Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Five Senses- Listening Activity

Like most toddlers, E loves music and instruments. I thought incorporating these instruments into a listening activity would be both fun and challenging for E. I pulled out about seven of her instruments with varying sounds. I took a picture on the iPad to act as a reference for later in the activity, then I let E play around with the instruments to make sure she was familiar with the unique sounds that each one makes.

Then, I took the instruments over behind the puppet theater, leaving E with the picture of the instruments on the iPad.

From behind the puppet theater, I played each instrument, one at a time, and had E identify what I was playing. Being able to look at the iPad pictures was a very helpful step that I would suggest to not leave out. One thing I would do differently if I did this activity again would be to make sure to review the names of each of the instruments we were using. There was a lot of "the shakey thing" and "the whistle." I missed an opportunity to expand on vocabulary on the front end of the activity. In the end, though, E enjoyed this simple activity!

The Five Senses- Texture Activity

While shopping at a dollar store (one of my favorite places to find materials to use with E), I found this plastic dish with two compartments (a dog or cat bowl, I believe), which I thought would be a perfect container to have on hand to do sorting activities. So, I created this activity to work on feeling different textures of ribbon and twine. I knew I wanted to use the materials in this activity to do a measurement activity later on, so I cut the ribbon and twine to a short length and a long length for that activity.

I then labeled the sticks and added example ribbon to help to show what rough and smooth feel like. We discussed the words rough and smooth, we talked about how it feels on our fingers, then E began the sorting! She actually did a great job of determining the texture. The was a simple and fun activity.

The Five Senses- Touch Activity

From my own childhood, I remember doing activities that focused on using the sense of touch to identify objects. I was pretty sure that E would struggle if I simply put objects in a box and had her identify them with nothing to reference, so instead, I picked pairs of objects. That way, she could see one of the items on the table while she looked for the matching item in the box.

I cut out some hand/arm holes in an old shoebox for E to use. When we started doing the activity, E really wanted to look into the holes instead of simply use her hands. If I were to start this project over again, I would probably try to attach some material to cover the holes to make it difficult to see inside. E enjoyed this activity enough that she asked to do it the following day. It was a good way for her to rely on her sense of touch to help her to identify objects!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Five Senses- Touch Activity and Journal Activity

On Pinterest, I saw (possibly pinned?) filling balloons with play dough as an alternative (and less messy) sensory activity. They reminded me of those original stress balls that were filled with a similar type substance. I loved them when I was a kid! So, I thought it would be cool to try to make balloons filled with various substances to continue working on the sense of touch and discussion of texture.

I really should have taken pictures of me trying to fill these balloons because it didn't go so smoothly. I used a funnel, a turkey baster, and my brute strength to get the balloons filled. There are balloons filled with play dough, sand, candy hearts, air with a few pieces of rice, and water.

When I brought out the balloons, E was immediately intrigued. Balloons, I had prewritten the journal fill ins to guide our play and discussions. The sentences say, "The _____ balloon feels _____ like there might be _____ inside." We spent a lot of time (probably like 15 minutes) feeling the weight, texture, bounciness, and even smell of these! I did get E to give answers to fill in each blank.
We were then getting ready to go to bath time, so I thought it would be fun to add on another element by asking about what ones she thought would sink or float. We made predictions in the journal, as well. She loved playing with them in the bath as much or more as she loved playing with them on the table! So, I guess the struggles I had with filling the balloons was well worth the outcome of having fun and learning with this activity!

The Five Senses- Sensory Bin

My goal for this sensory bin is to appeal to as many of the senses as possible, which I think this one does. If you are unfamiliar with sensory bins, please check out my first post on sensory bins that gives a little more background.

The main fillers in the this bin include small pieces of spaghetti colored green, a silk square, unrolled toilet paper, coffee beans, and river rocks. Some of the untensils and containers include a spoon, turner/tongs, an old spice container (still smelling of cumin), tongue depressors, pipe curve, a cup, coffee filter, clothes pins, a small Ziploc container, and a carboard box. Other items in the bin include foam balls, a car, rubber bands, sandpaper, and pieces of yarn.

