Category Archives: Products

Letter Puzzles (and on sale!)

I was just doing some birthday shopping and noticed a sale on one of our favorite learning tools.  I thought I’d hop on here to share real quick.

Nab ItI came across Nab-It in the store about a year ago and it has been such a valuable tool.  It is actually a game but I honestly have not even read the instructions and haven’t yet played the game as intended. I’ll get around to learning that soon hopefully.  We’re having enough fun with the pieces right now.

The game consists of 4 sets of letter puzzles, each a different color and each in their own drawstring bag. Each puzzle piece has a letter on both sides. Your little one will get used to looking on both sides for the desired letter. We have used them to practice the alphabet, spelling words, word families, and blends.

Amazon has Nab-It for sale right now.  If you’re in the market for a fun preschool tool that will double as a fun game when your little one is older, this would be great!

**photos from Amazon**

Activity for Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Michael Hall’s Perfect Square  is so cute, walking us through a happy little square’s journey.  On each page the square gets cut, torn, or crumpled and becomes something beautiful.

This book so easily transitions into a fun art activity, I just couldn’t resist!  I cut out 6 different squares, one for each color presented in the book.  I used a tissue box to trace the squares.  This size worked well for a 3 year old. Smaller pieces would’ve been more difficult for him to work with.  You will also need a marker, scissors, glue and large white construction paper (maybe a few pieces if your squares are big).

We walked through each page of the book, cutting and tearing as instructed. Then J glued down his own creation, trying to mimic the pictures in the book.  Most of the pictures he could complete on his own.  The fountain and bridge did require a little mommy-help.

J's version of water, mountain, bridge, park, fountain, and flowers

It does take awhile to complete each piece of square-art shown in the book.  I was actually surprised that J remained fully involved to the end.  I even tried to skip a page, worried he’d lose interest.  Well, he quickly pointed out that I missed a page and that he just must create that square

This is a great activity if you’re working through the shapes. It works best for square-day; it would likely cause some confusion on circle-day! :) It’s also a great review of colors since each page highlights a different color.

Becoming an Artist: The Dot by Peter Reynolds

At our last library trip, we happened across the cutest story! 

The Dot, by Peter Reynolds, is a story about a little girl who thinks she can’t draw until her teacher proves her wrong.  She’s inspired to keep trying and eventually inspires others too. 

This was the perfect book for J.  He is such a perfectionist that he often chooses NOT to do something if he thinks that he won’t be able to do it “right”.  This book fulfilled its purpose and inspired my little guy to become an artist!

After reading the book, we decided to create our own art museum of dots.  I pulled out markers, crayons, map pencils, water colors and cardstock.  J was thrilled.  He was confident.  He became an artist and loved it!  He even wanted to sign his work, just like the little girl in the story.

After all his pieces dried, we hung them in his room.  We now have an in-house art museum featuring my favorite artist.

Seeds of Character

Seeds of Character Pre-Order - Give the Gift of Scripture Memorization

Remember our love for Seeds Family Worship? (if not, just check out this link) Well, it continues to grow!

J has always loved the Seeds Family Worship cds.  Ever since turning 3, his interest in them has grown even more.  He is singing along more. He is asking a ton of questions about the scriptures on the cds.  He is making comments that tell me he is listening.

What is the Rock eternal?
What is mighty?
What is endures?
Don’t be afraid. Jesus is with you.

Hearing these questions and comments from my toddler is all the encouragement I need to keep playing these cds! We have been listening to them for about a year and a half now.  I imagine we will be listening to them for many many years to come. Even my husband has one of the cds that he plays on his way to work. 

Well they have a new CD out!!  I know.  I’m late in sharing the news.  It’s been out for months.  A new baby kinda kept me distracted for awhile :) 

I ordered their new cd, Seeds of Character, and we LOVE it.  Yet again, they have created beautiful music set to Divine lyrics.  

Here are the scriptures you and your little one will learn with this cd. 

