Tag Archives: Life Skills

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

Heart of Giving: School Supplies

Free back to school clip art of black board with apple message.This is the time of year when many organizations are collecting school supplies for those in need.  Our church is one of the many.  We read through our church bulletin together and I explained the need to J.  He’s so excited about going to school with his backpack in hand and wanted other kids to have a backpack too.  The bulletin announcement had a list of sugggested supplies. J and I used that list to create our own picture list on ppt.  I read the item, typed it into clipart and J chose which  picture to use.  This made even list-making an activity he could participate in.

To add some math practice, include how many of each item is needed.  Then have your little one read the list and count the correct number to place in your shopping cart. Of course I didn’t think of that while making our own list!

We printed our picture list and headed to the store to make our purchases.  J “read” the list and called out the next item needed. Of course his favorite was crossing off each item with his highlighter! When we got home I set out all the supplies for him to fill the backpack with and it now sits by the door, waiting to be brought to church.  I plan on having J turn it in himself.

This is a great act of service to get kids involved in since they so easily relate.  Do a quick search for those collecting school supplies in your area, maybe a local church, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, etc.  As a former teacher I know all you really need to do is call up your local school, and ask them for a list of supplies needed.  There were always students in need on the first day of school.

Homemade Sunbleached Puzzles

I came across this brilliant idea for sunbleached puzzles.  They were so easy to create and great entertainment (and practice) for a puzzle-lover. It was also a great little lesson in the sun’s effects.

I set out foam bath letters and numbers on dark construction paper and left them to sunbathe awhile on the deck.  J enjoyed watching the process, impressed by the magical results! We then brought it all inside to start putting it all together.  You can make this activity more difficult by adding extra foam letters to the choices.

This is great practice at letter recognition.  It’s also great way to help them learn how to spell their name, memorize their phone number or address. 

The link above used magnetic letters and shape blocks to create their puzzles.  You could also cut your own shapes out of colorful foam.

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

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!**

Teaching the Joy of Giving

The joy of receiving comes pretty naturally to all of us doesn’t it!  In light of that, we’ve focused our attention on teaching J the joy of giving.  In fact J really hadn’t figured out that he would receive gifts on Christmas too… until this weekend :)  We made shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, homemade cookies for teachers and neighbors, he wanted to bring stickers to his friends to the Christmas celebration at Bible Study last week, …  I’ve been so proud that he is starting to think of ways to give on his own too! 

Honestly,  I’m learning how to teach this as I go.  But I’m finding it really it isn’t as difficult as I had anticipated.   We focus on the smiles on faces or the laughs we hear when we give, the way it makes someone else feel.  We try to vocalize how we feel when we’re given something to add more opportunities for J to make the connection behind the purpose of giving.   J is starting to notice.  He came home from Bible study so excited because the other kids in his class were “so happy!” when he gave them stickers. 

So this year I decided J was old enough to go shopping himself.  I started with dad first, asking J what gift he wanted to give daddy for Christmas.  His first response was cars and trains.  Of course! Those are J’s personal favorites so why wouldn’t dad enjoy those too?

So we had a lesson on how to give gifts. Think about what the person enjoys doing.  What do we see daddy excited about?  This wasn’t easy for my 2 year old to grasp.  But he eventually got it!  I was so proud when he finally started listing things that Daddy liked and decided on the perfect gift.  An orange!  He was so thrilled with the idea.  And it’s true, my husband loves oranges.  So we took off to the store to buy an orange.  

J wrapped up the orange and he placed it under the tree.  J has been THRILLED with his choice and COULDN’T WAIT to give it to daddy.  In fact when dad came home from work the night of our shopping trip, J ran up to him with a “Happy Birthday!!”  I got you orange!!!”  Obviously he’s still a bit confused.  It’s a work in progress.   He wanted dad to open the gift right away, but slowly caught on when I convinced him to keep it a secret until Christmas.  Each day since, he has retrieved the gift for dad from under the tree and carried it around, telling me all about what’s inside.  He gives it a place of honor, separate from the other gifts.  It’s so cute to watch. 

I love that his focus is not on the gifts for him that wait under the tree, but what he gets to give. 

Today was actually our family’s day to exchange gifts.  Schedules just made this most feasible instead of waiting Christmas morning (which is fine by me actually since now we can focus even more on Jesus’ birthday).  J ran straight to get dad’s gift.  His excitement was still there and was thrilled to see dad open (and eat) his present.  Can you tell? 

Tonight during our bedtime prayer, long after all gifts were opened, J of course was thankful for the gifts he received.  But, I love that he wasn’t focused on just that.  He also remembered in prayer, getting to give dad a gift too and how happy dad was to get  his orange.  I think teaching the joy of giving is a process that takes time and lots of practice.  I definitely think it’s worth the effort to start working even when our kids are young.  

There’s still plenty of time!  Ask your little one what they would like to give their mom, dad, or grandparents for Christmas.  I would suggest having this conversation before hitting the store.  Encourage them to think from another’s perspective.  It doesn’t have to cost much, the price of an orange can go a long way in teaching a very important lesson.

Now on to see what J wants to give the rest of the family!

Operation Christmas Child

christmas shoeboxes

I am so excited about this!  I first heard about Operation Christmas Child last year through a Veggietales video.  Of course I didn’t find out about it until the after the deadline to drop off boxes.  This year I won’t miss it!  I think it is so important to teach J a heart of giving.  That takes putting it into practice. 

