Friday, October 29, 2010

Learning by Heart – week 4

“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom”
– Henry Ward Beecher

This was supposed to be our Review-and-Catch-Up Week (yes, in capital letters), so I didn’t have many activities planned.  I wanted to use the time to plan activities for the weeks to come, but that didn’t really happen.  I’m learning that it’s more normal to have things not work out as expected than it is to have things go according to plan. :)

I set out some easy, no-prep shelf activities for M to choose from throughout the week, giving myself a huge break from planning and prepping our normal variety of activities:

Top Shelf – Guidecraft Feel & Find, small set of Magz, and our Wedgits:shelf activities week4 (3)

Second Shelf – Lite Brite, Hammering Shapes, and a card game from M’s High Five magazine (on top of his work mat):shelf activities week4 (4)

Third Shelf – See & Spell, M’s Collage and Trace ABC Book, a whiteboard and a little whiteboard ABC book (Target Dollar Spot!):shelf activities week4 (5)

No photo of the bottom shelf – it held M’s Thomas the Train engines and track pieces, as well as his flannelboard sets which are there pretty much all the time. 

M chose each activity several times throughout the week, but the definite favorites were the Hammering Shapes and the Wedgits.  He worked very hard, with a specific design in mind, as he hammered in the little nails (more like tacks, definitely something that should be supervised, but lots of fun!).  shelf activities week4 (6)

He made this boat scene, with the moon rising at night and the sun setting (I’m just telling you what was told to me):shelf activities week4 (2)

The Wedgits are always a ton of fun, and M’s cousin S got in on the action too – she really loved them (despite the blank look on her face in this picture).  There’s a two year age difference between these two, so it’s good to know that they’ll still be interesting to M when he’s older!wedgits

I found an extra little fine motor activity for him at Target – these cute containers and some rub-on transfers (for scrapbooking or similar hobbies):shelf activities week4 (7)He really enjoyed decorating the little boxes with “tatoos”, and loved placing each one where he wanted it and then rubbing it on with the little craft stick.shelf activities week4 Those little fingers got a good workout!shelf activities week4 (1)
I learned this week that regardless of what I do or don’t do, M will learn.  In fact, it would take purposeful actions on my part to keep him from learning… he just learns.  That’s what he does.  When he is interested in something it’s almost impossible to keep him from learning.  This week, in which I did nothing in the way of preschool with him, he taught himself.  He taught himself all seven letters of his name and how to write them, using an uppercase ‘M’, then lowercase letters for the rest.  He also taught himself how to measure by building Wedgit towers and then measuring them with the little tape measure from my sewing basket.  Both of these things were initiated by him; he set out to learn how to do them, and mastered both skills by week’s end. 

He should be teaching me!

I guess he is. :)

To see some of our Halloween-themed activities, see this post from earlier this week.

I’m linking this post up to Preschool Corner and Weekly Wrap-Up; be sure to check them out!

Have a beautiful day! :)


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Craft Time – Fall Scenes

Have you seen those adorable felt fall-themed stickers at Target’s dollar spot?  I loved them, and knew I had to have them, but wasn’t sure what to do with them once I had them home. 

We did a fine motor activity with them, which you can see here.  And I thought about using them to make patterns, but patterns are so last year  to M right now. :)  (That’s not to say he has patterning down pat, just that he thinks he does.)

Last fall we made this fun hand and arm print tree with paint and a leaf stamp:      image It was so much fun and turned out nicely too.

Instead of doing the exact same thing this year, I decided to let M and my niece S use these stickers and make something similar.

We started off with blue paper for the background, glue, a pencil, scissors, brown paper, the stickers, and oil pastels.arm and hand print trees (2)

I traced each child’s hand and arm, then cut them out.  The kids really enjoyed this project.  M enjoyed it more with S around than I think he would’ve without her.  This was right up her alley, she’s a crafty little girl. :)

They glued the back of their cut outs and got busy making their fall scenes.arm and hand print trees (5)

arm and hand print trees (3)

arm and hand print trees (4)

Here is M’s finished piece of work:oct 2010 051
I thought I had a picture of my niece’s artwork, but can’t find it.  Too bad, it was pretty great. :)  It did kind of crack me up that they each put only one leaf per finger, um… branch, on their tree.  Not exactly what I had in mind, but it was their project!

I was a little disappointed that they didn’t use the oil pastels more on their scenes, pastels show up so nicely on dark paper.  Oh well, they definitely enjoyed using the “soft crayons” and used them to make loads of pictures on plain newsprint:arm and hand print trees (6)This is my favorite of M’s pictures.  I love that he traced his own hand, and that’s a car in the center!  It’s pretty good, don’t you think?  I was kind of amazed that he could draw a car already.  HIs drawing skills have really taken off.  I love that the wheels have smiley faces! :)

Two of my niece’s pictures:arm and hand print trees arm and hand print trees (1)Apparently she’s ready for Halloween. :)  I do believe that is a cemetery, complete with ghosts behind the headstones.

