Monday, November 29, 2010

More Play Dough Number Mats – 11 to 20 – free printable!

Play dough and number mats
There was such a great response to the autumn-themed play dough mats for numbers 1 to 10, that I decided to make some more. :)  These are for numbers 11 to 20, and have no theme.  I was trying to do this quickly, on little sleep, with a bad case of mommy-brain, so I just used cute clip art that I knew would appeal to M (and hopefully other children!).  We are currently working on numeral recognition of 11 to 20, and counting to 20 correctly; these have been a great help (who doesn’t love play dough?).

Print and laminate the pages, or just pop them into some page protectors like we did.  Then make play dough “snakes” to form the numerals, then play dough balls to place on each circle while counting.

We also used them for colored water dropping:colored water dropping
Play dough mats are good for fine motor skill work, as well as one to one correspondence practice and numeral formation.  You can download them here:Playdough Number Mats 11-20
  I hope you enjoy them!

Have a beautiful day! :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A note about the Jesse Tree

Well, here I sit – gathering all of my advent stuff, and organizing it, and I find myself wondering why the Jesse Tree ornament for Isaiah is a rose (I know I knew this once upon a time). 

And then I realized that I left a scripture reference off the prayer card in the Jesse Tree packet.  SOOOOO – if you are using the packet, you may want to jot down Isaiah 35:1-2 in addition to what is already on the prayer card for that day, and the rose ornament will make a lot more sense. :)  These verses are all about how the desert will bloom with the coming of the savior – thus a blooming rose as the ornament. 

It’s not a huge Oops!, but something I thought I’d share in case anyone else was wondering the same thing!

Have a beautiful day! :)


Advent Reminder!

Just a reminder that Advent begins tomorrow!   Don’t forget to print out Jesse Tree ornaments and prayers to help prepare your home, heart, and family for Christmas this year.

Have a very blessed Advent. :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Learning by Heart – week 7

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

{M is 4 years old}

{ Happy Belated Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you had as blessed of a day as we did.  I’m still having computer woes (still writing without a connection, then scheduling a bunch of posts out at a time), and my camera broke (great week for that), but all in all it was a wonderful thanks-filled week, and I’m very grateful for all my blessings.  Blessings like a broken camera and computer topping my list of frustrations, instead of something like not having enough food to feed my family. }

Our school time this week…


Die-cut letters (Dollar Tree) and some “better blocks”, which are sort of like legos, but they swivel and you can create things that have moving parts.  I set them out for M to use in forming the letters A through I:die-cut letters with better blocks

A new dot-to-dot book:dot-to-dot book   

Magnetic pattern blocks and patterns:
magnetic pattern blocks and pattern mats


Geoboard with colorful binders.  I bought the geoboard from Amazon last summer, and the hair bands are from Dollar Tree.geoboard and colorful binders

This was the first time M saw the geoboard, and he really enjoyed making shapes and designs.  he enjoyed using it to fling the bands around the room too… but well, he is a four year old boy. :)geoboard designs

I remember making these suncatchers when I was little, and I LOVED them.  This is the kind that has tiny plastic beads which you put into the metal frame, then bake in the oven.  I found some at Michael’s, and bought them up.  M tried his first one this week.  It was on his shelf as just a fun item, but I had him pinch the beads to place them where he wanted, so it ended up being a good fine motor activity too.sun and moon suncatcher kit
The finished suncatcher:sun and moon suncatcher

There were a lot of beads left over, so we got out some metal cookie cutters, placed them on a cookie sheet, and M used the left over beads to fill them up.  After they baked and cooled, I popped them out of the cookie cutters:cookie cutter suncatchersWith a hole, and different cookie cutters, these would make fun Christmas ornaments to give the grandparents, don’t you think? 

New H and I objects for the phonics box:H and I phonics box objects horse, house, hammer, hippo, ice cream, and ice

We’ve been playing a lot of Mancala lately, so this was out on his shelf too (although it wasn’t really an independent activity):mancalaMancala is a great game for counting to higher numbers too, because at the end of the game all of the stones have to be counted.  It took M a couple of games to really understand all the rules, but he picked it up with no problem.  We’ve been having a lot of fun playing this!  Thanks to The Adventures of Bear for this wonderful idea!

