Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Domino Mutha…

It has been a week since my boys started their summer vacations.  The plan was to have them spend the first two weeks at home with me before they started their summer camp.  There isn’t an issue with being home with me while I work, they are fairly self-sufficient, i.e. they can get their own water or juice boxes, use the bathroom by themselves (I say nothing about aim), they can even feed themselves (if it is some sugary junk food).  I can get the same amount of work done with them here, I just have to answer an unending stream of questions and respond to an equally unending stream of complaints.  My theory is that if I can regularly give them something to occupy their minds and hands, they will be content.  And if I schedule my day right, I can actually spend some time with them and do some interesting activities.  My goal in choosing activities is threefold, do something educational, tire them out and not spend any money doing it.  My kids will suck a wallet dry in a matter of minutes if you give into their whims.

On Monday, I took the afternoon off and took the kids to Annie’s Playground (no this is not a strip club).  This is a playground built to honor a young girl who died in Baltimore after being hit by drunk driver.  It is one of the largest playgrounds in the country (according to the plaque at the entrance).  The place is enormous, I tried to get a good picture to show how large it is, but I could only get about 1/2 of it in any shot that I took.  It is a really safe environment for kids to play and offers them a wide variety of things to do.  There numerous tunnels, rope ladders, monkey bars, shaky bridges, swings and slides.  The entire ground level is covered in rubber mulch made from shredded tires.  The boys and I decided to play hide and seek first and within five minutes, I busted my knee open trying to crawl through a tunnel.  Obviously they designed it for children’s safety, not big oafish adults.  We spent about an hour there before deciding it was too hot and headed out to find something else to do.

After finding nothing around town that didn’t cost money to do, we headed back home.  As the kids rested, I checked a few things for work and noticed a cool math trick in my Google Reader from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

I spent about an hour teaching this to my 7 YO.  They don’t make kids memorize times tables anymore, so this might be a handy trick (pun intended) for him until he has them memorized.  The 6 YO sat and watched what we were doing but wasn’t really interested in trying it.  They really didn’t cover multiplication in kindergarten, so the concept was advanced for him.  Like the cartoon suggested, I imagined what it would be like to have twenty fingers (or just include my feet) and the concept worked the same way.  You just have to remember that it is now vigesimal (base 20) and not decimal (base 10).

Latter that night, we were searching through the game cabinet for something to do and I saw a box of dominos and coaxed them into learning how to play.  My 6YO complained at first because he already knew how to play dominos.  “You just stand them up in a row and knock them over.”  I explained that there were other ways to play and then explained the rules.  He finally agreed to play.  I was cheating in the beginning to let my 6 YO win, because I didn’t want him to loose interest too quickly.  He quickly became very good and I didn’t have to handicap myself.  The few hands that I won, I was tempted to pull little Doughboy action, but I figured that they should wait before teaching that part of the game.

This morning, my 7 YO stumbled upon something very cool.  He was searching on Google (with my supervision) for Lego animation videos and found hundreds of YouTube videos instructing you how to build different things with Lego pieces.  Both boys spent hours rooting through our box of Lego pieces to build various different guns and ships.  I love when they work together and build things.  They both stared intently at the monitor as other kids explained what pieces they would need and how to assemble everything.  Considering how closely they followed the directions (which is very different from when I speak to them), I thought of posting my own series of videos for them on topics like “How to pee without drenching the seat”, “Just throwing trash at the can does not equal throwing something away”, “Showering in Four Simple Steps: Get Naked, Bathe, Dry and Re-dress” and “Shut the hell up: The story of Daddy’s Nap Time.”  I could even do stop motion animation with Lego minifigs.

The boys also started Taekwondo last week and at tonight’s lesson, I started recording the session.  We can use this to practice on the days that they don’t have class.  MY 6 YO needs to work on stretching and my 7 YO needs work on his forms.

My next activity for them is card games.  Card games, much like dominos, will help them with counting and patterns and also help in developing some strategy.  I think I will begin with some basics like Blackjack and move into more complex games later.  I can’t wait to teach them Skat, it has been years since I played and it has always been one of my favorite card games. 

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