Moonday! (This year in homeschool preschool…)

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Last school year I was a little obsessed with educating my child. I felt like I needed to spend every moment of his life educating him, but not always on the important things. I was working so hard to “make” him learn his letters, colors, etc… Yeah, I was terrible. Totally not age appropriate first of all, and planning things for him to learn truly bored him. He’d be interested in something else, so the things I wanted to teach him… well he couldn’t stay focused, and got very frustrated with me, which makes total sense. This year, I wiped that crazy board clean and decided to 100% follow his lead.

The first thing I decided to do was set up a “classroom” so that he would have a place to go to focus, and we could still do normal preschool activities like go over the calendar, read books, sit for puzzles, and go over our letters and numbers. These aren’t going to be forced things, but they are available, and if he chooses to do them himself, great! He often does. He loves puzzles, he loves matching games, and he is actually really interested in putting letters together and finding different letters out of a set. Part of the problem last year was that our schedule was always set, I would force him through the activities, and we would be in the living room or kitchen which was set up for other things as well. This year he will have a learning sanctuary that is his choice. It’s also a good way to keep all of his craft supplies, sensory buckets, and blocks in one place.

Now the next thing I did was realize that he had to already be interested in what I wanted to teach, so I decided that every Saturday we’d talk about the things he likes. Trees, weather, space, the ocean, firemen… whatever it may be, is what we will focus. Which leads me to…

Moonday! Last week Caleb let me know that he thought the moon was really awesome. I turned that into a whole week of learning about the solar system, but all he really wanted to learn about/play about was the moon and stars, which is completely understandable since he can actually see and somewhat understand them. At the daycare I work at, I did Moonday (Monday) with all of them, and want to share how it went with you all.

We started when I got there learning about gravity and the difference between gravity on Earth and the moon. We did this in a very simple way. I brought a bunch of Styrofoam balls and asked the kids to each grab a regular rock. We talked about how those rocks, Earth rocks, were heavy. Then I explained that on the Moon they would feel more like the Styrofoam balls and be very light. We played “moon rock toss” and tried to get the balls into a bucket.

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Next was snack time! Let me just add, this was delicious, and it’s my new favorite snack… We started with a rice cake base, smeared with cream cheese, layered with banana pennies and some little pieces of kix. One of our kiddos couldn’t have the cheese, so we used sun butter on her’s instead of the cream cheese, but it still looked really great.

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Then, I had each of the kiddos make their own telescope. I had prepped this activity so that the kids would each have a different color telescope, and wouldn’t have to spend the time painting. Instead they just each got a sticker sheet of stars to decorate the way they would like to.

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From there we went over to the rug and had a blast with this sensory bucket I set up for them. First of all, the bucket itself has a spot for each of the kids to set their wrist so they aren’t fighting for a spot or pushing one another, which I thought was great and a super bonus. Then I stuck on some star stickers, poured two bags of black beans in, added some of the white beans, about 15 glow in the dark stars, clear stones (because space is cold and full of ice!), and these awesome astronaut, ufo, spaceships, and jet erasers that I got at the Dollar Tree. Each child was assigned a different thing to find, and then they were able to just explore freely. They were so wonderfully focused on this bucket, it was a great time to call them over one by one for the big craft of the day…

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These were so much fun, and showed the personality of all of the kiddos. Just looking at them the other teacher and I knew exactly who made what. First each kiddo painted the back ground with their chosen combo of blue and purple. One little girl’s favorite color is blue, and only used blue. Caleb loved mixing colors, so used more purple than the others, because he likes swirling the two paints together. Then they each picked a glitter to sprinkle over the paint before it dried. After it all was dry, they got to glue on five of the glow in the dark stars and a cardboard moon however they wanted. I had painted the moons in an attempt to save time. We have such a limited amount of time the kids can stay sitting, that sometimes we just can’t let them do every part of a craft alone, sadly. Lastly I trimmed up to edges, and these lovely crafts were finished!

Along with these activities we used the sunlight to show how the moon rotates to make different phases, goes around the sun, and the size with little models of the Earth and moon I painted. We sang songs, pretended to be astronauts, and learned the sign for moon and stars. It was an excellent day of learning, play, and creativity, and it was all influenced by Caleb’s love for the moon and stars.

