Category Archives: Preschool (4-5 years)

Flower Mobile (or possibly placemat)

J made a flower mobile for his grandma as a get well soon gift.  It would be a great gift for any girl on any occasion really. I think it turned out really cute and J had a lot of fun creating it.  He stuck with it until it was all finished!

What you need:  Construction paper, contact paper, scissors, flower magazine, marker; you will also need a  hangar, a hole punch, and string if you want to create the mobile

Prep Work:  I cut out the borders for each flower, using different colored construction paper.  I also cut out two equal sizes of clear contact paper, taping one to the work-table (sticky side up).  The other piece of contact paper is saved to place on top after the flowers are completed.

During the activity:  J placed the flower-borders onto the contact paper though he needed some help with the larger pieces since they can get tangled easily.  He then searched through a flower magazine to find flowers to fill each border, matching the colors accordingly.  I just had him tear the pictures out of the magazine rather than using scissors.  We then worked together to tear the pictures into small pieces that he could stick inside the corresponding colored flower.  After all of the flowers were filled, we added a message for grandma and J signed one of the flowers himself.  I then placed the second sheet of contact paper on top.  If we were creating a placemat, the activity would basically be done. Just trim the edges of the contact paper to make a more finished look.  (My intention was to create a placemat, but I did not plan well.  The flowers were so huge that the placemat covered half the table! So I improvised and decided this was going to become a mobile instead.)

For the mobile:  I cut apart each flower and punched a hole into the top and bottom.  I also cut small pieces of string to attach the flowers together.  J helped thread the string through the holes and I tied the knots.  We then tied it onto a hangar. 

Age attempted: 3 years

Mix and Match Patterns with Plastic Eggs

Here’s an activity where I’m guessing you won’t have to spend one dime, just use what you already have!  Plastic eggs, crayons, and paper.  This was a great activity I found online that I prepared and stored away for after the baby was born.  I first gathered the plastic eggs from the basement so that I knew which colors I had to work with.  I then colored some mix and match eggs on cardstock. 

I gave J both the cards and the plastic eggs and told him his job was to create eggs to match the cards. 

This activity offered practice with color recognition, size recognition and fine motor skills.

For younger toddlers/preschoolers:  They might need help clicking the egg pieces together, but they can find the correct colors themselves.  Some might not yet be able to recognize the size difference in the top/bottom of the egg.

For older toddlers/preschoolers:  They can practice placing the eggs together themselves.  To add a level of difficulty, be sure to make it clear in your drawing which part of the egg is on top and which is on bottom.  This way they not only have to match the correct colors but also the correct part of the egg. 

Age attempted: 3 years

Lucky Charms Math

I gave him a little bowl of Lucky Charms cereal and first had him sort the marshmallows using the sorting printout here.  I actually had a bowl of cereal to sort myself.  I’ve found this often helps J stay focused and work more independently.  Sometimes if he’s doing an activity with me just sitting there next to him, he’ll ask for my help more often.  If I have my own activity to work on, he’s fine doing this by himself.  It’s also a great way to teach something new since I’m basically modeling what to do (and helped a lot when we did the charting later). 

After sorting the marshmallows, he graphed them using the chart here.  We practiced reading the graph to find out how many marshmallows he had in each category (without actually counting), and quickly determine which category had the most and the least. 

 J did really well on this.  He waited so patiently to eat his marshmallows (I did let him eat the broken ones and the cereal as we sorted). 

Here’s another chart that would work well for coloring, but there’s not enough space for actually charting the marshmallows.

Age attempted: 35 months

My Little Helper: Grocery Label list (or fun scavenger hunt)

My cousin recommended this idea after seeing J’s grocery list on this post (My Little Helper: Grocery Shopping) and we finally tried it out at the store.

Prep: I did a quick search for some of the logos of items on my grocery list, copy and paste and I’m done.  The internet makes this so simple and quick!

I didn’t pull it out at the grocery store until I knew we were about to start hitting the items on the list so basically we’d already gone through produce and meats.  J’s list also did not include everything on my list.  It was funny how he immediately knew what certain items were when I handed him the list.  Like he knew that the Yoplait logo meant yogurt or the Lactaid logo was milk. This not only keeps them busy while shopping, it was also great practice with word recognition and letter recognition.   

J really liked this, even better than the other grocery lists honestly.  I think it helped too that I gave him a highlighter to check off his list rather than the normal crayon or pen :)

For younger ones, I would put the items in the order that you’ll reach them in the store. Another thing that works well is to fold the list in half or in thirds so they are just looking at a few items on the list at a time. 