They really enjoyed drawing with the pastels – it’s a nice change from ordinary crayons!  If you have them, I encourage you to get them out and let your children experiment with using them.

Have a beautiful day! :)


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Preview of this Week’s Activities

Normally I write up my preschool posts a week later than when we actually did them; this means I won’t be posting the activities for this week until the end of the first week in November.  However, with Halloween coming up this weekend, I thought I’d go ahead and share some of the Pumpkin / Halloween activities that I have planned for this week in case they interest anyone else.  :) 

We don’t do a lot for Halloween.  We carve a jack-o-lantern and go trick or treating, and that’s it.  Neither my husband nor I are into all the scary, spooky, or dark stuff, and we don’t want M to be either, especially at his age.  But, hey, who doesn’t want free candy? ;) 

Some simple and fun shelf Halloween activities I’ve set out for M:

A jack-o-lantern “go fish” type game from the October issue of High Five:oct 2010 071

A pumpkin shadow matching game:oct 2010 059 

The Five Little Pumpkins poem and felt pieces for our flannel board:oct 2010 062

Mr. Pumpkin Head. :)
  This one is going to be so much fun!  I cut 4 different pumpkin shapes from orange construction paper, then found some Mr. Potato head pieces to cut out.  I used this page, as well as some I found on Google Images.  oct 2010 063

Our leaf and pumpkin tic tac toe game.  I made this last year.  You can find the printable in this post.oct 2010 065

Pumpkin Life Cycle cards, from Montessori for Everyone:oct 2010 069

M will sequence these in order from seed to pumpkin, then check the answer card below to see if he is right.oct 2010 070I think M will love these sequencing cards because he is really into this book:

At the end there is a much shorter version of the pumpkin life cycle and it’s his favorite part of the book! 

To see Halloween-themed activities we’ve done in the past, visit this post.

Everyone have a safe and Happy Halloween with your little ones! :)

Have a beautiful day! :)


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Art Box – Oct. 25, 2010

I really need to get back in the habit of letting M choose his own supplies for the week from my craft stash, but that would mean re-organizing my craft stash which somehow has turned into a big mess in the last few weeks, and I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.   I put out many of our “regular” items for the Art Box this week, but M really was only interested in his roller paints:

We actually have the primary color ones,
but the ones pictured above were
the only ones available on Amazon.

M’s cousin S spent two days with us last week and in the days before she came he spent hours drawing pictures with these rollers and making art for her.  Most of the pictures are of he and she together.  Note that several of them have hearts.  M loves “little cousin S” very, very much!  (He calls her “little cousin S___”, even though she is 2 years older than him. :) )
art box week 5 (11)
art box week 5 (1) The one above has their names written on it – see all the letters?  M just can’t seem to remember that the letters should be in a row to actually spell something, not just scattered around the paper. :)
art box week 5 (2)
art box week 5 (3)
art box week 5 (4)
art box week 5 (10)
art box week 5 (9)
art box week 5He did this one by stamping with porcupine balls dipped in tempera.  
So, I guess there was a tiny bit more than roller paints going on. :)

Since the Art Box is all about child-directed art with no mama input, I try to get M anything extra he wants or needs (if I have it) that he asks for.  He did a contact paper collage with a variety of “stuff” on it a year or two ago; he has the original hanging in his room, and apparently it caught his eye at some point and he begged to do another one.          

I put together this little tray of items for him: foil, glitter foam cut into pieces, ribbons, yarn, fabric scraps, tissue paper, construction paper, pom poms, sequins, foam beads, and little sponge shapes (from those capsules you melt in warm water):contact paper collage (1)
I hung some contact paper on the wall, sticky side out, and he worked on it for close to an hour.  He used scissors to cut the yarn and paper to just the right size and very carefully arranged everything:contact paper collage                                                          I love how it turned out!

Have any children’s art work you’d like to share?  Link it up below!  Remember to link back here somewhere in your post!

Have a beautiful day! :)
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

CSN Product Reviews

I recently received a $75 gift card from CSN Stores in order to purchase and review some products.  I am very pleased with all my choices and happy to review them here for you!

