Busy Bees

Y’all, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve written.  Because, well, life.  I think I probably have started the last umpteen posts that way, if I’d go back and read them.  But seriously, life.  Three busy kids and assistant teaching two days a week has a way of keeping me busy.  We’re getting set to start building our new house, and finally getting settled into the rhythm of life living in our rent house.  This week is our Spring Break, and I must admit that yesterday threw me for a loop.  I had one fun outing planned for each day this week, but that was it.  I mean, that was IT.  I had nothing else planned.  I didn’t really think about the weather forecast for rain several of our days off, or what that would do to all of our spirits.  So they had done pretty much everything I had thought of for them to do including our outing for the day, and it was only 2pm.  Seriously.  I had pulled out worksheets, given them a craft project to make a Leprechaun trap from recycled materials, everything I could think of… I thought I might lose my mind if they kept asking me for more activities!  Yesterday was ROUGH, y’all.  Because I really don’t want to turn the tv on or let them have their kindles for the whole day… but they did end up with about three hours of screen time.  (Which I’m not proud of, but honestly admitting!)

So this morning I decided to get smart.  I pulled up my Pinterest boards and went through my sensory activity pins.  And I was reminded of all the cool, fun things I used to do before I was too busy to make stuff for my kids.  Or maybe lately I’m just too busy to care… hmm.  Need some self reflection there.  I determined we’d see what we had at home already, and then would grab a few things at Walmart to make our week a little more exciting.  So I’m combining here some things we pulled out and did yesterday, some things we’re doing today, and then some links to some activities we’ll be doing later in the week.

Hopefully these ideas will keep your kiddos busy bees this spring – through rainy days, holidays, and any other “I’m BORED!” moments!  (Although I did hear a great idea recently from an older, more experienced mom – she said if her kids ever say, “I’m BORED!” she gives them a rag and has them clean the baseboards.  BRILLIANT!!! I plan to do that later in the week… maybe we’ll get some spring cleaning done around here, too!)

Activity Ideas

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I wish I remembered where I originally saw this idea.  This one came back to me when I started going through my supply box looking for liquid starch, and there I saw the yellow colander.  This time around, I have two kiddos doing the activity, though, so I got out my good one too.  You can get an inexpensive colander at Dollar Tree or Walmart.  I love that yellow one because it’s fun for art too – you can trace around it to make a huge flower!  lol.  It’s as simple as the picture looks – give your child the colander and a bunch of pipe cleaners, and just see what they do!  You’ll be amazed at what they come up with, and the fine motor practice is phenomenal.
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This one came straight from Crystal Underwood over at Growing A Jeweled Rose.  I already had the pipettes – I ordered a big pack of them a long time ago off of Amazon.  I’m no longer an affiliate with them, but here’s the link just to be helpful!  They had a blast, and it kept them occupied for quite a while!  (I presented them with 6 bowls of colored water (the colors of the rainbow) and then they each got a bowl of vegetable oil – for more info, check out her blog!)
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I’m all about rice sensory tubs – my kids LOVE them.  They both absolutely love the feel of the rice between their fingers, and they beg for rice tubs frequently.  I had a pink, red, and white rice mix set up for Valentine’s Day, so for this one, I just scooped out most of that mix, pulled out the Valentine’s add-ins that were in the tub, and dumped in some older bags I had already mixed of blue, green, and white, and then I colored a little orange and purple just to add more spring color.  Then I hid foam letters that spell Happy, Easter, Becca, Grayson, and Elle.  I made sure to write the words on a card and attach to the box since Gray doesn’t know how to spell.  I also took some old foam egg and bunny stickers I got a couple years ago (also in that supply box with the colander…), peeled the backs off, and stuck them together.  Then I hid the eggs and bunnies and the letters to make a fun treasure hunt of sorts!

More Activity Links To Check Out!

Here are some more links to things we’ll be doing later in the week (I won’t promise a blog post because, well, life!)  And also, if you’re just looking for some fun time fillers, be sure to check out Doodle Art Alley – Samantha is an AMAZING artist and does some brilliant work.  She shares TONS of it for FREE on her website – all of it is there just ready for you to download and print!  I printed off a bunch of stuff today and not only did I color with the Bigs earlier, Becca and I enjoyed Cody joining us this evening after the Littles had gone to bed in coloring bookmarks!  We’ll take them and laminate them later this week and then she can use some, and share some with friends when she goes back to school!

