Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Festive Christmas Playdoughs

We LOVE playdough! It's such a great way to create, build hand muscles, and just have fun! This year we tried out two festive playdough recipes (really just adding special ingredients to our usual recipe) that made playing with play dough even more fun! We used them with our little play group, as well as giving them as gifts to some of Erik's friends at church. 
The first dough we made was Ginger Bread dough, and let me tell you this smells AMAZING! 

The other fun festive playdough we made was Candy Cane Playdough. It smelled nice (though I didn't have enough peppermint oil to really make it smell great), and was fun for the kiddos in our play group to play with. I gave them beads and pipe cleaners so they could decorate their creations and it kept them busy for nearly an hour. I didn't take any pictures, so you'll just have to go look at the ones on the original blog post and see what theirs looked like.
Play dough is a great sensory medium, especially when scented like these recipes. It does amazing things for fine motor strength, and lets a child explore and be creative.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Name Tree

 Here's the first of our Christmas activities for this year. I've been wanting to help Erik learn to recognize his name in print, and thought this would be a really fun way to make that happen.
I cut out the shapes for the tree out of foam sheets and wrote one letter on each piece...
...then we hung up a small piece of contact paper (sticky side out) on our window. Erik could build his name tree over and over as many times as he liked.
I loved that this worked on his fine motor skills while also helping him learn to spell his name!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Themed Preschool Activities

Hey there everyone!
Here's the outline for our Christmas themed activities. Hope there's something here you and your little ones will enjoy!



Language Arts:
      *Read LOTS of Christmas books
      *Christmas Tree Name Activity

Creative Arts:
      *Festive Playdoughs
      *Pine Branch Painting

Science:
      *Jingle Bell Magnet Exploration and Discovery Bottle

Physical Development:
      *Candy Cane Can Stilts
      *Ginger Bread Man Tracing Activity

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hand Print Turkey Card

I saw the idea for this cute card on pinterest, and the best part is that the link takes you to a bunch more fun Thanksgiving learning activities so be sure to check it out!
This was pretty easy (or could've been if I'd been smart enough to only let one kid get all covered in paint at a time, and had NOT done it on a night when Hubby was out of town), and the only supplies you need are paper, finger paint, and a pen.
My plan was to have Erik make the card and then walk to the Post Office with it, where he would be given a handful of dimes and have to count the right number to buy the stamps. In the end I just stuck some stamps on them that I already had at home and dropped them in the outgoing mail box on my way to a doctor's appointment. Oh well, it's the thought that counts, right?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Turkey Clothes Pin Counting

When I found this idea on Pinterest I knew I wanted to make it a part of our Thanksgiving theme. It was super cute and wouldn't be too hard to make, even though I don't have a printer to use the printable included on the original website. I loved how cute this was and that it also includes fine motor practice (which we need a lot of around here) in a math activity.
I know, this isn't the greatest picture ever, but my camera is dying so this is what you get. 
I chose to make my turkeys go through the number 12, since Erik seems to have 1-10 down pretty well, but needs to work on everything higher than that. I figure we can add a few more numbers each time we do a new activity and slowly build up his knowledge base.
I cut my turkeys out of construction paper and used a glue stick to glue the little pieces (beak, wattle, breast) on. Once the glue was dry I numbered each turkey, then laminated them with contact paper.
They are stored in a large zip top baggie and Erik can pull them out to play with them any time he wants.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Family Home Evening lesson on Gratitude

Since we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we participate in a weekly event called Family Home Evening (FHE) or Family Night. This is a designated time once a week (traditionally on a Monday) when the whole family gathers together to enjoy time together and learn more about Christ. Since this particular FHE lesson fits in so well with our theme, I decided to go ahead and include it in here with the rest of the things we did for Thanksgiving.
Using the FHE Resource Guide as a base, we talked about what gratitude is and how important it is. We talked about how happy it makes us feel to say "thank you", as well as when people say it to us. We love using the Mormon Messages videos as part of our Family Nights whenever we can, so we watched this video about gratitude.
After watching the video, we made a commitment as a family to try harder to live in thanksgiving daily and to cultivate an "attitude of gratitude". To help us accomplish this goal, we made a Gratitude Tree. Using brown construction paper I made a tree trunk with a few branches and taped them to the wall, high enough that Sharli wouldn't pull them down.
 We took turns thinking of things we were grateful for and wrote them on leaves cut out of different colors of construction paper. I just googled leaf clip-art and traced a few I liked onto the paper before cutting.
It was really fun to listen to the things Erik came up with that he was thankful for, he really put a lot of thought into it. Some of my favorites that he came up with were: "My right hand and my left hand", "oatmeal", "hot air balloons", and "going to Explora".
Every night for the rest of the month, before we left the dinner table (or at least that was the plan, it didn't always happen), we would each write another thing we were thankful for and hang it on our tree. It was fun to watch the tree fill up and to try to always come up with new things.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Autumn/Thanksgiving Preschool Theme

Hey there!

