corners of my home

playful learning - thoughts on crafting a space

our new studio

Our studio bustles with activity in the mornings. After thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to myself, spent cleaning up the joyful mess of the previous day's gathering, I peek in to find Finn totally immersed in art. He doesn't notice my presence, his concentration is so deep.

When we moved in to our new home a few weeks ago, I knew setting up this space would be a priority. Just as having a functioning kitchen is a necessity for mama, the art area is a necessity for the two year-old.

Fortunately for me, Mariah Bruehl's treasure trove of a book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child's Sense of Joy and Wonder arrived on my new front porch just in time to provide plentiful inspiration.

Playful Learning Book

And today, I'm honored to be sharing this space with Mariah as part of her blog tour! Read on to find out how you can enter to win a copy of Playful Learning or a spot in Mariah's e-course Playful Learning Spaces.

I'm pretending that Mariah's actually here with me now ...

Meg: Hi Mariah! Welcome to my new house! And please excuse the five-foot-high pile of books to your right as you walk in the door. ;) 

our new studio

Mariah: Thank you for having me. I feel so honored to be able to get a sneak peek into your studio!

Meg: I feel so shy showing our new playing/learning space so early in its (hopefully very long) life. I spent many, many hours dreaming about this space - making lots of lists and rearranging furniture in my head. It still feels like it needs so much tweaking. It was easy to feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the design process, but it was only in the (finally ... ever so gingerly) stepping out of the dreaming phase and into the hands-on arranging of the space that it really began to come alive properly.

our new studio

Some of the design came directly from those pictures in my head, and some of it came from the singularity of the space itself - its own idiosyncrasies combined with those of my toddler which made the space into a functional living area. I'd say that embarking on creating a playful learning space in your home is an exciting, yet nearly paralyzing process if you let yourself get too bogged down with all of your ideas for the space. It just kind of has to develop of its own accord. Has this been your experience with creating learning spaces both in the home and in the classroom environment?

Mariah: Most definitely! I am often overtaken by analysis paralysis. You are exactly right. The best way to break out of it is to dive-in and start experimenting.  When I view the process of creating spaces for my children as being experimental, it takes the pressure off of me to make things perfect. I find it helpful to take breaks and watch the way the girls interact with the space for a bit (you should see the piles outside of the atelier door!) and then make more changes. Taking the time to observe how your children are responding to a space can spark a lot of ideas. I also find it helpful to focus on one area at a time. I usually find that one one area falls into place, things start clicking all around. It is important to remember that small changes can make a big difference and everything does not have to be accomplished at one time. 

our new studio

Meg: Playful Learning has a very helpful checklist for items to include when setting up your space - be it the art area, writing center, or nature/science corner. I found myself referring to these pages quite often as I dug through my closet of supplies. (Oh my. That's another subject for another time - but eventually I need to have a super organized closet so I can find the supplies that I need when the inspiration strikes!) 

our new studio

Mariah: The checklists of supplies in the book are a good place to start when thinking about setting up different areas in your home that encourage reading, writing, science, art and so on. It is always fun to tune into your child's new interests in topics or materials and then create a space for further exploration.

our new studio

For example the play dough sculpting activity you put together for Finn was the right activity for him at the right time. You picked up on his interest in play dough and took it to the next level by providing him with interesting tools and modeling for him how he can independently take out and put away the activity. I will never forget the video you shared of Finn doing just that!

our new studio

our new studio

The same is true for the cutting exercise you created. Learning to cut is a developmental milestone for children Finn's age and they love to repeat it over and over again until the skill has been mastered. I am sure that Finn is loving that you created such a lovely tray for him with everything he needs to work on this important task. I loved seeing that Amanda Soule is experiencing the same phenomenon with her toddler. She shared a photo here (third picture from the top) and stated that she is "loving Harper's love of scissors." 

Meg: Playful Learning's ideas and activities, while written with the 4-8 year-old in mind, are certainly applicable for younger children as well. For Finn (27 months), art and writing are one and the same, so I have an art area set up for him. Eventually, as his interest words continues to blossom, I will begin to put together a writing center. That said, I found your suggestion for creating a "Mailing Station," complete with address labels for family and friends, as well as envelopes, stamps, and place for outgoing mail, totally ingenious! I have plans to set up our own Mailing Station in the near future, so Finn can send his artwork to his great-grandparents in California or to his friends who live in town. (As a sidenote, another cool feature of Playful Learning is that Mariah includes SO MANY book suggestions - the guidelines for setting up a Mailing Station are accompanied by mail-themed books to pique interest in the subject.)