Jell-O Scented Moldable Dough for Sensory Play from Sixty Second Parent

Rainbow Fruit Loop Sensory Bin from Love Play Learn

Liquid Starch Slime from Schooling Active Monkeys

Plus, here’s some stuff we’ve done in the past that is worth revisiting for St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Activities

Rainbow Celery

Bell Pepper Shamrocks

We also picked up at Walmart a new super fun Paint by Sticker book – the kids love those!  If your kids haven’t tried them, I highly recommend them for fine motor and numeral recognition practice… and plus they are just downright fun!  Here’s one from Amazon (again, no longer an affiliate, just sharing for your benefit!) that we have and the kids love!

So between all of this and a ton of wonderful books, fun outings planned to a couple of parks, and a plan to hit up Dollar Tree for some window clings, some more stickers, and hopefully an easy crossword puzzle book for Becca… I think we’ll survive the rest of the week, and be better set up for some successfully fun weekends in the future, as well! 🙂

I’m Baaaack!!

So guess what, y’all? I’m back! Not long before I quit writing last year, we found out we were… SURPRISE!!!!… pregnant!  And then last fall, I got back into the classroom at a fabulous private preschool in San Antonio – teaching three days a week as an assistant to a simply amazing teacher who has become a great friend as well as coworker.  I absolutely LOVE teaching Pre-K, and look forward to getting back to teaching this summer for a few days of summer camp, and then to diving back in in the fall.  So anyway, on February 2nd, Mirielle (a French name that means miraculous, because, she really is, ya know?) was born… and the rest of her story is yet to be written!  I’m sure God has an amazing plan for her life!

Now, I’m starting a new adventure in my life – not only being a mom of THREE, but also I have now set a new path for my career! My master’s degree is in curriculum development, and I have long loved creating products for my own classroom, so I figured my maternity leave would be a great time to join the wonderful set of teachers on the fabulous website – Teachers Pay Teachers.

The very first free product I’m offering is a cute little book I’ve titled, “My Colors.”  It’s rainbow inspired for the spring, and was created specifically with Gray in mind, because he really wants to learn how to read, and since he knows his rainbow colors, I thought a simple little reader might help him pick up the color words as sight words.  Instead of merely creating a book on plain paper, we did a super fun art project to tie it all together, and then because Sis wanted to get involved, she colored her own copy of the book for me to use to show y’all as a sample!

Here’s the link to get your free download of the book.  Directions on how to put it together can be found below.

And here’s how we did the art!  Y’all, it’s so simple, it’s like falling off of a log!  I put some rainbow paint colors in an old egg carton, and made stampers from folded paper towels and clothes pins.  First, I had Gray do the craft part – the specific stamping of the colors in order – one purple spot in the middle, surrounded by blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.  I showed him on my plate how to do it, first.  Then, I let him loose and let him just create art!  He used the sponges, his hands, and even asked for a paint brush!  I love that he was exploring with the textures, and we talked about how each material he used made different marks on the plates.  We had such great discussions, and he was happily occupied for a good 45 minutes!  (Total mom score!!  Right??)  (Sidenote – did you notice how I called this activity both a craft AND art?  Check out my post here about the difference between process art and crafts...)

rainbow plates

We’ll be using the other plates he painted as book covers, too… be sure to check my Teachers Pay Teachers page soon for more free downloads, and for other fun book ideas using the covers we made!

How to Assemble Your Books:
To put any of these books together, you’ll want to first make sure your plate is thoroughly  dry, then fold it in half, and cut.  If you’ve done the rainbow circle, it magically becomes a rainbow!  You can simply add a cloud and it becomes much like this craft from Fantastic Fun and Learning.  Or, keep going and turn it into a book cover!  Take your colored “My Colors” book, and cut it in half.  Then, placing the bottom left corner of the book pages in line with the bottom left corner of your rainbow plate, cut around the top to make the arch.  Make sure the pages are all in rainbow color order, and then staple in the bottom left corner.  Use a sharpie to write your title and name, and then enjoy reading your book over and over!

book assembly

Thank you for checking out this post!  If it’s your first time to visit, welcome!  I share lots more on Facebook, so be sure to click on over and “like” my page.  I’d also love for you to follow my Teachers Pay Teachers page – as I’ll be adding lots of files in the coming weeks and months!  I love teaching preschool, and I love that now I get to share with y’all the fun things I’m creating!  I’ll also be throwing a few older kid downloads out there as well, when I make little things for Sis!  So you won’t want to miss anything – I won’t always do a blog post for every file.  If you have something you’d love to see me create, or a topic you’d love to see covered here on the blog, please be sure and let me know!  Just shoot me an email any time – I’d love to hear from you! 

