Best educational toys for toddlers

Bismillah,

We had visitors over the weekend and a friend offered to take the girls for sleepover. So, I agreed and off they went. However, little I was looking everywhere for his sisters. He kept asking for them and was going nearly mental lol. So,Monday morning, first time in a long long time, I had to sit down and keep him occupied. We have played few of their hands-on toys to revise/learn some numeracy and literacy skills. So, I have decided to write a review for some of the best toys worth investing, in my opinion. I say in my opinion because this is purely based on our own experience. My kids loved these toys, spent hours with them and learnt a lot through playing them. So, here is my list of 6.

1. The Alphabet wooden blocks. Perfect for little hands to grab. You can use these in a number of ways to teach both the Arabic and English alphabet. It also has numbers on the other two sides. We usually make an Alphabet train by putting the blocks in the right Alphabetical order. Or mix up and ask a child to identify a particular letter you have been learning that week. Here is the link to this resource. I have bought ours when big S was born. After nearly 7 years of being used by 3 kids, it still has plenty of life left for baby S to enjoy when she is older inshaAllah

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2. The shapes wooden blocks. This is especially good for hand-eye coordination, to teach both the shapes and the colours. All my kids loved this. The one we had was from Asda Living store but this is easily available in ELC and ToysRus or online shops. This has 15 shaped wooden blocks, perfect for little toddler hands.

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3. Foam blocks. These are quite chunky in size but has been such a hit. Excellent to make any construction using varied shaped foam blocks, review shapes/colours whilst building things. Excellent to encourage creativity and hand-eye coordination. I got two large packs in car boot when big S was a baby. All 3 children still play with these daily

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4. Wooden blocks and pieces for constructing castles, houses, farms and just about anything you can imagine. These we bought recently after all the constructive materials have been such a hit in our household. My children love playing with legos, foam blocks, wooden blocks. We keep all of these in a large plastic box so they are all mixed up. They spend at least 2 hours a day playing with them. We had these wooden blocks with a trolley from ELC, again bought when big S was a baby. Since they play all the blocks really well and they play them a lot, we have decided to buy them a new addition to their constructive box. Like I said, it has been a hit since the pack had unusual items and pieces.

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This is what their houses look like when nearly finished. But, they keep changing and adding things forever.

5. A pack of animal figurine collection from ELC. We had mini wild animals and farm animals. Ooo, these are their favourite toys. They do a lot of role-play using these. They build a farm and put the farm animals on the farm. Or they build a house for a gazelle and pretend it is hiding from a lion etc. Awesome awesome recourse to encourage imagination, creativity, to teach the names of animals, the food chain (predator, prey) etc etc

6. Knob wooden puzzles. We these ones: Arabic alphabet, English alphabet, Arabic numbers, English numbers, Animals+Shapes. Again, these are good for fine motor-skills as child is required to hold it with 2-3 fingertips and hand-eye coordination. I bought the Arabic alphabet and Arabic number wooden puzzles from Emaan productions. The rest are easily available online or in kiddies’ shops. (Something very similar to these but not exactly the same. Any knob wooden puzzle with less image is fine. I prefer not to have the English transliteration under the Arabic letters btw)

All of these are worthwhile investment as Ibrahim is using them after his two elder sisters and they are perfectly fine for baby S to enjoy next year inshaAllah.

Self-development

Bismillah,

 

The girls have been going to swimming for the past two weeks. Alhamdulillah, Big S is swimming so well without armbands. I actually doubted her swimming skills since we have not been at all for the past 6 months (since the birth of baby S, that is nearly half a year subhanAllah). And even before that we were not going regularly due to pregnancy and other issue. Hence I was actually very surprised when I saw her swimming. Especially the second week, she was swimming on her back, on her front, with her head under the water and she tried sideways. So, she was basically confident enough to try out different styles of swimming.

Now middle S is a complete different story. First week we didn’t take armbands so she was constantly either clinging to me or to metal bar on the side of the pool. Second week, with armbands on, she did let the metal bar go a little and she was praising herself so much for that. This girl of mine does not like to challenge herself. SubhanAllah.

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about myself and how I am connecting to the children. Since I have come back from Saudi, I keep thinking and rethinking about our set ways of doing things and my teaching and I feel there is something missing. I am often disappointed with myself. Generally speaking, I think one feels quite disappointed to return to this “dunya” where everything revolves around worldly things and you have just been to a holy a place at a time everything revolves around Godly things. Very strange feeling.