Mariah: The mailing station is a big hit in our house! The goal is to provide children with what they need, so that when they  have the desire to reach out and send something they have made to a loved one, they are able to act on their idea. Once they realize that they can be successful at tasks like mailing letters, it becomes a part of their routine. We want our children to develop lifelong habits of heart and mind—children who write because they have something that they want to share, or they want to capture an idea or they want to connect with someone in their lives. When we create an environment that provides them with the tools they need to act on their natural inclinations, writing becomes a valuable medium for self-expression, rather than an end in itself.  

Meg: I really believe that a space will evolve with the child, and that we, as parents, must often take a step back and evaluate the current set-up to see if it meets the needs of the little people who move through it and use it in their play and creative exploits. The designer/artist in me wishes that I could just create a beautiful space and leave it at that, but that's just not the reality of life with a child who is constantly learning new things both about the world in which he lives and about himself and how he moves in the world. I know that this studio of ours will change with time, while keeping a familiar and orderly backbone so my boys can use it with confidence. A few tips I have for creating a studio space:

our new studio

- Rotate, rotate, rotate! The older a child gets, the more materials you can have available (i.e. collage materials.) This isn't the case for a toddler. Keep a collage tray on the shelf, but rotate out the materials every week or so. Our art area is very much a Montessori set-up from my own background, and I think this balance of having a limited number of materials on display with which the child can explore freely fits the 2-4 year-old age range quite well. The older the child gets, the more access they can have to all of the family art supplies. Currently, Finn can use everything on the red shelf, but can't yet reach the supplies on the white shelf. He can see the paints and ask to paint with me if he wishes, though.

Mariah: Yes! You just brought up some really important points...

Less is best. Over the years I have moved towards leaving out less and less in terms of toys and materials for the girls. I have found that when there is less to choose from, they make better use of their things. With that said, I make sure to have everything they need for the activities that I do make available. I love creating theme based baskets and trays, that rotate as the girls interests change. For example, my youngest daughter loves to paint so I leave out a tray with a blank canvas, paints, brushes, a color wheel, and a color mixing palate so that she can create whenever the mood strikes her. I love how you have done the same thing with Finn—making age appropriate materials available to him that he can access and use independently.

You are never "finished." The spaces we create for our children are never “finished”, but are continually evolving as our children grow and develop new interests. We can create a useful “infrastructure” but the materials and activities need to be revisited and rotated on a regular basis. I like to take a fresh look at our atelier approximately every six months to replenish, reorganize and update the materials and displays according to where the girls are both developmentally and interest wise. It never ceases to amaze me how a few little tweaks can inspire the girls to move right into the fresh space filled with new ideas and projects.

Meg: - When it comes to envisioning the perfect space, there's no better way to store all of your ideas than on a Pinterest board. Mariah has very inspiring boards. Try keeping one board for "spaces for kids" and one for "activities for kids." 

Mariah: Being a visual person, Pinterest has opened up a whole new world for me. I have found it to be a wonderful resource for inspiration, especially in terms of creating spaces for children. It also gives a glimpse into the thought processes of some of my favorite bloggers. It is a really fun way to connect, share and become inspired.

our new studio

Meg:  Make a wish list. For example, the area to the left of the red art shelf and pin board is where I will eventually put a big, black chalkboard - I just don't have the time to do that right now. I'm also on the hunt for a child's rolltop desk and a just-right shelf for our writing area. I have a list that I take with me thrifting, and when we have some cash to spare I search Craigslist, Ebay or Etsy for a specific item. For example, I had a pastry stand on my wish list for displaying materials and recently found one for just a few dollars. 

Mariah: I definitely have my fair share of wish lists! I also find it helpful to add general things to the list, like "ribbon storage" or "glitter management". Then I try to look for unconventional ways of storing and displaying those materials. Often times I already have something that can be repurposed to meet our current needs.

Congratulations on your truly helpful book, Mariah. I know that it is a resource that parents of young children will reference over and over again. 

To enter to win a copy of Playful Learning or a spot in Mariah's upcoming e-course Playful Learning Spaces, leave a comment with your favorite idea (include a link for inspiration if applicable!) for a child's Playful Learning Space. The winners will be drawn on Sunday evening, August 21st. 