Seed Study: Collecting and Sorting

seed-study

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for your support of this blog!
It also contains links to previous posts to give you even more ideas…
happy reading!

It’s that time!!  Fall is upon us, and here in South Texas we’ve finally had a couple days with highs below 80F!  It’s actually jacket weather in the early mornings, and it’s going to be time very soon for this gardener to get back outside and clean up my flower beds that turned to weeds in the heat of the summer.  Becca has been feeling the change in the air, too… and has been begging to get outside and explore again, which is awesome!

A few weeks back (in the heat of the summer when we spent a LOT of time in the cool of The DoSeum), I came across this book in their library and fell in love.  (A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston) I ordered it for “such a time as this” and the other day we pulled it out to read before going on a seed hunt!  Becca was so excited to see our Texas Mountain Laurel seeds on the front cover- since our property is simply covered in Mountain Laurels!  I love that the author incorporates LOTS of different plant seeds, talks about how various seeds are transferred and planted naturally, and also shows timelines of how long various seeds take to sprout and produce fruit!  The illustrations by Sylvia Long are gorgeous, and it’s definitely a page turner that Becca loved – she begged to read it again when we got back inside, and also used it as a reference guide on our walk when she had questions.  (And I can’t wait to get more of Dianna’s books – she has several that I’ve added to our wishlist!)

So what did we do exactly?  First, we read the book.  Then, we grabbed a bucket and headed outside with Daisy.  We looked everywhere for seeds.  At first, she was just seeing Mountain Laurels and acorns on the ground.  But then her eye started getting more keen and she started looking AROUND instead of just down.  And then she started looking UP!  She was amazed at all of the seeds everywhere!  We collected seeds along our way through our nature trail (we live on an acre and a half of very wooded land), and then before we came inside, I showed her that Daisy had been collecting seeds for us, too!  What a fabulous way to see how animals transfer seeds!  She was in awe.  (If you don’t have this availability on your property, take a trip to your local wooded park or along the bank of the closest stream, etc.)

So, we brought our seeds inside, and then sorted them by the seeds that were obviously just seeds, and by what looked to be seeds inside seed pods.  We talked about how the pods don’t drop their seed until just the right time, and she explored opening a couple of the pods and discovered that they didn’t all have seeds!  One had a spider web, and it appeared the spider had probably eaten the seeds early on.  Another had shriveled, tiny seeds.  And yet another had a whole, healthy seed.  It was a great way to talk about how appearances on the outside aren’t everything – all of the seed pods looked the same on the outside.  She was ready to move on to a different activity, so I didn’t dwell on the character lesson, but the seed did get planted, so to speak. 😉

There was also a door left open to do more research about seeds – she wasn’t sure if the flowers that had seeds in their centers were considered seed pods or not, and she wasn’t sure about a couple of the weeds that we collected – and wants to know how their seeds get transferred.  So, there is plenty of room for more discussion and research, which we will do at the library next time.

There is also room to go back and review the sunflower life cycle unit that we did last fall – so glad I laminated everything! 🙂 (not an affiliate link, just giving credit where credit is due – it’s a great unit she has set up!)

What are you doing to get your kids outside as the weather begins to turn cooler?  Here are some other fall ideas you might enjoy!

Fall Tree Activities

Leaves
Leaf collection in your yard or a local park
Sorting by color/size/shape
Pressing/Leaf art
Books:
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert   My post about Leaf Man
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

Apples
Apple picking at a local orchard (or even the grocery store if you don’t have an orchard close by)
Sorting by color and/or size (order largest to smallest)
Counting (put in groups to add, subtract, or even multiply or divide)
Making applesauce
Also check out my apple theme box here
And my apple activity center here
Books:
Apple Picking Day by Candice Ransom
Apples by Gail Gibbons

Pumpkins
Pumpkin selection at a pumpkin patch
Cut one open, sort and count seeds after estimating how many are inside
Making a jack-o-lantern, talk about what facial expressions say about our emotions
Books:
The Legend of Spookley The Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano
The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons

Never can get enough books?  Me neither!  Check out more of our favorite Fall Reads here!