The two most popular items in this bin are definitely the hand warmer and the reusable ice cubes. E spent a lot of time trying to warm up and cool down the other items in the bin. She wanted me to sit down to play, and I did some things she hadn't come up with like putting the spaghetti pieces into the foam balls, "drawing" with the yarn on the sandpaper, making hats with the toilet paper, etc. I can't wait to get it out again to see what she comes up with!

The Five Senses- Introduction, Activity, and Journal

To begin this unit on the five senses, we started by reading the book Look, Listen, Taste, Touch, and Smell by Pamela Hill Nettleton. It is a great overview of the senses and the body parts we use for those senses. Parts of the book go into more detail than what E probably understands, but the great illustrations by Becky Shipe keep her entertained. She has actually asked to read the book a couple of times since that initial reading.

After we read the book, we then used E's Mr. Potato Heads to work on matching the sense with body part. I would say, "put on what we use to hear." E did a great job of finding all the correct parts and wanted to do the second potato head. I made the clues for the second one a little more tricky, such as "if I am baking cookies, what might you use to know they were in the oven?" Once again, she did great! She even got the question right (also discussed in the book) for what someone might wear if they can't see well (that's why Mr. Potato Head has on glasses), and what we can wear to protect us from the sun (that's why the Mr. Potato Heads have on hats). The mustache is just for fun :).

Finally, we did a journal entry where E took the parts off Mr. Potato head and traced them. After she traced them, I had her dictate the labels and the corresponding sense to me. This whole activity was so fun and really solidified the background information for the whole unit!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fun with Cloud Dough!

If you are anything like me, after baby showers and new baby presents, you ended up with at least one bottle of baby oil. Personally, I have absolutely no idea what I am supposed to use baby oil for, or in what circumstance I would use it. It has simply been taking up space in my cabinets for nearly three years. So, when I found cloud dough on Pinterest some time ago, I was thrilled to finally find a use for baby oil. But, being a bit of a neat freak, I wanted it to be an outdoor activity. Making cloud dough is very easy. I did a small batch which is 4 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of baby oil mixed together.
We broke out the sand toys and shoveled, sifted, and molded the cloud dough. E played with it for about 35 minutes. My inclinations of the cloud dough being messy were very correct, so I warn you to also do this outside or be prepared to clean up a mess inside.

I kept the cloud dough in a covered bucket to try to use again. E even helped clean up the cloud dough left behind outside! She loves using her broom, and insisted on sweeping off the bench. I definitely recommend this fun and easy activity!

Fun with a Mallet, Tees, and Foam!

What a beautiful day! We spent most of the day outdoors. E watched me use the hammer (actually a rubber mallet) to put the lid back on a can of paint, and she wanted to use it. So, I went in and grabbed a piece of foam, some of her daddy's golf tees, and let her get busy with the mallet. She loved it! She stood and did this activity for about 25 minutes. Easy and fun! This will be in the rotation of outdoor activities as we begin moving into the spring and summer.

The Five Senses- Planning

Coming from a teaching background, it is ingrained in me to plan and have a purpose for activities and learning. When I first decided that I wanted to formalize the activities E and I do at home, the first step I took was looking for the preschool learning standards that I needed to cover. Standards are basically a list of knowledge and skills a student is to know or demonstrate by a certain age or grade level. These standards are supposed to be like a staircase of learning that progresses throughout the school years to eventually prepare students for college.

Up until a few years ago, different states had different standards for learning. Recently, though, there has been a push to have nationwide common core standards for grades K-12. Preschools are supposed to align their standards to have students ready for kindergarten. Although I can find the kindergarten standards on the common core website, I am not experienced enough with toddlers to know what to do to get them ready for the kindergarten standards (basically, to break those basics down into even smaller skills and steps). Luckily, though, I found a great set of learning guidelines from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for ages three through five. These guidelines have standards, indicators of child's progress, and teacher strategies and activities to put these guidelines into practice. These standards seem to be in line with the common core standards, as well. These guidelines are what I use to help make sure I am working on the skills E will need to have to begin Kindergarten.