So, I had a whole list of fun things to do for the week and a half before Thanksgiving, and grand plans to have all the posts go up the week of Thanksgiving, but then life took over. Between a trip to the ER and several follow up doctor's appointments, plus the hustle and bustle of the holiday, we only did a small portion of the planned activities and they aren't getting posted until a week and a half before Christmas. Oh well. Maybe if you're lucky you'll get to see our Christmas stuff by Valentines day.
Since I wasn't able to do many of the activities I had planned, I will show you what we DID do, and link to examples of some of the things I had planned but didn't get to do. So here it is, our Thanksgiving/Autumn activities list.


Language Arts:
      Five Little Turkeys Poem
Math:
      Turkey Clothes Pin Counting
      Classifying Leaves
            -I just planned on sorting a bunch of fall leaves by color, size, shape, or whatever else Erik was interested in.
Creative Arts:
      Hand print turkey cards for Grandparents
      Leaf Resist Art
Social Studies:
      Make a Gratitude Tree
      Mail turkey letters to family
            -This one isn't going to get it's own post, we were just going to talk about who to send our turkey cards to and then let Erik count out the money (with LOTS of help) at the Post Office to pay for the stamps. We ended up just slapping some stamps on them and dropping them in the box and didn't make a big deal over it. The grandparents still got the cards we made, but I took care of the mailing part.
Physical Development/Health:
      Go for a walk and collect fall leaves for some of the other activities we had planned

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Snow Paint

Our last activity for our Weather Theme was Snow Painting. Now, while there is snow in some part of the country right now, here in Southern New Mexico it's pretty scarce. So we were forced to come up with our own snow to play in, and this is what we found.

We got out some blue paper, whipped up a batch of snow paint, and had some fun painting our snow pictures. These are now on display in Erik's room. Once dry, the paint does have a tendency to crack if the papers get bent, but they do have a really neat texture.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Make it Rain!

So I have a confession. Or two. This activity actually happened on accident, it wasn't really something I had planned. Also, these pictures are from the first time we did this, almost a year ago now. Somehow I never got a post up about this, so you finally get to see it. 
One day it was really cold in our apartment and Erik was bored and driving me nuts. So I stuck him in a nice warm bubble bath and gave him some of my kitchen stuff to play with. It turned out that the colander plus the bubbles were the perfect way to teach about what happens when it rains. Every time Erik scooped up the bubbly water in his colander it made a rainstorm, which he was thrilled about! He had been interested in the rain we'd had recently and I'd tried to explain where it came from, but I just don't think he was getting it. 
 As he sat in the bath that day we talked about how the clouds in the sky fill up with water until they are so dark and heavy they can't hold it anymore. When he would submerge his colander the bubbles would float up on the water and look puffier. Also something about the lighting made the bubbles look grayish when there was water underneath them, so they even looked like dark(ish) rain clouds. Then, when his colander full of bubbles had all the water it could hold, he would lift it up and watch his "clouds" deflate and whiten as the "rain" poured out the bottom. It was SO perfect!
This was such a simple and fun way to learn about the science of rain!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Weather Reading

As I am planning all my different themes, I am trying really hard to find books to go with them. Literature is an excellent way to introduce new concepts, new vocabulary, and to explore things you otherwise couldn't. Erik is much more likely to understand what I'm telling him about if there's interesting pictures and an entertaining story line to follow.
The town we live in has a pretty impressive library (for a town of this size, anyways), mostly because they will bend over backwards to help you out. If they don't have the book you want (and let's face it, they're tiny so there's a good chance they don't) they will borrow it from another library for you. This means that as long as I plan far enough in advance I can get just about anything I want. Unfortunately for planning our Weather Theme, I didn't want to wait for books to come in, so I just crossed my fingers that they would have one or two books that would work and went for it. I ended up finding five books there that had something to do with weather (actually there were a few more, but they were too advanced for Erik) which was way better than I'd hoped and we've been enjoying reading them ever since. 
Pictured books:
In addition to the books we've been reading, I also found a free app for our Ipad that allows children to explore the weather. Erik loves to play with it and it's one that we'll probably keep around for a while. 

