Toddler Tuesday: Letter of the Week Update

Good afternoon fabulous people!

I wanted to update you all on Baby Miss’ progress for our “Letter of the Week”. We have been at it for a month now, and we are currently on the letter D.

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Our Alphabet/Number wall

As most of you know from a previous post, I have been working on not only teaching Baby Miss a letter each week, but we also have a color, number, and shape of the week. It’s been going beautifully. I try to do some sort of letter activity each day, and as many number, color, and shape activities as I can (since those cycle through more then the letters on our educational calendar).

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stamp, print, collage, rinse, repeat

She has been having a blast decorating our new letter and number each week. A had apple prints on it. B had beans. C had leftover foam “candy” stickers from Halloween, and D has dog stickers all over it. Each number has a certain type of something on it. For example, the number 2 has 2 cookie monster stickers on it, 4 has 4 star stickers on it, and so forth.

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Green collage

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What do you get when you mix paint with cars? Car tracks!

We have also been doing lots of stamping, collaging, printing, and painting. I try to change it up each day. We also do some color mixing when learning about a secondary color (ie. blue + yellow = green). I am basically trying to “surround” her with the new material and talk about it as much as possible (point out a RED stop sign or a SQUARE box) to help her absorb it.

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B is for Butterfly! Take paper, add paint, fold, dry, cut into butterfly

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letter matching

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touch numbers, number matching

One of my favorite activities that I have come up with is a number matching and a letter matching game. Obviously we couldn’t do it the first week with only one letter, but I like it because it helps to review the old letters and numbers each week while helping her practice the new one. My matching game isn’t fancy, just index cards that I wrote the alphabet on (4x). I could have done the number cards the same way, but I found these printable “touch” numbers that I just attached to cardstock. (I can’t for the life of me find the specific touch numbers that I printed out, but here are ones just like it.) Baby Miss is LOVING it. She’s getting pretty good at it too. We play it two different ways; one where she chooses a card and then finds the match, the other where I choose the card and she finds the match. Both work equally well.

The family also already owned a alphabet/number puzzle that we have been using each week. I only bring out the letters and numbers that she has learned. The puzzle seems pretty old (hand-me down?), but here is one similar.

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sight word dominoes

As for Little Miss, she and I have been hard at work on her sight words. She does get some “homework” from school, so we work on that each day, but I try to add an activity of our own to the mix too. Today we did sight word dominoes. It was a huge success. It got her reading and working with a ton of the words she has learned so far. And she was super proud of the end result (she made me take a picture of it to send to her Mom and Dad). 🙂 I was super proud of her too. She worked really hard, but had fun while doing it.

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sight word dominoes (I, my, we, like, love, you, a, at, it, if, in, is, the….)

I made the dominoes set with index cards as well. Two words per card and I made sure to repeat the words on several cards so the game goes smoothly. I even threw some family names in there (Mom, Dad, her name, her sister’s name, and my own) which she got extremely excited about when she noticed them.

You could also make a memory game (just like I did with Baby Miss’ letter set) using sight words.

Phew, that made me tired just thinking about everything we have done in the past few weeks. 🙂

Are you doing “letter of the week” this year? How’s it going? What activities have you done with your little ones that have been deemed successful? I would love to hear about it.

Love!

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What I have learned from a year with a child

As a nanny (or parent, or caregiver of any type), I’m always thinking about what knowledge I can impart upon Little Miss and Baby Miss. My brain is always attempting to use each moment to teach them something; be it education, spiritual, a life lesson, etc. But after reflecting on this past year, I must say, and I know it’s a bit clique; I think I learned more from them then they have from me. Children have a way on making everything simpler and more concrete. Through their eyes, one can really see a world full of wonder, curiosity, daily challenges, and fun. I wanted to share with you the top 5 lessons that I have learned this year.

1. Sometimes all you need is a nap.

As adults, we are expected to constantly be doing something. Our society praises people that stay up late to finish a report, miss dinner to go to a meeting, and spend their weekends catching up, or running errands. All that busy work can cause us to be (obviously) tired, cranky, and unproductive. Instead, I say, let’s do as the “babes” do. After lunch, when we all tend to get sleepy anyways, let’s take 45 minutes to close our eyes, count some sheep, and give our bodies and minds a much needed rest. And you know what? Studies have actually shown that those that take a mid-afternoon siesta are more productive, feel more refreshed, and are actually smarter. Check it out here!

