Friday, January 27, 2012

Kitchen Play

I really would have liked to get Gus a play kitchen for Christmas, but it was unfortunately not in our gift-buying budget this year. I thought he would get a kick out of mixing things together, making tasty "treats" to serve up to Jon and me. And it would be a great long-term toy, something that would last for years.

Of course, then I realised this week, that he doesn't really need a purpose-built mini kitchen and matching accessories to cook up delicious concoctions. So I set out to find some pieces that could bring the fun of the kitchen to him.

So far, the backbone of his kitchen play has been this stainless steel mixing bowl.

I actually received a pair of these (small and large) for Christmas to use myself but, remembering Melissa's suggestion, thought that they would make a great matching set for Gus and I to use together.  He already has access to our lower cabinets, which have a load of bowls, chopping boards, and saucepans that he sometimes gets out. I added some empty spice jars, a whisk, a spatula, and some play food that he got for Christmas, and his kitchen was complete! He stands on his little table so he can reach the counter next to me. As I chop vegetables for dinner, I pass him the peels and ends, which he mixes up diligently, adding this spice or that, transferring from one bowl to the other. Or, I give him a small snack in the bowl, which he can mix and taste as needed.

Trying to find a clear space on the counter in our
little kitchen is the hardest part of this game!

To me, this doesn't sound nearly as exciting as a brand-new, brightly painted purpose-built model kitchen, with burners, an oven, cabinets to open, etc, etc. But I think sometimes the flashes and bangs are more for the parents--I mean, how many times have we heard the story of children opening expensive new presents, only to play with the cardboard box the toy came in until it disintegrates underneath them. We've only really been cooking together for a week now, but so far, Gus's reaction has borne this out. He seems to love cooking. He has even tried to pull the table in from the living room to the kitchen on his own to start playing. This is great, as it forces me into the kitchen to tackle the never-ending pile of dishes I have stacked in there!  (I am also trying to convince him that he can actually cook while standing on the floor with the bowls on his small table, but he doesn't believe me so far. He is going through a phase at the moment where the way a thing was done the first time is the way things ALWAYS MUST BE DONE FOREVER.)

I'll probably still keep an eye out for a good price on a little kitchen, but I am really happy with this solution. In some ways, this is even better, as it gets the two of us in the kitchen together, and he starts to learn about food and cooking--an important life skill, and a great source of enjoyment.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What I did on my Christmas vacation

I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, I have just been on vacation!  I spent the last 3 weeks visiting my wonderful family back in the US. Now I am back to the real world, trying so hard to get back into the swing of things where washing dishes and laundry and general cleaning must be done--by me! A few of my/Gus's favourite things from our trip:

Gus's absolute favourite game while we were there was the "where is it?" game. He started making a sign for where (arms out from the elbows, palms facing up) the last couple of weeks before we went to the US. But when we got to my parents' house, he was having some separation issues (new environment + jet lag = a little boy who did not like his mother to leave his sight even to use the toilet), so my mom picked up on this and started a game with him of looking for me when I left the room. Where's Mama? Is she under the couch? No.

Oh my goodness, he loved this game. They would look in one place, and he would shake his head back and forth (long hair going every which way!), then point to a new place to look. After a while, he would play it pretty much any time he saw my mom, and she never knew what they were looking for if he started a game.

He now also loves to shake his head no, which I think he largely learned from this game. Usually he shakes his head because he really doesn't want whatever is on offer, although I think sometimes he does it just to feel his hair move around.

At our house, the garbage can is locked away under the sink, so Gus doesn't really ever see or use it. At my parents' house, the garbage can is just tucked away at the side of the kitchen, but freely accessible. Gus was very interested in this. At first he just sort of looked at it or tried to take things out of it, but he soon learned what it was for and how to use it. He thought throwing things away was one of the best things ever. I remember one day he found a scrap of paper on the floor. When I told him it was garbage and he could throw it in the bin, his face just lit up and he raced out to the kitchen to take care of it. We did have to watch him closely though--his definition of garbage was not always the same as ours!

Really, he just loved (loves) putting things in and taking them out in general. He is great help with the laundry, and he does like tidying his toys, although keeping them tidied is a different matter. He spent ages putting various toys in the laundry baskets and pushing them around. He comes up with the funniest games sometimes!

We had snow a few days before we left. I was really happy about it--I am a snow lover, although I don't really like to go out in the snow. Mostly I like to look at the snow, then curl up in the warm house with a cup of tea and a book. I did take Gus out in the snow a couple of times. He seemed to like it, although he wasn't really interested in doing anything with it. We went for a walk with him in the stroller, and he seemed to have a great time looking at the world covered in snow. However. Every single time we walked to the river near my parents' house, there were no geese! We saw them plenty of times while driving past, so I think they may have been avoiding us.

Gus loved spending time with his cousins (ages 10, 6, 2, and 3 months). He is a pretty quiet guy when he's around other children, often just watching the action. So he did a lot of watching. The older girls were really good at playing with him, and he started to become more comfortable and join in. And I think he learned a few things from Ben (the 2-year-old). Especially about climbing!  The two of them were very sweet together; Jon and I took them on a walk one day, and Ben took Gus's hand while we were in the street. So adorable!  

My mom has a little old-fashioned cast-iron stove that her dad had made for us grandkids when we were little (Grandpa Dave was a pattern maker so could do cool things like that). All 4 of the big kids really liked playing with it. They made many a dish together, often made using the birds from the nativity set, although one day I kept being served shoe soup--not really my favourite. Gus certainly enjoyed "tasting" all their creations!

Gus wasn't really sure about baby Luke, though. Luke still couldn't control his body very well, so he often made kind of jerky motions. And he is very vocal--lots of squeaks and squeals!  Gus didn't like that so much.

My favourite thing Gus has learned in the past couple of weeks is kissing. I die!  We ask him if he wants to give either me or Jon a kiss, and he either shakes his head no (which we love anyway) or leans in a plants a wet one right on our lips!  I don't know where he learned that kisses go on lips, because we generally don't kiss him on the lips. Jon thinks it might be because he often kisses his reflection in the mirror, and that is obviously a kiss on the lips. I don't know, but it is super cute.

I'll leave you with a picture from this evening: Gus reading his book. While sitting in a box. Obviously. And I just noticed, it looks like the duck is listening very attentively!