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Make Your Own Windsock

As part of our Weather Theme, I thought it would be fun to make a windsock to aid Erik in his observations of the weather at our home. I found lots of fun ideas online, but this is the one we decided to go with. Why? Because I already had everything I needed right here at home, so what could be more perfect? I had hoped Erik would be more involved in making the windsock, but he just wasn't all that interested. He did really enjoy it once it was hanging outside though, so I count it as a success. 

First, we assembled all the materials we would need:
Plastic bags, scissors, tape, string, an empty plastic container
Second, you cut off a section of your empty container so that you have a plastic ring, I think ours was probably about 1 1/2 - 2 inches tall. You can dispose of the rest of the container as you see fit, we only need the top ring.
 Third, lay out your plastic bags so they are nice and flat, then cut them up into strips. I think mine were about an inch wide. I think we used three bags, but it all depends on the size of the container you used in step 2. I had hoped to have Erik help with this part of this since he LOVES to cut, but the bags were a bit difficult to cut and he got frustrated.
 Fourth, fold each strip of plastic bag in half and thread the fold through your ring, then pull the ends through the fold. If that doesn't make sense (and since I didn't think to take pictures of that part) you can go back to the original site and they have better pictures. Add strips of plastic on until you have covered all of the plastic ring.
 Fifth, attach three pieces of sting to the ring, spaced somewhat evenly around. Tie these into a knot about a foot away from the ring to create a yoke for the windsock to hang on.
 Sixth, tie your windsock to a tree or fence post or something outside where it's easily visible, and enjoy watching your child observe the world around them.
Of course, we didn't have any wind for about two days after we made this, but Erik was SO excited when he finally got to see his windsock flying in the breeze. We've got this right outside our front window, so we can watch it all day to see when the wind picks up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Weather Counting Wall

This activity may be one of my favorite that we did during our Weather Theme. It took a bit of work to get it ready to go, but it got a lot of use and is something that I can save (most of it anyways) for future use. I took the idea of the Sticky Wall that we've done several times in the past, combined with this idea from Pinterest, and adapted it to fit our theme. 

I cut out LOTS of little shapes out of foam sheets. I wanted to practice one-to-one correspondence (meaning a child has the ability to match ONE object to ONE corresponding number or object), so I cut out the shapes in sets:
1 Rainbow
2 Windsocks
3 Lightning Bolts
4 Windmills
5 Snowflakes
6 Puddles
7 Suns
8 Clouds
9 Hailstones
10 Raindrops

 Next, and this is the tricky part, I took a sheet of contact paper and on the back (NOT sticky) side I wrote the number of objects in each set, a word or two to label the objects in the set, and then traced the outline of the corresponding foam pieces. Why is that so tricky? Well, you have to do it all backwards as it will be reversed when you turn it sticky side out to hang on the wall. You may notice in these pictures that I made a spelling error, and chose not to redo the entire thing just to fix a word that Erik can't read yet anyways. It's really hard to spell correctly when you're doing it all backwards!
 Next, you remove the backing off of the contact paper and hang it sticky side out on a wall or window low enough to be comfortable for your little one. Give them the foam pieces, and turn them loose! The first few times I sat by Erik and we sorted and counted together, but after that I let him do it on his own. He would choose to come back to this (with no prompting from me) at least once a day for the two weeks we had this hung up, which means it was something he really enjoyed (I'll be honest, that kinda surprised me, I thought I'd have to encourage him to spend time counting the shapes, but he loved it!)
The stickiness of the contact paper eventually wore off (or more likely got covered by dirt and grime) so that part of this activity just went in the trash when we were done with it, but I'll save the counters for future use.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Observing and Naming Types of Weather

One of the first things we did as part of our Weather Theme was to talk about some different kinds of weather. I pulled out some paper and crayons and we drew some pictures of different kinds of weather then I labelled each one.

