Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tot School

Ella (33 months) has been getting more and more interested in doing ‘school’ activities with me.


She loved using an eye dropper to put drops of water in the suction cups of these bath pads. We included mixing colors, sucking the water back up, and using a rag to clean up our own mess.

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We finally finished our Christmas thank you cards. Ella loved painting a snow scene with a cotton swab, cutting felt, gluing pieces and decorating snowmen.


Ella and I created counting cards together using stickers and large index cards. We can practice counting by adding various counters (bears this time) to the stickers on each card.


I put large pieces of scrap muslin out on the grass and let the preschoolers paint with a variety of materials. Ella LOVED it and wants to do it every day now…too bad momma’s not up for that kind of mess everyday!


Our sensory bin is way packed this month, but Ella plays with it several times a day. She especially likes the funnel. We sort hearts by size and material (plastic, glass, wood, felt, and foam).


Ella is into pretending to write and pretending to read :) I just got out these early tracing books and she is doing really well with them.


What better way to practice our balance than with a bunch of fallen logs and tree stumps!


Not tot school, but too cute to not include ;) Can you find Ella?

I can always use ideas for tot school!! What have you and your toddler been up to?

I’ll be getting ideas this month from Quirky Momma’s An-Activity-A-Day Calendars. Print out your February version today!

Check out what other tots are doing:
Tot School 


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Delicious Everything (and oatmeal) Cookies

Well, a mama on a January diet should not be baking. But, we were hosting playgroup and I didn’t want to empty our snack cabinet. Everyone loved the cookies even though I omitted the chocolate (to make them less tempting to me :)

I didn’t get a picture before they were gobbled up… next time :)


  • 2 sticks of softened butter (1/2 pound)
  • 1 packed cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2.5 cups uncooked oatmeal '
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup of good chocolate (I prefer high quality chocolate chips or good ol’ m&m’s)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease your cookie sheets. Beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and then the almond extract and vanilla.

Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix well with the blender. By hand stir in the goodies (cranberries, walnuts and chocolate).

Try to get them on the cookie sheet without eating all of the dough (I should probably add some kind of disclosure about the potential danger of raw eggs). Bake them for 11-13 minutes, until they start to turn a golden brown. Cool and Enjoy!!!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good Storytellers Make Good Writers

When I taught in the classroom and as a homeschool adviser, I saw a lot of bad writing. We’ve all heard that reading quality books helps create good writers, but don’t forget the classic art of storytelling.

Being able to envision stories in your head without an accompanying illustration, is an important skill that can lead to a growing imagination, and increased reading comprehension.

Books on CD are a great way to introduce the idea of storytelling. We love to listen to stories in the car. Our current favorites are almost all from Barefoot Books.  Our library also has a great selection of audio books. Usually we listen to the story uninterrupted the first time (as uninterrupted as a story can be with a two and four year old;) The next time we listen to the story I may occasionally pause it and ask questions, such as “Ooh, I love how they described that dragon! Do you think it looks nice or mean?” At the end of stories I usually ask questions, to see how much they were able to follow the story.  I have found that they have a harder time with these comprehension questions with the audio books than they usually do with visual books.

After introducing storytelling through audio books I started to fabricate stories for the kids. I model good stories by making sure that I use vivid descriptions, and include a beginning, middle (with some sort of climax), and an end. They especially love when they are characters in the stories.

Including fun variations has had us telling stories almost all day long! The kids love choose your own adventure type stories where I ask them questions and their answers dictate the direction of the tale. For example, “Ryan and Ella soon came to a dark cave. As they stood outside peering in, they saw a faint light flickering deep inside. Should they go inside or keep trying to find the castle?”

We have also enjoyed a lot of round table story telling lately. We take turns each adding a few lines. These stories get pretty silly!

My favorite story telling activity is telling the same story from different points of view. For example, I could tell the kids a story about a group of kids hunting for a dragon and then tell the story a second time speaking as the dragon. This is a great tool for helping kids think from other peoples point of view. [This less egocentric thinking is developmentally appropriate around age four.]

Of course this is all leading up to having the kids create their own stories. If they have a hard time coming up with ideas you could brainstorm together, or even give them some props to use. Don’t be surprised if in the beginning the stories sound a lot like the ones you have been telling, or tend to ramble on forever. You can ask questions to illicit more details or more vivid descriptions. You can talk about their story at the end saying, “I like how at the beginning of your story ___ happened, then in the middle ____ happened,  and then it ended with ____.”  Though the best way to keep improving their stories is to keep reading to them and telling them great stories.

We are just starting to turn our stories into fun puppet shows :)

Remember, great story tellers grow into great writers!


Monday, January 10, 2011

How Our Sight Word Garden Has Grown!!


Happy New Year!! My winter break is officially over, and I have lots of fun posts lined up for you. I’m working on learning how to make printables, and hope to provide some fun materials from our current unit on mammals soon :)

I’m so proud to say that Ryan’s reading is really taking off (especially in the last couple of weeks)! We had  been pretty stagnant lately since he hasn’t wanted to work on his Explode the Code. In fact, I’ve had to be pretty sneaky about getting any ‘school work’ in. I tried to stay patient, not force him (remembering he’s only 4), and remember that his interest and growth comes in waves. Remember when he went from hating writing to loving it being completely obsessed with it in a matter of weeks?

Anyways, we are still working on our sight words. On We Teach,  a few bloggers were discussing our favorite posts from 2010. Our Sight Word Garden was my favorite because it was 100% my own idea and we still use it on a near daily basis.


When our garden started to grow so quickly, (and the sister and pets started picking flowers from our garden) we had to adapt it. I thought about putting floral foam in planter boxes on Ryan’s huge dresser. But, again we would outgrow it quickly. If you want to focus on a handful of words at a time the planter may be a good idea. 

So we transferred our flowers to three flower pots that rest on the shelf in our play kitchen (where we see them constantly). The pot on the left is for words that Ryan knows instantly. The middle pot is for words that he knows but needs to get a little quicker with. The pot on the right is for words that we are still working on. It’s been working great for us! Have you planted a sight word garden? If so, be sure to let us know. You could do vocabulary words or math fact gardens too! It’s fun to brighten up bleak winter days with beautiful flowers!

You can check out our other sight words activities from 2010, and you can bet 2011 will be full of more :)

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I added this post to the ABC and 123 Show & Tell Blog Hop- check it out!