2. Being silly is ok, and actually necessary

I don’t know what it is about being an adult and being on automatic serious mode, but I hate it. Sometimes all I want to do is blow bubbles in my chocolate milk, jump on the bed, and make a huge mess with finger paints. And you know what I’ve discovered? Being silly is ok. In fact, it’s good. I’ll take Baby Miss to a music class and all the other grownups are being so serious, but when I allow myself to sing and dance along, I and Baby Miss enjoy ourselves so much more. Who cares what other’s think? Who cares if I look dumb, or immature, or unsophisticated? Fun is good. Silly is good. Laughter is good. In fact, laughter has been shown to relieve stress, increase immunity, decrease pain, strengthen relationships and so much more. So go ahead, read the comics in the newspaper, watch funny Youtube videos, and join your kids when they are pretending to be a rock band. Be silly. You’ll thank me for it.

3. Go outside

Has anyone ever noticed that kids tend to crave time outside? It doesn’t matter what the weather is or the time of day; when given the opportunity kids love the outdoors. And yet, when you become an adult, it’s all you can do to get a few minutes during your lunch break to soak up some sun. Why is that? Is it that we have forgotten how great it is to be surrounded by nature. Have we just not given the outdoors it’s dues? In fact, many studies have shown the positive affects that nature can have on us; including but not limited to reducing anxiety and depression, better sleep quality, and immunity. So be more kid-like; take a recess, walk your dog, spend lunch outside, play touch football with friends at a local park; anything, just get outside. It’s good for you! 🙂

4. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full

You know the old saying, “Clean your plate!”; well it’s wrong, and it’s time we stopped it right here and right now. It’s so funny how old sayings like that can come out of you so automatically. Both Little Miss and Baby Miss are huge “grazers”. They eat a few bites, want to play, a half hour later, come back to eat more. It used to bug me to no end; but I’ve come to peace with it. In fact, I’ve decided it’s a great way to eat for myself. I always feel such guilt at leaving food on my plate that I usually just plow through it; but if I slow down and take a moment, I realize that there really is no reason to feel guilty. In fact, I should feel proud for listening to my body. As adults we get so out of sync with our bodies that sometimes it’s hard to tell when we really are hunger, or full, or just perhaps bored. If we eat like a child, we spend more time enjoying the food and in turn have an easier time listening to what our body is telling us.

5. Enjoy each other.

If there is one thing that I could say my years with children has taught me, it would be that what children crave most often is time with their parents. Most of a child’s learning actually comes from unstructured time spent with family members. When they are surrounded by family, they feel secure, loved, trusting, and have a higher self-esteem. That connection goes the same for us; when we are surrounded by family and friends that love us we are better able to handle the stresses and complications that life brings. Just like children, when we have strong relationships with others we feel more secure, loved, trusting, and have a greater self-esteem. But, and that’s a strong but, that does not mean just connecting with people of Facebook, through email, or even over the phone. That means face to face connections. Make family dinners a priority. Join a book club. Meet up with friends once a month for dinner. Spend time with others, and enjoy their company.

Have any other lessons that your kids have taught you? I’d love to hear about them.

Love!

PS. If you’re in my area (Northern CA) I’ve started a children’s literature book club through Meetup. Email me if you’re interested. 🙂

The Non-Crappy Gift List for Children :)

For as young as I am, I’ve worked for a long time with children. I’ve worked with a wide variety of ages, in different settings, and with all types of kids. And, I’ve been to a LOT of birthday parties. It’s Baby Miss’ 2nd birthday party this weekend, which has gotten me in a “present” state of mind (pun completely intended) :). It always baffles me how many absolutely terrible presents kids get. And no, I’m not talking socks and underwear. I’m talking toys. There are a lot of ridiculous toys available today; mountains of plastic, no creativity needed, and poorly made. It drives me bonkers.

But, I am here to save you from all craziness. I’ve put together a list of fabulous toys for all ages, as well as list of my favorite retailers so you can find your child’s new favorite toy!

There are five different types of toys; Dramatic Play, Active Play, Puzzles and Games, and arts and music, and sensorial. I’m going to give you some ideas in each category. Ready? Here we go!

Discount School Supplies Animal Hand Puppets

Discount School Supplies Animal Hand Puppets

Dramatic Play: So important for kids to be able to engage their imaginations 

Melissa and Doug

Melissa and Doug

scarves, stuffed animals, puppets, pretend food and kitchen supplies, dolls (of all cultures), dress up clothes (my favorite place to get these especially for school age kids is Goodwill or Salvation Army), play house, doll house, cars and trucks, mailbox, plastic or wooden animals and barn (or equivalent).

Active Play: Indoor or outdoor, kids need to move! 

bikes, trikes, jump ropes, balls (of all sizes, materials, textures, etc), tumbling mats, hoops, tunnels, scooters, bean bags, bowling sets, horseshoes, hula hoops, ribbon dancers, balance boards, mini trampolines, cones, domes, hopscotch mat, mini parachute, yoga mat and book or dvd, skates, etc.

