Friday, August 19, 2011

Tot School- August 12th to August 19th

**Boogie is 22 months old**

In at attempt to network with other moms homeschooling tots, I am going to link back to one of my favorites sites that I have discovered in my researching. If you have been enjoying my "how to" tot activity posts, a lot of the ideas and inspiration either came from 1+1+1=1 or one of the blogs I found through her site. So I am going to write a summary of the things Boogie and I have been doing this week, than I will do separate "how to" posts for the tools and activities we have been doing that have a preparation or assembly angle.

Tot School

Practical Life

As I have been researching during all the free time I have (HA! Mostly it is on my iPhone while nursing Bun in the wee small hours of the morning), I have seen a lot of moms posting about the "practical life" things they do with their child. The nice thing is, pretty much everyone does some of these things automatically, but you might not have realized that your child is learning from them and that they are necessary to development! I didn't!

So, one of the practical life activities we did this week was with containers and their lids. Boogie has a tub full of food containers that have been used up and washed out. He LOVES to take the lids off and put them back on a million times a day. He also likes to scour the playroom and see what he can find to put in the containers. This is great for fine motor skills and coordination, especially with the smaller twist tops. It also has a matching and recall aspect, since he has to figure out or remember which lids go with which containers. I usually use the words "top" and "bottom" with him when we are playing with these. We also talk about circles while doing this. And I will tell him if a top is too big or too little for the container, so there is some practice with opposite language while we play with these too.

While we are talking about practical life skills, a few big things we have been working on the past week are consistently drinking out of a regular cup at meals and cleaning up what we are doing before starting on something else. Boogie has been doing so well with both of these things, thankfully! The cleaning up is a HUGE help for me. He always loves helping us vacuum or put laundry in the washer and dryer so if I say something like "help mama put this back" he says "help" or "back" and usually does it very nicely! We also listen to Barney's "Clean Up" and sing along.

Another practical skill we are working on is having him brush his own teeth, which he LOVES to do in the sink. His vocabulary is expanding daily at this point, which is really exciting, and he will say "brush" and "sink" when he wakes up in the morning and after his nap. We listen to another Barney song ("Brushing My Teeth") while we do it and he really enjoys it. He also loves to play in the sink in general because pouring and transferring are two of his favorite activities now matter what skill we are working on. He loves playing in water so this is an easy way to meet him halfway without a mess or traveling (and it is so hot to go to the community pool with the baby).

Sensory Play/ Exploring Textures

Another type of sensory play (besides playing in the sink) Boogie loves is his rice bin. He will request this at least twice a day. The first time we did not put a blanket under it but since then we do every time and he is pretty good about keeping the rice on the blanket but it does escape from time to time. When Bun is starting tot school, I will start with something bigger, like pasta! Rice is a pain to clean up! Again, Boogie LOVES pouring, scooping, and transferring, which is why this is a favorite.

I love doing arts and crafts, so we finger painted with Boogie for the first time the other night. We thought it would be a fun way to play with colors and make shapes. He was not too sure about it, though, and asked for a napkin after a few minutes! We did it again this morning, with two colors this time, but he didn't stay interested for very long.

The pom pom balls were a big hit, and Boogie asks for those every day or so. I try to put a different spin on it each time I take them out. He is such a boy, so of course, any activity with balls turns into how hard and far he can throw them. But he usually will humor me for a little bit and transfer them back and forth between containers using different methods. While he does that we teach him colors and counting. We have given him frying pans, bowls, tupperware, and muffin tins using his hands, spoons, tongs, and measuring cups. My kitchen tongs are hard for him to use, but the Target $1 section came through for me again! They have small ice tongs. We haven't tried them yet but they will definitely be easier to pinch! When he gets frustrated with the fine motor skills aspect of this and hasn't yet moved on to throwing them, he will just pick up one container and dump the balls into the other one. It's very cute :)

We have played with play dough before, but Boogie was happy making cars and balls for over an hour one afternoon this week! Well, let me rephrase that. He was happy with me making cars and balls for over an hour while he squished them and asked me to make them again. I got out some shape cookie cutters (all we have in the 101 cutter set is circles, hearts, and stars! I guess I need to get a shape specific set?) and we made a few circles (of course! Circles are his favorite), but mostly it was all about cars and balls. Which is pretty much true for life in general with little boys, huh?

Since we are focusing a lot on shapes and colors right now, I made him a color-oriented clank can, found on this blog. My how to post has more pictures and details about how that went. Bottom line, he loved the noise but wasn't really into the colors.

