Monthly Archives: March 2010

Teaching Proximity

You all know I am a fan of sidewalk chalk for many reasons!  (See this post if you don’t)

I also think it’s a great tool for teaching the concept of near and far.  We’ve all heard parents (and probably been parents) telling their child to “Stay close!” Not long after that you generally hear (or say), “That’s too far!  I said to stay close!”  “If you can’t stay close to me we’re leaving right now” or “If you can’t stay close you’re getting locked into this stroller/cart!” 

Close, Near, Far… they’re very relative terms.  Do our kids know what we mean when we say “Stay close!”  They probably don’t really get it, especially if we haven’t explained it to them fully.  We end up frustrated, they end up punished for disobeying and they don’t really understand how to obey our directions, so it will all be repeated again and again. 

I’ve learned to be very specific for J’s age.  “J, you must hold Mommy’s hand.”  “J, hold Mommy’s leg.” (for when my hands are full or my head is turned away, but I NEED to know where he is at all times), “J, you must keep your hand on the cart.” “J, stay in the grass…. in the driveway, in this chair, in the den.”  If I’m not that specific with my directions, he doesn’t get it and we both end up losing it.

For older kids, you can practice the meaning of near and far using sidewalk chalk!! 

Draw three concentric circles, each with different colors. 

  • A small circle – one that you and your child can both fit inside but would probably be touching to do so, 
  •  A medium circle – one in which you and your child don’t have to be touching to share, but could with an easy reach of the hand
  • A large circle –  one in which you and your child could not possibly touch unless you moved towards each other  (this would take up my entire driveway)

Then you stand in the smallest, center circle.  Have your little one join you in the same circle.  Point out that you are so close that you’re touching each other.  This is how close they should be if we’re walking in a parking lot or in the street.  We should always be holding hands, so we’re very close to each other. 

Have them move to the middle circle and explain that you are still near each other.  He/she can reach out his hand to touch you if needed.  This is an ok distance for the mall or the grocery store (or wherever you deem appropriate). 

Have them move to the largest circle and explain that you are now far from each other.  You can still easily see each other but you would both have to move much closer in order to touch.  This is too far for them to be from mom/dad if we’re at the parking lot, the street, the mall, the store, but ok for the backyard or the park. 

I would be very specific about the locations but of course choose which location works best for each circle for yourself.  Obviously plan this out and draw your circles according to the distance you are ok with. 

After initially teaching them the concept, practice, practice, practice.  Make a fun game out of it.  Call out a location and have them quickly run to the correct circle.  Eventually remove the circles and see if they can still determine the correct distance for the different settings.  Or when you’re at the store, remind them they must stay near you which means they must stay within the middle circle (or the green/purple/orange circle) from you at all times.

Learning Shapes: Triangles

Floor Shapes:  We taped triangles up and down our kitchen floor.  I got the first few started and then J helped me by decided if the triangle should be big or little and making sure I completed the triangle’s three sides.  I repeated again and again that triangles have three sides and we counted as I placed each side down.   This is my winter/rainy day version of sidewalk chalk.  If you read my sidewalk chalk post, you’ll know that I like to have something out as a consistent reminder of our weekly lessons.  Painter’s tape works well when we can’t get outside!

When the triangles were all completed, we traced them with our fingers, we walked and “jumped” across the triangle path, we drove cars around the sides of the triangles and we filled each triangle with one of his Matchbox cars (a good reminder for the number one).

Triangle Building Shapes – This is a simple activity and so easy to prepare.  All I had to do was cut out a handful of foam triangles in different sizes and colors.  I showed J how to lay the triangles next to each other to create pictures and designs (basically build with triangles instead of blocks).  He mostly wanted to match the triangles (same size and color) which was perfectly fine with me.  The point was to give him lots of visual reminders of a triangle and that was accomplished.  You could do this activity with felt or even construction paper (and glue the shapes onto paper).  I saw something similar in a learning store, but the shapes were magnetic.  I loved that idea, but I was too cheap to buy them and didn’t have time to make them!

Stickers in Triangles – I gave J a piece of paper filled with triangles and had him place one sticker inside each triangle. 

Age Attempted: 23 months (have done similar activities much younger… 18 months??)

Teachable Moments:  inside/outside (with stickers and cars inside triangle); focus on triangles having 3 sides and 3 corners/points; what shapes can we create by placing triangles together?? (foam pieces)

Try Again? I resuse these activities often

Letter of the Day Activities (H day!)

