Friday, June 20, 2014

Tot School: A is for Apples (Fruit Theme)

Sophie is 23-25 months old during these activities.

We started our first letter "week" back in March.  Currently, it is still sitting on our Tot School shelf!  A lot has happened in our life between now and then, and changing out the Tot School activities just hasn't been priority! Fortunately, Sophie is still enjoying the activities, so it hasn't been too much of an issue.

Letter of the Week: Aa
Object and Theme:  Apples/Fruit
Color: Red

- Memory Verse:  Genesis 1:1.  In the future the verses may correspond with the letter of the alphabet, but I'm more interested in her memorizing the Scripture rather than have a new verse every week or two.  We'll stick with a verse until she gets it.  She did a great job with this one, and I'm pretty sure hearing her say it is one of my favorite things ever: "In binging, God acrated the heavens and earfs. Gensis mun mun."  Seriously adorable. :)

- Books: The main book we read with this theme was Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins.  The repetition in this one made it a huge hit!  Other books included The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Go, Go Grapes!  by April Pulley Sayre.

Sensory Fun

I had a really simple sensory bin with some red beans and rice.  I added some scoops, a few foam letter As, and the ABC Find It! A's from 1+1+1=1.  Sophie didn't really seem to get the idea of matching up the loose pieces with the letter mat, probably because they were all different sizes.  She had fun finding A's in the beans though, and as always had a great time pouring and transferring.

What's on the Shelf?

Lacing Beads.  Sophie really started to get good at the lacing beads this week!  I pulled out just the red ones to help reinforce our color of the week.

Playdoh with an A, apple, and acorn-shaped cookie cutters.  This probably ended up being her favorite activity from the shelf.  She received the Melissa and Doug Shape, Model, and Mold from my parents for her birthday and she loved playing with it.  She enjoyed making and squishing "A"s using the cookie cutters.

Melissa and Doug Alphabet Puzzle Book.  I pulled out the A-E page of the book and she really enjoyed playing with the magnets.  She did the puzzle the first few days, but then she remembered that magnets stick on our dishwasher and she spent the rest of the time playing with them there.  

Melissa and Doug Cutting Food Apple.  Her cutting skills definitely improved over time, but it's going to be a looonnnngggg time before this girl gets her hands on a real knife! ;)

Colored Apple Sort.  We also played a fun alphabet game with this tray.  It involved apple picking and a tambourine...seriously.  What fun is apple picking without a tambourine?! I shared the details over at The Activity Mom! Be sure to check it out!

Everyday Life Activities

We spent extra time in the produce department during our weekly grocery trips exploring the different fruits.  We talked about colors, textures, if it felt heavy, etc.  She loves being my helper by putting our fruits and vegetables into the bags!

We also attempted to make apple chips.  Sophie had a great time painting the apples with lemon juice and dipping them in cinnamon sugar.  Unfortunately, as with many things I find on Pinterest, this seemed pretty foolproof, but they didn't turn out as well as I hoped!  They stuck to the pan pretty bad and were a bit gummier than I anticipated.  Maybe if I cooked them a bit longer they would have turned out better, but Sophie still enjoyed them!

Fun with Printables

As I've said before, I am using the themes from 1+1+1=1 Tot School Printables as a guide for our letter exploration.  Sophie really enjoyed these printable activities.  Some I put in page protectors to reuse all week with dry-erase markers, and others we used as a one-time activity.  We didn't do all that are available, but we will branch out more as we continue.  Her favorite was using her Do-A-Dot paints to cover the Aa's.  

Arts and Crafts

Sophie LOVES gluing!  I definitely need to make sure to include a gluing activity in my plans in the future.  I love how the apple turned out!  (And honestly, my pride is very glad that the ant is covered in black was a pretty pathetic drawing done on the fly for a little girl who wanted "more glue"!)

We also tried our hands at apple printing.  I don't know if my paint was too thin or if I just gave her too much, but this was a mess!  She had a blast though, and she did get one or two good prints where she could see the star from the inside of the apple.

For tons more ideas be sure to visit these sites I might link to this week!
Teaching Tuesdays at Intentional Homeschool
Tuesday Tots at Rainy Day Mum
Link and Learn at No Time for Flashcards
Show and Share Saturday Link Up at I Can Teach My Child
Tender Moments with Toddlers and Preschoolers at The Chaos and the Clutter 
Sunday Showcase at Learn Play Imagine
TGIF at 123Homeschool4Me
For the Kids Fridays at Sun Scholars

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tot School: Letters of the Alphabet Themes - Introduction

Sophie has been fascinated with the alphabet for a while now, and says "ABC" or "OP" when she sees writing.  So I decided this would be a great guide for our next several months (probably year!) of Tot School themes.

I am using Tot School Printables from 1+1+1=1 as a guide for our first real exposure to the alphabet.  The goal for these themes is really exposure, not mastery, though I'm sure Sophie will pick up letter identification for many letters along the way.  While we may write letters together and I say the letter sounds on occasion, those will be focused on later.

The Tot School Printables set out a theme based on the letter - for example, A is for Apples with the theme being Fruit.  So while you are exposing your tot to the letter, it is done in the larger context of vocabulary building through the theme.  She also adds a color to emphasize, which we will probably do to help Sophie improve on naming her colors.  (Right now, everything is "orange", especially green.  Green seems to be her favorite color, but it is forever called "orange."  We're working on it! ;))

I mentioned in my previous post that Sophie's interests had changed in regards to Tot School.  Rather than focusing mostly on the Tot Trays as I have in the past, I will focus more on an activity or project for us to do together during our Tot School time.  I will still have trays, but they will serve more as opportunity for individual exploration and play rather than for the majority of our intentional together time.