My mom and I raided the Target $1 section and got these awesome shapes and colors flashcards. They also teach sizes but Boogie is not ready for that yet. I separated the circles, squares, triangles and diamonds after this initial introduction because it was too much for him. He loves diamonds. I think I will add back the stars too because he started saying "star" this week.

When Boogie got down from breakfast one morning this week, I tried a matching game with some of his laminated shapes and some construction paper. He was NOT impressed. The idea was for him to put the shapes onto the color that matched. I really thought he would be interested in colors, but he is picking up the names of the shapes faster than he is picking up the names of the colors. He also seems to have an obsessive-compulsive streak, and wanted to line up the paper so it was in a straight line. I am in trouble with this stubborn little perfectionist! He was doomed to be both stubborn and a perfectionist though, with Hubby and me as his parents!

Boogie has a fruits of the Spirit shape sorter that he has been playing with more recently. He said "star" and "apple" for the first time playing with it this week. There aren't really traditional shapes with this set, but I tell him what they are called and what color they are. Sometimes I will name the fruits of the Spirit for him as he does it too.

I also finally finished the color wheel I have been working on for days now. The sticking point was I needed ink for our printer. He was way more interested in dumping and refilling a container with the clothespins he was supposed to be matching. Again, my how to post has the details.

Today, I took out the dry erase board and the dry erase crayons and we talked about colors and drew shapes. Let me tell you, the dry erase crayons are awesome, but if your child presses hard (mine does) then it takes some rubbing to get it off. And if your child is a hoarder (mine is) and likes to hold all the other crayons while using one, the crayons will get all over their hands and clothes. Crayola swears they're washable so we will see if his shirt is ever the same again. The most exciting thing for me, besides trying out the crayons for the first time, was that he now has a word for "triangle" and wanted me to draw both triangles AND circles!

This and That

There have been a few blogs recently that have posted about repurposing a pool noodle, so we tried a lacing activity this week. My how to post has the pictures and my thoughts about that.

Hubby got a remote controlled helicopter that Boogie enjoyed watching him play with. We have had a couple playdates with cousins. There has been a lot of rain so we haven't been outside much but I want to introduce him to chalk this weekend.

Otherwise, we play with cars, watch Disney Pixar's Cars, and read books about trucks and cars :D

In hindsight, I wish I had made the learning wheel and clank can using shapes instead of colors, since he is much more interested in learning the names of shapes. You live and learn!
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Color Learning Wheel

This is another wonderful idea I found at 1+1+1=1.


* 12 x 12 cardstock (it will be cut into a circle, using a giant compass, bowl, or some kind of circle cutter)
* Protractor
* Pencil
* 10 different colored circles (I used a spice jar lid to size them)
* Scissors
* Double-sided tape
* Contact paper
* Clothespins
* Markers
* Computer and printer (if you want to label the colors neatly)


* Find the center of your paper and use the protractor to divide the paper into 10 parts (I think my husband said it was around 72 degrees) using a pencil.
* Cut the paper into a circle with a 12 inch diameter. I used a giant bowl to make the circle
* Use a small lid as the template to make your 10 colored circles
* Tape the circles in place and if you want to label them with the names of the colors, write or print out the colors and tape them down too
* Use contact paper to make it more sturdy
* Decide how many clothespins you want to use for each color (I chose 3)
* Color the ends of the clothespins to match your 10 colors. I also chose to label the clothespins with the names of the colors
* Demonstrate to your child how to clip the clothespins onto the segment of the circle that is the correct color


This tool teaches matching, fine motor skills, colors, and reading if your child is old enough.

Plan in action:

Boogie had trouble making the clothespins pinch but really enjoyed dumping them out then putting them back in the container. I'm sure that surprises everybody! He liked taking them off the circle when I put them on as well. And we talked about all the circles. He was very excited about them. I recommend NOT using a permanent marker since it smells so bad on the clothespins and I wish I had used some kind of paint instead of white out for the white one, but it was all I had. He really wanted to pinch the clothespins, so we will keep working on that as we practice our colors. You can do this with shapes, letters, or numbers too.

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Lacing with a Noodle

I cannot remember where I read about this idea first, but I was reminded of it from Money Saving Mom and had to try it.


