Monday, August 13, 2012

The Olympics- Patterning

Patterning is one activity that I have been very consciously working on for months with E, and it is clearly paying off.  This activity is pretty simple to put together for any theme.  I pulled out my sports stickers and started creating patterns.  I verbalized the names of the balls as I placed them, and E's job was to decide what sticker went on the blank.  It was much more difficult for her to just look at the patterns and find the next one, but she has become very good at being able to hear and see the patterns, then continue them. 
We even talked our way through one where the blank was in the middle instead of the end!  I think it is so important to have her hear how I work through a problem by showing her how I look at the pattern including what is behind and ahead of the missing spot.  Being transparent can be difficult because so many of the skills we work on with our kids are second nature to us, but trying to break it down into those little steps can help them become better problem solvers.

The Olympics- The List

E was pumped up for the Olympics after our MOMS club did a big Olympic event the Friday morning before the opening ceremonies.  For that event, we made torches, flags, USA colored ribbon streamers, and medals for the kids to introduce them to some of the more iconic parts of the Olympics.  We watched the opening ceremonies to see a lot of those icons.

We are sports junkies in this house, so when the games started, I knew that we needed to find a way to make watching hours of sports interesting to E.  The first morning of the Olympics, we made a list of all the sports that we would have a chance of seeing over the two plus weeks of the international event.  
After we saw an event on TV, E would come over to the refrigerator, grab a sticker, and put it next to the sport.  We worked a lot on letter sounds to help her find the sports, making this a great time filler, but also a great phonics activity.  Also, each day we would count how many events had stickers by them.  This had her practicing counting up through the twenties.  We will definitely do this activity in two years for the winter Olympics, and probably each Olympics after (don't tell anyone, but E's parents love this activity just as much as E)!

The Olympics- Connect the Dots

 If your house is anything like our house, you probably also have a ton of coloring and activity books sitting around, not getting played with much.  So, as I was getting some activities together to do with the Olympics, I decided to go through all of our books.  I was looking for sports related items that had at least a little bit of educational value.  I had never really thought about dot-to-dots as being educational, but for a 3-year-old girl who is still working on number recognition, they are awesome.  And, I had never taught her how to do a dot-to-dot, so this turned out to be a fun and educational little activity that happens to be sports related!
After E finished the dot-to-dot, we worked on coloring in the items.  I have always been really laid back about her coloring in books (aka scribbling in books), but as I have seen her drawing become more and more sophisticated, I know she should be getting better at "staying in the lines."  We are continually working on this new level of fine-motor skills.

Filler Activity- Toy Cleaning


I'm a garage sale hound.  Over the last few weeks, I have had some great finds.  One was a retiring teacher, where I scored a ton of books.  The other was a family who had probably 30 games for sale, including a few games for E.  I bought her the Cootie Bug game and Don't Break the Ice.  Before playing the new games comes the cleaning.  Typically, I am the one doing the cleaning. But, on this day, I decided that E might get a kick out of cleaning the parts.

Armed with an old toothbrush, a big tub of soapy water, and lots of towels (fabric ones, not the paper ones you can see on the table) she got busy.

And, she stayed busy...for close to an hour.  She LOVED cleaning the parts of the game, and it helped her to anticipate playing the game even more.  She had a ton of fun cleaning and eventually playing the game.  This garage same find was definitely worth the $2.00 I spent!!

Water Creatures- Sensory Bin

 I was so excited about this sensory bin because 1) I had all the materials on hand (!!) and 2) I knew that E would love it!  So, I made it a few days before getting it out for E.  The fillers in this bin include:  blue colored rice, sea shells, sea shell shaped pasta, and rocks.  Utensils include: a magnifying glass, tongs, a shovel, and a funnel.  Other items include some sand paper, blue felt, big leaves, and plastic sea creatures.  And, my favorite part of the sensory bin, the water bag.  I was so excited about this part!!!  I put water in a big freezer baggie, then put on another baggie just to be safe.  Sadly, if you look closely at picture above, you can see that there was a little problem with leaking....
 This picture shows the bin without the water :(.  Not sure what I would need to do differently to make it work.
 E never knew that the water part was in the bin, so she enjoyed the bin just the same.  Her favorite part was digging in the rice using the shells, and she loved hiding the sea creatures.  As always, this sensory bin was a hit that filled a lot of time!  