New scissor practice pages.  Thanks to everyone who gave advice about cutting pages a few weeks ago.  I decided to go with a book of activities, since I thought these would engage M a bit more than just lines on a paper.  I wanted to get the Kumon book of cutting, but no store around here seems to carry it.  I am happy with the one I found though:scissor practice pages 




Sorting objects by beginning sound:sorting phonics box objects
We played a “go fish” style game with our ABC cards.  We asked each other for the big or little letter of one we needed for a match.  When M wasn’t sure, I was able to help him out by saying the name of the thing pictured on the card.  We did all 26 letters, and this game lasted a loooong time!abc go fish   


A little counting game I came up with on the spur of the moment, which ended up being the hit of the week:  I grabbed our number cards, some dried beans, and a pillowcase.  The cards went into the pillowcase and we took turns pulling one out (no peeking!).  We had to set the card on the floor, turn it over to the counting side, and count beans onto it.  We used cards 0 through 15.  After all the cards were out of the pillowcase, we counted the total number of beans for each person.  The winner was whoever had the most beans.

Getting a card (hey, it looks like he’s peeking!):pillowcase counting game
Counting out the beans:pillowcase counting game   


M found a pet this week.  A little pill bug pet.  I am not thrilled about this, but I’m trying to be reasonable. :)

We have learned a lot about Mr. Pill Bug.  His skeleton is on the outside of his body where we can actually see it, and it protects him.  He can curl up into a ball when he’s afraid, and then he is completely protected.  He likes damp areas.  He likes to climb on rough rocks and hide under them.  He does not like smooth surfaces, like the inside of a bug catcher or say, a glass jar that he can’t climb out of.  He loves to eat decaying leaves and wood and maybe even pieces of shredded carrot. 

Mr. Pill Bug's new home

Frankly, I’m pretty sure we are slowly killing Mr. Pill Bug because he really doesn’t seem to be eating even though I’ve researched as much about him as I can (er… want to).  I’d love to set him free (outside, mind you) but then M’s heart might break.  I’m thinking the jar may just tip over and he may escape one of these days.

Here he is out for a little daytime stroll (actually I dug around for him to see if he was still alive):mr. pill bug (1)

mr. pill bug (2) Part of me says “ew”.  And part of me says “poor Mr. pill bug” and part of me says “I’d really rather have a dog”.

We also did a fun science experiment with balloons, which I posted about earlier.



We had some gorgeous weather recently.  I just love this picture of the big rake and the little rake leaning against our fence after two boys worked hard in the yard:

big rake, little rakeIsn’t that sweet?

And then a few days later we woke to see this out M’s window:Hello, SnowI wonder if that pile of leaves is still out there, under all that snow.  You can imagine how thrilled M was to see this! :) 

Well, when we began this year, I had mapped out activities based on one or two “letters of the week”, with math activities coming from the Montessori bead bars and number boards lessons.  Other than this, I planned on focusing mainly on fine and gross motor skills, art, and a fun science experiment here and there.  Really it was the math lessons and alphabet activities that were propelling us through the weeks.  Now that M has officially rejected the Montessori math lessons, and isn’t into the letter crafts, or even our phonics boxes very much, I’m having a hard time feeling like our weeks have any focus to them.  I’ve been haphazardly gathering ideas from a variety of places, and trying to be creative with making up new activities that aren’t too time-consuming to create (all the time keeping up an internal dialogue about how this isn’t really as important as I’m making it – sigh).

It’s going okay, and I think for the time being it’s just fine.  But I like a little more order and a plan with clear goals (OCD much?).  I’m definitely learning to be more flexible, and it’s encouraging that in the past couple of weeks M has begun counting as high as 30 without missing a beat – a huge leap from where he was when I was trying to stick with the Montessori plan.  So, something must be going well!  Still, I’m considering doing some unit studies after the beginning of the year – they are so much fun… but they take so much work to plan!  Ah well, we’ll see…

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

Have a beautiful day! :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mini Apple Pies

 finished mini apple pie
We are overrun with apples at this time of year.  Normally I make an apple pie or two, some caramel apples (M’s favorite!), and what we don’t just munch on gets sliced up and dehydrated (yum!).  We are fortunate to have our own, fairly small, apple orchard.  But this doesn’t stop us from going to commercial apple orchards too!  I am in love with Honeycrisp apples, and this is one of the types we don’t grow ourselves, although I’m hoping that changes in the next year or two. 