  1. More Than Conquerors (Romans 8:37)
  2. The Wages and The Gift (Romans 3:23 & 6:23)
  3. The Life (John 14:6, I John 5:11-12)
  4. The Fruit (Galatians 5:16 & 22)
  5. Delight (Psalm 1)
  6. Teach Them (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
  7. The Perfect Example (John 13:12-17)
  8. Children and Fathers (Ephesians 6:1-4)
  9. Put On Love (Colossians 3:12 & 14a)
  10. The Character Song (Romans 5:1-5)
  11. Give Thanks (Psalm 105:1-5)
  12. The Only Way (The New Testament Song)

 And don’t think these songs are just to teach your little ones.  God uses them to help me all the time.  My absolute favorite from the Character cd is “Teach Them” from Deuteronomy 6:4-7.  It is beautiful, and of course the perfect verse to have running through your head as a parent.  It is helping me reevaluate all the things that fill up our time each day, the conversations we’re having, the example I’m setting, etc.  “Teach us well,” keeps ringing in my ears.  I love how God uses these cds to teach and encourage me too.  

Don’t forget to use our discount code ENGAGINGTODDLERS to get 20% off your order.  This code is good until December 20, 2011.  And remember gets an extra cd, so start thinking of who you want to give an amazing gift to!

Check out their website here.

Activities for Melissa and Doug Lacing Beads

Here’s a quick index of activities using these Melissa and Doug Lacing Beads.  Just click on the pictures to see more about each activity.

 

Matching Board

Counting Beads

Bead Patterns

Beads and Pompoms

Beads and Dot Markers

Beads and Pompoms

This week is all about finding multiple uses out of these beads from Melissa and Doug. 

For this activity I brought out the magnetic pompoms which are always a winner in our house.  Check out this post to see how I made them. 

J used the pompoms to recreate the multi-colored beads.  This is great practice with shapes, colors, and size.  We started with the circle beads since they were the easiest.  He tried starting with the outside color and working his way into the center.  Of course judging the size correctly was difficult and he ended up with empty space between each circle.  I showed him how to start with the center and work out.  Even this simple step added a level of difficulty to the activity since now he had to remember which comes first, second and third. 

We moved onto the square beads next.  These proved more difficult for him to create on his own.  His squares kept looking like circles which frustrated him.  I try to sit back and let him trouble-shoot on his own since that is part of the learning process.  This particular time he eventually asked me how to make them look like squares.  I showed him how to make the corners first and then fill in the rest to create squares.  This provided the perfect opportunity to emphasize the 4 corners and 4 equal sides of a square.

**If you don’t own this set of beads from Melissa and Doug, you could easily draw your own design on cardstock to have your little one imitate.**

The circles were easily within his ability and the squares pushed him a bit.  We didn’t even attempt the star beads because that was too far out of his ability level. A little frustration during an activity can be good (like he had when creating the square beads).  It helps them learn how to deal with it appropriately, keep trying, and even ask if they realize they truly need the help.  Too much frustration however would most likely mean the activity is too advanced for them.  I knew that would be the case if I had asked him to recreate the stars.

Bead Patterns

This week is all about finding multiple uses for lacing beads like these from Melissa and Doug.

 

Since J is into patterns right now, I thought he would find this entertaining.  I set out the multi-colored beads and had him imitate the color pattern using …. you guessed it, his cars.  Of course you could do the same thing using blocks, magnetic pompoms, or even the solid color beads in the same set. 

Counting Beads

I’m always trying to think of different uses of the same old toys.  This set of lacing beads from Melissa and Doug has found many uses, all of which have been winners for J.  This week I’ll highlight some of the ways we’ve used these beads. 

J set the number beads in the correct order and then created a “graph” of sorts by lining up the corresponding number of cars beside each bead.  In hindsight, I should have set out cars that were all similar lengths.  There was no planning involved in this activity though.  I just needed something to hold his attention long enough for me to feed his brother.  It worked :)

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).

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!