Busy Hands, Happy Heart

busy-hands-header

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting my blog!

Most of my posts here are about homeschooling Becca, but this one is all about what to do with the little ones… and highlights what I do to keep Gray occupied so Sis can learn.  (And SHHHH! he’s learning, too!)  Keeping your toddler occupied while your older child does homeschool is NOT easy!  But hopefully a few of these ideas will inspire you and be helpful on your journey!

fine-and-gross

One thing we really struggle with with Gray is that he still likes to put things in his mouth – a lot.  I can’t just give him an activity and pay total attention to Sis.  So, I have to very carefully select what he does when I’m busy with her.  He loves our pop beads set – so when I’m teaching her, I pull out only the large beads on a tray and let him sit on the bench right next to me in our family room (which doubles as our homeschool room).

homeschool-work-area
-homeschool work area-

If we are doing something downstairs at the dining room table, he gets to do play dough next to me, and loves to make prints in the dough.  We have little stackers, dominoes, construction trucks, and dinosaurs that all make awesome dough stamps, not to mention our fabulous cookie cutter set.  He can stay occupied with play dough for almost an hour!  (Plus, I make my own dough, so I can make it any color I want, and he loves to take two different colors of dough and squish them together… which works on those fine AND gross motor skills all at the same time!)

Back upstairs in the family room, we have a little Duplo table (this is the one I’d like to get once we move up to only Legos) and some diaper boxes full of Duplos that Gray loves to build with.  Then we also have big wooden blocks (that my dad made for me when I was little!) with which he can build larger-scale items.  We also keep crayons and coloring books readily available so that he can color when Sis is illustrating – because nothing is more exciting and makes you feel big and important like coloring when Sis is coloring.  And he has been enjoying playing with window clings that I got from Dollar Tree!

There are so many fabulous things you can get your little ones excited about that are going to stretch them and help them grow their fine AND gross motor skills.

pretend-play-activities

Pretend play is so important for little ones, and Gray is all about pretending.  He is fairly quiet with his pretend play, so he doesn’t distract Sis too much.  If you have a louder child who likes to play really loudly, you might want to skip this section and move on down to the academic ideas, leaving the pretend play for non-school times.

Gray loves our new set of felt dinosaurs.  He likes to tell little stories with the dinosaurs, and can either use the portable board with which they came, or can use the larger cork board that I covered with felt that is up in our family room.  I love that both kids can stand together at the easel and play, or he can play alone right next to me while she works.  He also loves to drive his cars and trains on the activity rug that sits on the floor next to me, and cook “meals” for us in their kitchen, which is across the room. (This link is to a similar set – ours is no longer sold.)

He also loves to grab a reusable shopping bag and pretend he’s shopping, play dress up, and play with Little People figures.  The beauty of doing school in our family room is the multiplicity of options to keep him entertained.  We do not choose to have the tv on during school time.  That is far too distracting for Becca.

academic-activities

Sometimes there is just no other way than to teach her with him sitting in my lap or standing right next to me.  (His love language is touch.)  For those times, I have some little academic activities that aren’t distracting to her that I can do with him while she is working independently.  We have number puzzles matching the numerals 1-10 to their values, and he can sometimes do 1-5 alone.  Sometimes he gets frustrated when they don’t fit exactly together (fine motor work!), but I can help him.

He also loves our pattern block shapes that I made out of thick colored card stock and laminated.  I use them with Sis as math manipulatives, and he also loves to sort them out and try to count them.  You can print your own here for free!

I have also laminated some little basic puzzles that have come out of magazines the kids get – he loves to put the three pieces together to make the trucks, and can put them together wrong to be silly and it’s ok, so he feels very successful with those.

I love the Target dollar section.  Sometimes I get surprised and find a $3 item that I love and just have to have, but normally I stick to the $1 stuff.  I got some really neat felt sticker numbers there (for $1), and placed one each on a set of 10 index cards so that he can actually FEEL the number, and attempts to put them in order.

He loves so much the big bin of Scrabble letter tiles at the DoSeum, so I finally bought this set so that he can play with the letters at home – and Sis can use them for spelling practice!  They are both so excited to have their own letter tiles at home now!  Sis also enjoys playing Scrabble Jr, so this now gives him letter tiles to play with, without messing up the board while we are playing!

