Category Archives: Childhood (5+ years)

Shaving Cream Landforms and more

I’m attempting to record all our favorite activities that I just never got around to writing about.  This is one of the activities we did as part of our focus on Creation.  I was hoping to do a whole series of posts on our Creation activities.  But since it’s been almost 2 years and I still haven’t gotten around to the task, it’s pretty safe to say it’s not gonna happen.  Our landform activities were simply too fun not to share though!

We were talking about how God created the land and focused awhile on the different types of land we see. I was using the Creation story to fulfill our “science” activities.

I chose 5 or 6 landforms (it’s been awhile so I can’t remember exactly) to focus on and printed one photograph and one illustration of each. I found all the pictures online. It would probably be a good idea to laminate these. Our pictures certainly got messy.

Matching- First I had J match the illustration to the corresponding landform photo.  This is a great way to practice matching for any category, especially if your child has no trouble matching 2 pictures that are the same.

Here he is showing off our mountains

Shaving Cream fun- I brought out the shaving cream and we created our own examples of the landforms. Warning – you will use A LOT of shaving cream if you truly want to make quality landforms. :) I bought a can at the dollar store. J was 2 years old when we did this activity and did need some help making a few of the landforms. TIP: it’s a good idea to start with the mountains!

After all the landforms were made, J “labelled” each with the correct picture.

The photo doesn’t do our foam world justice :)
Of course he had tons of fun digging in the “dirt” too!
 We threw in some bath foam fish, nothing to do with landforms but he liked it.
Landform Obstacle Course - For our last landform activity, I set up an obstacle course in the living room.  Pillows on the floor were islands that he had to hop on. Pillows stacked on a chair was our mountain. A blanket thrown over the table created our cave. I pushed the couch up to the chair to create a “canyon” in between.  We talked about each landform in the obstacle course and went on a “bear hunt” through the obstacle course.  It’s so much more fun moms if you join in the climbing and hopping! And finally we played a game where I called out a landform and he had to climb, crawl or hop to it.  Lots of fun!

Let’s Practice Brushing our Teeth

Before J’s first trip to the dentist, we did a quick unit on teeth.  We talked about why to brush/floss, how to, especially bad foods, etc.  Here’s an activiity we did that turned out pretty fun and useful.

You’ll Need: At least one teeth photo (laminated), toothbrush, water, various foods (the stickyer the better!)

I laminated a few teeth photos (found on GoogleImages).  Then J
fed the photos some good and not so good foods.  We took note of how each food effected the teeth (ex, icing got stuck all over the teeth).  Of course I let him try some of the foods too, as evidence shows in the photo! It did give him some real experience with how the foods felt in his mouth and helped him better describe the feeling.
Then we practiced brushing the gunk away. It was a good way to get him to see the purpose of brushing.  We talked about where to brush (front, back, top, sides,…) and how to brush and practiced the strokes. After our fake teeth were clean, we headed upstairs to brush some real teeth.
We’ll probably do more practicing like this as he gets older. This was a fun way to teach and practice a very important part of life.

We started a new tooth brushing song during this activity. I got tired of our normal brushing song (This is the way we brush our teeth… like the mulberry song) and decided we needed a change.  J thinks our new brushing song is fun. I sing to the tune of “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair”… and just change the words to… I’m gonna brush that cheese right off of my teeth, I’m gonna brush those blueberries right off those back teeth… filling in whatever he just ate and wherever I’m brushing in his mouth. He likes to remind me all the different foods I have to brush off.  A year later and he still loves to sing this song!

Age attempted: 2.5 years

Reading with Inflection

Back when I taught middle school kids I was so surprised that mood was completely lost on so many students.  They read in a monotone, word by word manner. No wonder they found it boring!

I definitely don’t want J to get stuck in that rutt.  Reading is way too much fun for monotone.

So I was THRILLED when we discovered Mo Willems at our local library.  His books are perfect for teaching and practicing inflection, even for the beginner or intermediate reader. And it doesn’t hurt that he is hilarious for both child AND adult.

We are in a book! [Book]We especially love his Elephant and Piggie series. In fact I liked “We are in a Book” so much that I decided to go out and buy it and I’m becoming quite the snob in books I deem worth my money.  “BANANA!!!” has become a source of laughter all throughout our day (you’ll have to read the book to find out why).

There are so many great things about these books. They are simple enough that J can read them all by himself but the story is still good enough to keep both of our attentions. So many of the beginning reader books are boring! These books aren’t marketed as beginning reader books, but I think they work great for that… or maybe for intermediate readers. I’m not an expert in early readers! If your child has a good base of sight words and a basic understanding of phonics, I think they will manage the Elephant and Piggie books well.

We can also read them together, each taking a different role so that we get to act the book out. J even wants us to imitate the faces as we read/act.

