Thursday, December 31, 2009

What's Missing?

We've been playing a lot of variations of What's Missing?, a great early math and reasoning game.

In this version, we have the numbers 0-10 written on index cards. We have done a lot with these simple little cards. In the beginning I would line them all up and just point at them as we counted (in both English and Spanish). Then I would ask Ryan to hand me the 5, or make the 8 jump up and down. Lots of silly stuff to practice identifying each number. After he could identify all of his numbers we practiced putting them in order (when we do it backwards we call it blastoff, which off course he thinks is great!) For the easy version of What's Missing we line up all the numbers, he closes his eyes and I take one of the cards. He opens his eyes and guesses which card is missing. Then it's my turn to close my eyes while he takes a card. It only took a couple of times for this to be too easy. To make it more challenging, when you take a card mix the line all up. See how they try to figure out which card is missing. If they need a little help suggest they line the cards up again. Like I said, these simple little cards have gotten tons of use, in fact I think it's time to add numbers 11-20 to our set!

In the shape version we practice identifying shapes by three attributes (size, shape and color). As you can see from the pictures, you can set it up many different ways. I usually set up the first line, and then ask Ryan to identify each shape (big red triangle, little red triangle, big red square, little red square). Then I ask him to set up the yellow line below it, and lastly the blue line. Once the matrix is set up we can play What's Missing. Just like with the numbers, Ryan closes his eyes while I remove a shape. Then he opens his eyes and guesses what I took. He has to name all three attributes. To make this version more challenging don't replace the missing shapes each time, so you have more and more 'holes' in your matrix.
These ideas all originated with our favorite math curriculum, Saxon K.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kid Friendly- Super Easy Chicken!

Last night I made one of our families favorite SUPER easy dishes, Roasted Pineapple Chicken.

I started by taking an entire chicken (this is the only way be buy chicken now, since it's so much more cost effective than buying breasts!) and removing the goodies from inside (I save them to make broth, but more on that later). If you've got the time you can rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Put the entire bird, breasts up, into a dutch oven, and sprinkle it with sea salt (about 1/2 tablespoon) and curry powder (about 2 Tablespoons). Next surround it with a can of crushed pineapple, including the juice, and 1/2 a cup of raisins or currants. Bake it at 375 for 45-90 minutes, depending on the size of your bird and voila!! When I've got the extra few minutes and ingredients I add big chunks of onion to the pineapple before cooking, and stir in some fresh parsley at the end.

If we're keeping it super simple I serve it with brown rice, and steamed veggies.

It also goes really well with sweet potato fries. Cut the potatoes into long strips. Place them on a baking sheet. Mist them with olive oil spray. Stir together 1 tsp. of ground cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of ground ginger. Sprinkle spices over the potatoes and bake until you can easily pierce them with a fork.

That night I cover the chicken carcass and the giblets (minus the liver)with water and simmer them for several hours. Then I strain it and freeze it in small portions, using silicone muffin pans We save tons of money by making our own broth, and I'm not constantly wasting partial cans or boxes.


YouTube for Kids

I actually got some cleaning done today, thanks to! There are few things that Ryan loves more than to click around on pictures and videos on the computer. When he gets sick of looking at our own images on Picasa, I turn to the trustworthy TotLol. As we all know the internet can be a scary place, so of course I turn the speakers up so that I can hear it and peek at the screen every few minutes.

To get him started today I typed in Alphabet songs. He watched several really cute videos, and it wasn't long before Ella pulled a chair up next to him. He played an Elmo video for her, which made her absolutely giddy! After Ella lost attention and moved on to playing with babies I typed in SpiderMan to keep him there for just a few more minutes. The computer counts as screen time in our house, but for some reason I feel better about it than having him just stare at the tv. Plus, did I mention I got in 40 minutes of cleaning!!

You have to become a member of, and they recently started asking that you pay $18 a year. But, as far as I can tell the site is fully functional without paying. When you sign up, use the age optimizer to narrow search results to videos appropriate for your kiddo. You can easily mark a video as a favorite to find it again. There is even a parent lock button which makes it easier to keep the kids where you put them on the site. Check it Out!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Books on CD for a Sick Day

Ryan didn't understand when I woke up with hardly any voice this morning. Thankfully one of our his favorite books, The Dinosaur Who Lost His Roar, was lying on the floor! He says I do sound like the croaking dino, and I should drink some tea to get my roar back.