From there, I decided I would pick unit topics that are interesting and timely to work to meet our standards. Holidays, vacations, animals, hobbies, weather, and favorite activities are the unit topics I am currently planning. This particular unit focuses on the five senses. I think this topic has a lot of possible activities and includes a lot of vocabulary and life skills that are important to learn about.

After I decided on a unit, I like to gather my resources. I started at the library. I used a key word search to find books, primarily non-fiction books, on the topic. It is so important to expose students to vocabulary, realistic pictures, and factual information about the topics. Above you will see the collection of non-fiction books I have collected so far for this unit.

My next steps in planning this unit is looking through both the standards with indicators and the various activities I have collected in hopes of using and/or modifying them with E. I try to match up the activities with the standards and indicators. Then, I try to think up activities to do to hit the standards and indicators we don't have any activities planned to cover. Many times we have books, music, toys, instruments, etc. that I can easily incorporate to help to meet the standards and indicators.

On top of that, we want to have FUN! Having fun and learning new things in the process are really what all of this is about!

Hopefully, if you are new to planning, my technique with give you a place to begin!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


You will notice that some days it seems that I skip doing activities and/or posting, which is true! When we moved to Oklahoma, and I became a stay at home mom, I searched on and a general online search to see if there were any playgroups or activity groups for E. I was lucky enough to find the MOMS Club in the town where I live. Above you will see some pics of E at a few events we have attended with the MOMS Club (I tried to pick out pics that focus on E to respect the privacy of the other kids and parents).

The MOMS Club is a national organization with chapters in towns throughout the country. I can't say enough about how much these moms have helped with the transition to a new town and my new life as a SAHM. We have events, playgroups, and craft time with our kids, and even mom-only events. E and I plan our week around events we attend with MOMS Club, and some days we don't spend a lot of time on the more formal "instruction" at home. The benefits from these outings and interaction are immeasurable for both of us, and I would suggest getting involved in a group to any and all moms who are home with their kids part or full time.

This is the link to the MOMS Club.

Exploring Valentine's Day and Emotions- Book and Transition

As we wrapped up our discussion of Valentine's Day and Emotions (which, of course, I didn't get to everything I wanted to), I ended with another book we have read for a long time, Hugs and Kisses by Christophe Loupy and Eve Tharlet. This book is about a dog named Hugs who gets kisses from various farm animals who love him like a horse, a duck, and a butterfly. All of the pages are textured, and use description to tell how the kisses are different from his mother's kiss.

All of the texture and description lead us perfectly into next week, when we will begin discussing the five senses! I have been doing a lot of prep work, and I will dedicate my next blog post to the planning behind a cohesive group of activities around a theme.

Filler Activity- Patterning

A few weeks back, E and I attending a preschool type class where E was exposed to patterning, probably for the the first time formally. She did not do well, and I felt horrible for not really exposing her to this before. I have had some trouble in my journey as a first-time mom with allowing myself to become complacent and not challenging E enough. But, I am a learn as I go mom, so I gathered some of the foam stickers and sheets I had in the craft room, and I created some patterning activities. These are similar to busy bags, but these particular activities are not easily reusable, so they aren't busy bags in the truest (or best) form.

All of the bags have a similar premise, copy the pattern I already made. Sometimes (like the ones on the left) the pattern is on half of the sheet, and E's job is to copy the pattern with similar types, positions, or colors with the half already created. The one on right is the same idea, but starting with her own foam sheet. It also focuses a little more on the spacial aspects of patterning. In some bags there are exactly the right foam stickers to copy the pattern, in others there are extras.

In the few times we have worked on these bags, E has struggled her way through. She gets really excited when she sees stickers, and just starts peeling the back off. I guide her through the thinking process behind creating the patterns, and try to give her a couple of ways to go about it: 1)look at what is first in the pattern using the standard left to right top to bottom, find the corresponding sticker, then put the sticker in the right spot 2) pick out a sticker, find the matching sticker on the pattern already there, then put the sticker in the right spot). It is a complicated process, and these bags aren't much of a filler activity YET, but I have faith that each time we work on these, E will "get it" more.