Should I Share My Ice Cream? [Book]He has learned what think bubbles are and is getting great practice at reading with inflection which I just love. It’s so fun to hear J imitate the emotion and read happily, sadly, with disappointment or surprise, disgust, greed, embarassment, or even dismay, all depending on the story. That is such great practice! Willems does a great job of showing the emotion on the characters faces as well as changing the font to get the mood across (tiny font or gigantic font, italics, wiggly font, etc). Even my 3 year old can figure out it out, many times on his own!

And of course he’s getting great practice at how to interpret the punctuation as he reads. Often J can pick up the purpose of the punctuation or font type on his own from the context of the story. There have been times that he’s asked why the font was so tiny or why the exlamation mark and the question mark are together.  Another plus! The books encourage him to take the initiative so that he gets it right.

And did I mention that these books are funny? J and I just giggle the whole way through. I love that he is getting such great practice reading AND enjoying every second. I’m so thrilled that Willems wrote so many books in this series. We’ve probably read at least 10 different Elephant and Piggie books and have lots more to check out at the library.

Oh and his Knuffle Bunny series is really cute too. That’s actually the series that got us hooked on Mo Willems. Parents especially will find this series humorous. “Blaggle Flaggle” mom and dad, “Blaggle Flaggle!”

 **Willems also has a the Cat the Cat series (seems to be ideal for very early readers since he uses lots of repetition and use of the same word family throughout the book) and the Pigeon series (that will be next on our list to read through).

My Little Helper: Dresser Labels

In the months leading up to my due date, I worked at getting J a little more independent.  Just a few of the things we worked on: dressing and undressing, what goes in the dirty clothes hamper (and what does NOT go in dirty clothes hampers!), and finally putting away his clean laundry.

I decided to place labels on his dresser drawers to help in this process.  I created them in ppt, using clipart and Google Images to add pictures since J can’t truly read yet.  Then, I printed them on cardstock and laminated them with clear contact paper.  Finally, I placed them on the correct drawer.  These have worked great.  It made picking his clothes out in the morning and returning his clean laundry a fun and independent task.

**ETA: J did this well for 5+ months.  Just a few days after writing this post, J had the dresser fall on him while getting his clothes out in the morning.  I made 2 mistakes… 1) The dresser wasn’t anchored to the wall (it is now… it and all the other furniture in the house!). J wasn’t a climber so I just assumed we wouldn’t have a problem. Wrong. 2) I didn’t think to explain the step by step instructions of how to properly use a dresser.  I have since taught him that you must close one drawer before opening another or the dresser becomes unstable.  It never even occurred to me to teach that.  Don’t make my same mistakes! Oh, and J ended up being fine, thank the Lord for His protection! **

Since it meant just a tiny bit more work, I went ahead and made labels for the nursery too.  God must’ve known that these labels would be necessary.  I ended up with an emergency c-section, got home to a 3 level house and not able to use the stairs but once a day.

These labels made it so easy for my husband to find things easily.  Anyone else have a man that can be told exactly where the ketchup is but not be able to find it until you walk over and point it out to him?  “Oh, you meant the top shelf.” – “Well that’s what I meant when I said ‘The ketchup is on the top shelf.'”  I think it’s a universal falty circuit wire in the male population.  My dad and brother do the same thing.

The labels worked wonders! Without them, he would’ve been in that nursery looking for the extra sheets or burp clothes forever, despite my instructions.  I would’ve had to trek up there just to point them out.   They worked so well, I almost wanted to put labels on all the other cabinets in the house.  It sure could save a lot of repetitive instructions.

Click on the link below to open the pdf files of my labels.  They include the generic things: shirts, pants, socks. etc; or swaddles, onesies, diapers, etc for the nursery.

Nursery Labels                                                                               Boy Labels

 

 

(I don’t have any girls, so you won’t find girl attire on any of the labels.)

Create Your Own Number Book

I remember making one of these in kindergarten.  Ok, honestly my memory doesn’t work that far back but I do remember seeing the one I made in kindergarten.

J’s is not quite as fancy but it served the same purpose and he is just as proud of authoring his very first book.  We even added it to his bookshelf and he often picks it out for us to read together!

PREP: I prefolded and stapled the pages together. (My teacher used a hole punch with rings to connect the pages.) I had a sheet of number stickers from an old workbook with both the numbers and objects to count.  This made the prep-work simple since all I had to do was pull out one sheet of stickers.  I did quickly add some stickers of like objects, cut into strips for him to count (a strip of 3 smiley face stickers, 4 stars, 5 balloons, etc.) and some individual stickers of a group of objects for him to count (a bouquet of flowers, a basket of eggs, etc).