Water Creatures- Free the Fish Activity

I love the ideas on the web about freezing objects for kids to try to "free" from the ice.  So, I took a plastic bowl, some plastic fish and water creatures, and added water to freeze the creatures in.  I did the freezing in two layers because the creatures sunk to the bottom of the bowl.  After freezing overnight, I loosened the ice, and took it outside with a bowl of water and a pipette.
 Although the dog is disinterested in the whole process, E was very into it.  She started out using the pipette to try to melt the ice.
 Then, she began sliding the ice around to use the heat of the patio to help her.
 Couldn't resist this shot...
And finally, she figured out that the busting the ice method was the quickest and most fun way to free the fish.  We have done this activity many times since this.  I like that it helps with her problem solving skills.  And, it was meant to help with those fine motor skills, even though in actuality it probably ended up being more of a gross motor skill activity.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Water Creatures- Opening Activity

 With our impending trips to the Great Lakes, I decided it would be a great idea for our next unit to be water related.  So, we started out by using a Melissa & Doug Magnetic Habitat Set E has.  We talked about the word habitat, and discussed what kind of animals would live in the three habitats included in the set. 
 One by one, I would hand an animal or creature to E, and she would move around the room placing it on the correct habitat.  We also used to the time to discuss the names of each animal and anything we knew about the animals.
This was a great opening activity to get E's mind thinking about the different water creatures we would be talking about.

Filler Activity- Letter Dig

Although E is doing great with learning her capital letters, she is still learning to master the matching lower case letter, as well as mastering the sounds that go along with each letter.  This little filler activity was to help her find the letter pairs, as well as working on putting words that go along with those letters and sounds.  
 Using her dollar store foam alphabet puzzle pieces and her table filled with sand, I buried capital and lower case letter pairs (about 8 at a time).  E's job was to dig up the letter, and look for the matching big or little letter.
As she found the letter pairs, we would try to think of a word that started with the letter before placing the letters back into the puzzle.  Although the activity was fun and successful through part of the alphabet, it did not hold E's attention long enough to get through the whole alphabet.  But, we will continue working on the activity, as well as letter sounds!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bugs- Ladybug Day

We declared today Ladybug day at our house.  I brought E's ladybug wings and doll to the living room, and took out all of our fun ladybug books from our bug theme book basket. I also added our nonfiction Ladybugs book by Martha E.H. Rustad.  We read the factual book about ladybugs, as well as The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle before doing our first activity...hatching our ladybugs from the ice eggs.
I took some of the wooden embellishment ladybugs I had sitting around, filled up ice cube trays half way, then let them freeze before adding water to fill them up the entire way to freeze again.  I wanted at least some of the ladybugs to be well encased into the "eggs."
I popped the ladybug ice out into a big bowl and equipped E with a watering can of warm water to help her hatch the ladybugs to get all 10 out.
To get the ladybugs out, we melted, threw, stepped on, picked at and simply waited for the ladybugs to free them from the ice.
This activity also involved a whole lot of counting.  E had a hard time remembering just how many ladybugs she had freed.  Here you can see her using her fingers to count...a great skill she is finally getting the hang of doing, even when mommy isn't helping.
After about an hour outside playing with subsequent bowls of ice cubes and refills of watering cans, we finally came inside to read Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth Summary, which is one of E's favorite books of all time. We started with a pile of 10 ladybugs...
...and as we worked our way through the story, E moved the "lost" ladybugs into another pile at the top of the book.
Finally, E match up each of her ladybugs with the ladybugs on the final pages of the book.  We plan to have another "theme" bug day soon!

Bugs- Worksheet Notebook

Ever since I have been getting onto Pinterest, I have been interested in using a set of worksheets with E from  1+1+1=1.  Here you can find the link to a list of their preschool packs, including the Pretty Bugs packet that I printed out, cut and laminated parts of, and placed in page protectors.
I know some people are very anti worksheets, but the truth is, once kids are in a formalized school setting, they are expected to show skills on paper.  I think the pages serve a great purpose as filler activities to supplement the activities we are doing.  
This particular activity involves graphing.  E rolls the die (or spins a spinner) and charts which bug the die lands on.  It was great for her object correspondence, as well as getting used to writing in a particular box or area of the graph.  
We have played or E has completed about half of the worksheets from the packet, and has had a blast doing them.  It is great seeing her work through some of the sheets on her own, and the games allow us to work on various skills together, too.  My labels for this post will reference the packet as a whole.  A big thanks to the creators of the worksheets!