Exploring Valentine's Day and Emotions- Book and Math Activity

The Karen Katz book, Daddy Hugs, has been a favorite of Ella's for a long time. It tells about ways a dad shows a child love, using numbers (like 10 "I Love Yous"). Before we read the story, I spread out foam numbers around the room on the floor. As we read the story, we would act out what the daddy in the story did (pat pats, hugs, dancing on Daddy's feet, etc), then E would go grab the number from the floor.

It was a fun way of showing love and working on number recognition. This is a good activity for even those kids with a little less number recognition experience than E because they can see the number on the page then go find the number, making it more of a matching activity. At any rate, I would suggest this book (and most Karen Katz books) for a fun activity!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Filler Activity- Valentine's Day Present

Today's post-nap filler activity was E getting to open her Valentine's day gifts. I added a table cloth to her table (I wanted her gifts to feel special), and wrapped up each item separately with a cookie on top. Unfortunately, I took the picture before Daddy added his gifts, but she got a great assortment of gifts including MORE filler activities! These include a foam craft kit, a sticker activity book, a self-contained paint book, a DVD, and a balsa wood airplane. Educationally spoiled kids are the best kind!!

Exploring Valentine's Day and Emotions- Crystal Growing

All over Pinterest, there have been crystal growing recipes and methods. We did ours as part of exploring what the heart symbolizes. We also did it in conjunction with exploring the states of matter (liquid, solid, and gas) since boiling the water is one of the parts of getting this project to work.

We used the recipe from We began by shaping pipe cleaners into hearts. I asked E to get two red pipe cleaners from the box, and she grabbed a metallic one and a regular one. I'm not sure that affected the outcome of the experiment or not (using the metallic one), but I didn't have the heart to tell her to put it back. She also helped me get the yarn to tie the hearts onto the popsicle stick we used to hang the hearts across the jar.

As the water was boiling, we measured out the Borax into a cup to dump into the Mason jar. I made sure I was very careful with this project. After all, we were using boiling water and Borax. I did take E close to the pan on the stove to discuss once again the recent activities we had performed to see water as a solid, liquid, and now a gas. We talked about how we could tell the water was boiling, and how it is important to never go near the stove unless she asks Mommy and Mommy helps her.

We finally got the mixture all ready to go, and set it up to see the crystals form throughout the day. Unfortunately, about five hours in, we still didn't see any crystals. So, I added a little more Borax. The crystals started forming almost immediately.

This is the final outcome of the project. Although I enjoyed the process, especially talking about the states of matter, I can't say I would do this again. It was relatively boring and lacked a lot of hands-on interest for an almost three-year-old child.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Filler Activity- Color Matching

I love naps. I love taking naps, I love when E takes naps, and I especially love days we take naps together. Most days, though, I use E's nap time to accomplish something, and lately it seems that when E decides to come out from her nap, I am right in the middle of finishing something (a blog post, perhaps??). So, I thought I would try to get into the habit of getting an activity out on her table ready to go for when she gets up from her nap. The activity will need to be something I can quickly explain so I can use the few minutes she does the activity to wrap up whatever I am working on.

I love the busy bags it seems everyone has some version of posted online, but this filler activity can be something that doesn't fit so well in a bag, too. Today I took this desk supply organizer that I bought at a garage sale last week for $.50, put colored scrap book paper in the divided trays at the top, and put a bunch of different colored "things" in the bottom tray.

When E came out from her nap, I showed her what to do, and set her free to do it. She seemed to enjoy playing with the "things" more than sorting them. But, I think with continued practice, I will be able to squeak out another 10 minutes or so to finish up my nap time projects.

Exploring Valentine's Day and Emotions- Journal Entry

The official title of this journal entry is "Things I Like and Love." Before we began on today's journal entry, I talked about some things that I like and things that I enjoy. I had cut out a bunch of "things" I thought may appeal to E one night when I was going through magazines for another project (thank you, Pinterest). I placed all of those items out on the coffee table, and we talked about what some of them were. I then told E to choose 5 items that we would write about in her journal. She picked out her items.