So this year we will be organizing some shoeboxes full of goodies for little boys and girls around the world.  I plan to do something similar to what Amanda described here on Impress Your Kids (a WONDERFUL site by the way!!)

Since J is so young, I first plan to show him this video: Veggie Tales Operation Christmas Child story. I originally saw this on the St. Nicholas Veggietales video. 

We’ll talk about the act of giving, make a list of fun things to give other little boys and girls and GO SHOPPING!  I’ll be sure to share how everything goes once we’ve packed our boxes, but I wanted to get this info out in case others would like to join us!  The week to drop off boxes is November 15-22, 2010.  Don’t miss out like I did last year!  If you go to Operation Christmas Child  you will find all the info you need, including where the drop off locations are for your area.  This is something everyone in the family can get involved in!

ETA: I wanted to mention that they even give you the opportunity to track your box.  You can a barcode online to attach to your box to determine it’s final location.  This is a great way to incorporate a little geography and culture to the project!  This page tells more about their tracking process.

To add to the links for you to check out, please take time to listen to this song, Give This Christmas Away.  It will touch your heart and inspire you to find all sorts of ways to give this year.

At the Doctor’s Office

I think this is from 18 months-ish; taken from my IPhone

I basically always have a couple crayons in J’s bag.  I just stuck the ones we got at a restaurant in there one day and they’ve never left.  They are great for those long waits at the doctor’s office.  They conveniently provide the paper already! (Hint: Crayola crayons work best since the paper at doctor’s office has a waxy film on it; other crayon brands are too waxy to see much).  This is such a simple way to keep J distracted and content while we wait!

  • Trace hands, feet, or have them lay down and trace their whole body
  • Have them name the shape, letter or number after you write it
  • Have them call out a shape, letter or number for you to write; and then add a specific color to the mix, “Draw a red circle!”
  • Draw out your own connect the dots
  • Draw roads for them to drive their cars down (stops signs, green lights, turns,…)
  • Of course they can draw too :)

Teaching Money Management

This came to mind earlier and I thought I’d share something my parents did with me that I think was a great financial teaching tool.

My siblings and I all had a Money Binder with 4 different zipper pouches (the kind that clip into binders that kids put their pencils in).  Each pouch had a label,

Spending, Saving, Tithing, and Giving

Anytime we earned any money, it was separated between the four categories.  10% in tithes, 10% in givings, 20% in savings and the remaining 60% in spending.  We took our tithes pouch to church to place in the offering collection.  Givings could be used for buying gifts for friends or for charities.  Savings was supposed to be held until we were older,  and then we all know what to do with the “spending” category!

It was really a great idea to help us start out life with good money management, something I plan on using with J when he gets a little older.

I do plan for a few modifications since I found few flaws in the system growing up.  1. We worked on the honor system.  While we were learning, mom helped us separate the money.  As we got older she just expected us to continue it on our own.  I can’t say I was always honorable!  There were many times when I grabbed the money out of my savings pocket before we went to the store (since I didn’t have anything left of my spending money!) I was always a bit jealous of my older brother whose saving’s pocket was overflowing while mine had a few measley dollars, if anything! I think I will keep an eye on these folders for a little longer.  Eventually J will be on his own with this, but probably not at 7 years old! 

2.  I don’t remember my parents explaining to me what exactly I was saving for except maybe “for your future”.   I think that’s a little vague for a young child. When we do this with J in the future, I plan on giving him something specific to save for.  To me it needs to be something that will require him to be successful in truly saving his money, but something that he will be able to reap the rewards of within a reasonable amount of time for the age.  A 7 year old saving their money for a year is an accomplishment.  As they get older, I would increase the time that it takes to see the benefits of saving. 

Even with its flaws, I really think it helped my siblings and I learn the basics of money management from the start.  As an adult, it’s quite natural for me to tithe, save, give and of course spend! It’s what I’ve always done ever since my first allowance was handed out.  I think money management is something most adults are really lacking in.  It’s not surprising since there really is so little taught about money management even though it is vital to life.  This is one thing J will be taught in the home!

My Little Helper: Grocery Shopping

I read about this idea in the Parenting Magazine back when J was a baby and finally tried it out.  If I remember correctly the original idea was to print and cut out various pictures of products needed at the grocery store.  Place them in a bag and have your child choose one picture, search it out together in the store and when found place the picture in a second bag to mark as completed.  I changed this a bit since #1, I was in a rush and didn’t have time to cut out the pictures and #2, I imagined J simply playing with and losing the pics around the store. 

Instead I just printed out a list of products we needed at the store, with both the written word and the pictures.  I only put a few items on the list because I didn’t expect him to stick with me through my actual list.  I explained to J before leaving the house what the list was and he seemed excited.  He held his list all the way to the store, all ready to help!  It worked really well.  I listed the items in the order that I knew we would come upon them while shopping, giving me time to get the other productsI needed in between.  I showed him how to cross off each item as we placed it in the basket and then how to find out the next item needed. 

Age attempted: 26 months

Try Again: yes, but I will bring a clib board next time since it was rather difficult for him to cross off the items in the cart

For older kids:  remove the pictures to allow for practice reading; add quantities to the list