M recently played with the Melissa and Doug Fold and Go Mini Castle at a friend’s house:imageHe enjoyed it so much and played with it so long that I decided to get one for a Christmas present for him.  It engaged him in make-believe play in a way that not many toys can.  He will love it!  The castle is made of wood, as are the figures.  It comes with a king, queen, two knights, two horses, two thrones, a royal bed, and a treasure box.  I love how this captured his imagination and this little set is a great toy for a girl or boy.  The castle opens up, like this: image  It is full of rooms and staircases, has a dungeon, and a working drawbridge.
I also chose this set of Junior Design Cards to go with our Wedgits:imageThere are 48 cards in all.  8 of the cards offer instructions on the various ways of wedging the blocks together, then there are 40 cards of designs to build.  These are a lot of fun and add another dimension to M’s playtime with his Wedgits (ok, my play time too – I love them!).  The cards are separated into 4 levels of difficulty, A through D, with 10 cards in each level.  There is a full color image of the finished design on one side; on the other side of each card is a black and white image of each design, along with a listing of each size and number of Wedgit needed to make the design.  It’s fun to try to figure out which Wedgit goes where when using the black and white image only.  M has already gone through the A and B sets, but seems content to do them over and over.  This was going to be a stocking stuffer for him, but he loves his Wedgits so much I broke them out early. :)

Lastly, the choice that I am the happiest with – this little darling:image The Electrolux Cordless Rechargeable Vacuum.  I am in love.  The one pictured above is blue, but mine is silver and very streamlined looking.  Where do I begin with all that I love about this vacuum?
  1. It’s cordless, so it takes no time to get it out of the closet and start vacuuming
  2. It vacuums my entire home on one full charge.
  3. It comes with two batteries so you can always have an extra one charged.
  4. The charger can be wall-mounted or simply set on top of a counter (which is the way we currently have it).  The battery is simple to remove and replace, and the charger allows either the entire vacuum to hang on it (when wall-mounted), OR you can just charge the battery in the side section of the charger. 
  5. The handle removes easily, and converts to a smaller hand-vac, making it easy to vacuum stairs, drapery, etc.
  6. It has one setting for carpets, and one for hard surfaces.  The roller brush spins on the carpet setting, and is idle on the hard surface setting, so it simply sucks instead of beating up your hardwood floors.
  7. It is bagless, and has a cup that you empty into the garbage.  And, man, does this thing suck up a lot of dirt and dust!  The filter is excellent and I can not believe all that we’ve vacuumed up every time I empty it – it’s amazing!  Not only that, but I really only have to empty once every 3 or so times of using it because the cup holds so much!
  8. My absolute favorite thing is that this is light-weight enough for M to use.  He calls it “his” vacuum (I really think he believes I got it just for him), and he uses it at least once a day.  I haven’t had to vacuum in 2 weeks now, no kidding. :)  Vacuuming has officially become his chore, and he really does a great job with this thing.  We haven’t had our regular vacuum with a cord out since we received this one. 
I received the products in this post for free for the purposes of reviewing them.  The opinions stated are completely mine, and I’m very happy with each products, and happy to be able to share them with you!

Have a beautiful day! :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Go Play!


imageOne of my very favorite photos of M
playing in the leaves. :)

Fall really is a great time to get outside and enjoy our world.  Something about the change in seasons makes us want to warm up our homes and let our bodies soak up the last of the year’s warm sunny weather.  It’s a great time for being outside and enjoying the beautiful displays of nature.  

I recently participated in the Shout Go Play initiative, set up to stress the value of play in childhood.
Message from Shout:

”Shout knows play is so much more than fun and games.  Studies show that unstructured play helps kids build fundamental skills like problem solving, coping, and conflict resolution.  In other words; play is how kids become happy, healthy adults.  Fall has arrived with crisp, cool air and new reasons to go out and play.  So, let your kids take that rewarding jump into a pile of leaves.  Take a trip to the park and watch their imaginations run free.  The one thing you won’t do is worry about their clothes; play should get messy and Shout can help.”
I received a package of 3 laundry products from Shout (these were sent to me for free in return for writing a review.  All opinions in this review are entirely mine.) – Shout Trigger, a spray stain treatment; Shout Advanced Ultra Gel, a gel stain treatment with a scrubber brush attached; and Shout Color Catcher, sheets that absorb and trap colors in your wash water.
With two messy boys in our home, and one messy mama, we were able to test two of these babies out right away. :)  All of the products seem to work well.  

M had chocolate stains on a white and blue striped shirt.  The spray bottle says stains can be treated up to a week prior to washing.  Since this was  an old shirt that he won’t be wearing much anymore I decided to use it as our first guinea pig.  I waited 3 days after spraying the stains before washing it.  All but the very worst of them came out in the first wash.  I then used the “Advanced Ultra Gel” on the remaining couple of stains and washed them right away.  His shirt came out looking perfect!  

I have a pretty good laundry system set up so I wasn’t sure I’d get to test the color catcher since I never wash colors and whites together.  However, I did a test with my husband’s newest dress shirt that had never been washed.  I washed it along with some other, lighter fabrics (his shirt was dark blue), and the color catcher sheet really did capture the color and left all the clothes looking great.  I’m not sure how often I’ll have use for this product, but I do think it’s good to have on hand when crises arise or we are sick and regular laundry doesn’t get done – it will be nice to be able to throw everything in the wash together without having to separate it into several different loads.