When I saw this fun idea for miniature apple pies over at  My Montessori Journey, I knew we had to try it! 
The apples we used are Firesides – a crisp, juicy, mostly sweet apple.
Fireside apple
These aren’t really a cooking apple, but when you have an abundance of them you use them in anything and everything. :)  I think they turned out very tasty in our mini pies.

First roll out your pie dough.  Ours was store bought – once upon a time I wouldn’t have gone that route, but let’s be honest – those days are over for at least a while.  I am all about ease and convenience right now. ;)
M used an empty margarine container to cut circles from the dough.  They were just about the right size for our muffin tins.  Place them in the muffin tins so just a bit overlaps the top.
bottom crust in muffin tins

Peel, slice, and chop the apples.  Place a good amount in each pie.  We used 3 large apples to make 12 pies. fill with chopped apples

Add a dash of flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, and allspice (or nutmeg) to each pie.  As you can see you don’t have to be exact or even add the same amount to each pie.  In fact, a 4 year old can do this just fine. ;)add spices  
Cut out more circles with a cup and place the circles over the pies, then cut a slit in the top.add top crust  
Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
finished mini apple pieDelicious!

We tried this with frozen blueberries and strawberries too – yum, yum, yum!  Just add brown sugar and a little flour to the frozen fruit.

Have a beautiful day! :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book Review – A Christmas Prayer, by Amy Parker

I LOVE this book, and plan on giving it to my 2 year old niece this Christmas.  It is simple, written in rhyme (rhyme that really works, if you know what I mean), and gently brings home the true meaning of Christmas.
The child in the illustrations thanks God for all the aspects of the Christmas story: the angels, the shepherds, the star, Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and others.  It’s very well done and even brought a lump to my throat as I read it through the first time.

The illustrations are by Marljan Ramljak.  They are soft and pretty to look at.  I found them relaxing, albeit occasionally a bit too cutesy for my taste. 

This is a refreshing book for Christmas time – it helps offset the commercialism and materialism of the season. 
From the Thomas Nelson website:
Snuggle in this holiday season and offer up A Christmas Prayer.
In the tradition of A Night Night Prayer, this precious little child wanders through the house on a snowy Christmas night offering a prayer of thanks and blessing. The child finishes with thanks to God for the greatest Gift of all.
Noting all the characters in the Nativity, this lovable little nighttime prayer book has interactive dialogue and soothing rhyme for a child to repeat as they look around their world at Christmastime.
Between the soft Christmas glow of the illustrations and the smooth rhythm of the child’s prayer, A Christmas Prayer will make every parent and child want to snuggle up by the tree and offer a prayer of thanks to God for His many Christmas blessings.
Reading this book at Christmas will quickly become a tradition in our home, and I hope in yours too!

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book to review.

Preschool Math – an activity for counting and recognizing higher numbers


counting with pennies
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that our current plan for math just hasn’t been working, so I’ve been busy making some activities to encourage counting and recognition of higher numbers.  Movement seems to be a big factor with M when it comes to learning something.  He’s quick to learn if he can engage his entire body and have fun

{Not to digress too much, but this is one of the reasons I worry about him being in a traditional school setting.  He really needs one on one time and someone with the patience and flexibility to adapt activities to his learning style, which is very much whole-body kinesthetic.  I’m not sure anyone loves him enough to provide this for him except his parents, or that it’s even practical to expect a teacher in a traditional setting to be willing to do this for all of his/her students.  Of course I assume as he matures he’ll be able to learn in other ways also, but until then I want what is best suited for him as he is.} 

I was given these Fisher Price cardboard flash cards when M was a baby (ours are similar to the ones linked to, but an older version).  I’m not really into using flashcards for memorization, but these are so cute I kept them, thinking that we’d find some way to use them. 

The numbers are 0 to 25 in the set, but we used only 0 to 15 this time.   I used a Sharpie to print the numbers 0 to 15 on the inside of bottle lids I’ve had in my “stash” for a long time.   (These were peanut butter jar lids for 10 to 15, and Gatorade bottle lids for 0 to 9.)

