Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Life: Gifts for Kids 3 and 5 yo

Recently, I have visited a friend of mine and stayed at his place for a few days. He has two kids, a boy (5) and a girl (3). For me, I am not around kids a lot. So, I am always kind of at a lost on what kind of gifts to buy. So, I decided to buy the gifts later after I figured out what they like.

I had visited a year ago. The son really liked cars. The daughter was too young to have likes (at least in the short period of time that I was there). I spent most of my time just staring and making different faces which she seemed to enjoy.

A year later, the son is even more interested in cars. The daughter seemed to enjoy following her brother around and her share of girly toys. She carried this little baby around. I seemed to have connected with them quickly although it took about a half day for the daughter to join in some of the fun. She was just standing to the side, watching, and seemed to have fun with us but at a distance before getting more comfortable.

After a couple days, we were practically molded together. This made it very difficult for me to get out to do other prearrangements with other people I was visiting in the area. The son is always trying to dissuade me from going or to have him join me.

I did use this to my advantage when trying to get them to sit down to do homework or listen to their mother. Even though I was able to get the son to sit, it was still very challenging as he kept wanting to walk away or change the subject. The daughter was very obedient doing what she was supposed to do.

They like drawing and coloring. At 5, I thought they would be drawing within the lines but appears he still likes to scribble in the general area. He is doing some Kumon work. He can repeat the words but has some trouble focusing on the assignment. He has some comprehension with reading letters and very simple words. He has not quite linked spelling with words, basically just recognizing the image of a word. For example, he recognizes mom but cannot even start the sound for moon. To spend some of them time, I tried to teach him a few dexterity games. One is a game where you point to your thumb. Basically, you make a thumbs-up with one hand and point at your thumb with your other hand. Then, you switch hands so that you are now pointing with the other hand and thumbs-up to the opposite hand. This is pretty tricky even doing slowly. He was able to grasp this after a couple days. On the third day, he was somewhat able to switch back and forth a few times... usually messing up around 5th or 6th time. This can usually keep him occupied for 5-10 minutes. Another dexterity game I taught him is the classic, pat your head and rub your stomach. He was not able to do this the first couple days, but picked it up on the third day. He has not been able to switch to rubbing head and patting stomach. This he was unable to focus on for more than 2 minutes before switching to something else. With Legos, he was able to build a rough car which primarily consists of 4 weeks. It became different cars dependent on special pieces attached to it like a hose made it a fire truck, a police officer made it a police car, and hook made it a tow truck. Little was built to enforce these one-off pieces. But he could play these for at least 30 minutes. Also useful, is that I did not have to interact with them as personally although they constantly asked what I was building. Although considerate most of the time, at times he can be selfish with his sister. Usually teaching him to share makes it pretty simple when the two kind of clash. I attempted to teach him to let his sister go first because he is the older brother. This was more difficult. Surprisingly, I have only really seen the son throw a fussy fit when asked to do homework or take a nap. Even then, they were short-lived as the mother handled the situations. Most interestingly, the son attempted to threaten his mother because he did not want to go to his Kumon class by saying that he will not go or do anything or run away which then would make her sad, and she wouldn't want to be sad so should let him not go. Since he kind of looked up to me, I told him that I used to do that type of homework and all the people I hang out with also did too. So if he would have to do them if he ever wanted to come along with me. This seemed to shorten that problem although the mother probably already had her way as they probably have this discussion every week.

At 3, the daughter just has fun just doing what other people are doing. She rarely provided me any problems. She is always ok with letting her brother get first dibs or go first, and always ok with finding an alternative substitute when something cannot be shared. Together with her brother, they seem to get along most of the time. While playing legos, she primarily just put pieces in what appears to be random but she explains that it is a home or a chore that someone is doing (typically just a lego person with random pieces around). Most of it was not recognizable without her explanation, and even then I did not see it but played along.

So, my vacation is about over so have to get back to figuring out what to buy. Legos always seem like a safe gift because it is both handy, useful, and educational. Art books are pretty good. I always able to get them to sit for 5 minutes with the kid's Highlight's magazine. It was difficult to get them to focus to find more than 3 images (5-8 images per picture). The exercise is to find small images hidden in a picture. Things that can break easily should be avoided. A fish seems to be ok as long as the parents are able to supervise the kids around them. They did not seem responsible enough to feed them on a regular basis yet. I really want to buy them a board game or a mind exercise game but I do not think they are ready for those yet either. I think I could get the daughter to play soccer. It would be more difficult with the son. I am probably going to find a lego set (at least I can also play it too the next time I visit :D).