpture collection, came to visit last week.  Gracely brought a copy of Life magazine from Shanghai (The Bund).  Would you believe that Simone was on the cover, happily enjoying the first bite of a biblically rosy apple in a sunny spot.  I did the interview a couple months ago and was aware that the story was to be published but I had not seen the actual magazine and it was large and glossy.   It showed off the powerful photography of Stuart Islett.  His images unfold like stories.  Here is the link to The Bund article.

Friday, December 24, 2010

They are so much fun!

Goofy as can be whether we are in the minivan...

Or the apartment.... 

At the park...
On writing on our sidewalk.  Playing is an art form, mastered by kids.
They crack themselves up...
...and, of course, I'm in stitches by then.
Such explores.  Such abandon!  Simone and Naomi relinquish themselves into what ever they are doing. This shot above is Naomi resting between moves.  Naomi started flipping herself around this bar over and over and over and over...till she got whatever it was she was trying to do and then many more times she flipped herself about clearly having a great time. It looked like she was intent on figuring out all the moves she could do with that bar in the middle of a packed playground.  
They sure are fun to travel with!
Heave Ho!

Ten favorite toys

Here are Simone and Naomi's favorite toys:

1.) CONSTRUCTION BOX that consists of a canvas bag of assorted wood pieces, four clamps, fancy paper, felt, wood glue and various do dads that can be made into doll house furniture.  The local lumber yard gave us bags to fill up with free scrap wood (you can also get that from enasco for $3.75) then I ordered bags of little wood turrets and other turnings and wood shapes. To date the girls have made a swing set, two minaret enhanced bookcases, a sculpture for the front yard of their doll house, a bunk bed, a garage, a water trough for the animals in their wood barn and a little tent for camping out.  If you have older kids, this Doll House Woodcraft Kit would be appropriate.  

I helped out with a hot glue gun at one point...but the rest of the time the girls have used wood glue. They love playing with their WOODEN DOLL HOUSE and WOOD BARN and often start-out doing that and then migrate over to the "construction box" to build something they decide they need for a particular scene in that day's doll drama.  

2.) Snap Circuits PRO. This is an amazing toy!  Stop the presses for this one!  We all love playing with this and every time we have playdates, Simone takes her friends over to it and explains how you can snap pieces together to make dynamically working electric circuits.  The instructions are easy and everything is color coded.  Even 3 year old Naomi could put together the first book of 100 projects. We made fans, an FM radio, lights that are voice or clap activated and various spacey noises and we've ad libbed to create a vibration detector and oscillated strobes and used battery or solar power for these and various switches.  There is a great deal to learn and with each project the workbook succinctly sums up the lessons learned. Various kits, all worthwhile ranging from $10.99 to $72.51.  We did the giant box and will clearly be working on the 750 projects till the saints come marching in.  We could have easily started with the Elenco Snap Circuits Jr. 100-in-1 that is $30 dollars and upgraded as we complete each series of projects. 
Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100

We learned about Snap Circuits Pro from Debbie Dubrow and Peyman Oreizy.  Their kids, Everest (5), Darya (3) and Alon (1) were gathered around the snap circuits board when we were over there for a playdate.  I can't thank them enough.  It is such a powerful way to learn how electrical circuits run the everyday devices we're familiar with as well as allow us to invent some of our own.  (Yes, I have as much fun playing with this as my kids do.)
3.)The K'Nex Super Swing was a ton of fun to build and we love that K'Nex works well with legos so we were able to build out the seats of the motorized swing and add lego people and clowns and doll up the final creation to our hearts content.  As with all K'Nex sets, after you build the design, you can take it apart and create an infinite number of other motorized structures as the gears in this kit are especially versatile to play with. I do think this was a bit complicated which is why this is a parent and child project.  This kit was $20.99. 