Bugs- Books and Journal

We started this activity by reading Ugh! A Bug! by Ned Crowley and Bug Parts by Charlotte Guillain.  Both  nonfiction books have a lot of close up photos of real bugs and describe the bug and insect parts.   
Before reading the books, I had created a journal entry fill-in-the-blank page to fill in with numbers. I had planned on using a sticker page to have E pick out the correct number to fill in the blanks, but then we found these number stamps which she chose to use instead.  She actually remembered a lot of the facts from the books to fill in on her own.
Here is the final entry.  Unfortunately I did not leave enough room for the stamp numbers, but it still worked out okay!  We definitely need to continue with the journaling....such a great activity.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bugs- Collecting

 I love giving E little gifts by putting them on her table after nap time.  This bug collection set, another dollar store find, has been a big hit.  It came with the collection container with a built-in magnifying glass, tongs, and  a small net.  We first created a bug habitat by finding a couple of plants, including one with flowers to put down into the collection container.  We then went to an area where we have some bricks that can be flipped over, revealing lots of interesting bugs.
 We collected a millipede, roly-poly bugs, a June bug, and a couple of bugs I don't know the name of.  Collecting the bugs was dependent a lot on me...the tongs can be tricky to use and not squish the bugs.  I read to try using a paint brush to pick up the bugs, so we will do that next time.
This is E studying the bugs from the bottom.  The clear container allows a great look at the bugs from all angles, allowing us to talk about all the bug parts, and make connections between what we read and what we see!

Bugs- Sensory Bin

 To get excited about studying bugs, I created a new sensory bin representing a word we have been spending a lot of time talking about-- habitat.  The fillers in this bin include two one foot squares of fake grass (I found it on clearance at Hobby Lobby with the Easter items), pebbles, and green poly fill.
 I included two plastic posts which I filled with a coffee bean/split pea/colored spaghetti mix left over from another sensory bin.  I then cut apart a silk flower bush and a silk leaf bush and "planted" them into the pots. Utensils include tongs, magnifying glasses, and a cardboard tube.  Finally, I added a couple of bags of bugs from the dollar store, along with some self-stick ladybugs and spider confetti.  
 As soon as we opened the bin, E wanted her bug viewing container to collect the bugs from the bin. Her favorite was finding the little lady bugs, which I had placed "crawling" in different spots throughout the bin.
 Here she is counting some of the bugs before placing them into her viewing container.
And here she is making the ladybugs crawl on her feet!  Looks like she needed a pedicure!

I just can't emphasize how great these bins are.  They are fun to put together, a great way to learn, and very entertaining!

Birthday Week- Toy Story Playdate

E was blessed with almost a month of birthday celebrations with visitors, cakes, Skype and Facetime calls, packages, and cards.  To celebrate E's birthday on the actual day, we decided to have a birthday play date with a Toy Story theme. The night before her actual birthday after she went to bed, I decorated most of the house and set out her presents from Mom and Dad for when she woke up.  On her birthday, we finished the decorations with balloons that E helped me pick out and order.

 I used a lot of the Toy Story items that E already had to decorate.  The 3s I cut out on the Cricut to use as confetti and on the hats.  Every year for her birthday I put out a book with the birthday theme for the guests to sign as a keepsake for E.  Unfortunately, guests forgot to sign in, so instead I will print all the guests in the book.  On the coffee table (towards the top of the picture) are the foam rocket cut outs, along with foam star stickers for the kids to decorate.  On the back, I hot glued straws, then used a smaller tubing to put inside.  The idea is they were supposed to be able to blow the tube and shoot the rocket into the air.  They didn't work the best, but I think the kids still had fun making them.
One of E's requests for her party was that her friends wear hats and sing happy birthday to her.  I found a template online to cut the hats out of scrapbook paper.  I used coordinating borders, number 3s, and then had E help me put on the stickers before adding the elastic.  The kids wore them around throughout the party!
 This is the banner I made using the Cricut and various scrapbook papers, along with some Toy Story cutouts from an old sticker book.  
 I loved using papers that coordinated with E's three favorite characters (cow print, red, and yellow for Jessie; brown, denim, and yellow and red checked for Woody; and purple and green for Buzz).
 My favorite part of the decor was the individual Mr. Potato Head cakes for each child.  I baked sheet cakes, used an Easter egg cookie cutter to get the shapes, then iced each one in brown.  
 Each child got a bag of candy to decorate their own Mr. Potato Head.  Candy included: orange wedge gumdrops (ears), regular gumdrops (nose), Wilton candy eyes, black licorice pieces (eyebrows/mustache), string red licorice (mouth/hair), and gummy Lifesavers (eyes/glasses/mouth).  The kids did a great job!
I also pre-scooped ice cream into cupcake wrappers and put sprinkles on top for easy distribution during the party.  Here is one of the kids enjoying his or her finished creation!  

Before leaving the party, each friend got a Toy Story favor bag filled with plastic army men, Toy Story stickers, and "To Infinity and Beyond" playdough, which I made, colored black, added glitter, cut into stars using cookie cutters, and placed into a Ziplock baggie.  It was a fun, low-key afternoon.