Today was H for Hat day.  These are the Letter H activities we did today.  You’ll notice that some of them are focused on the letter and some on the sound of the letter.  The activities were not done back to back, but spaced out throughout the day!  You could also space them throughout the week.

1.  H for Hat craft – This is the way I introduced the letter H to him.  I presented a blank color sheet with both the upper and lower case letter.  We discussed the name and sound of the letter.  Then I showed him his Leap Frog fridge toy and had it tell him the name and sound of the letter too (it has a cute sing-song version that J loves).  We colored the color page and I talked about words that start with the letter H.  We focused on hat.  While he was coloring, I gave him a hat to wear.  Then I brought out some cutouts of hats (from clipart) and he glued the pictures on his coloring page.  He really liked this and wanted more hats when he ran out!  A lesson is small disappointments turned out well too!  

For an older child, you could have lots of different possible H pics or even a mixture of some that start with H and some that don’t so they have to separate them. 

2.  Hat Hunt in the Dark  – I mentioned a similar version of this game in this post. I just revamped it for “H is for Hat” day.  I prepped this activity by setting up hats all over his room, turned the the lights off and had an empty box and a flashlight by his door.  Before we walked into his room, I explained the game.  “Mommy has hidden hats all over your room.  I want you to use the flashlight to find all the hats and place them in this box!”  He did a great job.  He loves using a flashlight so that made the game extra fun for him.  After he filled the box with all the hats, we both tried them on together.  Then he lined them all up and walked back and forth straddling them (his own addition to” H is for Hat” day activities!). 

3.  Playdoh – I bought this great set of cookie cutters from Target that have letters, numbers, shapes, animals, vehicles,… (101 pieces).  So I brought out the letter H to let J stamp with.  As a good review we made letters A-H and sang the alphabet song.

4.  Hats or No Hats game – I found a lot of great smiley face figures in clipart and printed them out.  Half of the smiley faces were wearing hats and the other half were not.  I cut them out and laminated them (with contact paper) to create little cards.  I made a simple table using painters tape on our kitchen floor and labeled one column “Hats” and the second column “No Hats”  (using his stuffed animals as an example).  He had to categorize the picture cards in the correct column.  I will say he lost interest in this midway.  I think the problem was he felt sorry for Doggie because he didn’t have as many smiley faces as Teddy did.  J hit a point where he wanted to give more smileys to Doggie.  When I asked him to look again to see if that smiley was supposed to go to Doggie (because it technically wasn’t), his response was to remove the hat from Teddy’s head and place it on Doggie…. so Doggie could now have the smiley and mom could be satisfied too!  The game ended at this point.  I was too busy laughing 🙂 

5.  Sidewalk Chalk – if it had not been raining, I would’ve reviewed with this as well.  Instead I reviewed with his magnetic letters… and then we spent some extra time playing with J’s train set instead.  See this post to discover why sidewalk chalk helps so much that Mondays are designated sidewalk chalk day in our house. 

Throughout all the activities I refreshed his memory on the look and sound of letter H.  I keep up the reminders throughout the remaining week.

Plane Travel with my 22 month old

We travel quite a bit, usually air travel, so I thought I would start giving updates on how J fared on the plane, activities we brought, and lessons learned.  I will try to backtrack to include some of our more momentous trips in the past, so keep an eye out for those!

Our most recent trip was pretty short at just 2.5 hours long.  When we first started flying, this would’ve had me completely stressed and I would’ve spent weeks in preparation (I honestly don’t think I’m exaggerating!).  I guess I’m learning something along the way since now I just prepare the night before!  I’ve learned to look at it as extra special one on one time with your little one.  How often do we sit and play non-stop for 2.5 hours!?  This helps my outlook on the trip; I’m in a better mood, less stressed, and J notices. 

J’s activity bag consisted of…

  • A pop up book
  • Slinky (only on the trip there)
  • Pipe Cleaners in a Bottle (only on the reverse trip)
  • 2 Trains
  • Coloring Book with 4 colors (triangular ones don’t roll all over the plane!)
  • DVD player and headphone (watched for about 20 min one way; 30-40 minutes the reverse trip)
  • Frog puppet (washcloth)
  • Daddy 🙂 

Other things in carry-on…

  • Sippy cup
  • M&M’s (special treat; didn’t use on reverse trip)
  • 3 Diapers, Wipes (I always pack extra in case of delays)
  • Antibacterial wipes (planes are gross so I wipe down everything!)