 I tried to encourage Erik to help me draw/color the things we were talking about, but he has never had much interest in coloring. I keep trying, but it's just not his favorite thing. He did help me trace his hand for a tree, and then drew an ice cream cone (which is actually the first thing he's ever drawn that was recognizable, so that was kinda fun). He was way more interested in the letters I was using to label things with, which shows he's gaining an awareness of print (meaning he recognizes that those squiggly lines I make when I write have a real world meaning; an important pre-reading skill), and he insisted that his ice cream cone get it's own label.
When we were done drawing our pictures, we hung them on the wall next to our front window, so that we can look outside and compare what is going on outside with the types of weather we've learned about. It was fun to see that after a few days of making a point of observing the weather with him, he started to do it on his own. He would come find me and tell me it was windy, or cloudy, or whatever. Observing the world around us is a key skill for future science learning. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Weather Week

I have been trying to be more intentional with Erik's activities lately, and I thought it would be fun to try to create themes for each week (or two weeks, depending on the theme and what's going on at the time). For our first weekly theme, I chose to do Weather, since Erik has been incredibly interested in the weather lately. It started with a fascination about rain a few months ago, and hasn't gone away since.
I have been using a book my Mother-in-Law loaned to me to help me make sure that I am getting a good balance of activities covering several skills, How To Be Your Child's First Teacher. So far it has been really fun and very useful to look through. I didn't get all the different subjects covered in this unit, but we had enough to keep us busy and we had lots of fun learning about the weather.



Here's our lesson plan for this theme:

Language Arts:
     *Read weather related books from the library
     *Label pictures of different types of weather
Math:
     *Weather Counting Wall
Creative Arts:
     *Draw pictures of different types of weather
     *Snow Painting
Science:
     *Make a Windsock
     *Make daily weather observations
     *Make it Rain

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, September 5, 2014

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint

Before we moved, way back when we used to have a side walk outside our front door, we spent a lot of time creating art with sidewalk chalk. I saw this pin one day though, and decided it was time to mix things up a bit. Using just a few simple ingredients that we already had around the house, we whipped up some side walk paint and headed out into the sunshine. I didn't have any paint brushes that were big enough (or that I was willing to allow to be destroyed), so I just cut up a sponge from the dollar store into strips and those did the job.
Please excuse the less-than-stellar photography, all I had handy this day was my phone. 
This was such a fun activity. The colors were SO vibrant, and it was fun to see the texture of the paint as it dried. It kind of pops off the cement giving it something of a 3-D look. It is also very smooth once dry so it feels neat to walk on it with bare toes. I was slightly concerned about the food coloring staining the cement, but it came right off without any problems. The sponges weren't ideal for the job of paint brush, the paint tended to collect and harden in the ends of the sponges, but they worked good enough for us.
 This was a really fun activity, and if we still had any cement in our yard I think this would be something we repeated frequently. Alas, I now live in the mountains and only have things like grass and flowers and birds and deer and trees in my front yard, but somehow we survive (sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell. We LOVE LOVE LOVE it here!!!).
What a fun way to express one's creative side, enjoy some sunshine, and work those finger muscles all at the same time!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Erik's Book Nook

I thought I'd share with you one of the things that we did for Erik for his birthday. 
He only has about 2 pieces of clothing that normally hang in his closet (I keep his clothes in a couple of small dressers so he can reach them himself), so it seemed like such a waste of space. I moved those two pieces to my closet and turned his into a book nook.
We took the door off, hung some of our Christmas lights on the shelf, put a big cushy pillow on the floor, and set his baskets of books on the floor inside. I used some of the construction paper left over from our Color Wheel activity to make the sign and it was ready to go. I have the material to make a few small throw pillows to make things even cozier, but I haven't gotten around to sewing them yet. Total cost for this project: $10 for the big floor pillow, $5 for material for the throw pillows.
I do need to buy a power strip with an on/off switch so that I can plug the lights into it and Erik can just flip the switch. Right now I have to plug it in each day and un-plug it before naptime and bedtime (he's not allowed to mess with anything plugged into the electric outlets).
Erik loves his Book Nook and hangs out in there for a while every day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

 Now that we live somewhere with some outdoor space, it's been fun to get Erik outside and learning about the nature around him. We love to observe the wildlife in our yard; mostly deer and LOTS of birds. The only problem is the birds like to hang out on the far side of the yard from our front porch so it's hard to get a good look at them. I decided we needed a way to lure them a bit closer so we can observe them better, so we decided to make pine cone bird feeders. We don't have any pine trees right here close, so we went for a drive up the canyon, played in the creek for a while, then came home with our pine cones.
These are so easy to make. Take a pine cone, smear the scales with peanut butter (or suet or shortening if you can't/don't want to use peanut butter)...
...roll the PB covered pine cone in bird seed...
...attach a string and hang outside. 
 Now for the sake of honesty, I have to tell you that we didn't ever see any birds eating off our pine cones, but that is because the deer got to them first. I guess next time we do this we'll have to hang them really high in the tree so that ONLY the birds can reach them. Oh well, we like watching the deer too.

