Monday, February 21, 2011

Teaching your toddler to love learning

My kids will be nerds, they kinda have no choice. Their dad is a computer/surfing/road bike/barefoot running nerd and their mom is a nature/science/bird watching/aquarium nerd. Basically, both my girls will end up going nuts over something. Right now my toddler is into birds as well as Thomas the Train, insects, seeds and anything that she can check on every two minutes to see if it grew or changed in anyway.

I heard a sad sad fact on our local NPR station last week that an alarming number of five-year-olds are starting kindergarten not even knowing the parts of their own body. I can't imagine if my two-year-old couldn't name her own nose or feet! NPR claimed it all comes down to parents not reading with their kids or spending enough time teaching their kids and planting them in front of the TV instead.

Sure my kids like Thomas and Super Why! and a number of other PBS cartoons (it's been a LONG and snowy winter), but I try to limit what they watch. I could have turned on the TV all morning today but instead I got out my laptop, downloaded pictures of the birds we've been seeing in our backyard and made a chart with my toddler (click photo to enlarge). OK, she did the gluing and I helped her figure out which column to put each bird in, but at two and five months she can already identify a chickadee, squirrel, crow, hawk, owl, loon and a junco. And that's not because she's super smart but because I took the time to teach them to her, and I was excited about it, and excitement is contagious.

I know parents who claim they don't have time to do activities like this with their kids, but every minute of the day is a minute you could be teaching your kids something. Even if it's just the parts of their face, or in my kid's case more bird species than most adults can recognize. As soon as they wake up from their naps I must go out and buy a bigger piece of poster board since we've run out of room and it's not even bird migration season yet!

Friday, February 11, 2011

'Volcanic' Winter

Blame Iceland. Yes, Iceland. To anyone experiencing crazy weather this winter there is a theory that it's all because of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano that erupted in Iceland last spring, spewing ash all over northern Europe and causing air travel to grind to a halt. While this eruption might not have been big enough to cause a true 'volcanic winter', our local weather guy reported the other day that the ash in the northern atmosphere pushes the cold air down from Canada giving us more snow.

Who knows if he's right but we sure have had A LOT of snow. Here in New England we have received almost record amounts (I think it was over 71" at last count by the Boston Globe) where a lot of that would have been rain if the temps would actually get out of the 20s.

A true volcanic winter is caused by a really really big eruption, where the ash in the atmosphere actually obscures the sun causing a global dip in temps. You can read a list of the past volcanic winters here, many of them causing famines that lasted up to three years.

Here's what got my attention today: latest news out of Iceland is another big volcano is acting up, and this one is big enough to cause a volcanic winter. The Telegraph reports that the Bárdarbunga volcano is showing signs of increased activity. This volcano dwarfs Eyjafjallajokull and what's really cool is this as reported by The Telegraph:

"The last recorded eruption of Bárdarbunga was in 1910, although volcanologists believe its last major eruption occurred in 1477 when it produced a large ash and pumice fallout. It also produced the largest known lava flow during the past 10,000 years on earth."

Wow, this news was cool enough to snap me out of my blogging break (caused by two very energetic little girls) and find the time to research this more. Hopefully if Bárdarbunga blows it won't cause a planetary mess, but it will at least remind us that humans are most definitely NOT in charge. I was planning a return visit to Iceland in the next year or so, perhaps I wait and the meantime I think I'll work on expanding my garden and storing emergency "volcano food".

A quick thank you to all my followers who have contacted me to see how I'm doing since I've been "off the air". I'm doing very well, just busy with two kids that are a handful, luckily a very happy and giggly handful, but still a handful.