Trust your kids. They will learn if we follow their lead. I’m so incredibly sure of that. You can learn the alphabet during fun activities, you can help them learn their name using sensory boards, themed puzzles, and songs… Children learn through play. When you take the play away is when the learning stops. Trust your kids.

You Are Loved!

Turkey, Broccoli, Egg Muffins!

Okay, I have a REAL winner for you all today! My son has a new obsession with eggs, and I’ve made scrambled, fried, and omelets already this last week. I on the other hand have been on a muffin making binge, and also made a whole turkey yesterday. When Caleb asked for eggs today, I decided to put these delicious egg muffins together.

Ingredients:

cooked turkey (enough to fill the bottom of the cup, you can use deli meat)

broccoli (three pieces per muffin)

6 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp minced garlic

1 1/2 slice cheese of choice (I used American)

Preheat oven at 350 degrees and prepare your muffin tin. I love, love, love these silicone muffin liners. They are reusable, and anything cooked in them just pops right out.

Next, microwave your broccoli. 30 seconds from fresh/thawed, or 60 seconds for frozen. Put the turkey and broccoli in each cup (like in picture three.

Now whisk together the eggs, milk, and seasonings until you have a consistent mixture. This is the same egg recipe I would use for scrambled eggs. Caleb loves them, and they have just enough seasoning without overpowering the eggs. I recommend whisking this in a measuring cup, or anything with a pouring spout really. It’ll make it much easier to poor over the turkey and broccoli, which is exactly what you need to do next.

Lastly, place a quarter slice of cheese on top of each muffin cup. If you don’t press it in, it should float, and will be the perfect topped layer. Put the muffin tin into the oven and let it bake for 25-30 minutes. Just like a regular muffin, stick a toothpick or knife into the finished muffin to test if it’s done.

These are really great, because you can prep them the night before, and stick them into the oven in the morning if you want. You can also freeze them for later. Microwave them 45-60 seconds from frozen, or 30 seconds from thawed. These are easy to transport, and totally dip-able.

Enjoy!

Finger Paints and Stamping Fun!

I LOVE painting, and Caleb has been talking about painting a lot the last few days. First thing this morning I made a batch of my edible finger paint, and when my sweet boy woke up I surprised him with this painting station.

I really wanted to do more than just finger painting, so I grabbed straws and toilet paper rolls (two things I obsessively collect which drives Corey crazy) and stuck one of each into each of the six colors I made. I got Caleb naked, and gave him some paper. Then (last picture) I created examples to show him how the stamps work, and also to show him with the straw you can blow the paint around. He LOVED blowing the paint.

He really focused on the color red today. I was surprised. I made two purples and pink for him because he’s been so into them, but red was the cool color today.

After three of the toilet paper roll stamp paintings and one of the straw paintings I gave him a paintbrush. That’s what led to the second picture, and I loved watching him paint lines and then smack the brush against it like a stamp. It was cool to see that the concept we were working on really stuck with him. Lastly I took a straw and drew his name into his painting! I think once it’s dry we’ll put it on his bedroom door.

Originally I planned to do more. I was going to “stamp” his hand to make some Valentines Day cards, animal prints, etc… but he wasn’t having it. My normally messy loving boy really didn’t want to get his hands dirty today, so I didn’t force it. The paint only takes a minute to create anyway, so if he seems more willing later on, we’ll just do it then. I want to get some actual stamp pads and stamps. I think he’d love that, and he liked stamping his hand last Friday.

DIY Educational Book Shelf!

Quite a while ago I bought this book shelf for Caleb. It was a dingy white with partially ripped flowers all over it. I was so sure that I’d be able to get some paint and work my magic on it… six months later, it was still just sitting around in it’s original state. This morning specifically we were just using it as a foot rest in the living room.

I looked up at this super cute snowman hand print project we did yesterday, and it just came to me. I grabbed the book shelf and brought it out to the table for a scrub down. Once it was clean, I put a quick layer of yellow paint over the whole thing. Then I traced Caleb’s hand, and made two of each rainbow color. Next I painted another layer of yellow paint, and placed the hand cut outs where I wanted him.