4.) Ellyn Hennecke and Bob Nelsen came over for dinner a couple weeks ago and brought boxes and boxes of Playmobile kits.  We had never checked these toys out.  What a surprise. Simone and Naomi play with them for hours and hours.  We brought them with us on our holiday trip to Mexico and again they were rich foder for daily make-believe stories.  I love listening as the stories unfold.  Often Simone lays out the parameters, "Naomi you are this boy and he is little and needs a lot of help but he does know how to fish. You can also be this pirate."  "I'm going to be these five ladies over here with all this stuff."  We managed to put almost everything inside the take along box when we headed to Mexico and it was great.

Here is some of what Ellyn and Bob brought over!  It was truly amazing!  
Playmobil My Take Along Princess Fantasy Set
Playmobil Animal Vet Operating Room
Mighty World Marine Research Unit
Playmobil 4254 Royal Nursery
Playmobil Animal ClinicMighty World Marine Research Unit     Playmobil Animal Vet Operating Room    Playmobil My Take Along Princess Fantasy Set

5.) Thrift shop wedding dresses with veil.  Yes exactly that..and a pair of sharp shears, threaded needles, as, of course, quite a few alterations were needed.  It looks sketchy at this point...but I can tell this will continue to get lots of use.  This is the latest addition to our overflowing DRESS-UP CHEST.

6.) Magna-Tiles are a bunch of colorful isosceles triangles, equilateral triangles, right triangles and squares of various sizes.  All of these go together to create two-dimenstional and three-dimensional structures.  These work for nearly any age as they are indestructible.  They come in opaque or transparent colors and work with another magnetic building toy called Magformers.   Magformers have a few more shapes, diamonds and hexagons, rectangles and are not solid so they can be the windows for the Magna-tele creations.  This toy is a bit heavy to take on a trip but we did bring them to the Hamptons last year and they were endlessly fun to design with. 
 Magna-Tiles Clear Colors 32 piece setMagformers / Magnetic Building Carnival 38-piece Set

7.) Our mobile painting kit.  This small red round suitcase has been dragged all over.  It has everything the three of us need to set up shop in a park, at an outdoor table, or on the deck. Inside the suitcase is the following:

  1. Water bottle.
  2. Two plastic cups. 
  3. 12 tubes of Goache paint. ($7.95) 
  4. Two 5 dollar watercolor kits, one regular and one pearlescent.
  5. A pad of watercolor paper ($5.99) and a pad of drawing paper ($4.00)
  6. A set of 50 washable color markers. ($12.25)
  7. Pencils and a pencil sharpener.
  8. Oversize cardboard letters and cardboard people.
Though the mobile painting suitcase is light and small...On Naomi, hmm not so much.
8.) Rocket Balloon with Pump  We spend much of the summer beach side carting a Shade tent, a gardeners shovel, a water bucket and this rocket ballon toy.  Our rocket balloon ($9.99) is a piped piper. Kids magically appear when we take it out.  The pump attaches to the balloons and makes it possible for a small child to blow up their own, then you release them and they make a big noise and spiral high into the air.  Lots of running ensues as the kids try to figure out where they will fall.  We used it at the sculpture park not long ago and when we arrived there was not a child in sight, suddenly a dozen appeared to pursue the noisy balloons.
Rocket Balloon with Dual-Action Pump (Colors May Vary)

9.) A Game Cabinet.  Our cabinet is packed with box games..some tradition ones I collected from thrift shops: Life, Clue, Scrabble, Sightword Bingo, Mathable, Blokus, Apples to Apples Junior.  Others are   from Amazon: Guess Who ($24.79) Chocolate Fix ($13.71) and Banagrams ($12.95) and Guess Where($86.95).
Guess Who? Board Game  ThinkFun Chocolate FixBananagrams
Guess Where
10.) Our horse tire swing  ($79.99)  We've tied this swing up on a zip line across our living room and use it everday.  Sheets get thrown over the zip line to create a scrim for plays and when the horse arrives on the it swings...
Tire Swing - Horse