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

 

 

 

Puzzles and Games: Great for fine motor skills, problem solving, and turn taking

Candyland, Tic Tac Toe (travel set), The Storymatic, Charades, Tangrams, Colorforms, 3D puzzles or models (for older kids), Twister, Guess Who, Connect Four, memory games, dominoes, Chutes and Ladders, Go fish, puzzles of all sorts, etc.

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Arts and Music: Let’s your kid’s creativity shine with art supplies and musical instruments

Music of all types, instruments of all types, twirly skirts (as Little Miss calls them), scarves, ribbon dancers, playdough and rollers, cutters,etc; stamps and ink, markers, crayons, paper, watercolors, glue, construction paper, paint, art smocks, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, glitter glue, foam, felt, con-tact paper, scissors with all different edges, paper plates, beads, pom poms, stickers, rhinestones, popsicle sticks, chalk, etc.

Melissa and Doug

Melissa and Doug

You could make your own “craft kit” by throwing lots of different supplies in a super cute basket or box. Trust me- they’ll love it!

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Sensorial: Great for fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, and so much more

Blocks (wooden, foam, all colors and types), moon sand, playdough, construction sets, legos, magnet sets, threading boards, lacing beads, a light table and accessories, water and/or sand table, water toys, felt board and accessories, wooden pattern blocks and picture cards, clay, Floam, etc.

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Uncommon Goods

Uncommon Goods

Now there are two other gift ideas that I have that don’t fit under either category. One is, books. I can not say enough about how important it is for you to read to your child every day… ok, end of my speech. 🙂 Second, would be activities. These could be coupons for ice cream, ice skating, trips to the zoo, museums, and more. Children love getting out and exploring new things as well as spending time with their parents.

Here are some of my favorite retailers:

http://www.discountschoolsupply.com/ Great for art supplies, manipulatives, dramatic play, and more

http://www.melissaanddoug.com They have amazing puzzles, games, pretend play toys, blocks, and tons more.

http://www.uncommongoods.com/ They have toys, books, puzzles, and great gifts for teens; things that you can find no where else!

And let me just say: I am not paid by or sponsored by any of these websites or products, I just really like them.

Please let me know if you have any questions. 🙂

Love!

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Tonight Little Miss and Baby Miss’ parents will be picking out their Christmas tree. I thought I would help with the festivities by having the girls decorate their own trees today. 

I cut out two trees from green construction paper (one for each girl) and helped them glue the trees to another piece of paper (any color).  

For Baby Miss, who is two, I gave crayons and stickers. It took her a while to figure out exactly how to get the stickers on, but once she got it, she was in heaven! She kept asking for more and more (stickers are great for fine-motor work)
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For Little Miss, I put some paint on a tray and handed her q-tips. She used the q-tips to dot “lights” on her tree. She really liked making the lights, but her favorite part came when I gave her the glittery puffy paint. I showed her how to make dots and then let her go-to-it. She loved how it sparkled. 
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Both options were simple, and relatively mess free. Love it! 

And now their trees are decorating the house while they wait in anticipation for the real thing. 🙂 

Have I said how much I love this time of year?!? Yay Christmas! 

 

Love!

Toddler Ornaments

So I’ve been trying to come up with a few ideas for ornaments that Baby Miss (2 yrs) can do with only minimal help, and I think I’ve come up with two pretty good ones. Not only do they give you little one a great sense of accomplishment and pride, but homemade ornaments also make great gifts for teachers, grandparents, babysitters, etc.

The first uses contact paper (sticky clear paper, you can get it at any craft or office supply store) and tissue paper. I cut out two similarly sized squares of contact paper, and placed one in front of Baby Miss. I had small torn pieces of tissue paper from a previous craft that I brought out. All she had to do was stick the tissue pieces to the contact paper. Once full, I placed the other piece of contact paper on top. Then I cut out an ornament shape (circle with a small square on top). On the small square I punched a hole, then threaded ribbon through. These could go on the tree, or you can hang them in front of a window for a fun decoration.

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The next type of ornament we made utilized finger paint and paper plates. I did this twice with Baby Miss. On one plate, I had her finger paint with green; the next with red. (I did try one with both colors, but it just came out brown and yucky looking).
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Once the paint dried… and Baby Miss had had a bath 🙂 ,I cut a shape from the center of the plate. From the green one I cut a tree; from the red, a candy cane. I punched holes in the tops and threaded ribbon through.