Comments are closed! Congratulations to Misha and Christine.


celebrating

mima's birthday celebration

mima's birthday celebration

mima's birthday celebration

mima's birthday celebration

mima's birthday celebration

My mom turned 60 on Saturday, and we hosted the party at our house. Much has changed since her 59th birthday celebration. Last year she celebrated without us at my parents' home in California. This year?

Well.

This year, we celebrated with her in our new home. Which is just a handful of miles away from their new house. My parents moved to North Carolina right before Lachlan's second surgery! Even though we are both still getting used to our new surroundings and unpacking this and that ... even though we are far from our beloved California mountains ... even though life is not always peaches and cream ... we are together. With Mima and Papa close by, we are all happier. We eat berries and cream together. And chocolate cake (a yummy recipe from A Homemade Life .) 

For Mima's big birthday, we were excited to welcome my aunt and her partner from up north, and we were all surprised when my other aunt from California showed up as well! Much laughter ensued, and we all learned a bit about campfire cooking as we tried out our pie irons for the first time, christening our new backyard fire pit. Homemade bread, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and some butter makes some delish pie iron paninis. 

I'm thinking I could eat that for every meal for the duration of tomato season.

Here's to my own love-filled Mama. My boys are lucky boys indeed, to have their Mima's presence warm their days.

P.S. More on the shelf (it's actually our old bookcase) and the kitchen soon. I'm still too shy to show it off in its unfinished state quite yet!


getting outside

getting outside

With so many half-finished projects inside, we've been spending as much time outside as possible. We wake up to half-primed walls, give them a tip of the hat, then politely exit stage left, escaping to our beautiful gardens.

getting outside

We're slowly getting to know them, these lush, green "walls" of ours. It seems we discover a new flower daily, a new insect hourly. 

getting outside

getting outside

getting outside

When we first toured this house, it was the end of a long day of house hunting. We were tired. Hungry. Discouraged. As we drove to this house, we were resigned to rent for another year because nothing was working out for us - nothing felt right. We got here, climbed out of the car, grumpy as ever, and started to walk around. Like a balm for the soul, this place started to work its wonders immediately. Finn perked up and began to explore the many wonders of nature and hidden spaces. Patrick's furrowed brow relaxed. I immediately saw us here. Outside. 

getting outside

getting outside

There is always work to be done outside, as stewards of this plot of land. However, it's so much less weighty than inside work. If a plant grows wild, it is still beautiful. (If a sink leaks, the beauty is less ... umm ... striking.) If the grass grows too tall, it is a better playground for a cat. 

We love it out here. 


trying it on

trying it on

Putting together a home is sort of like going shopping for jeans that fit. I try on this, throw it aside, try on that, spin around a few times ... nope, not quite ... and then, finally, try on something almost just right, resigning myself to a few future alterations.

There are a few key differences in putting together a home and shopping for a pair of jeans. The first is obvious - who likes shopping for jeans? Not me. I do, however, love putting together little useful corners to live in. The second is that, instead of purchasing new items, I get the creative challenge of reinvisioning the furniture and decor items that I already have, and every time I do this I'm so surprised at how different yet comfortingly similar newly conceived spaces can feel. A few coats of paint. A lot of just standing and staring at a space, rearranging in my head. 

trying it on

This little corner is one of my favorites. It fits us just right. No matter the half-painted bookshelves across from it. No matter the art area in its non-functioning infancy just out of the photo frame. This spot is where we live.

Our studio. 


moving day(s)

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moving day

Somehow, two weeks have gone by! Somehow, we are all moved out of our old house and have cozied in here. Somehow, despite working from dawn until (way) past dusk for two weeks, we still have boxes and boxes to unpack! I know that I don't have to explain myself to anyone who has ever moved anywhere with a baby and a toddler in tow, but holy cow, that was hard! Over the two weeks, I composed many posts in my head, with the following titles: greetings from chaoslandia ... recovering from the great plaster distaster (which involved a sander) ... I'd write a post but I can't see through my head fog ... and the list goes on.

But you know what? We're here, thanks to our friends and family. Without all of their help, I'm pretty sure I'd still be holding Finn on my hip in our old house, looking at all of the stuff that still needed to be packed. You know the lyrics to the Beatles song - I get by with a little help from my friends? Mmm hmm. I'm pretty sure our circle consists of some of the most generous and loving people around. They've helped us through so much these past six months!