A few hours later I went back to it with a sharpie. The top hands spell out Caleb’s name, and each finger (as well as the purple heart) have the alphabet on them, and then the side hands have their color written on them with 1-15 written on the fingers. I’m debating on adding more, like maybe some shapes on top? I’m quite pleased with how it came out so far though. The last step, once I’m totally sure, is to modge podge the whole thing so that Caleb can’t rip the hands off, because that’s totally something he would do.

Either way, this was a wicked easy project, and has a lot of uses! Alphabet, spelling his name, counting, practicing colors, and holding some of his wonderful books inside make it totally worth it! What do y’all think?

Colors and Counting: Pompom Edition!

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The Dollar Tree is this magical place where home-schoolers and parents go to buy ridiculous quantities of craft supplies, and educational aids. On one memorable trip I walked by bags of 80 pompoms. I may or may not have grabbed five bags… 400 pompoms seems reasonable right? Right?

Now the only question was what to do with these pompoms? Thus the colors, counting, and pompoms game was created! Super simple prep. I took six Styrofoam plates, drew bubble numbers with corresponding circles (aka 2 circles on the plate with the 2, 3 circles on the plate with the 3, etc…), and colored the circles on each plate with a color of pompom. I laid a platter with the pompoms in the middle of the living-room, surrounded by the plates, and Caleb jumped right in. Watching him use his fine motor skills to place the correct color of each pompom on its proper circle was so much fun. We named each color as he put it down, and talked about adding easy numbers.

I totally recommend this activity any time. You could put Velcro on the plates and pompoms so they don’t move around so much.Do as many plates as you want, multiple colors, and any size pompoms. There are so many great options and it’s a very low cost activity with lots of “educational areas” being covered. Enjoy!

Craft Time: Cow Tube Kites

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This week, for our home-school preschool curriculum, our theme is cow. I don’t have specific things written up for weekend activities, but figured we could do a random craft involving cows anyway. I put on a few cow videos to introduce Caleb to cows, and I prepped this while he watched. Super easy project:

White Paper Cut to Fit Around a Toilet Paper Roll

Black Paper for the Legs (cut into strips and accordion folded)

Black Paper Cut for the Spots (or washi tape!)

Marker for the Face

Glue Sticks

To start, I had Caleb put the glue on the white paper, and I wrapped it around the toilet paper tubes. Then I ran out of glue! I ran around trying to find more, but instead found some black washi tape. I drew a quick cow face on each of these, and then cut a bunch of washi tape squares. I helped Caleb glue his tail on, then we each went to town putting on the spots. I showed him how to fold the legs, we cut them out, and we both taped the legs on together. I have seen these with some other animals, and I figured it would be cute with a cow as well.

Right now they are handing on our “project line.” Later we will tie a little yarn to the top, and bring them outside to blow in the wind! This is a very easy project, but it has a lot of steps. By the time we got half way through the spots, Caleb was pretty done. We got up and danced to Old McDonald for a few minutes, and he was ready to go back to the craft. It’s okay to take breaks!

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Water Beads ROCK!

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Look at that smile! This was a total win. Yesterday we went to the Dollar Tree, and I finally grabbed water beads. They are in the garden/craft section. They come with a vase, and the two packs I got came with three packs of beads. You soak these beads in water over night and they become little jelly balls. Non-toxic, not sticky, easy to clean up… it’s the perfect activity for kids and toddlers!

For us, Caleb is such a water and sensory loving kid that I knew we needed these. He will play in water all day long if we let him, but it ends up with him, my floor, and often me being soaked. These water beads, however, give the feelings of playing in water without actually getting wet.

Talking about fine motor skills though, there is a never ending amount of possible activities you can do with water beads. We spent over an hour playing with them when Caleb first woke up today. We started with them in the pub mix container (yay for recycling) where he could reach in just to check out how they feel. Then I grabbed a bowl and asked him to pour some in. I grabbed a little puppy toy, showed it to him, then hid it beneath the beads in the bowl, and asked him to find it. That was fun. Puppy is one of his favorite words. Then he grabbed cars and started driving in the bowl. That was really cool to watch actually. The beads moved like waves and would cover his hands or the car. Last but not least, I asked him to help pick the ones from the bowl up and put them back into the container. Talk about fine motor skills. Picking up slippery little balls is hard work! He did great though.