Today she did struggle a little bit with elaborating on why she liked the things she had chosen. I did some modeling (Mommy likes ice cream because it tastes good, it is fun to go get ice cream with you, and because I love chocolate). She still had some trouble, but we finally got through it. I know that by working through those tough learning experiences she is beginning to understand that she can eventually get through a challenging situation, and she is smarter than what she even thinks she is! I have been reading a lot lately about the importance of fostering resiliency in children, and I think working through challenges without giving up is a good way to build that important characteristic. Also, she is hopefully beginning to understand that her Mommy will not give up on her...another important lesson!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fun with Colored Ice Cubes in the Bath!

Every child loves colors. I'm not really sure how E learned her colors, but it seemed like one day, she was just able to identify them. Now, I want her to understand how to manipulate colors, learn about primary colors and mixing those colors, and, of course, having fun with those colors.

We started this activity by putting water in clear cups, and adding the primary food colors to each cup. We then worked together to mix the primary colors to make the secondary colors. Our green color didn't turn out great, but E loved seeing the transformation of the two colors into something new.

We then put the colored water into ice cube trays to freeze for the next activity. I tried to use the words "liquid," "solid," and "freeze" in this step.

The next day, we pulled one of each color of ice cube out of the tray to put back into the clear cups. We then took them to the bathtub to let the real fun begin!

In the bathtub, we focused on the ideas of "melting" and "liquid" once again as E played with the ice cubes. She loved chasing them around the bath until they disappeared completely. She also loved the sensory aspect of putting the ice cubes on her toes and feeling the hot and cold simultaneously.

Those curious eyes say it all! What a fun exploration of color, matter transformation, and the senses! And, the best news is that we still have more cubes in the freezer for the next bath!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Creating a Toddler Journal

Today we created a journal for E. Nothing too complicated here: a three-ring binder with blank pieces of paper three-hole punched. The plan for this journal is to do interview and scribe types of entries, gluing pictures, using stickers, and, of course, doing drawings.

E actually did some free drawings today in the journal. We are FINALLY getting to the place where her drawings have some sort of resemblance to actual items. But, I'm pretty sure that in a few months we will have no idea what those drawing were supposed to be. I remember reading somewhere once to label kids' drawings, and I started that today! These will be fabulous to look at as her skills continue to grow! Also, remember to date the items, as well.

Exploring Valentine's Day and Emotions- Book and Journal Entry

Today we read the book I Like It When... by Mary Murphy. As the title and cover imply, the book is about actions that make the baby penguin and parent penguin happy, such as holding hands, helping around the house, and reading stories. We read the book, and then went through the book a second time with E reading to me, using the pictures to help guide her. No...she is not able to actually read YET, but she practices all those other literacy and comprehension skills every single day. You would be amazed at how many middle school and high school students I have worked with over the years who do not have skills like using graphics to help further understanding and rereading to help solidify comprehension.

We then did a journal entry where E answered questions (and I wrote the answers) to finish the statements "I like it when Mommy/Daddy/our dog/my friends..." Her answers are surprising, hilarious, and simple. Try it for yourself!

Book Worth Sharing

Our fabulous librarian introduced us to this wonderful book, Press Here, by Herve Tullet. It is a very interactive book, similar to a child using a smartphone or iPad. Borrow it from your library or order it from the internet, such as on Amazon.

Tips for Bubbles and Bath Time Fun!

Kids love bubbles. Carefree moms love bubbles. I love bubbles once they are in the air, but I HATE the stickiness and mess that blowing bubbles can create. So, I have two solutions. One is a battery operated bubble blower. I think this should be on every mom's essential toy list. Ours (as you can see in the background of the picture) is Manely the Lion.

Bringing Manely indoors when the winter weather began to arrive was a great decision. During bath time, E and I love listening to the bubbles and enjoying the smiles bubbles inevitably bring. Recently, I added a regular container of bubbles to the bath, as well. Typically, these little bottles of stickiness and spills would make me cringe, but in the bath, who cares? It is truly the best of both worlds. Plus, I'm helping the no-mess risk practice of blowing bubbles in the bath will translate into bubble blowing being a mastered skill once spring comes!
Pin It

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Exploring Valentine's Day and Emotions- Sensory Bin

Sensory bin is a term I never heard until a few weeks ago, and now, I am planning about five or six of them in my head for the next units we are going to do. You can find hundreds of resources on line for sensory bins, and I have read through the majority of those. The main points of what I learned are that a sensory bin should be a self-contained area for a child who has outgrown the need to put every object in his or her mouth to have free play focusing on textures, fine-motor skills, exploration of objects, and being creative.