So here we are. So happy to be here. Home. As I write this, I hear Finn, Patrick and Lachlan playing the guitar/piano and singing. It feels so right.

 


home

homecoming

homecoming

homecoming

homecoming

homecoming

homecoming

homecoming

homecoming

homecoming

homecoming

On Friday, Lachlan came home.

We closed on our first house Friday morning, signed all the papers, then headed to the hospital to bring our boy to the house that will be his childhood home. Nearly three acres in the country, full of warmth and love. And, as Finn will point out ... we now have cows who live across the street and eat grass, but they don't moo, because their mouths are full of grass. Hee!

Life is beautiful. Even in the most trying of times, wonderful things can happen.

More details to come. Right now we're in a jumble of boxes and stuff, living in a limbo between these two residences. We sleep in our old place, and work all day at the new one. It's a jovial sort of busy. Back with a "before" tour before too long!


knitting organization

Alas, no finished knitting project to show off (yet), but I did tackle one of the more pressing organizational tasks in my home when Finn and Patrick were away.

knitting needles 1

You see, I'm the kind of person who needs to have an organized space - a clean slate - to begin a project. I just can't relax into a creative moment until everything is in its place. I've often thought that this need encumbers my artistic spirit, but I've recently come to terms with the fact that my artistic spirit is so visual that it requires simplicity, clean lines, and beauty in order to function. Either that or it's just plain OCD. Lately, the knitting side of this artistic spirit has been seriously squelched by a major needle disorganization. Needles would crop up everywhere - in unfinished projects, in the bottom of various baskets, and jammed into an ineffective needle storage roll. I could never find the fourth double-pointed needle for knitting a sock, and I could never find the size that I needed. Sometimes I ended up purchasing a set of needles that I already had, just because I couldn't find what I was looking for at the time.

knitting organization

All of this meant that, since it took so much effort to start a project, I hardly ever did. Not so anymore!

knitting organization 2

Admittedly, this storage solution isn't for those low on space, but it is pretty and cheery. Everything is housed in the jars - the collection of needles that I inherited from my great-grandmother, the stitch markers and the tapestry needles. I arranged them in wide-mouth mason jars on top of my yarn collection. Each jar contains a specific needle size (1's on the left, 10's on the right, and every kind of needle I own in the given size - double-pointeds, circulars, straights, etc.)  I need a few more jars to house the bigger sizes, but there's no rush. I have something cozy (for me!) on the needles right now, and all is right with the world.

 


the rainbow rug

rainbow rug 1

Looking back, I fully admit that this was one of those crazy pregnancy-induced projects. When else would someone find it necessary to spend weeks braiding, piecing, and sewing a rug for a play room? I can answer that! When that very someone found it INCREDIBLY uncomfortable to sit on the floor due to a burgeoning belly. The piles of t-shirt yarn were strewn across the room, threatening to consume her.

Poor lady. We crafters do the oddest things when we have a goal in mind, don't we?

rainbow rug 2

I must be frank with you. This was not an easy project. Grumbles and sighs could often be heard coming from my sewing studio until late into the night. The braiding was meditative, but coiling it and stitching it together with the correct tension? Oh. My. I can't tell you how many times I had to rip the thing out and start over. Sometimes I would pull too tightly on the coil being attached and the thing would turn into a bowl rather than a rug. At other times, I would have too little tension on the braid, and the rug would ripple and wave. I never seemed to be able to get the hang of it - it was trial and error the whole way through.

I started off with the intention of sewing it together by hand, following the instructions in Handmade Home. I quickly figured out that hand sewing was not cutting it for the stretchy t-shirt fabric. I'm sure it would work wonderfully for woven cottons or wool, but the jersey was just slipping all over the place. So I switched to machine zigzagging the coils together, as shown in the photo below (along with cat hair and crumbs). Even with my walking foot and appropriate needle, I had issues (see above) that necessitated a lot of seam ripping.

rainbow rug detail

In the end, though, I couldn't be happier with the results. I daresay it was even worth the effort. (Of course it was.) I just want to warn you that you'll likely spend a whole lot of time on this project, so if you're looking for a beautiful rug without the challenge of sewing it together yourself, you should check out Green at Heart's incredible offerings. If you are set on making your own (Laurine from Green at Heart said that she'll have some more t-shirt rug yarn available in the next few days) then set aside some quality time to become one with strips of t-shirts that are 1.5" wide.  