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These activities could be adapted for older children by adding materials (glitter, pompoms, stickers, buttons, etc.) and by also letting them do their own cutting (with supervision of course). 🙂

Love!

This is what happens when you give me coffee…

I was on the hunt all morning for a super easy, no weird material, fun activity to do with Baby Miss, and I have to say… I found it! Moon dough! Its fantastic. Just 8 cups flour to 1 cup baby oil, and mix. Very very easy. I’ve tried all sorts of sensory “recipes” before, (playdough, goop, flubber, etc.) and this is by far the easiest. I added some peppermint extract for a holiday scent too. You could also add glitter, sprinkles, food coloring, spices, and more. This really is a fantastic sensory activity for all ages. And when I say all ages, I mean grownups too. It’s a great stress reliever. 🙂 Baby Miss and I really enjoyed ourselves.

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We played with it outside because it was such nice weather, but feel free to lay down an old sheet or tablecloth inside on a cold or rainy/snowy day.

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As for how to present it to your little ones? I put it in a good sized plastic tub and first just let her explore the sand. Then I added a few spoons, cups, and plastic toys. Don’t feel that you have to put out every available toy the first time. It’s
better to give your children a few choices and then to change the toys out the next time. This keeps it fresh and different each time they play with it. Bonus- your hands feel and smell fabulous afterwards! 🙂

I hope you have as much fun with this as we did.

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Love!

Happy Almost Thanksgiving!

Seeing as it’s almost Thanksgiving, I wanted to share with you the two versions of “turkeys” that Little Miss and Baby Miss created. They will be taking the turkeys to their grandparents house tomorrow.

The first version, was created by Little Miss, who’s 4. We started by tracing her foot onto brown paper. Then she traced her hands onto multiple colors of construction paper. I cut the hands and feet out, then she decorated the “feather” (hands). I cut out an orange triangle for the beak, and a red squiggly for that wobbly bit on a turkey’s neck (what’s it called?). Then we cut out little orange feet, and I had her glue all these pieces on the turkey. I tried to show Little Miss how to put all the pieces on the paper, but she wanted no help in doing so. Mr. Turkey ended up a bit hidden under the feathers. I would recommend gluing the feathers first. 🙂

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Now with Baby Miss, who is almost 2, we used a paper plate as the “feathers”. I let her color on it first, then she glued different colors of construction paper all over it. I cut out a turkey body, and created the same face and feet pieces as described above. She helped me glue them on. It turned out really cute.
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Both girls are so proud of their turkeys and can’t wait to give them to their grandparents.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I’ll see ya after the holiday!

Love! xoxo

Themes

With Baby Miss almost 2 now, she’s starting to make a lot more connections, and seems to be learning new words, signs (we do sign language with her), and understands more every day.

Because of this I started a few months ago to work on “themes” with her. This basically means that for one month we do crafts, read books, and explore a specific topic. With this young age, you want to make sure the theme is simplistic (ie dogs, instead of pets); then as they grow older you can expand the topics.

Themes are a great way for young children to explore in depth, a topic. It has helped to teach Baby Miss new vocabulary, such as “apple” and “pumpkin”.

The use of themes in no way means that every activity you do has to be part of that theme. I like to offer at least one new craft, book, or activity that has to do with the theme each day. We also repeat a lot of activities (depending on interest). The rest of our day is spent following your little one’s interests (which is important in itself).

I like to vary the activities for Baby Miss; this means that some activities are art related, some music, some language, some sensory, some practical life, and some gross or fine motor related. This way the theme is seen from all angles, as well as offering your little one a chance to explore the topic in their own way. Every child learns differently. Some prefer to learn by moving their bodies, other by reading, some listening, etc. By varying the activities, you offer your child some experience in each of these. It will also help you to discover your child’s strengths and the areas they may need some more help on.

Here is the list of themes that I came up with Baby Miss (2 yrs). The Bolded item is how I will “update” the theme for next year when Baby Miss is 3.

Sept: Apples                      On the Farm

Oct: Pumpkins                  Fall

Nov: Leaves                      Family and Friends

Dec: Christmas                 Christmas

Jan: Rain                            Winter

Feb: Colors                       5 Senses

March: Bunny                  Spring

April: Numbers               Numbers

May: Fish                           Ocean

June: Flowers                  Garden

July: Water                       Summer

August: Alphabet          Alphabet

I will try to make sure to post more of the activities that I do with Baby Miss, based on these themes; so you can get some ideas for your own little ones.

Oh, and by the way. Baby Miss and I went on a “leaf hunt” today. We walked around the neighborhood collecting leaves that interested us. We talked about their colors, shapes, big and little. After her nap we are going to doing some gluing with them. 🙂

Love!