In order to plan my activities, I started by collecting ideas using Pinterest.  I set up boards for each letter theme, as well as a board for general whole alphabet activities.  Be sure to check them out if you are working on the alphabet with your little one!  There is a wide range of activities, many that I have pinned for future use as well.

Follow Alicia Brookins's board Tot School: Alphabet on Pinterest.

I have also utilized my public library's website to create book lists for each of the themes.  I search for books that fit or titles I know I want and can add them to a saved list in my account.  I can then request that the books be held and all I have to do is go pick them up!  This has been a fabulous service for me to get books, especially with a newborn.  I don't exactly get much shelf-browsing time during our library trips these days!

For each theme, I am trying to include activities in the following categories:
- Memory Verse
- Books (The goal is to have lots of theme-related books, but one we focus on throughout the week)
- Letter Activities (some letter-specific printables, but also whole alphabet activities)
- Math (sorting, counting, ordering, shapes, etc.)
- Fine Motor
- Gross Motor
- Arts/Crafts
- Music
- Food Fun
- Other: field trips, life skills, etc.

Some of these activities will be on trays she can explore mostly on her own, some will be printables, and others will be activities we do together.  This isn't a list of requirements, but one to help me try to plan varied activities and remind myself of areas I tend to forget.  (I would almost never do gross motor type activities if I didn't actively remind myself - just not a natural tendency for me!)  I am aiming for spending two weeks on each letter, though flexibility will be key at this point in our lives!

So, we are diving in to the alphabet!  I'm really excited to explore letters with Sophie.  Be looking for our post about the letter "Aa" coming soon!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Reevaulating Tot School

I had this post all typed out to share back in March, but it never got published! 
Let's blame it on pregnancy brain...

Sophie doesn't seem as excited about Tot School as she used to be.  I always want this to be a fun opportunity for her, not something that ever feels forced or unpleasant.  That's not how learning should be!  It's no secret that I'm pretty much in love with Carisa's blog, 1+1+1=1, and she has a post called "Following the Lead of the Child" that has always stuck with me about doing Tot School with Sophie. If what we've been doing isn't working, then I'm the one who needs to adjust - not Sophie!  As a teacher, I know that there are multiple ways to approach learning any skill or idea.  I want her to explore, learn, and discover the world in the ways that she enjoys - not necessarily what I prefer or enjoy.

In an effort to reevaluate my approach to our intentional learning time, I decided to start with the way my brain works best - making a list.  In no particular order, here are the things that I know Sophie really enjoys.

- Sitting on my lap to do activities
- Taking items in and out of her wallet and purse
- Reading books, especially her favorites over and over
- Drawing and "writing" - prefers to use my pencil or pen over a crayon
- Singing, dancing, and playing instruments
- Helping me cook
- Gluing
- Pouring/stirring
- Sensory bins
- Exploring outside

Doesn't like:
- Getting messy
- Counting trays
- Paper puzzle activities
- Matching cards

After we complete the shape themes we've been doing, my plan is to start doing a letter of the week.  Sophie is fascinated by letters and will point them out and say "A, B, C" when she sees writing.  It will be used as a way to explore letter recognition and other fun vocabulary concepts - not phonics or writing until she is older.

I'm not sure exactly how yet, but this will likely look a bit different than our current Tot School set up.  I think I will back down the number of trays again (I feel like six may be too overwhelming for her) and probably focus more on related activities during our time together rather than the actual trays, and allow the trays to be more for individual exploration.

I'll share about the direction things will take soon - as I figure it out!

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Adorable New Reason I've Been Quiet Lately...

I know it has been a while since I posted, but I have quite a precious reason why!

Miles Andrew was born on April 12 at 6:48 PM.  He weighed 6 pounds 8 ounces and was 20 inches long.  He stole our hearts quickly - especially his big sister's.  She absolutely adores him!

We've been spending the last eight weeks getting adjusted to our new "normal" and I feel like we might finally have a little bit of a groove to our days now.  Miles is a great baby!  He sleeps well (already sleeping for 6 hours straight most nights!) and eats well.  We struggled with both those things with Sophie and so we are very thankful for a less challenging newborn experience this time around!  He is very content and flexible, which is fabulous with a two year old to take care of as well!

Yes, I said two-year-old!  My sweet little lady had a birthday a month after Miles made his appearance. We celebrated with a simple Frozen themed party with family and a couple close friends.  She seems so grown up all of a sudden next to Miles.

She is an amazing helper and has handled this transition better than I could have imagined.  She loves to kiss "my Miles" and asks to see him first thing when she wakes up.  She wants to hold him and share all her toys and snacks, so I've got to watch her like a hawk to insure she's not feeding him cheerios! 

All in all, we are so blessed!  I wouldn't have believed you if you had told me three years ago I'd be holding two precious angels in my arms.  God has been so good to us and I thank Him for the blessing of being their mom!

As far as blogging goes, I hope to continue posting our Tot School and other activities, as well as contributing at The Activity Mom, though my posts be a bit slower than they were before we had two little ones in diapers!  Very soon I hope to share our first letter of the "week" (umm...10 weeks? lol) Tot School.  Sophie has really enjoyed it, and its been great for us to still have that intentional one-on-one time with all if the new transition!  

Thanks for sticking with me during our time of transitioning to life as a family of four! :)