ACTIVITY: We went through and wrote one number on each page.  I then gave him the sheet of number stickers and he matched the stickers to the correct page.  He then counted the items on each sticker to place on the correct page. We gave his book a title, “J’s Number Book” (genius I know!) and he had his very first book.

We did this activity at home while I fed baby brother.  It required very little physical help from me.  My job was basically to encourage.  This would be a great travel activity.

Healthy Food Placemat

I found this Fun Food Guide and thought it would work great as encouragement towards healthy eating since J loves filling in charts and graphs and has this innate need to “get all the spots”.  So that we didn’t have to keep printing off a new chart, we made it into a reusable placemat.

PREP: I used google images to printout out a ton of pictures of healthy foods from all the food groups.  I also attempted a dot-to-dot title using some of the different foods. I had everything precut. 

ACTIVITY: He first glued the title in the center of the paper.  Then we spread out all the pictures.  I called out a food for J to find and glue onto the construction paper.  This made the craft a game and also helped me find out which foods he did/didn’t know. 

On the other side, he glued down the chart and descriptions of each food group found HERE.  He also glued some fruit pictures I found to color.

When all the gluing was finished, I covered the construction paper in clear contact paper. This way I can wipe it clean easily and he can use dry erase markers to write on it.

FUN WAYS TO USE THE PLACEMAT:

  • Connect the dots to write the word “Healthy”
  • Circle all the pictures of a certain food group
  • Circle foods that start with a certain letter
  • Circle foods of a certain color
  • Check off foods as you try them
  • Fill in the chart as you eat each meal
  • Color the fruit

We don’t fill the chart in every single day.  I usually bring out this placemat when J’s starting to get picky.  Since it keeps its novelty, it really helps him to finish his plate so he can color in all the shapes for that particular day.

Age: we started this around 33 months

 

Fun Bubble Wrap “Exam”

This activity is great for so many ages.  Who doesn’t love bubble wrap!!  I must admit that I even still love popping the bubbles just like my 3 year old.  This is also a great way to trick your child into showing off what they know, without them realizing what you’re up to.

Prep:  All you need is a sheet of large bubble wrap and permanent markers.  I filled in the bubbles with numbers, words, shapes, and letters. 

 During the activity: I called out something on the sheet and J found the correct bubble to pop.  Simple as that.  I will say that he did have some trouble popping some of the bubbles so about half-way through, I pulled out a toothpick and let him pop them bubbles that way.  He thought this was just as fun (probably because he doesn’t get to play with toothpicks too often).

You could adapt this for any age to practice whatever they are currently learning from colors and shapes to addition or multiplication, rhyming or grouping.

Age attempted: 3 years

**ETA: I came across the blog where I originally found the idea.  Check out The Activity Mom’s version**

Geography Game(s) for Toddlers and Preschoolers

To celebrate July 4th, why not pull out (or purchase) a US map puzzle!

J adores maps.  I think his fascination began because of his love for puzzles.  His grandma bought him a USA board puzzle back when he was one year old that required a little more skill than all the other pegboard puzzles and I guess he liked that challenge.  We have since bought quite a few map activities and puzzles as he remains fascinated.  My thought is run with what they enjoy!  Most of what he’s learned, he’s initiated on his own.  I don’t consider knowledge of all 50 states or all 7 continents essential for a 2 year old but since he’s continually asking questions, we answer and encourage that interest.   

I do find that maps offer great practice with shape recognition, spacial recognition, directional and locational instructions (north/south, above/below), and even speech as he practices saying each name (many of which are not easy for adults to pronounce, let alone a toddler).  These are all great benefits!   

So onto our geography games

1. Bean bag drop – This came about on the fly after he completed one of his puzzles.  I pulled out some bean bags (ours are each a different color) and started calling out a color bean bag for him to use and then a state to distinguish.  He would then try to drop the bean bag on top of that state while standing straight above it.  This was my attempt to encourage some practice with motor skills and hand-eye coordination while taking advantage of his interest in maps.  We first tried tossing it to the appropriate state, but he is far from able to accomplish that.  We then reversed rolls and he called out a color beanbag and a state for me to hit.  

2. Flying across the US - We’ve also played a similar game using our map puzzles and a free helicopter we got from a fast food kid’s meal.  If you pull the tail of the helicopter the propeller flies off and lands, spinning like a top.  So we used that, again practicing motor skills (to work the toy) and he had to name the state that the spinning propellers landed on. 

3. Photos across the USA/World - J has family all across the country (and world), so this game is something he can relate very well too.  We use photos of family members for him to place in the correct state or country.  I often pull this out when we’re about to travel so that he can get a good idea of where we’re going.  He flies his toy plane from one place to the other, mimicking what we will do in the air (or car if we’re driving).  We also use favorite characters/toys to help him relate to the state (ex: Mickey Mouse lives in Florida, cars are made in Michigan… a generalization of course, but something a 2 year old can relate to).