I have plans to expand on this activity. I want to make a little booklet with the outline of a bird on each page. Then as we see new birds Erik can color the bird to resemble what we see in our yard and we can keep a record of the birds he's learned to identify.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Color Wheel

I've wanted to do this activity for a long time but never remembered to buy some construction paper. I finally remembered last time I was at the store so we got to have some fun. 
Set up is easy, just tape one sheet of each color of paper to your floor. After that there are several different ways you can play with this. 
First, we just walked and jumped on the colors around the circle, saying the name of each one as we stepped on it. After I was sure that Erik knew all the colors and was fairly familiar with the location of each one I would call out the name of a color and he would have to run to it. We took turns telling each other which color to jump on and he loved it. 

We left  this on the floor, and after a day or two we added a new activity. We went on a color hunt around the house, looking for items that matched each color. It was interesting to discover which colors seemed more dominant in our house. Some of the colors ended up with big piles on them and some we were hard pressed to come up with one thing that matched. 
 Day three we added a circle of tape in the middle to facilitate our next activity. I had Erik stand in the middle with a bean bag in hand. I would call out a color and he would have to throw the bean bag onto that color. This was awesome for firming up his knowledge of the colors as well as working on throwing and catching. 
 Who knew we could have several days of fun with little more than some colored paper and some masking tape. And now we have lots of fun paper to make crafts with in the next few weeks.

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Magnetic Exploration Tray

I found this idea in one of my old Early Childhood Education textbooks and figured it sounded easy to put together, fun, and free, which makes it perfect for us. I gathered a selection of small items from around the house, trying to find a mixture of magnetic and non-magnetic things. I put everything on a tray with Erik's magnet wand and left it on the coffee table for him to discover. 
The round thing near the bottom right-hand corner is a petri dish filled with iron filings and hot glued shut. We found a bottle of iron fillings and the magnet wand at a teacher supply store. 
Erik wasn't sure exactly what to do with all this stuff at first, but it didn't take him too long to figure it out. It was fun to sit and watch him explore the different items to discover which stuck to his wand. 
Metal measuring spoon=magnetic

Plastic baby  spoon=not magnetic
This was a fun way to get Erik interested in some science and exploration of the world around him. Plus it was free and you can't beat that!

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Practice Cutting

To go along with our other shape activity, I threw together this quick cutting practice sheet. After we said the name of each shape, I turned Erik loose with the scissors and let him go at it. This was not our first time using scissors, but he still has a long way to go before he's actually able to cut on the lines. Right now we are focusing on cutting technique and we'll worry about cutting on the lines sometime later. 
When cutting, the child should hold the scissors in his dominant hand with the thumb on top and the scissors pointing away from his body at all times. Theoretically the scissors should always point directly away from his body. His other hand is the "helper" hand, which is in charge of supporting the paper and turning it so that he can cut where he wants.
I think it's something of a boy thing, but Erik loves getting to chop things up into little pieces. I love that he can enjoy destroying something while also building fine motor strength and learning valuable skills.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shape Jump and Sort

Today's activity was inspired by a couple of blog posts I found through Pinterest. Here and here
We made a few different shapes out of painter's tape on our floor and then Erik practiced following directions as he ran or jumped or crawled to the different shapes.
 When he got tired of that, we went on a shape hunt around our house for items that were the same shape as the outlines on our floor.
 We had a lot of fun with this one and it kept Erik busy for a few days, although I didn't want to have any trouble getting the tape off the carpet so we didn't leave it on for as long as Erik would've liked. This is a great way to practice following directions, as well as to learn his shapes.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Field Trip: Albuquerque Museum of Natural History

A local radio station was doing a promotion of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science that made it so we could get our whole family into the museum for free, so we decided to go for it.
We were even able to get tickets to a show in the planetarium, which is something I’ve always wanted to experience. Most of the museum was over Erik’s head, so we didn’t stay as long as we would’ve liked, but he did enjoy their special hands-on exploration room. He made animal tracks in the sand,

 watched lizards, snakes, reptiles, and fish do their thing,

 and got up close and personal with some butterflies.


Someday, when Erik’s a little older, we’ll go back here and really enjoy it to its fullest. For this visit it was enough to just get a glimpse and relive some childhood memories. 


Monday, August 4, 2014

Face Time

I think it safe to assume that we all know the importance of “tummy time” for infants. It builds the muscles that baby needs to crawl and walk and sit and do so many important things.
I found this idea for making tummy time a bit more interesting for baby. All you need is a mirror.



Baby gets her exercise and a work out buddy.