Even with all of the frustrating moments, I would do it again. I mean, how awesome is this rug? But you know what? I'll cross that bridge when I'm no longer pregnant.

 


finnian and lachlan's studio

finn and lachlan's studio 1

Oh, I love this room. I want to spend all day in it. I love the way the sunlight enters in the afternoons, making rainbows dance on the walls as it passes through a prism in the window, eliciting squeals from the toddler as he runs around trying to "catch wainbow."

finn and lachlan's studio - reading nook

As with everything, Finn and Lachlan's studio/play room/art room is a work in progress. I'm constantly tweaking this arrangement or that activity on the shelf, like any Montessori-teacher-at-heart would. With Finn as my guide, the set-up gets more efficient, more user-friendly with each passing day. I see this room in a state of constant evolution. Right now, it is designed to fit the needs of a baby and a toddler. Eventually, it will morph into a homeschooling studio/library/art space.

finn and lachlan's studio - baby play mat with hanger for mobiles

Here you can see the playmat with a mirror for Lachlan, along with a mobile hanger where we will rotate mobiles to maintain his interest.

finn and lachlan's studio - toy storage

Currently, the toy shelf houses a few of Finn's things. Once Lachlan starts grasping at objects and moving around, the lower shelf will be dedicated to baby toys, while the higher shelves will contain Finn's toys. (More on the rainbow rug later this week!)

finn and lachlan's studio - toy, yarn, and child development books storage

You can also see that I've reserved some shelf space for my stuff. My yarn stash and my child development books can be found there. I've found that having this space for Finn allows me to have just a few more precious moments of knitting time while he's occupied with play or art projects. The basket on top of the shelves contains my current works-in-progress, ready to be picked up at any time.

The bottom shelf of the skinny bookcase is showcasing Finn's rocks and minerals as well as any other finds from our time outside. I guess you would call it a Nature Shelf.

finn and lachlan's studio - art area

Here's the art area, which deserves a post of its own later in the week.

finn and lachlan's studio - art area 2

And finally, since I know you will ask, I'm going to list where I found many of the items you see here. Most of this was accomplished with re-arranging furniture and supplies we already had on hand.

The Rainbow Rug: handmade with recycled t-shirt supplies from Green at Heart.

The Reading Canopy: handmade by sewing a 108" x 54" silk to a circular hand-quilting hoop (like an embroidery hoop, only huge!), adding lengths of hemp twine to the hoop, then attaching them to a sling ring. Another (square) piece of white silk was draped over this contraption, and we used fishing wire to hang it from a hook in the ceiling. The large floor pillow and faux lambskin were scavenged from elsewhere in the house. I'd like to eventually replace the pillow with a handmade bean bag chair.

Baskets: I find most of my baskets at the thrift store, but have a few from a local fair trade store that are handmade in Ghana (the colorful ones.) I've also seen similar ones for sale at Whole Foods.

Silks: These really are SO versitile in play - Finn uses them for everything, from peek-a-boo to putting his animals down for a "nap." We found ours from Birch Leaf Designs, a family-run business.

The Barn: This was Finn's Christmas gift from us, from Nova Natural. We also have the doll bed from Nova Natural - it was used as a prop in my new book!

Baby Play Mat: I'm not sure if this is the version we have (we've had ours since Finn was born) but it's a similar, thin, foam crib mattress from IKEA.  The clear mobile hanger is from Michael Olaf. The mirror is just one of those cheap closet mirrors turned on its side that we scavenged from the oh-so-full-of-treasures attic. (You never know what you'll find in an old rental house!)

Bookcase: The IKEA Expidit, relocated from our bedroom.

Chalkboard: Handmade by Patrick. We'd like to eventually find an old, wooden frame for it. The galvanized metal bucket hanging from the hook is from our time in Mexico, but you should be able to find something similar at Montessori Services (although not nearly as cheap, I'm afraid!) The bucket contains chalk and an eraser, and I drape a damp washcloth from the hook as well for Finn to use to wipe off his chalky hands.

Red shelving: From my old sewing studio, this was originally purchased on the cheap at an unfinished furniture store. This shelf is where I display art activities for Finn. Currently, you can see the supplies for play dough sculpting.