So, I keep evaluating things at home and keep asking “What do I want to achieve out of this homeschool thing? What is it really I am striving for?” Yes I want them to be able to read and understand Qur’an. Yes I want them to learn the Arabic language proficiently. Yes I want them to excel in Math, English, Science and in all their academic subjects. Yes I want them to go to top universities and become a dentist, a doctor, an archaeologist and ocean explorer, a story writer and an illustrator. However, the bottom line is, I want them to be good MUSLIMS.  So, before anything else, I want them to have good spiritual connection with Allah the Almighty and submit completely to the will of God. I want them to have that complete tavakkul (faith) and certainty with Allah swt and live their lives according to Islam.

I think we all agree that there is really only one effective way of moulding their character in this way from young age. There is only one thing we can do and that is SELF-DEVELOPMENT. If I really want to instil Islamic values in my children so they build up an Islamic character, the way forward is to start focusing more on myself. Because children will naturally observe, imitate, copy the adults of the household. And I strongly feel that my children are educating me in so many ways. They make me so conscious of what I say, how I speak, what’s my attitude and how I react. I know they are banking all these somewhere in their brain and will have exact same attitude to most things in life later on. That is so scary for me because I know I have a lot of character traits to improve. I am constantly praying that my children will turn up as someone much better than myself. Inshalla they won’t pick up those bad characteristics. Then at night time I lay in bed thinking “You are kidding yourself. The only way forward is to change those bad bits into good bits”. That is such a struggle, to constantly battle with your own self. May Allah guide and help us all.

So I am disappointed every time I shout to discipline them. I want them to have the love of Allah, the love of the prophet saw and the love of deen. But, I am so quick to point out their mistakes and shortcomings. I am so quick to judge and preach them. I lecture them daily about how Muslims should do things in Islam. And I fear that I am doing “more correcting and less connecting”. I am not really connecting to them in a manner that brings the love of learning Islam, the love of seeking knowledge into their lives. Sometimes I hear a friend or a colleague saying “Oh I hated Maths at school” or “I remember hating this or that subject so much” and the worst thing to happen would be one of our children saying “Oh I hated doing Arabic” or “I hated reading Qur’an” or have very negative attitude towards seeking Shari’ah knowledge.

So, I have decided to focus on 3 things for myself and for my family: Love everyone for the sake of Allah (because this stops that judgemental attitude you have towards others, including one’s children), Live in the moment (focus at present, plan as if you have forever but live as if you only have today) and Share the khayr.  When it comes to children, here is my target to do lise

  • Shout less
  • Discipline less- what it really means is criticise less. praise vs criticism ratio should be 5:1
  • Fill them up with love and make them feel loved unconditionally, regardless of what they do, what they say
  • Create such an atmosphere at home where everyone feels appreciated, wanted, valued
  • Listen to them when they speak, get to their level, make eye-contact
  • Say “yes” more often then “no”
  • More connecting through fun family activities

 

Extra curricular activities

Bismillah,

I am searching for some extra curricular activities to enrol the kids. I took the girls swimming on Saturday. It was the first time we went after 5-6 months. We all loved it so much. I have realized how much we all missed being in the pool and swimming. I want to do it weekly but the costs are so high at where we go. Then I thought I have to search for some cheaper swimming classes for the girls, some martial art classes for the elder three, or send them to local scouts groups or something. As I have not found anything yet, we have all been watching some children performing gymnastics videos on youtube and trying to exercise at home.

The thing is, we go RE (Arabic, Tajweed, Islamic Studies) classes 4:30-6:30 Monday-Friday and I see them as being important as they get some classroom experience and socializing with peers. And because I actually teach there, it is convenient for me to take the kids with me. So, anything that we do has to be before 4pm Monday-Friday or the weekend. And that means if we choose to attend something Mon-Fri then we have to dismiss the homeschool hours during that day as to get in and out of the house with 4 children is not easy. And I feel once we are out, even if it is just for one hour the whole day is gone. So, I am still in two minds about it.

They go to local park to ride their bikes once a week and get to play in garden a lot. Would it be enough sports or outdoor activity for the week though? I do believe it is important to keep them active and teach them some sports, especially swimming (both sunnah and life-saving skill). Then, I am stuck between finding the appropriate class where I can take/drop off all three, at the same time on the same day. The age and gender difference do not help hey!!! What do you do then? I wonder what most homeschoolers do? I would hate being in and out of the house trying to drop off/pick up all 4 kids from different extra curricular things all the time.

What do you do with your children? What kind of sports classes do they attend after school? Does it really help them with their performance, health etc? If so in what ways and what do you recommend?

 

My life series

Bismillah,

A dear sister told us about My Life series being shown on CBBC Iplayer to cover the lives of disabled children. Each documentary showcases the many different challenges faced by children who are affected by illness/disability. We have watched “My Life without Hair” yesterday and it was really interesting to discuss with the girls what it would be like to have no hair or eyebrows etc.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/cbbc/episode/b01c6q4d/My_Life_Series_3_My_Life_Without_Hair/

Hajj Break

English: A picture of people performing (circu...