Things really went smoothly for the most part.  Daddy is awesome entertainment, but J also tends to loose interest in obeying Mommy when Daddy’s there!  We flew Southwest Airlines, so I was sure to check in exactly 24 hours ahead of time to try and get an early position in the cattle herding.  We did not purchase J a seat.  But he got one for free anyway!  I love it when this happens.  One flight was definitely not full, so it was easy getting a seat for him.  But, on the other flight there was only 1 empty seat on the entire plane… and J got it!  I guess no one wanted to sit next to a toddler!?!?  Go figure. 

I did learn that it’s always good to know where the changing table is on the plane BEFORE you need it.  It’s never really been an issue before, but on this particular plane the only changing table was in the front of the plane.  So J got to spread his stink all the way to the rear of the plane and then back up to the front again!  He is really too big for the plane changing tables anyway.  They are pretty tiny.  I usually have him stand to change him in planes now, but this particular occasion called for extra attention.

Homemade Toy: Pipe Cleaners in a Bottle

This activity is a huge winner.   I once read about giving toddlers spaghetti pasta to fit inside empty spice containers in the “Toddler Busy Book”.  I tried this first (with an empty water bottle since he was too young to fit the spaghetti in the tiny spice holes) but the spaghetti kept breaking and then I was worried he’d try to eat the pieces.  It just didn’t work with J so young.  So I changed the activity and gave him pipe cleaners with the empty bottle instead.  I twisted the pipe cleaners in half so they were more sturdy and bent the ends around so they were safe.  J loved loved loved this.  It is definitely in the top 10 toys he owns.  I now include it when making a  Busy Box for 1 year olds.
It’s a great activity to help little ones practice motor skills.  The length of the pipe cleaners makes it more difficult to fit inside the bottle than a puff ball or anything small enough to fit into their hands.  J often tried to hold the bottle in one hand and the pipe cleaner in his other hand so it required steady hands (something he did not have at first!)  As he’s gotten older and in better control of his muscles I’ve decreased the size of the mouth on the bottle.  He now uses an empty parmesan container with the holes in the lid or a plastic lid that I punched holes into.  I’ve also seen an activity online that colored around each hole to encourage their toddler to match the colors during the activity (though I can’t remember where!).  I liked that idea, but haven’t used it yet.  It would definitely increase the difficulty. 
It’s funny how we don’t realize all the skills we had to master in order to do things like pouring, sorting, threading, etc. It’s fun watching J learn these things.  This is one of J’s favorite activities between ages 11 months and maybe 18 months.  
It’s a perfect plane activity since it keeps him occupied for so long and is so light to carry while traveling.  In fact, he just enjoyed this toy on our plane ride this morning at 22 months.  Again it’s light, keeps them busy for an extended time and the pipe cleaners can be used for other things (make jewelry, letters, shapes, chains, threading,…).
Age attempted: I can’t remember exactly when I first introduced this; I know my neice is able to do it at 12 months right now.
Teachable Moments:  In and Out, show them how to hold the bottle still while moving the pipe cleaner, fine motor skills, color matching,
Try Again?  He is still intrigued at 23 months!  I made the activity more difficult as he got older.
Here’s the cuter version I made for my neice.  I just punched holes into the top of an Empty Puffs container.

Why Didn’t I Think of That? Children’s Scripture CD from Seeds Family Worship

** Edited to add:  They’ve just offered a coupon code to my readers.  Enter ENGAGINGTODDLERS at checkout and you’ll get 20% off of your cd purchase. This coupon expires  December 14, 2010.  If you would like to hear some of their songs check out this link!**

Have you ever noticed how it’s so much easier to memorize to music? 

I’m gonna assume you answered yes 🙂 

Somewhere in my search for activities, I discovered a BRILLIANT set of CDs from Seeds Family Worship.  They put scripture to song and they do it BEAUTIFULLY!  The songs are great for kids, but they’re also great for adults.  I listen to their CDs even when J isn’t with me.  I would have ordered them even if I did not have a child at all.  They are that good. 

I absolutely LOVE this product (can you tell?).  J absolutely LOVES this product.  It will be my new gift for family and friends.

I currently have two of their CDs, but will soon order the remaining 3 in the series.  Each CD has scripture focused on a specific topic.  We have “Seeds of Purpose” and “The Power of Encouragement”.  The other choices are “Seeds of Faith”, “Seeds of Courage”, and “Seeds of Praise”.  The lyrics are direct quotes from the NIV Bible.  Each song has the scripture reference and the text; the text is repeated (in a praise song style).  The repetition is not annoying like many of the children’s songs. 