I wanted to share a few other activities we are planning with them. One is taking different containers to scoop and transfer the beads with and to. Tubes are a lot of fun. Pour some in one side and have your kiddo at the other end. It’ll be messy, since they’ll bounce everywhere, but so much fun. You can take bottles, with the smaller lid holes, and have your kiddo drop beads into them. Sorting, counting, working the motor skills… I really recommend having these on hand!

Playdough and Fine Motor Skills

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I’ve been working with Caleb’s fine motor skills since he was born. Now that he can take directions, and has sharper skills, I’m constantly on the hunt to find new activities for him. This is going to be a short post, because it’s pretty straight forward, but I figured I’d share anyhow.

Tonight we dug out the playdough. I started by flattening out a little bit, drawing a C, and handing him a straw. I had my own straw, and I showed him how to use it as a hole punch over the line of the C. This was fun, but the most interesting part for him was making the holes, and the C was quickly forgotten about. Then I remembered the beading activities I’d seen on Pinterest. I rolled little balls of the playdough, and showed him how to push one onto the straw. He loved it! He took the straw from me and threaded all of the balls on. A few broke as he pushed them on, but he just flattened them onto the paper, and stuck the other straw into it.

All together we spent about thirty minutes on the activity. It was a good way to spend time together, we talked about shapes, we talked about the letter C, and he got good practice for his fine motor skills. I highly recommend this activity!

SO COLD: Swimming?

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To say the least, everyone thinks that we’re crazy. This is just barely the beginning of warm, way too warm and humid, weather in Maine. That means that the water wont be warm enough for probably at least another month. Yesterday was 80 degrees out though and I was pretty determined to go swimming. Covered in sweat, not even owning a bathing suit, I told Corey I wanted to go down to the Rec. and secretly gathered Caleb’s swim stuff and towels.

We walked the fifteen minutes down to our local Recreational Park. I walked right past the play ground Corey wanted to stay on and straight into the water. Heck yes. It was cold; frigid even. Did it feel amazing though? Absolutely. Caleb, my little water baby, was so ready to dive right in after me so I had Corey put his swimmy diaper on him and his bathing suit. He ran right in, fell over, swam a little (which was pretty impressive; he kept his head up), and then ran right out. A few breaths later he walked right back in up to his thighs and smiled.

He was only really in the water a few minutes total and then stood just up to his ankles and splashed around. He wasn’t in any danger, I was right there with him and knew that even though it was cold it wasn’t TOO cold. If he had turned blue or had been shivering uncontrollably I totally would have taken him out. He had a total blast. I mean look at that smile! He was just about to run back in and was so pleased with himself and where we were.

Once again, this all comes down to trust. I trusted that if it was too cold for him, Caleb would have gotten out of the water. I trusted that he wouldn’t let himself get hurt by the water. I stood back and let him do his thing. Corey was at the ready with a towel and dry clothes just in case. Sure enough though, he had the time of his life in the “big puddle.” I’m so glad our little family got the chance to go out and have fun like that with one another.

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The Magic of Chuck E. Cheese

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A few months back, Caleb and I were invited to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Like any neurotic mother, I was a little bit nervous about the incredible amount of people, germs, and the possibility of losing him in the crowd. What we found though was a whole different story…

This day was fantastic. Between the area for toddlers, including a game like whack-a-mole that Caleb loved, the pizza he got to devour (he ate more than any of the other kids and he’s the youngest by three years), and helping his mama play the foot ball game by handing me the balls the fun never ended. We were there for three hours and he never stopped going. It was very easy to let him run around and keep an eye on him without worrying about him running out the door since they black light stamp everyone to keep them inside.

The down side to the day? Oh my poor back. I now have lasting back pain from the amount of picking up my 25lb baby that happened that day. It feels like it’s been just a bit crushed. Was it worth it? In the long run probably not but I’d absolutely do it again. It’s a great, cost effective activity. Good food, great games, a play area… Go check it out!