* A water noodle
* Knife
* Cutting board
* Ruler if you're picky like that
* Rope, yarn, or some kind of string
* Tape (for the ends of the rope so they dont fray)
* Scissors


* Put the noodle on the cutting board and cut a 1 inch segment (more or less)
* Use the piece you just cut to measure out the next one
* Continue until you have as many as you want (I made 20)
* Cut a piece of rope to a little longer than all your noodle "beads" in a row
* Tape the end of the rope or string
* Demonstrate to your child how to "lace" the "beads"


This activity teaches fine motor skills and coordination. You can use it to teach patterns and colors if you use more than one color or style noodle.

Plan in action:

Boogie figured this out pretty quickly and would do one or two then swing the rope around to send the beads flying all over the room. He thought that was great fun. Wash, rinse, repeat. Noodles everywhere. But he did understand the concept and could very easily manipulate both the "beads" and the "lace." He also enjoyed building towers with the noodle pieces, and lining them up on the floor in a row. We talked about how they were circles and how they were blue too. And we counted them.

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Color Clank Can

This is another great idea for teaching colors, shapes, numbers, letters, or anything else you can ask a child about. When they answer correctly, they get to make the right lid "clank!" Other examples on this blog, this blog, or this blog.


* Metal can
* 10 frozen fruit juice can tops (they don't have sharp edges)
* 10 different colored pieces of paper (red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple, pink, black, white, brown)
* Double-sided tape
* Contact paper
* Markers
* Scissors
* Exacto knife


* Clean out and dry your can
* Cut a piece of paper (or 2, depending on the size of your can) to wrap around the can. If you want, write "clank can" on it and decorate it
* Cut an opening in the lid of the can (using the exacto knife) to put your "clanks" in
* Clean and dry the juice lids
* Cut 2 circles out of each piece of paper to fit on the top and bottom of each juice lid
* Use a piece of double sided tape to secure the colored circles
* Cover the circles with contact paper (so your tot doesn't ruin the circle)
* Ask your child "can you find the blue top and put it in the can?"
* Drop your tops into the can and enjoy the noise while you learn about colors!


This tool teaches colors, fine motor skills and coordination. You can use it to teach any skill really, and even reading comprehension.

Plan in action:

Boogie loved the clanking sound, as Hubby and I were sure he would. He did not really understand when we were asking him to put certain colors into the can though. But we persevered, saying over and over again "this is a red top" or "you're holding a blue one." He does say "blue" from time to time because of "Blue's Clues", and he will correctly identify other colors sporadically. he was very pleased that the lids were circles and that there were colored circles on them. I only put colors on one side of the lid at first, but modified it later because he would flip them around or dump them out (so many of these activities come back to dumping everything out and putting it into other containers with Boogie!) so I thought it would be better to have the same color on the top and bottom so he could identify the correct color quickly when we ask. This might be more successful with shapes since he can correctly identify more of them, but I haven't gotten around to making that set yet.


We are going to do the shapes on baby food jar lids because we know more people with babies than we know people who drink frozen juice! Anything metal and circular would work just fine. And formula cans would work just as well as a coffee can.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tot School- More fun with shapes!

**Boogie is 22 months old**

Boogie has a shapes puzzle and a shapes book that I pulled out to look at with him on Tuesday (August 9th). I was telling him the names of the shapes as he was putting them in and taking them out of the puzzle. When we got to the diamond, he started doing the hand motions for "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" because of the line "like a diamond in the sky", which I thought was a pretty neat connection.

The first time I read the book to him alongside the puzzle, he got very excited about the diamond shape again because it is the same size and color in the book as in the puzzle. So we put the piece on top of the picture. Then, we turned to the rectangle page. I told him it was a rectangle and asked if he could find the rectangle in the puzzle. He took out the rectangle puzzle piece and put it on top of the rectangle in the book! He is really good at matching and it is fun to see him starting to understand new things about books or toys that we already had. His shape sorter is another toy that is getting a lot of intentional use lately, and he can do all 10 pieces extremely fast, but usually he waits and wants me to tell him the name and color of the shape as he is putting it in.

I am really pleased with how interested he is in learning new things in new ways each day. And it is nice to see his understanding grow, like when he correctly points out a circle, or matches 2 diamonds together!

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Fun with Shapes and Colors

This is actually the first thing I started working on when I decided we were going to work on shapes and colors as our first homeschooling unit. It took me several days to cut out the shapes, label them, and cover them with contact paper. They were all done last weekend, so we gave them to Boogie Sunday morning (August 7th).