All in all, I think I appreciate the Advanced Ultra Gel the most, since it really works on stains that sprays just can’t get out.  The spray treatment  worked on par with other leading brands of sprays I’ve used.

I was also very pleased to receive this little pack of cards in our Shout package:

It has 52 cards, each with an outside activity described on it.  These are simple, fun, easy activities to spur on the creativity of children and their exploration of nature. 

Have a beautiful day! :)

Learning by Heart – Week 3

“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom”

- Henry Ward Beecher

I don’t know if we just got off to a rotten start with school (sick the first week, funeral and lots of other activity the following two weeks), or what, but I can’t seem to get anything I’ve planned to do with M actually done.  

I’ve got to re-think our schedule a bit, I think.  I know I’d be more enthusiastic about it if our time was in the mornings; however, we are busy with other things 3 to 4 mornings a week.  And at least 2 (maybe all 4) of these are things neither one of us wants to give up.  But school in the afternoon when my level of fatigue is at its highest (my blog isn’t titled that just for fun!), just is. not. working.  Thank goodness we are only talking preschool here, but still.  Why is it every thing we want to participate in is held in the mornings?  It would be great if we could break up our afternoons with some of these outings instead.  It would be perfect, actually, and I guess that’s just asking too much.  ;)

Ah well, if nothing else, at least the shelf activities were not overlooked.  So on we go…


Craft punches (leaf and frog) with strips of paper.  Each paper has a number on it and M punched out that many shapes on each one.  Craft punches are always a hit around here:shelf activities week3 (4)

A sand art activity – fill small containers with a spoon and funnel:oct 2010 007The results:oct 2010 005 oct 2010 006 

A “rubber band-jo”, hee hee.  I thought of that myself, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one – it just begs to be called that, doesn’t it?rubber band-joI wish I would’ve gotten some action shots with this – M loved playing with it.  We talked about how the rubber bands vibrate over the space below to make music; you can actually see them vibrating, which was neat.  We also talked about “plucking” and “strumming”.  And we listened for low notes and high notes.  M commandeered this to go with his other instruments, so it looks like yours truly needs to buy a new bread pan. :)

Sensory activity with sandpaper cards.  I cut out 6 pieces of sandpaper - 2 each of a rough grade, a medium grade, and a fine grade – and we took turns trying to match the pairs by touch alone.  The matching pairs had the same sticker on the back as a control of error.  M really enjoyed this and I found him doing it on his own a few times throughout the week.sandpaper grades sensory matching game

Leaf arranging – a wooden bowl, a small block of florist’s foam and some silk leaves.  I bought a couple of bunches on clearance at Michael’s and separated the stems with wire cutters.shelf activities week3 This was the big hit of the week.  M wanted to do this over and over.  Now, I don’t necessarily think leaf (or flower) arranging is a skill he absolutely must have, but the attention to detail, the fine motor workout, and the appreciation of something beautiful (and the work needed to make it beautiful) are all very, very good things!  And look how pretty it turned out!shelf activities week3 (1) Well, it’s pretty in real life, not at all blurry like in the photo. ;)

Matching up numbers 1 to 15 with squirrels and acorns.  I think I found this printable here, but have had it now for a couple of years, so it may not be available any longer.  The acorns have magnets on the backs, hence the cookie sheet:shelf activities week3 (2)

Lacing craft leaves onto a ribbon, from here.  I sewed a button on each end of the ribbon and cut slits in the leaves.  The clips are for hanging it on his art string.  I took a picture of it hanging, but it seems to have disappeared.shelf activities week3 (3)

It was “C” week, so some C items for the phonic box – cow, car, camel, circle:C phonics box objects

We’ve been doing simple crafts for each letter.  M is not much into mama-directed crafts, but he is really, really into looking at something and then re-creating it on his own.  So I make up a small copy of what it should look like and he goes for it.  :)  

C is for caterpillar (idea from here, although I just cut my own circles):oct 2010 002

c is for cars:oct 2010 001

We put these in our ABC Collage and Trace book, which he is absolutely loving. collage and trace abc book

Here’s a sample of how he “reads” it on his own.  He sat down one evening and did the entire book!  His voice is not very loud, so you have to listen closely.

Other than that, not much school has been going on.  Oh, except for a lot of this:
jumping on cushionsBecause if you’ve already dragged the cushions to the floor you might as well jump on them until Mommy comes in.  So, he’s getting his exercise – that’s homeschooling, isn’t it? ;)  Homeschooling and regular life look a lot alike, come to think of it, don’t they?

I’m linking this post up to Preschool Corner and Weekly Wrap-Up; be sure to check them out!

Have a beautiful day! :)


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