Have a LAB Transformation of your own?

We would also love to feature YOUR transformations! Submit your own LAB Work story, comments, & photos to: HapaLab@Gmail.com


Mr. Roboto.

So I get an email from my friend N late one night...
"I need to buy a girl bag and a boy bag, what should I get?"
I see the attached link...

It's for Mee a Bee, an Etsy vendor I've been drooling over for a while.
I came across Blooming in Nihon (Japan), where Jacqui, a New Zealand expatriate lives with her husband and 2 boys.
She hand-makes these Cuter-than-Cute tiny messenger bags for toddlers.
Apparently, N went through my blog favorites and found her also. 

"Boy bag?  Why do you need a boy bag for K?"
"I need to find a boy to buy a bag for cuz they are TOO cute, and Zozie has a birthday coming up!"

My Mee a Bee dreams have come true.... 
Apparently, there was a HALF OFF sale in Jan.
Being that N was open to counsel, I rounded out her order with 4 bags in cart:

1)  "Awesome Robot" bag for Z. (Love the retro vintage robots)
2)  "Princess & Frog" bag for K.  (Love the oval flap treatment)
3)  "Raspberry Ballerina" bag for K.  (Love the strap color & ballet)
4)  "Green Apples" bag for K.  (A larger version I secretly wanted for myself)
Sorry N, you asked.  
It's easy spending other people's money.
Humm...a bit like my design profession?

Mee a Bee can custom make to your liking, and she was kind enough to throw on an adjustable strap for our Robot Bag.

Z has always been a "Bag Boy", this was not going to be a hard sell.
Sure enough, he LOVES it.

It's only 6" x 6" square with a flat bottom, but it's actually the PERFECT scale on a toddler.  Not too big, not too small.  Just enough for a light snacks, small book, and some toys.  "I need my robot bag, Mama!"
I'm sure this will make it on the plane for our upcoming family trip to Japan.

Domo Arigato... Mr. Roboto!

非常感謝 "N" 阿姨!
Domo あなたは Mee a Bee!

like father.  like son.


Turnip Song (拔蘿蔔)

Sing A Long:  Pull the Turnip (蘿蔔)

@ 2 yrs 11 months.
He tries the "BoPoMo" book and starts at the beginning.

Lyrics:  歌詞   

拔蘿蔔 拔蘿蔔 


Glass Nest

Presentation:  Nesting Tower

HapaLAB loves Home-Made or Re-Purposed Tools.

No build.  No buy.
Just Thank.
To my friend W for getting rid of this at our Annual Playgroup Yard Sale.
A set of 4 nesting glass boxes, trimed in metal, hinged with a top opening lid.

Not sure what it was originally intended for...but it was calling my Homeschool name, Big Time.
A very delicate and beautiful tool, constructed of natural materials...great new addition to HapaLAB.

Nesting is always a good multi-sensory skill builder.
Size comparisons, increasing, decreasing, "built-in" error controls.  
If it's not done a certain way, it does not nest.
A quick self correcting exercise. 

To complete this tool, I took advantage of the "see through" nature of this delicate box set.  Zo is really motivated by taking things out, so in goes a Tiny Plastic Baby (from a previous presentation) inside the smallest box, as incentive...or BATE.  
Worked like magic....he walked up and started shaking the box set, asking if he could get the baby OUT. Cha-Ching!

The Goal:
Size differentiation: concept of objects in various size increments, fitting into one another.  Build coordination and awareness of dimensions.

The Set Up:
1)  A set of nesting objects (baskets, boxes, cups)
2)  A small "prize" in the center.

The Presentation:
1)  If on the floor, ask child to roll out work mat.
2)  If working on the table, ask child to bring the work tray to the table.
3)  Open the large box lid, extract the next box.
4)  Close the large box lid, place the previously removed box on top.
5)  Repeat & continue until the final box is extracted and placed on top.
6)  Open the final (smallest box) and take out the "Prize".
7)  Place prize on top.
8)  When all are placed, ask the child to replace prize back into the box.
9)  Re-nest all boxes
10)  Place tray back on to the shelf

An alternative?
Nesting Cups:
These come in wood, plastic, or metal.
If you don't want to spend money, just use measuring cups from your kitchen drawer.  Or nesting glass bowls for baking/cooking, those can work too.  The Dollar Store is another great place to find nesting glass bowls.  They are not sold as a set, just buy them individually and make up your own set for under $5.

Nesting Boxes:
These come in wood or paper pressed.
These can be found on Amazon, if you are looking for the Natural wood versions.  Or if you don't mind more color or prints on them, there are plenty of those options as well.  *The plain ones allow the child to focus more on the tool, more prints = more distraction (see below)
Nesting dolls
(like the Painted Russian Dolls).
These are sold unpainted on Amazon, really cute.
You can always opt to paint out the last little one as the "prize" for the child to get at the end, or just leave them plain.