* Colored paper (I used construction because it is cheapest)
* Contact paper (or personal laminator)
* Scissors
* Markers or crayons
* Measuring tools (ruler, compass, etc. I used a lid for the circle and quilting tools for the square and triangle)


* Decide what size and color you want to make your shapes (4 inches was the measurement I worked from). I used the 10 colors from our Dr. Seuss Colors and Shapes poster. Also decide what shapes you want to teach. I chose circles, squares, and triangles to start with.
* Cut out your shapes, then label them on one side with the name of the shape and on the other side with the color that shape is.
* Laminate/use contact paper to strengthen your shapes then cut them out again.
* Give them to your child to sort and count together


This tool teaches colors, shapes, counting, letters (when your child is older), and sorting.

Plan in action:

Boogie watched me measure, cut, label, cover, and cut these again while he sat for snacks or did other activities over several days. He was so excited when he could finally play with them. I started with the circles on August 4th and told him what I was doing. By the next day he could say "circa" and he would point at circles around our house. He is incredibly proud of himself, and prefers the circles to every other shape. We gave him all 30 shapes when they were done and just sat with him telling him the color and shape of the ones he picked up. We would also ask him if he could find the blue ones or could he find a triangle. He loves these shapes and this is another tool he will point to his cabinet and ask for.

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Puff Ball Counting, Sorting and Colors

We tried this activity for the first time also on August 4th (I usually like to just introduce one new activity a day but it didn't work out that way that day) and Boogie has asked for the balls just about every day since then. I found this on "Mama Jenn's" blog. She has a ton of great ways to keep toddlers entertained and learning at the same time. Her little boys especially do a lot of different things with puff balls. This is the first way I have used them with Boogie.


* A bag of colored puff balls. (I got an assorted color pack of 50 in the largest size they had at Michaels so that they would be easier to find when Boogie inevitably threw them everywhere)
* A muffin tin


* Model sorting the puffs by color into the different openings of the muffin tin. Say which color each puff is as you place it.
* Count how many puffs you have of each color.
* Ask your tot to find a specific color for you. Or pick up a puff and ask what color it is if they are speaking well enough to respond.
* Dump them all out and do it again!


This activity teaches colors, counting, and sorting.

Plan in action:

Boogie LOVES balls, and LOVES putting things into containers and dumping them out again. This was heaven for him. There were a couple times when he would pick up the correct color when asked or he would put two of the right color together, but mostly he yelled "BALL!" and threw them around. It was a texture he hadn't experienced before in a ball so he was just really enjoying himself, which is the whole point of learning! Since then, we have used the muffin tin and puff balls in the playroom as well, where he loves throwing them all around, putting them haphazardly back in the muffin tin, dumping them out, then throwing them all around again. We are trying to practice cleaning up consistently these days, so I tried saying "let's put all the green balls back in the tin now" but he was more interested in stuffing the puffs into other things around the playroom. We don't have 50 anymore but that is why I got the biggest bag I could find!

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Just for Fun- Painting with Water

I am fortunate enough to have a) a lot of friends with children Boogie's age and b) a lot of friends considering or doing homeschooling. This is something a friend of mine mentioned and I really like it because it is easy to set up and clean up, as well as using materials most parents probably already have. We tried this for the first time on August 4th and have not come back to it yet.


* Water
* paint brush
* construction paper
* shallow container or container with a small hole


* Put a small amount of water in container (I used a take and toss cup with a straw hole)
* Show child how to dip brush in container to get it wet than "paint" with the water on the paper.


This activity teaches fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. It could teach shapes if you paint specific shapes on the paper. You could also talk about the color of the paint brush, paper, and container.

Plan in action:

Boogie thought the paint brush should be a straw because the water was in one of his cups so he kept trying to drink out of it. He tried to use the brush upside down most of the time. In case you can't tell, this is his first experience with a paint brush. He also managed to dump a fair amount of the water on himself and the paper even through the tiny straw hole. We did get a few doodles but I think we will have to repeat this activity with more modeling from me a few times before he gets it. And use a different container.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pipe Cleaner Color Sort and Counting

My oldest, "Boogie", will be 2 in October. I spend a lot of time nursing my younger boy, "Bun", right now because he is 7 weeks old. This past weekend I decided that it was a good age to start some kind of structured learning with Boogie. Other moms with multiple children can correct me if I am wrong, but I think life is actually easier if you take the time to plan ahead and do educational things as opposed to each day being a free-for-all between meals and sleeping. Yes, it takes more work, time, discipline (mom and child), and supervision, but the three of us are happy when Boog is sitting quietly on the couch doing something I prepared for him while I nurse Bun.

Over the past week I have written lists and scavenged or bought supplies to create some learning tools. I cleaned out a cabinet to store things in the kitchen for easy access. I wanted to introduce one activity at a time but Boogie was "helping" me with the cleaning and organizing and got interested, so we have tried several activities over the past couple days.