For now, J and I just listen to the songs in the car and while playing at home.  When he’s a little older and can speak a little better, I will use these CDs to help him memorize scripture.  To me, scripture holds the greatest lessons I could ever teach J.  Anything that will help me accomplish this is something I want to promote!

**Oh and one added benefit, the company sends TWO CDs for every one that you order!  You get one to keep for yourself and one to give away to friend or family.  I have already decided who is getting my 2 extra CDs! I can’t wait to give it to them!!

Homemade Toys: PVC Pipe Building

I didn’t actually make one of these toys myself, but if you’re handy (or have a really handy husband), this is really a great toy.  J got to play with this on a recent trip to a children’s museum. 

23 months

They had two peg boards standing across from each other and with a tray of short, long, t-shaped, and corner pipes.  I have no clue what their technical names are!   All J had to do was fit the pipes together to build.  I was surprised how well he did with this.  I did have to point out the size of the pipe holes since you had to place one of the connectors in between the straight pipes.  He had a hard time remembering that. 

Age attempted: 23 months; a younger toddler could easily fill the holes with individual pipe pieces instead of attempting to extend the pipes from wall to wall

Teachable Moments:  ask them to send the pipes up/down, requires an understanding of patterns to do this on their own (rotate between straight pipes and connectors)

Try Again?  Not at home, I can’t see us buying the pipes/peg boards nor do I want to store them it could work in a garage.  He’ll have to wait till we visit the children’s museum again!

My Little Helper: Separating Utencils

J is becoming more and more involved in helping around the house. He already helps put away his sippy cups and even thinks its a fun game (see this post)!  I’ve recently started allowing him to replace the utencils too. 

23 months

I sit J down with the basket of clean utencils and the utencil tray.  Of course I first remove the knives!  His job is to replace the clean utencils in the correct section of the tray.  This is actually great practice with matching that really incorporates size recognition since he has to detect the difference in the small and large forks as well as the small and large spoons.  He doesn’t get it right everytime, but he is improving. 

I used to just have him hand me the clean utencils from the dishwasher and I would place them in the drawer myself.  When I read this post from Children’s Learning Activities, I realized he could easily complete the entire task himself!

By the way, it is also his job to place the dirty utencils in the basket to be placed in the dishwasher.  I rinse them off first and he takes care of the rest!  He feels like he’s accomplished something to help mommy and I didn’t have to bend over again and again to reach the dishwasher!

Age attempted: I don’t really remember when he started helping with the utencils, probably around 13 months; he started returning them to the utencil drawer himself at 22 months. 

Teachable moments:  We’ve talked about the difference in dirty and clean, why we have to clean our used dishes, the size of the different utencils, and of course working together as a family to help around the house!

Try Again?  🙂

St. Patrick’s Day Clover

We’ve done a few crafts this way and I’ve found they work really well for toddlers.  It requires simple shape matching and gluing. 

First I cut out the pieces and traced the shapes into the desired shape on construction paper.  In this case it was 3 circles (though hearts would probably make them look more like clovers… didn’t think about that until it was already done!)  I did not trace the stem of the clover; we just added that last.

J helps match the shape cut-outs to the traced shapes on the paper.  Using a Q-tip, he glues the shape in place. 

23 months

  This is J’s final product. 

J has also made a flower and a sun using this same process (I’ll post those pictures later). I have planned some pictures where he has to match multiple shapes in one activity.

Age attempted: this particular one was at 23 months, the flower and sun were done around 19 months

Teachable Moments:  I emphasize the shapes in the project, how to use glue (he uses the Q-tip to place a dab of glue inside the shapes)

Try Again?  Similar activities, yes

Homemade Toy – Sponge Curlers

You may have seen this post describing J’s homemade version of stringing beads.  Well, of course you can use the sponge curlers as they come as an easy toy to encourage more practice with fine motor skills.  Often changing just one aspect of an activity makes it seem brand new to J.  So sometimes I pull out the plastic pieces that the sponges came with and J matches the correct color sponge with the (we have two sets pink and black).  Cutting the sponges into halves or thirds obviouslylengthens the task and gives him more practice at stringing them.   It’s also a good way to emphasize size. 

23 months

We haven’t  done this activity yet, but you could first have organize the sponges by size before threading them.  Talk about how many are necessary to fill up the curler peg…. when you’re threading the smallest size, the medium size, the largest size sponges.  When he’s much older this could be a great hands on activity for whole, half, and thirds.

Age Attempted: 23 months, could’ve done this earlier

Teachable Moments:  Encourage them to thread the correct color sponge on it’s matching peg; encourage them to fill up the peg (size)

Try Again?  Yes, it can grow with J