Since we read books by the dozen around here, I'm glad we've recently gotten a bunch of books on CD. We usually keep most of them in the car, but I'm sure they will come in handy today! Here are just a few of our current favorites:

In Usborne's, The Princess and the Pea Hans Christian Andersen's original fairytale is brought to life with lively music, dramatic sound effects and well characterized readings.

In author Richard Walker's retelling of another classic, Jack and the Beanstalk, we get a new look at the story, without losing any of the old world charm. Even though this story is on the longer side, it consistently keeps Ryan's attention thanks to the quirky artwork and the great sound effects that make him laugh every time.

The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales tells traditional fairytales from cultures around the world.Each of the nine animal adventures teaches an important moral, such as, the importance of community, bravery, kindness, and a sense of humor. Once again, the amazing pictures and lively story are sure to keep your little ones entertained!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reindeer Toast

When Ryan needed to bring a treat to preschool for his holiday party last week I wanted to come up with something that was both nutritious and fun. In the past kids have chosen to skip our healthy contributions in favor of the 'good stuff'. Reindeer Toast was the answer!

That morning Ryan and I cut bread into triangles. It would have been easier for Ryan to help if the bread wasn't quite as fresh. But, he did a great job of checking that each piece was indeed a triangle, by counting the three sides. Next we smeared all natural peanut butter on each piece. As I added the pretzel antlers Ryan put M&M eyes on each reindeer. We finished them off with dried cherry noses. Ryan was even more excited about his snack when he saw how much his friends loved them. On the way home from school he asked if we can eat Reindeer Toast everyday, even when it's not Christmas :)

Reindeer toast was not my idea, I came across it on several good websites!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Countdown

Ryan kept asking if it was Christmas yet. This super easy craft has brought him joy every morning! Plus it was fun AB pattern practice. (It would have been better if I had remembered to take the picture many days ago:)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Word Box

Since Ryan is just learning to read, I wanted to think of several fun ways for him to practice the words we are working on. One morning last week I handed him a marker and some index cards and asked him to write all the words he knows how to spell. I was pleasantly surprised when he wrote 9 words! Then I told him that we were going to put the words in a special box and practice them often! As soon as Daddy came home from work Ryan showed him the word box and read all the words to him.

The next day I told Ryan that we were going to learn a new word. As we were sitting down to read our first of many books that morning, I wrote THE on a card for him. I told him that this a special word, because we can find it in tons of places! I told him to look for the word while we were reading. The first few pages I would pause and point to the word 'the' each time we encountered it. Within a few pages he didn't want to hear the story because he was so excited about searching for the word he could read by himself! A week later he is still getting excited when he see's 'the' and is amazed by how it really is every where.

Today we are introducing the word 'and'. I'm choosing words to add from words we encounter and from the Dolche Sight Words List.

Candy Colors

We're just starting to introduce some sight words to Ryan and I thought that color words might be a fun addition. You could use anything as playing pieces, I chose M&M's because candy is a rare treat around here and it get's Ryan really excited!

To play, print out the Candy Color game board and playing cards. Cut out the color words to make cards. Each player needs a game board and a small bowl of M&M's (or other playing pieces). Place the color cards upside down in the center of the playing area. Have the first player choose a card and try to read the color word. If they need help encourage them to look at the color words on their game board. Place a candy on the appropriate color box. Take turns drawing a word and placing candy on your game board. If you select a color that you don't need you don't take a candy that turn. Play until everyone's board is covered. Enjoy the candy and your new sight words!

Giving up on a clean house

A normally grounded friend was explaining to me last week how the holidays have left her so frazzled. I was saying how for once in my life I don't feel totally over-committed and stressed; I'm actually enjoying the holiday season. Of course she asked what my secret is, and as a dear friend I disclosed, I have given up on a clean house!

Now, I'm not admitting that my house is a filthy disaster, I'm just saying that I've recently realized that at the end of the day it doesn't matter if my kitchen sink has been scrubbed, but it does matter if I read to my kids, played with them, taught them something, prepared a healthy dinner and enjoyed it all together.

This brings me to realize that I actually accomplished this year's resolution! I have slowed down, committed to less and focused my energy on what matters to me!