We did find a set of  Toy Nesting Boxes at a Garage Sale, typically $10-$15 (Photo right).  It was missing the #1 Smallest box, but that was easily replaced by me adding a dice at the end as the "prize".  For $1, I'm not complaining.

The set came with nursery rhymes printed on the sides...
As mentioned above, typical Montessori tools are really plain.  This is so to not take away from the "point" of the tool, or distract the child, to build more focus and concentration on the lesson of the exercise.

This was true for Zo.  The colorful prints DID distract him, and it took him a while looking and examining each box and the stories on them, before he continued with stacking or nesting.
If I had it my way, I would get the plain wood boxes...but those are $35.
Again, for $1, I'm not complaining.
(Now I could just spray paint these a solid color too....Hummm... )

An added note to the above clip:  Zo insisted on re-rolling the mat repeatedly until the mat was even on both ends.  I said it was "ok, now" (good enough), but he wanted to repeat till right.  Again, those first impressions on initial presentations really stick. (See Some Basics. )


I Heart Gems.

Presentation:  Bead Sorting


I know.
I can't seem to get enough of these glass beads.
I figured, if I love them so much, so will my kid.
So Shiiiiny.

Aaa-ny whooo....
Let's just jump to the presentation.
Simple, really simple.
Fun none the less.
Because of the Gemmy-Beads.
Oh, and the $1 Wooden pillar candle tray I'm using as a sorting tray.
Yes, another yard sale find.
A buck goes a long way these days.

I'm stretching as long as I can before committing to formal Montessori tools.
Meaning... those cost BIG bucks.

The Goal:
Color differentiation, sorting, counting

The Set Up:
1)  A Sorting Tray (any container with compartments)
2)  Glass bowl or small jar
3)  Colored Beads (any other objects with different colors)

The Presentation:
1)  If on the floor, ask child to roll out work mat.
2)  If working on the table, ask child to bring the work tray to the table.
3)  Remove glass bowl with beads.
4)  Start by placing a different colored bead in each compartment.
5)  Pick up the next bead, hover over each compartment until the color matched.
6)  Drop the bead in.
7)  Repeat.
8)  When all are placed, ask the child to replace beads back into the bowl.
9)  Count the number of beads as they go back into the bowl.
10)  Place tray back on to the shelf

We originally used some plastic colored animal for the set up.  
The idea being that this would attract the child's attention...and hold it.
Then later, I opted for the glass beads since they were more weighted 
and felt nice to the touch.
Still very attractive to the child,  
since they are beautiful in nature
a good rule of thumb.

Lions, Hippos, and Elepahants...in a jar.

An Action Clip as promised:
He is calling each color grouping as a "car" since the beads look like wheels to him.  There was also a bead with a slight crack in it, so he notices the "broken" part...one more reason to use natural materials vs. man-made materials:  Natural blemishes occurring and being noticed.


LAB Work: Zo's Closet

Budget:  $0  (All existing items)
Time:  One lazy Sunday.
Presentation:  Hanging Clothes (see below)

 So you got Zo's bedroom tour...Now lets go into his CLOSET.
TRUE Homeschooling...Using home-life to teach life skills.

 2 Words.

Nothing Fancy.
Just 2 lower hanging rods, JUST PERFECT.

Our apartment closet came with 2 lower bars on either end.   I didn't notice these before.  A standard wood shelf sits on top.  Then the regular hanging rod extends the length of the closet.  The 2 lower rods gave us the kick start to this short HapaLAB transformation.   
It was as if the closet knew the Montessori Method.  
Everything at a child's level.
Zo can now hang his own clothes, and pick out what he wanted to wear.
Alternative:  Use a suspension shower rod for the same effect, bring the rod down to the child's level.   Around 37" A.F.F. (Above Finished Floor).

hummm...what to wear...

Got it.
His Dresser.
The white metal-framed fabric drawers (Ikea) housed his folded clothing:
From Top to Bottom:
1)  Shorts/Swim Wear
2)  Pajamas
3)  Undershirts
4)  Underwears/Night Diapers
5)  Socks, belts, accessories
6)  Pants

We placed the frequently accessed item on levels 3, 4, 5.  Those were more Zo-height, so he could get stuff, and more importantly, PUT STUFF AWAY.  Laundry days are SO much easier now.

How to Hang?
We have been hanging for a while now.
Here's a mini-presentation on hanging a shirt:

1)  Lay shirt flat on the floor
2)  Insert hanger at collar, stretch the left side into the shirt.
3)  Repeat with the right side
4)  Shake it out
5)  Hang it up (preferably on a low rod so you don't have to lift the child)

*Seems intuitive, until you have to teach a 2 year old, step by step.  Don't go too fast, or the frustration level will rise for the child.  You can always start with one side already inserted, then have the child finish up the second side.  Early success will motivate more practice.

