Starting "School"

My son is 2yrs and 8 months old. He’s super gregarious, energetic, and has a great sense of humor. He also corners the market on creative play these days. But, about a year ago, I noticed that some of my son’s peers were surpassing him in learning things like “the ABC’s,” colors, numbers, and shapes. My son might be able to guide you on the mile long walk through the streets of Over-the-Rhine to the public library, but he can barely count to ten.

Many of my son’s peers are learning these basic skills (counting, identifying letters, etc.) from either watching television or attending daycare/preschool. Since my son does not watch television, nor attend daycare, it’s going to be my job to teach him.

We already read a lot. And we talk a lot in normal conversation about animals and colors and such. But, last week, we started our first official week of “school.” And for the next eight months or so, we will spend 3o minutes, 1-3 days a week, learning basic preschool things–letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and lifeskills.

I’m really excited to share the experience of homeschooling in the city where it’s possible to have a rich, exciting education, as well a socialization, apart from attending a standard school.

My son loved his first day.

Now I just need to prep for Day 2!

Midpoint Music Festival

I have had mixed feelings about the local phenomenon of Midpoint Music Festival, but they really redeemed themselves for me this year with their Midpoint Midway and CAC-sponsored acoustic stage.

For folks like me who live in the neighborhood, it was a great way to get out of the house and enjoy the event without spending money on a ticket. With two kids at home, the ticket would have been mostly wasted. And, considering the way MPMF takes over our neighborhood for a weekend, it was nice to have this early evening, all-ages, free part of the event. It definitely made up for the noise and parking issues that weekend!

We made it down to the Midway three nights in a row. We listened to some acoustic music, watched the skateboarders, and ate some fabulous soft pretzels. The weather was great and my son is still asking me if he can go “see some music” again tonight.

Thanks, Midpoint. Maybe next year I’ll buy a ticket.

Things to Love: Winter Survival Toys

On most days, if my son has not left the house by 10am for either a walk, playtime at the park, or a few moments on the front stoop to watch the neighbors walk their dogs, I start to sense he might go crazy. He’s an extrovert with a lot of energy and curiosity. And I try to make sure I provide as many opportunities as are reasonable for him to get out and explore our city. But, let’s face it, no one really wants to take a walk when it’s 20 degrees and freezing rain outside. So, there have been a few days these past few months when we’ve never left the house.

Here’s my list of things that have gotten us through the Winter and kept us busy on the days when a walk around town is just not an option:

Balance Bike

Granted, this toy would not be as effective if my son were already a pro. But, since it’s a new toy–his big gift for his second birthday in January–he is only just learning how to ride it and he moves slowly and carefully enough to ride it in our home. Our version of the balance bike is similar to the one shown in the photo and those available at this link, but is not labeled with a brand name. I purchased it on a whim about six months ago when I saw a listing on Craigslist with an unbeatable price for one made by “some European manufacturer” that the seller couldn’t recall. (Local favorite Park + Vine sells a version, too!) Either way, we love the bike. It’s very well made, looks great, and will be awesome for playing outside this Spring. Also, since the seat moves up and down, it could last us another year, easy.


My husband said his mother never let him play with Play-Doh as a child. She was an art teacher and her taste in materials was far too advanced for the stuff. Heck, I’ll admit it. I would have never purchased it for my son. But, a friend gave it to him for his birthday and he ABSOLUTELY LOVES IT. I cannot overstate this: he’s crazy over Play-Doh. I, on the other hand, cannot stand the smell of the stuff and have been hunting around for homemade versions to take its place. Since there are a million recipes online, I trust I can find a kinder-scented alternative. But, in the meantime, it’s kept him happy for hours these past few weeks.

Library Books

One of my favorite things about living in Over-the-Rhine is that awesome cultural amenities like the public library are only a short walk away. My son’s recent borrows include: a book about Curious George and a firetruck; Dino Parade; a really advanced “Learn German” read-along CD (which we laughed at and then put back in the bag to return on our next trip); Woodie Guthrie’s New Baby Train; another adorable book to prepare him for being a big brother called There’s Going to Be A Baby; and a book about tubas (at his request). The library isn’t only good for books, though. We attend a storytime there on the Monday mornings when I don’t work. And there is a computer for him to use (since I won’t let him fiddle with mine). Even on cruddy-weather days, the 10 minute walk is bearable when we can spend a ton of time wandering around the library hunting for books for me and books for him. Sometimes we bring a snack; sometimes we stop for a snack on the way home; sometimes we wait until we get home and can crack open a new book while we eat our lunch. Either way, we try not to go more than two weeks between visits to the library to freshen-up on books for both Mama (sometimes Daddy) and son.

Sprig’s Eco-Trucks

Last year, my mom purchased my son an amazing toy made by Sprig. This company produces toys made from “Sprigwood,” a composite of recycled wood and reclaimed plastic. The toys have no painted surfaces, minimal packaging, and don’t require batteries for fun. I absolutely LOVED the toy she bought him last year and mentioned that she could purchase him as many toys made by the same company as she wanted. For his birthday this year, she brought him two more of their toys–the Eco-Trucks. Just like their predecessor, he loves them. Learning to manipulate the digger and dump truck’s movable pieces has taken some time, but it has also kept him occupied and requires brainpower and coordination. Unlike some other brands of environmentally-friendly toys, we have been impressed by how well the Sprig toys roll and move. And I think they look super cool, too!

What about you?
What has helped you keep your kids occupied during cold and rainy stay-inside weather?

Do This: Blue Manatee kids’ programming

My plan today, due to the warmer weather, was a walk to the downtown branch of the library for the weekly storytime. But, because I had another side-trip to make, we decided to try something new and get out of downtown.

When my son was young, before he was fully-mobile, we drove out to the Blue Manatee Bookstore in Oakley every so often so I could grab a cup of coffee with a friend and our kids could peek through some books. Sometimes we’d make it a day trip and stop in to The Spotted Goose and King Arthur’s Court Toys.

I haven’t been to the bookstore for the past six months or so but, early this morning, I checked the schedule and registered my son for the art class at 10am.

The class cost me $5, lasted a half hour, and we came home with two art projects. Izzy loved his first official painting experience, and it was fun to watch him alongside his peers. The class was for ages 2-4, with eight kids total.

For Cincinnati parents, I would highly recommend a trip to the Blue Manatee, either to browse, catch a storytime, or take a scheduled class. (I believe they host private parties, as well, which I’m going to keep in mind for my mid-winter birthday boy.) Check out the website and find a time to stop in. Heck, you can spend the whole day in Oakley–books, toys, boutique goods, and even a trip to a good ol’ soda and ice cream shop!

Enjoy your trip!