English: A picture of people performing (circumambulating) the . This picture taken from the gate of Abdul Aziz seems to divide the Kaaba and the minarets into mirror images of one another.

Bismillah,

We have resumed the classes last Tuesday the 29th October 2013 after our 3 week long break due being away to perform Hajj (seperate post is due on this later inshaAllah).

Alhamdulillah, the girls are doing surprisingly well. I had expected them to forget few things, to have meltdowns and emotional moments when we start the more structured classes at home. However, they are pretty much on the ball with every subject.

We are doing Qur’an hifdh, Qur’an reading and Qur’an tafseer daily. I don’t plan anything for these. I ask them to recite 5 random surahs from Juzz Amma. Then Sumayya reads 1 surah daily from 29th Juzz. I ask Safiyya to read 1-2 short surahs from the back. Sumayya did have 1-2 meltdowns initially. But after I have told them my Hajj stories and how everyone makes so much effort to do more ibadah over there in Mecca, she was a bit more motivated. So, after hifdh and tajweed, I read them the meanings/translation of 1 surah from Juzz Amma daily using the Uzbek translation of meanings of the Qur’an. Sumayya really wants to read that Qur’an book which is in Cyrillic alphabet so she keeps asking me to teach her how to read Russian sooner so she can read the Uzbek translation of Qur’an we have at home. I intend to start teaching Russian again starting from next week. Ibrahim started memorizing the last 3 surahs, like officially lol. He has his own turn after I finish with the girls and we do some listen+repeat session with him.

Then we do Math daily using MEP Year1 for Safiyya and MEP Year2 for Sumayya. Again,I am surprised how they have been able to pick up from where we left without any difficulty. Alhamdulillah, either Allah has made things really easy for them (and me) or sometimes having a long/relaxing break would help to reinstate their knowledge. Anyhow, this hajj break did all of us so much good, Alhamdulillah.

Then we do English daily. I am trying to get Safiyya read more. We went to the library last week where I encouraged Safiyya to choose her own books so we can read it together at bedtime. She usually chooses her own books but this time I did point out that she would read them to me and I would help with the words she gets stuck. I don’t know how/why she doesn’t like reading even though she can read. I guess it is in her nature. She does tons of DIY jobs daily at home. She is more hands-on/practical person. Anyway, I am going to encourage her to read more. We have even started Evan-Moor Grade 1 Science book with her so she can practise her reading by reading the instructions inside, doing the experiments and writing reports (not necessarily story books). We have covered the first 4 lessons and she does not seem to appreciate it much. We will see how it goes inshaAllah.

Sumayya is mashaAllah doing well in English. We do word definitions (I give her a list of words to write down the meanings), spelling, book-writing and use a dictionary. Last week I gave her the resources and asked her to write a book on how Allah created this world and everything in it. So, she what she made looked like an information booklet with 4 pages. There are some pictures on each page and she wrote her own sentences like “Allah created angels from light. Allah created jin from smoke of fire. Then Allah created Adam a.s. etc etc”. She makes grammatically correct sentences. I am planning to use sister Imaan’s topic-based lapbooking projects with Sumayya inshaAllah.

We have managed to do 2 Arabic sessions. We have revised all the vocabulary with Safiyya on Body Parts, Colours, Shapes, Animals, Fruits+Vegetables. She can even read those words, alhamdulillah.

We are on lesson 5 in Madina Arabic Reader Book 1 with Sumayya. Again, we have revised the vocabulary of lessons 1-4, practised reading with exercises inside and I do little tests on vocab and reading. We are not putting any emphasis on Arabic handwriting at the moment.

Generally speaking, I am pleased with their progress the past 2 weeks. We still do all our learning between 10am-12pm in the mornings. They have got the whole afternoon to play and until 10am in the mornings. We leave for work at 4 pm where they have Tajweed, Arabic and Islamic Studies 4:30-6:30pm and Free/Fun Playtime with peers 6:30-7:30pm. They are tired by the time we come home usually around 7:45pm. So, we come home and have something to eat (something light as they have full meal just before we leave the house at 4pm). All three are usually in bed by 8:30pm. Sometimes I read them a bedtime story, sometimes I tell them one of my interesting Hajj stories off the top of my head, sometimes I leave the lights on for 10 minutes so they can read 1-2 of their own books borrowed from the library.

They did get to play in the garden a lot the past 10 days even though the weather has been cold. And their dad took them to local playground twice. They love it outdoors, just like any other child I think. Sumayya wants to ride her bike but I am not sure when she will get the chance. We got them some warm winter boots today. I have got to think some other ways of keeping them occupied outside teaching hours. InshaAllah we are going to start to go to swimming on Saturday. And I will try to find one other extra curricular thing to do during the week, biithnillah.