I started with the pipe cleaner color sort because we already had all the materials on hand. I found this through an awesome site called 1+1+1=1 but it was originally posted on this site.


* Costco parmesan cheese container
* 30 colored pipe cleaners- 6 different colors, 5 of each color
* 6 hole punch reinforcement stickers
* scissors
* 6 colored sharpies that match your pipe cleaners


* This is a no brainer, but for the sake of being thorough, make sure the parmesan cheese container is really clean and dry then take off the label so your child can see what's inside.
* Find 6 different colored pipe cleaners and cut them to the size of your container.
* Use sharpies that are the same colors as the pipe cleaners and color each of your hole punch reinforcement stickers a different color, then put one on each of the 6 holes on the cover of the container. I chose the 6 most common bright colors- red, blue, yellow, green, orange and purple.


This tool teaches colors, counting, fine motor skills and hand eye coordination.


You can use different colors, or a different type of container (pringles or sprinkles would work). You could use straws instead of pipe cleaners if you have a shorter container or are concerned about the pipe cleaners being too sharp at the ends.

Plan in action:

Boogie watched me (and my mom's 9 year old neighbor who was over for the day) put the pipe cleaners in, one at a time, for a few minutes then he tried. His favorite thing to do is take the top off, dump them all out, then try to squish them all back in at once. I tried guiding him, saying things like "let's put the blue one in the blue hole." Sometimes he got it and sometimes he didn't. The pipe cleaners got very bent and curled but that was part of the fun for him. I think the important thing, at his age, is to give him guidance but also just let him explore different materials and textures. If I continue to show him the "right" way to do it, eventually he will catch on. We did some counting as I was re-straightening the pipe cleaners when he wanted to put them in the holes. Whenever he was just holding one, I would tell him what the color was.

I consider this activity a success because Boogie had a lot of fun and it kept him busy, quiet, and happy.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Homemade Play Dough

This is a great recipe for homemade playdough that my mom always made for us. It is a lot less sticky than the store bought kind and it makes a large quantity.

A word to the wise- don't store this in your laundry room! We had two batches ruined before I realized that was the problem. The humidity caused the dough to get mildew-y, which my mom swore never happened in the twenty-odd years she had been making it and could only happen to me. Thanks, Mom.

In pot on stove:
3 cups flour
3/4 cup salt
6 tablespoons cream of tartar (2 small containers- about $6 if you can only find McCormick)

Mix separately in bowl at first:
3 cups water
3 tablespoons oil
food coloring as desired

Mix everything together in the pot. It will look like a mess. As it cooks over medium heat, it will start to have dry patches. Keep mixing. When most is dry, transfer to mixing bowl and blend well. Let it cool, then store in a gallon size ziploc bag.

Honestly, my hubby made this the first time and my mom brought it over the second time so I have not made it yet. I might add some notes to this after I make a third batch, which I will do as soon as I get the cream of tartar.
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The beginning...

In another life, I was homeschooled. This was after a month at the public high school. I told my mom I was either going to be a high school drop out or she was going to have to homeschool me. When she realized I was serious, she withdrew me. I stayed home for 2 years, did my lessons in the morning or evening and worked as a mother's helper the rest of the day. I got involved at church and made friends there and became much more comfortable with who I was. By choice, I went back to public school my junior year.

In another another life, I was a teacher. I have always loved kids, and wanted to teach preschool. Due to some extreme miscommunications, I found myself in the secondary education program at RU with very few options to graduate on time unless I continued on that path. I chinned-up, so to speak, and found that I really enjoyed the challenge.

And found that I never ever want to send my kids to public school. EVER.

I taught at good schools but teachers are so pigeon-holed by standards and curriculum and school politics and political correctness that the needs of individual students are hard to meet. And teacher creativity is often stifled by time, energy, and those constraints I already mentioned.

Besides all that, there is, of course, my concern with the way society is going. I loved my students and I saw the things they were struggling with outside of the classroom. I know you cannot, nor do we want to shelter our children unhealthily, but there is something to be said for parents having some control over who their kids spend time with and what they are being taught 6 hours a day.

Now, I am the proud mama of 2 sweet babies, a toddler and a newborn, and am looking forward to using my background in homeschooling and teaching to raise our boys and their future siblings (Yes, with a newborn I am still talking about future siblings! Will wonders never cease?!) in a loving, safe, Christian, educational, stimulating environment.
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