You could use this as a scavenger hunt rather than a grocery list that kids would love (which means they’re focused while you shop!).  And this would actually make the list even easier to create since it wouldn’t matter which items you included.

Age attempted: 33 months

Twizzler Writing Valentines Card

Here’s the card J made one of his cousins for Valentines Day.  It was actually a fun way to practice letters.  We’ll probably reuse this activity some other time. 

What You Need: Pull and Peel Twizzlers, Glue, Cardstock, pencil

Prep: I actually precut for the Twizzlers for him and already had the message written in pencil on the cardstock for him. 

He traced the letters with glue and then added the Twizzlers.  After awhile he got tired of gluing, so I took over that part.  To incorporate some learning, I asked him how many long/short pieces were needed for each letter prior to gluing.  We also had lots of opportunities to repeat the words verticle and horizontal.  He then added some math practice of his own as he decided to pattern the heart stickers and later the heart twizzler shapes. 

I did help him on the spirals since it was a little too intricate for him to do alone.  They’re supposed to be flowers, but J thought they looked like lollipops.  Either one works!

Age: 34 months

Snowflake Bentley, Story and Activities

Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is a book I happened upon at the library.  It’s a non-fiction book actually, but told in story-book fashion about a boy named Willie Bentley who was fascinated with snowflakes.  As a child he would catch the snowflakes and attempt to draw them on paper before they melted.  Eventually his parents bought him a microscope camera to photograph the snowflakes.  Can you imagine trying to photograph a snowflake using an 1882 camera!?!  I’m sure we’d all have trouble with our modern DSLRs! Amazingly, he stuck to his goal.  He held slideshows for townspeople to come see his photographs which were eventually published in a book called Snow Crystals that is used by colleges and universities. His fascination led to the discovery that all snowflakes are unique. 

Throughout the book there are sidebars with extra facts about snow, William Bentley and his work.  I’m so glad I came across this book.   We used it to kick-start a discussion about snowflakes, photography, persistence, dedication and a job well-done.

Here’s a couple activities we did to go along with the book:

1. Snowflake matching -  I googled Snowflake Bentley photographs and printed out two copies of the same photos.  At first I presented 3-4 to match at a time since you have to really examine some to find the differences.  As he got better, he could match more at a time. 

2. Snowflake puzzle – I cut some of Bentley’s photos in half, mixed them all up and J found the two symmetrical sides to join together and create a snowflake.  This was a great way to emphasize the meaning of symmetrical.  These 2 activities really met J’s current ability level since I could easily make the level of difficulty was just right for him by picking and choosing the snowflakes to match.

Age attempted: 33 months; you could go into so much more detail for older kids and increase the difficulty of the activities by using snowflakes that are more similar in comparison

If you DON’T like traditional shape cookies, try these!

I never posted about our Christmas cookie baking, but we sure did A LOT of it.  I think baking is one of those activities where they can learn a lot (if we slow down enough to let them) and where they see a great reward for their efforts. 

Of course it’s easier, cleaner and faster to mix up the cookie dough on your own, but I’ve found that the majority of learning comes from allowing J to help mix the dough.  He “reads” the recipe, gathers the ingredients and then measures them, allowing him to practice tons of skills. 

We of course made the traditional sugar cookies where we rolled the dough out, J cut them into fun shapes and then decorated to his hearts content.  This is NOT my favorite type of baking!  J loved it, but it’s honestly quite stressful to me.  I try to stay calm, but I’d just rather not deal with the rolling and the cutting.  I think J would have as much fun with playdough and mom wouldn’t have the mess afterwards. (And I don’t even like the taste of this these cookies either!)

We honestly might stick to playdough in the future. BUT all cookie baking is not lost.  We did have lots of fun baking other types of cookies (or I should say we BOTH had fun with other cookies).

My favorite type of cookies to make with J this year were those with a “surprise” inside.  Once I realized how perfect these were for J’s age and ability level, this is mostly what we made to give away to neighbors and teachers. 

I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet and J pressed each ball with the back of a teaspoon, creating a small hole.  He could then “bury” a surprise inside each cookie and I helped him cover it up with the dough.  This was right at his ability level and he loved it.  We buried Rolos, Reeces Pieces, Reeces PB Cups, Chocolate Kisses, and M&Ms (not all in the same cookie!).  I also let him sprinkle crushed toffee and confectionary sugar on top of some which he liked. 

And the good news is they taste great afterwards.  You can hide them in basically any type of cookie dough and it will taste good. 