 Here's a clip on hanging:

This is all on the left side of the closet.
And the right side?

The Dress-Ups... of course!

This kid has lots of garage sale finds in his dress up closet.
We put costumes on the right side of the closet so it is separate from his regular clothes.  We also used color hangers vs. the white ones, again to let him see the costumes go on the red or blue hangers.  
Crazy creative role playing?
Not a problem.


LAB Work: Zo's Room

Budget:  $36. (Rest are all existing items)
Time:  One swift afternoon.

 Let's kick off the New Year with a Transformation!
So you've seen our Home Classroom... 

enter here.

But how about Zozie's room?

Nothing Fancy. 
All white furniture on chocolate brown walls.

Just wanted to maximize his space in our apartment so he would have more than one area to call his own.
So we HapaLAB'ed the rest of Zo's daily environment.

It's been done for a while.
But we realized that we have never shown it.

So....Here it is.

Zo's Retreat.

His Bed. 
Everytime I see him in it, I feel like I'm in a fairy tale with dwarfs.  This is a simple white wooden bed with a single bed rail for safety.  A blue canopy covers the sleeping cove for a nice sense of coziness and privacy.  A simple set of Star bedding sets the mood for sweet dreams (most nights).  A bargain off Craigslist, this bed and canopy cost us a mere $10.  (Say what?  Yes, we were shocked too!)

His Book Nook.
We combined a Froggy King Ottoman, Lily Pad, and a Zabutan for his reading corner.  It's in easy reach of his books on the shelf.  We had these items laying around before, but now we paired them up with a bright halogen reading lamp, the switch faces him in bed.  We see him turning his lamp ON for reading, then OFF for snoozing... really empowering to control his own light levels!
(Be ready for 1 or 2 days of "non-stop switching" on the lamp.  It's fresh.  We would do it too.  But no worries, it wears off.)
His Storage.
An 8 cubby bookcase give organization and storage options. 
Books on top:  Sorted by height, this allows for easy clean up when he pulls a book out.  Also, a great lesson on filing books away with the bindings OUT.  He self corrected a few times due to height and binding positioning.   
Toy Baskets below:  No clutter & no worries about pinched fingers!
A CD player with a basket of his CD's sit on top of the bookcase for those private dance parties...
He knows the icons: "triangle" button (PLAY), the "square" button (STOP) , and the "arrow" button (EJECT).
Sort of a shape lesson with music as a bonus.

green piggy eats coins, Zo loves feeding him.

His Toys.
Two 3 tier shelves hold all his "non-work" tools, or aka...TOYS.
Individual games on the top 2 shelves, more baskets for loose legos or puzzle boxes on the lower shelf.
A large clock hangs on the wall to help Zo with time.

We wanted to separate play TOYS from the his Homschool Work tools.  This way, he has a clear distinction between these two areas, and again, knows where to put thing back after playing.  (Do I hear a running theme here?  Mama does NOT want to clean up by HERSELF anymore.)  Try not to over clutter the shelves so it's easy to see the play options.  They don't need everything out at all times.  Rotate toys often to keep their "fresh" appeal...like a new toy placed in the monkey pens at the zoo.  (Yes.  We have a cute pet monkey at home.)

loves his jigsaws & trains.
His Train Table.
This train table functions as a multipurpose surface off the carpet.  Puzzles, train tracks, play-doh...whatevers.  His pal Ben has a similar set up in his home transformation.  6 Ample container buckets provide storage below, another awesome Craigslist find at $25.  (I know, I'm lucky.)

His Art.
Kids this age are major art factories.  They love to make ART.  And we love to see it. (Our Z Gallery)  A rotating gallery is what we have opted for wall decoration.  We found this over-sized 36x48 aluminum framed cork board at a garage sale for a whopping  $1.
(Stop it already.)
Using simple jute strings and classic wooden clothes hangers, we created 3 "laundry-art-lines" to display Zo's latest work.  A small tin bucket holding extra clothes pins allow Zo to clip it all himself on the lower line.  It hangs on the lower right-hand corner of the board.

Cheap, flexible, and home-made.  
Best of 3 worlds.

His Growth.
This room ends with a wall mounted Growth Chart behind the door.  A fun addition to any toddler room.  It's a great visual reminder for the child to see the effects of good food & good sleep!  Zo loves to get measured.  He had a spurt @ 27months, growing 1.5 " in 6 weeks!  (see below.)

The Montessori philosophy has oozed into this wonderful activity area for Zozie.  It's also a cozy den at bedtime.
Everything is at his height, just right, for his little life.

We'll show you his "Magical Closet" transformation!
Stay tuned.