Art Table: This was our big purchase for the room, and it's certainly worth it. I was going to steal Patrick's desk from him and cut off the legs, but when he found out, he suggested this alternative. Harumph. The old desk would have looked so cool. But anyhow, this table is of excellent quality, is just the right height for little ones, and can easily fit two children at work. We ordered the 24" x 48" table with 18" table legs.

Mama and son print: A gift from the lovely Regina of Creative Kismet - it's called "I Will Help You Grow," and it means a lot to me for obvious reasons.

Paper dispenser/roll: We found ours locally, but if you live near an IKEA, you can get one for a very reasonable price. Too bad they don't offer shipping for those items!

Marker holder: I'll tell you more about this later, but Finn and I made ours following the instructions in First Art .

Tabletop Easel: This is something I've had for quite a while, but I think they still sell a version at Michael Olaf.

That should do it! Let me know if you have any other questions and I'll try to amend this resource list. I'll be doing a whole week of posts about this space - I even have a video to share with you tomorrow of Finn in action! I hope you enjoyed the tour.

 


finn's corner

practical life in the home 2

This past week, Finn came down with a case of the blahs and a fever. Not surprising, given the change of seasons, but it required a slowing down of sorts around here. (And cancelling our trip to Mexico, which we were certainly looking forward to, but the last thing you want to be doing with a sick toddler is international travel!)

So slow down we did. I think the most I accomplished last week, other than getting food on the table and getting an excellent upper body workout from carrying Finn all the time, was put up this little shelf. And to be honest, Patrick really did all the work. I gave him orders from the sidelines.

The shelf is the finishing touch to what I lovingly refer to as "Finn's Corner."  You're probably tired of seeing this this spot by now, but truly, it's the heart of Finn's practical, day-to-day experiences in our family. There's lots of activity in this corner, from serving water to sweeping, mopping, and wiping up spills. It's where I store a few much-used art materials (beeswax crayons and watercolor supplies) as well as where Finn polishes wood and plays with playdoh and has other encounters with art.

practical life in the home

From left to right on the peg shelf (found at Little Colorado): a Mama-made apron from my free pattern; a "wipe-up cloth" which is easy to make - take an old towel, hem the edges, and attach a ribbon loop for easy hanging; his rainbow broom; and his mop. The apron is a new addition to this kitchen/living space. He adores it, and loves that he has his very own now, just like his Mama. We put on aprons when we're baking, washing the dishes, or polishing wood.

polishing wood with beeswax

Polishing wood is the first Care of the Environment Montessori-style activity that I've set up for him. Up until now, he's just been offered the opportunity to mimick us in our everyday cleaning and cooking activities. This little tray is a very simple set-up, perfect for a toddler who has a lot of beautiful, unfinished wood in his life, from wooden toys to wooden plates. Polishing wood with beeswax (I recommend this stuff) is a safe, easy, and fun way for him to contribute to the care and beautification of his home environment.

polishing wood with beeswax 2

I put the soft beeswax in a tiny jam jar, the kind you might see if you go out to brunch at a nice-ish restaurant. I always unabashedly throw a few extra jam jars in my bag when I see them - they're so useful for helping little ones with portion control. I also use them in art activities. They're especially good for storing homemade paste for collage.

The teensy-weensy spoon is about the size of Finn's thumb, and also helps put a natural limit on how much beeswax is appropriate to use. I found it at Montessori Services while I was still teaching.

Finally, the cloth is from a stash I made for my classroom - 10 cm x 10 cm squares of flannel sewn with right sides together. Leave a small opening for turning it right side out, then topstitch along all edges, closing the opening. I have ten of these that I store on his play kitchen shelf; if one cloth gets very dirty, there's a laundry basket on the floor where Finn can place it (as well as dirty clean-up cloths) and then he can find a replacement from the stash on the shelf.

To present the wood polishing activity, I showed Finn how to get one scoop of beeswax from the jar and use his finger to place the wax on a wooden object. I used my index finger to work the wax into the wood, then sat in silence while it soaked in a bit. Finally, I used the flannel cloth to buff the wood, then returned the object and the tray to their respective spots. Eventually, I'll show him how to polish larger items, such as his play kitchen and shelving.

It was an instant hit with the 17 month-old, and I'm sorry I have no pictures to prove it. When it came time to take a few pictures for this post, my little model was running some errands with his Daddy. But you know what? It's hard to take pictures of a wiggly toddler in a low-light setting. All you would have seen would have been a blur of motion, anyway.

The slowing down stops as soon as the toddler feels better. You know how it goes!