Age attempted: J first helped with Christmas baking when he was 20 months; this year at 32 months he could do A LOT more

So here are some of the recipes we tried for Christmas:

Million Dollar Caramel Cookies (These were by far my favorite!)

Snowball Surprises

PB Surprise Cookies (basically chocolate chip cookie dough but hide PB cup, M&Ms, Rolos, whatever candy you want inside)

Molten Lava Cookies

**I hope these are the same recipes I used; I just did a online search for the names of each, but the pictures looked very similar in all cases… that should count for something right!**

Great Read: The Jesus Storybook Bible

“The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every story whispers His name”

…exactly the purpose of the Bible, presented in a kid-friendly way.

This is BY FAR my favorite children’s Bible.  Most children’s Bibles tell a simple story of Noah building the ark or Jesus healing the blind man and leave it at that.  They give no attempt as explaining WHY these stories are important for us.  They miss the meat of the message God has for us in the Bible.

“There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story.”

The Jesus Storybook Bible goes above and beyond others by giving the big picture.   Starting with God creating us to “share his Forever Happiness” to God remaining firm in His “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love” even after Adam and Eve’s sin to His promise to come back for us, to rescue us, and finally to His arrival on earth, putting His resuce plan into action.  “He was going to get His people back.”  Each story foreshadows the coming of Christ, explains the reasons for His coming and  the purpose for this time we live in today, between His ascension and His final return.

Honestly, that’s a deep message.  Amazingly the author, Sally Lloyd-Jones, explains this message in a way a child can understand. 

“The Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes.

The Bible is most of all… an adventure story about

a brave Prince who leaves his palace…

to rescue the one he loves.

The best thing about this Story is – it’s true.” 

I am confident you will adore this children’s Bible as much as I do and as much as J does.  Oh and they also have an audio version if you purchase the deluxe edition.  I don’t have this yet, so no personal experience with that portion.  It’s on order though, so stay tuned for my thoughts on that too!

Toddler Made Calendars

I kept putting off working on calendars with J, honestly because I wanted to create a cute calendar first. I’ve seen tons of cute ideas online and wanted to do something along those lines. After months of that project getting put on the back burner, I finally remembered J doesn’t need a fancy homemade calendar.  He’s two!  He’s fine with the plain and simple and honestly doesn’t even notice mom took the easy route.   

So I printed off a blank calendar from my computer and J started learning.  Simple as that.  I had no plan.  All it really took was labeling some special events and crossing off each day.  Over the past few months I’ve developed my simple calendar lessons to this:

Obviously still not too impressive for a blog post I guess, but J likes working on them and learns from them… that afterall is my goal for the activities we do. 

Each month J gets to decorate his calendar using stickers, pictures and stamps. This gives us the opportunity to discuss the season that each month falls in as well as important events.  We label important dates, color the days of the week and then cross off each day throughout the month.  I’ve also found that this is great practice with counting since J sees the numbers in front of him daily.

We sing some cute songs that help make memorizing calendar info a little more fun.

Months of the Year (sing to the tune of 10 Little Indians)

 Days of the Week (sing to the tune of Oh, My Darling): 

There are seven days, there are seven days, there are seven days in a week. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

Today Song (Sing to the tune of Frere Jacques)
Today is _______,
Today is _______,
All day long,
All day long.
Yesterday was _______,
Tomorrow will be _______,
Oh what fun!
Oh what fun!

I got those last two from Littlest Learners.

These calendars  now work as a daily reminder to me that I don’t have to spend lots of time planning extra cute activities.  I obviously don’t see anything wrong with doing those cutesy projects, BUT my priorities are off if I put off working with J because my expectations for myself are out of place.  Maybe there’s someone out there that will also benefit from this too!

Age attempted: 30 months

My Little Chef: No Bake Holly Cookies

J and his grandma made these cute no-bake Holly Cookies for Christmas.  They turned out really cute and created minimal mess (my favorite, especially during the busyness of Christmas). 

INGREDIENTS

  • 30 Large Marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 4-4.5 cup cornflakes
  • 2.5 tsp green food coloring
  • 1 package of Red Hots
  • 

WHAT YOU DO:  

  1. Melt marshmallows, vanilla and butter in bowl together in the microwave (or in double broiler).
  2. Stir in food coloring and then add cornflakes, covering all with the green marshmallow mixture.
  3. Scoop individual servings on wax paper. 
  4. Add 3 red hots to each scoop.
  5. Let them set before serving.