I hope that you find these ideas helpful, and I so appreciate you purchasing via my affiliate links!  What helpful hints do you have to share?  What do you like to do with your toddler?  And which of these ideas that I’ve shared are you ready to try this week?  Let me know!  I love to hear from you!  Send me comments, and please be sure to head over to my Facebook Page to get involved in the discussion!

Magnet Exploration

I recently signed Gray up to take a class at The DoSeum – our local children’s museum that I have written about before.  The class is called “Little Makers” and it’s basically a science and engineering class for toddlers 18-36 months old.  Yesterday was our first class.  Not only did Gray have a blast, I came away very inspired…
magnets at the dose

His teacher, Ms Cheryl, had all sorts of magnets for the kids to explore with.  The invitation to play was simply a box of random items and a couple of magnet wands.  Gray immediately dug in and was ready to explore!  She had extension activities for those who were interested in sorting their magnetic vs non-magnetic items, and blank paper “journals” for any who wanted to draw/write their thoughts.  Gray enjoyed sorting his magnetic/non-magnetic items, and eagerly sat in my lap to sort them!  He enjoyed playing with magnets on the classroom divider wall, and of course he loved the story – Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site is one of our family favorites!  (Aff link, thank you!)  Then after class he enjoyed going to the Kaleidoscope play area and spending more time with the MagnaTiles there.  (Aff link, thank you!)  All of the magnet play inspired me, and we ended up purchasing our own set of  MagnaTiles to take home with us.

While he napped, here’s what I set up for when we got home from picking up Sis from Mother’s Day Out:

magnets at home The invitation to play was simple – a box full of random items both magnetic and non-magnetic, and a bunch of MagnaTiles.  When we got home, Becca immediately hopped up into her chair and started playing.  Without me even showing her or telling her what to do, she started testing items to see if they are magnetic.  Today, I’ll give her the same activity with a sheet of paper similar to what Gray had for sorting at the DoSeum and let her sort her items based on whether they are magnetic or not.  Gray also immediately dove in and really enjoyed the activity again at home in our little variation.

reality check

Because I’m all about being honest with you and telling you what works and what doesn’t work, this is NOT an activity for your toddler to do unsupervised.  I thought I’d take advantage of them being so engaged, and I’d do the dishes… well, then I looked over and he had something in his mouth.  Thankfully, it was just a pompom – not a magnetic item, but because he’s cutting a couple of new teeth right now, I can’t give him the box unsupervised.  This is an activity to do when I’m sitting right with him.  To buy myself some more time, I simply removed the box from his reach and let him play with the MagnaTiles.  He LOVES building with the MagnaTiles and that easily occupied him for the rest of the time I needed him to be occupied until I could join him at the table and let him have the box back with close supervision.

MAKING THE BOX
Here are some ideas of what you could put in your box.  I used the following items that I had laying around randomly here:
-Colored Rice (non)
-Mixed beans and corn from an old fall sensory bin (non)
-Paperclips (magnetic)
-Paper brads (magnetic)
-Refrigerator magnets (magnetic)
-Feathers (non)
-Pipe cleaners, cut into pieces (magnetic)
-Jingle bells (magnetic)
-PomPoms (non)
-Play plastic coins (non)
-Foam blocks (non)
-Fruit pouch lids (non)
-Plastic stackers (non)

Here are some other fun magnet activity sets that we have and enjoy (Aff links, thank you!):
MindWare Imagination Patterns (Becca got this for Christmas and loves it!  Gray has not used these… but easily could – they are large enough to be toddler safe, she’s just very possessive of them.) UPDATE: Gray loves playing with this set!  There are a couple of small circles that I take out of the set when he plays with it.
Magz51 New Interlocking Toy Building Set (NOT toddler safe)
Magnetic Spinning Gears (Both kids LOVE this set!)
Lauri – Fun with Magnets (I have this set on order and can’t wait for it to arrive!)

more fun with magnets
update 4/7/16: He loves playing with the Imagination Patterns AND the MagnaTiles together because the Imagination Patterns board allows the MagnaTiles to stand upright for vertical fun!

Children’s books about magnets (Aff links, thank you!):
What Makes a Magnet?
What Magnets Can Do
Magnets: Pulling Together Pushing Apart

What fun magnetic activities have you done?  The kids are totally enthralled and I’m looking forward to finding more fun magnet activities! I also think Becca would enjoy going on a magnetic hunt to test different household objects to see which are magnetic and non-magnetic… we may do that today!