The Texture Of Things

WFMW: Sidewalk Chalk Numbers

November 1st, 2006

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The sidewalk in front of my house is made up of thirteen concrete squares. How do I know this? Why, I’ve numbered them, that’s how.

Indeed, I’ve gone through a lot of sidewalk chalk keeping those little buggers numbered all summer and fall this year, but there have been several payoffs. Here’s what works for me about this:

First, the tot is fascinated by numbers and letters and makes me draw them for her repeatedly until I think my head will burst. (She’s two. Whaddya gonna do?) Her goal is to step on each number and say its name, so when I draw them on the sidewalk, she’ll burn about a million calories walking up and down the numbers endlessly.

Second, she gets a lot of numbers practice going up and down the sidewalk, both counting forward and backward. Its fortunate that I’ve got thirteen squares, actually, because she needs more practice with thirteen. Without the visual prompt, she’ll count to twelve and then say, “sixteen, sixteen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty.” She’s doing really well with counting backwards from ten now, too, and can do it spontaneously.

Third, frankly she loves it when we draw with sidewalk chalk, but really. My creativity gets tapped. How many caterpillars, balloons, smilies, bunnies, and shapes can I draw before both of us get bored with them? Then, I can always refresh the sidewalk numbers and off she’ll go, giving me a minute to stand up and give my back a break.

Fourth, it keeps her on a part of the sidewalk and driveway away from the street, which I’m terrified she’ll run into since she doesn’t stop on command.

Last, it buys me a break. This is no exaggeration: she is capable of spending over 45 minutes traipsing up and down the sidewalk, but only if there are numbers on the squares. (Occasionally she’ll allow letters.) I can lazily follow her, snap photos, pull a weed or two, chat with our neighbor, or contemplate just about anything while she plods away. She is happy to do it with me or by herself (with me in view), and that makes the effort of drawing the numbers worth it.

But wait! That’s not all!

You don’t have to be an artist. I have drawn plain numbers and outline numbers. I have drawn big ones and small ones. I have added the spelled out numbers below them. I have had to scratch out mistakes and color in goof ups. What seems to matter to the tot most is that they are always there or are easy to put there again and that we do it together.

Also!
Sidewalk chalk is a healthy part of your complete sensory diet:
*The dusty texture is unique. It is not a typical solid and it is not soft, though it leaves residue on your hands.
*Drawing with chalk teaches cause and effect. Draw all you want on the pavement, sure, but when you run out of room and crawl across your drawing to open pavement, you smear the existing drawing and get smudges on your clothing.
*Drawing on different surfaces yields distinct sensations in your hand. Grooved concrete like my sidewalk makes the chalk vibrate differently in my hand than when it glides across the relatively smooth asphalt of my driveway.

Certainly, this activity is based on having a regular space to draw safely, so what ways could it be adapted to other situations? Anyone?

(Hop on over to Rocks in my Dryer for about a billion more great ideas!)

Works For Me Wednesday – Make It Pasty!*

September 26th, 2006

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A friend of mine (who might be lurking here – Hi!) recently suckered me into doing the 6-week Solution, a weight loss class at my local Curves establishment. I was already a member there, but I did need this kind of kick in the pants to take it to a level that counts. So, hooray for us! (I won’t know until later today if the first week, aka “Phase I”, has worked for me.)

It’s true what they say, though. Phase I is tough.

But, I digress. What is actually working for me has to do with the Curves shake. What you might not know about the 6-week Solution is that it comes complete with this optional protein shake that one may enjoy once a day. Although no one would say it at the first class, it seemed to me from what they weren’t saying that one might not actually enjoy the shake if one merely stirred it with a spoon. The common advice was to acquire and use a Curves shaker cup, kind of like a martini shaker only not, or to use a blender. Yes, well, therein lies the problem. I’m not going to shell out cash for the shaker yet because I’m not sure how much more money I want to invest in this; besides, money is tight in Casa Texture right now. Also, a blender? Sure, I have one, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pull it out every day for one shake, and I have no counter space. Also? I am the laziest person I know**. I don’t want to wash the thing if I don’t have to.

The first night of the diet, I mixed my shake powder into the milk with a spoon, like I would make a glass of Kool Aid: put in powder, add fluid, stir. The resulting shake had a top, floaty layer that was simultaneously gritty and foamy. I could see where the Curves rep was coming from. I did not enjoy that night’s shake.

The second night, I employed a method I think I saw on an episode of Good Eats. I put the powder in the glass. I add just enough milk to make a thick paste from the powder. Stir, stir, stir hard. Get all the powder into the paste. I have found over the last few days that about 2 ounces of the total 8 is just about right, creating something about as thick as homemade chocolate cake frosting. (Mmmmm, frosting…) Then add the remaining milk and stir together briskly.

The result? No grit anywhere in it. No foamy layer. No clumps of unstirred, unbroken powder. It tastes pretty good, actually, a whole lot better than the powder smells, to be sure. And, I don’t have to clean any contraption of any kind to do it. I just need a spoon.

I have since tried this with my daughter’s Ovaltine, and it works there, too, although I never had quite the problem with Ovaltine as I have with the shake.

Hop on over to Rocks in my Dryer for this week’s Works for me Wednesday, a “Best Of”!

*(I know I am posting this on Tuesday, but I won’t have a chance to post this tomorrow. Also, this week is supposed to be all “Best Of” links over at Shannon’s, but I’ve only had one WFMW before, so here is a new one instead.)

**I’m lazy, but I’m honest.

Works For Me Wednesday – Puff Balls

September 20th, 2006

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I am always looking for toys or activities to help my toddler with her texture sensitivities, and this is one all little kids might like. I like to call it “Raking Puff Balls.”

What you’ll need:
1.Puff Balls (may also be known as poms, I’m not sure)
2.Child-sized rake
3.Space to spill stuff and move it around

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rake and puffs in plastic salad bowl

What I recommend:
1. Vacuum first if you haven’t done so recently. Seriously. Even if you don’t have cats, like we do. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t, but you should be warned that hair does gravitate toward the puffs.
2. A D-handle on the rake, so you don’t have to be quite as nervous about someone losing an eye while doing this.

The puff balls alone are a fun texture toy. I got the puff balls at my local craft store. The bag had mixed colors and sizes (from about 1/2 inch to roughly 2 inches) and I got them because they’d be a fun alternative texture to the beans and rice we’d been playing with. They are good for mixing with the beans because they are easy to pick out, but while they’re in there, they make for a great disparity of textures. I also figured that if my daughter wasn’t interested in playing with the puffs, we’d keep them for crafts. It turns out she does love them – so much so that I can’t put them away. Ever.

More up-sides to the puffs: They are light and easy for a little kid to carry around in a bowl; they were fairly cheap (use store coupon = even cheaper!); they are fun to sort in different ways; they make great cat toys after your child’s gone to bed; they are completely replaceable, in the event of loss; they are quiet, for when mama has a headache; if you put them in a bowl, they make a great ball pit for Fisher Price Little People; and so on.

Now for the rake. I found it at my local super-discount/grocery store for $1.79. My mind has been turned outdoors and toward autumn, when my yard fills with leaves to be raked up. What does one do with a toddler when one has yard work to do? Put her to work. It’s about time she started earning her keep. When I got home, the tot saw the rake and demanded to use it. As it happened, there were puff balls scattered across my living room. Ding! Conveniently, the brightness from the light bulb over my head provided good lighting for her to play by.

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rake in puffs on carpet

Hop on over to Rocks in my Dryer for about a billion more great ideas!

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