4. Twister Geography – You would need a large map for this activity (we use the foam floor maps).  He has to touch a certain location with a designated body part.  “Right hand on Georgia!” or “Left wrist on the Pacific Ocean!”  So far J can only handle one set of instructions at a time.  With preschoolers you could give multiple instructions similar to the game Twister.

I’m actually really excited about his love for geography (since I love it too!).  As a jr. high teacher we did a ton of geography games and activities that I’m currently trying to figure out how to adapt for a toddler.

So what is your little one interested in?  Maybe it’s not geography but cars or animals. How can you use that interest to capitalize on other skill practice (perhaps even more needed skill practice)?

Age attempted: 34 months

Here are some of the map products we have that have served their purpose well:

Battat Wooden USA Puzzle: My mom got J a set of puzzles that included this.  This was his first map puzzle.  There are no pegs in the US puzzle.  He played with the others in the set much earlier since they had pegs and were far more simple.  The states are mostly grouped together by region to create larger pieces (only Texas and California stand alone).  This isn’t a great puzzle for state recognition but it was a great transition puzzle from the simple wooden peg puzzles to the traditional cardboard puzzles. 

Imaginetics Magnetic USA Map - they simply lay each piece on top of the corresponding spot in the magnetic book.  This was J’s 2nd geography “puzzle” and worked well. Since you don’t have to complete the entire map, this was a good step up from the board puzzle.  We also used the magnetic sheet that each state came in as a shadow activity for shape recognition (just play on a cookie sheet).  Many of the pieces are small and a few with tiny parts have broken (Michigan and Maryland).  It is still worth the cost for us.

Melissa and Doug USA Puzzle - this is a cardboard puzzle we got J for Christmas; I should note that each state is cut according to its shape and does not have the traditional puzzle cutouts.  The border (oceans) fit together like a normal puzzle, but the states do not.  I love this feature.  J has had to learn how to deal with this so that the states aren’t moving around as he builds.  IMO this has helped him learn even more skills than a normal puzzle would offer, but it can be frustrating before they figure it out the best process.

Wonder Foam Giant USA Map –  J’s grandparents bought him this for Christmas (so yes, now he has two USA floor puzzles… and he loves them both!).  This is a very large puzzle.  Each state fits together like a traditional puzzle.  I like that they attempt to teach the general location of Alaska and Hawaii in relation to the continental US whereas most puzzles just place them in a corner. 

World Map Foam PuzzleWorld Map Foam Puzzle – This is a REALLY large puzzle with very thick pieces so it is very sturdy.   This map is pretty busy and a newer concept for J by introducing all the countires.   This is definitely one we work on together, though it’s amazing how fast you see improvment with practice!

Globe – When school supplies were really cheap at Target, I bought him a globe that he loves.  Since we have family both across the country and around the world, he has been encouraged to locate where they live on the globe.  I think a globe is a great resource/toy for kids since it really helps put geography into perspective.  Through playing with it and asking questions about it, he has learned the names of each continent (though he can’t locate them all).

Pick Your Own Fruit and Vegetables

This is the season to pick your own fruit!  We’ve done this twice now.  Last year we picked apples when J was 2.5 years.  This month we picked strawberries.  This is such a great activity.  For someone like me who can’t manage to grow anything, this is the only way he’ll probably ever see for himself where our food comes from (other than the grocery story!)

He’d much rather sleep in his crib.

 

Of course he loved enjoying the reward of his hard work too! 

I’ve found this website helpful in searching for farms where you can pick your own fruit/vegetables.  They have maps of each state so you can find farms for your specific county.  For those like me who are completely ignorant about which foods are harvested in which season, they also have harvest dates for your region.

Homemade Water Table

This is something I wrote on our family blog from last summer.  It’s a great alternative to spending money on a store-bought water table.  J’s is still just as entertained this year at 3 years old as last!
 
We’re still playing with water almost every time we head outside.  I noticed that they sell water tables at all the stores but thought it was a little ridiculous to spend good money on a glorified bucket!  So we made our own water table with what we had. All it required was pulling out a flat storage box (luckily it was just lying there empty under my bed) and J’s wagon.  It’s a perfect fit!  He loves it.  And when there’s no shade, I just wheel the wagon into the garage.
I found that sand/water wheel last summer on clearance for $2.  He played with it in the tub until this summer’s homemade water table. 
Here he is trying to pour water into a dropper.  Smart boy! Pouring is easier than manipulating the dropper to fill it up.  Too bad the experiment wasn’t so successful.
He loves blowing bubbles
Pouring is much easier with a funnel!
I made some blue ice cubes that he liked scooping into the tub, stirring them, letting them melt in his hand, watching the water turn blue, and then refilling the tray to make more ice.