When I went to initially pick out our bin, I wanted something relatively large, so I went with the lidded Sterilite 35 quart container. I'm not a huge fan of messes or messy things, so I knew there would need to be a balance between having interesting contents and being able to clean them up quickly and easily. As many of the internet resources suggest, I put down a large tablecloth under the bin to easily gather the small pieces (in this case rice and beans) that fall on the floor. So, if you don't' have a tarp, blanket, or table cloth to use under your bin, be sure to pick one up.

When I went out shopping for the contents of the bin, I knew lots of people use fillers like beans and rice as the base, then add in objects from there. I wanted this bin to be Valentine's day colors, so I used dried white beans (2 medium bags), rice my daughter helped me color pink (take 4 cups of rice, a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol, and food coloring-- mix in a large bowl or bag, then lay out to dry overnight on a foil covered cookie sheet). I plan to save and eventually reuse these filler items.

I also wanted to gather an assortment of "tools" for the bins. For this bin I purchased tweezers, tongs, magnifying glasses, and pieces of PVC pipe which will be kept to be used only for these sensory bins. I don't want to have an eyebrow emergency and have to go digging through rice to find my tweezers, so I spent the dollar for E to have her own! Also, I probably won't let her play with these items outside of the bins to keep them fun and fresh when she does get bin time.

Here is what the bin looked like preplay! Other items include plastic heart ornaments and the plastic bottom they came in, a shoelace, a feather rose, a heart-shaped touch light, an empty salt shaker, a potato masher, red metallic fill, a pink ball, conversation hearts (she doesn't know they are edible, so they worked out just fine as a toy...if she finds out they are candy, I will probably have to take them out) in a pink plastic container, white silk flower pedals, and a mouse that says phrases about how much he likes you.

Before allowing E to start playing, I set two ground rules: 1) All items need to stay in the bin or on the tablecloth, and 2) Nothing from the bin goes into your mouth. I turned her loose, sitting on the ground with her for about the first 10 minutes. She asked a lot of "what is this for" questions, to which I would give answers such as, "This is what I can think of to do with it. What can you think of?" I then went to work on other things for a while and allowed her to keep playing. I liked how she came up with ideas for the object I never did (used the rose as a bean stirrer). I loved that aspect of this bin!

The only rule we may need to add for the next bin (depending on the contents) is that feet do not go in the bin. E wanted to step into the bin to see how the rice and beans felt on her feet, and I allowed it. She loved having her toes buried in the filler and wiggling them out.

Since I initially put the bin out for E, she has asked to play with it numerous times. I can't wait to plan and introduce the next bin!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Exploring Valentine's Day and Emotions- Introduction

The first unit we are beginning is Exploring Valentine's Day and Emotions. I like the idea of introducing a big concept first, then going from there. I began by talking with E about the idea of feeling and emotions, giving her examples of times she has felt happy and sad, then giving some examples of times I have had more complex emotions which she has witnessed (and probably caused) like frustration and excitement.

Next, we used these cards (a past gift from her Gigi) to explore the concept a little more. The cards show little scenarios that express an emotion, with the opposite emotion on the back. E can tell the difference between a positive and negative expression/emotion, but has a small vocabulary when it comes to being specific about what they are feeling. That is something pretty simple for us to work on.

If you don't happen to have these cards sitting around, another great way to explore emotions of people is to simply flip through a magazine and find faces and situations to explore the same types of emotions.

We did about half of the cards in the box in one sitting, planning to come back to the activity in a couple of days. But, later that afternoon she brought them to me and wanted to continue. We expanded on the pictures, telling little stories for what might have made them feel what they were feeling.

To expand, I have been very conscious of using descriptive vocabulary for how I am feeling and to describe how she is feeling. It is a good vocabulary builder for both of us, and a good lesson in cause and effect, as well. (When you are being cooperative it makes Mommy so joyful!)