We lined up the cards, face up, from 0 to 15, with me (and often M) saying the number and pointing to the number on the card.  Next, he matched up each lid with the appropriate card.counting pennies into lidsThen, the real fun began – as we went down the line, beginning at zero, we turned over each card to see that particular number of objects (4 cows, 5 sheep, etc.) and he counted pennies into each lid (except for zero of course!).  3 tractors, 3 penniesWhen he got to the higher numbers he placed the pennies directly onto the objects on the card, using one-to-one correspondence to make sure he counted correctly.counting pennies onto the cardsHe was very proud of himself when he finished, and I was pretty proud too. :) 

The total body movement, going down the line as we worked, was what really kept him involved in this.  And since 0 to 10 were very easy for him, he felt successful and this encouraged him to go on.  Oh, that and the fact that when he got to 13 and wanted to quit, I said he could keep all the pennies for his bank if he finished. ;) 

By the way, it takes 55 manipulatives to count from 1 to 10, 120 manipulatives to count from 1 to 15, and 210 manipulatives to count from 1 to 20 with an activity like this.  Good to know, right? ;)  Beans, beads, cheerios, small rocks, and pennies all make good counters for higher numbers!

Have a beautiful day! :)


Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Thankfulness Tree

Last year we began a very sweet tradition – during the 7 days before Thanksgiving we each write (well, M dictates) one thing we are thankful for on a paper leaf every evening. 

We talk about the things for which we are thankful during our dinner, then afterwards we pin the leaves to our felt tree.  By the time Thanksgiving rolls around our tree is looking beautiful and festive, and we are in a thankful frame of mind.

Thanksgiving is a hard time for me – several years ago, when we were wanting a baby so very badly, I found out I was pregnant on Thanksgiving morning.  It was also the 10 year anniversary of our first date.  It began as a wonderful, wonderful day.  But unfortunately the day ended in a traumatic fashion in the emergency room with almost no hope of a viable pregnancy (although hope is exactly what I held onto).  After the long weekend I went to my doctor for a follow up exam and found that I had, in fact, lost the baby.  I still miss that baby.  I still love that baby.  I am still thankful for that baby and the other babies we had for such a short time, and I’m especially thankful for the baby we were able to hold onto, who now makes Thanksgiving a little bit brighter again. :) 

{Remember, please, that holidays are not easy and happy times for everyone, and make sure to count all your blessings!}

Our leaves for this year, cut from fall-themed scrapbook paper:cut-out leavesReally, don’t they resemble little mice lying on the floor?

Our felt tree, tacked onto the flannelboard and ready to go:thankfulness tree

This was cut from a pattern I drew and enlarged; if you are interested, you can download the felt tree pattern here.

Have a beautiful day! :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Science Time – Balloon Inflating Experiments

M loves balloons, and he loves science experiments.  I’ve been meaning to do the first experiment below for some time now, and it finally happened this week.

The idea for the second experiment came from Fun with Mama.


M poured vinegar into a glass bud vase and we scooped some baking soda into our balloon.

pouring vinegar into vase

I attached the balloon to the end of the vase and then M lifted it up so the baking soda would fall into the vinegar, to create carbon dioxide gas.

attaching the balloonThe vinegar and baking soda mixed together, began to fizz up and then the balloon started to expand at a very rapid rate.  At that point both M and I raced into the living room, as we are both deathly afraid of loud noises and were sure this thing was going to burst.  I had the sudden sickening realization that perhaps a glass vase was not the wisest choice for our experiment, since it would most likely be rocketed into a wall and smashed to bits.

Well, thankfully it didn’t break.  We eventually worked up enough courage to venture back into the kitchen and saw this:balloon blowing up

  It worked!



In this experiment we learned about molecules, tiny little invisible things that make up the air (and everything else, but we really didn’t go into that).  When they are warm they move around more and take up more space.  When they are cold they huddle closer together and take up less space.

M prepping the cold container:placing ice in a container

I placed our balloon around the opening of a water bottle (plastic this time!).  I also filled up a second container with very hot water.

M placed the bottle in the hot water, and the balloon inflated!warm air inflates the balloon

He placed it in the cold container and the balloon deflated!cold air deflates the balloon

Mommy really knew what she was talking about with the whole crazy “invisible molecules” thing. ;)

For the record, M loved the second experiment and spent a good 20 minutes doing it over and over again.  First the cold, then the hot, then the cold, then the hot…

Head over to Science Sunday for more science activities!

Have a beautiful day! :)


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