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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Toddler Tuesday- Say Yes

Tonight I want to impart on you one of the greatest lessons I have learned when it comes to taking care of children.

Say yes.

That’s it. Super simple and super effective.

Now that’s not to say you should let them eat ice cream for dinner and jump off the roof. But if it is safe, not destructive, and will do no harm to anyone else (which I realize is all the same thing), then by all means say yes.

Children nowadays are constantly told no. They can’t do finger painting because it will get on their clothes. The toys can’t leave the playroom because it will ruin the aesthetic of the house. Well I say pooey. Let kids be messy. Let them explore. And rid yourself of the power struggle that comes when you say no too often. Yes is a beautiful powerful word to children. It tells them you trust them, believe in them, and will honor their true needs and desires. It tells them you love them.

smallblessingsinc.com

smallblessingsinc.com

While I was cooking lunch today Little Miss started creating this very detailed roadway system throughout the home utilizing, I kid you not, almost every toy in the house. This thing was massive. Now I could have made her clean it up before eating… and the clean freak in me really wanted to, but she asked to be able to play with it later. And I said yes. Of course I did not let her do anything that would destroy the toys or home. And what did I gain? Almost two hours of her playing by herself. I even got some time to do some cleaning of my own. Little Miss also learned a valuable lesson in putting away what she takes out. 🙂  mwahaha

Play and life lesson all on one? I think so.

Love!

Toddler Tuesday: 2013 Education Calendar

I’ve been working on building a calendar that charts the themes and lessons I teach Baby Miss (2 years old) throughout the year, and I’m ready to share it with all of you. Now you will notice there are a few changes from my previous “themes” post back in November. This is due to the fact that I found out Baby Miss’ parents decided to start her in preschool this June rather than September. I want Baby Miss to already be on track, knowing her letters, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. So, you will notice that for each month, I have a theme. And each week has a letter, number, color, and shape. By the end of June, we will have gone through one cycle of the alphabet. That’s when Baby Miss will start preschool. I have finished the calendar for you though (meaning through December) and will be posting the activities I do throughout the year. And in fact, I think I like this calendar much better then my last one. Always striving to improve. 🙂

2013 Education Calendar

I have also created a list of songs, felt board games, books, crafts, and activities for each month’s theme. I currently have January and February up, and will finish it soon. I’m also working on creating videos of each song on my list so you can hear how it goes and see the motions… I’ll let you know when I figure that out. 🙂

Theme Activities

For Christmas, I bought Little Miss and Baby Miss a felt/magnetic dry erase board. I started this week using it for “circle times” with Baby Miss. On days when we have no place to be (gymnastics, music class, etc.) circle time can consist of many parts: songs, books, art, felt board activities. On busy days, it may only include going over that week’s letter, number, color, and shape; and one song and book. I’m not very strict about it, but I am working on making it a habit to sit down and do some type of structured material with her everyday around the same time.
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Yesterday, we created our first letter and number signs. For each new letter and number, we will be making a sign and posting it on the wall. Soon, Baby Miss will be able to see numbers 1-10 and the entire alphabet each and every day.

Our number signs consist of a large number cut out from construction paper. Then she puts a corresponding number of objects on that number. This week, for the number 1, she decided on one dog sticker. We will also be using buttons, dry pasta, beans, yarn, etc. for the different numbers.
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Our letter sign consists of a large letter cut out of construction paper, which I first let her color on; then we will add something that starts with that letter. For A, we did apple prints. Just cut an apple in half, stick in paint, and use them to stamp the paper. Both girls really liked this activity.

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Each week I will be sharing with you the various activities that I do with each girl. You can join me by following along on the 2013 Education Calendar and using my themed activities.

I would love to hear any feedback you may have: different activities, challenges you faced, anecdotes, or just “hello” all work for me. 🙂

Love!

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!

Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow!!! (In my best White Christmas rendition)

For some reason today, my mind has been very “snow” focused. I have no idea why. It’s not like we get snow here, in sunny California, but apparently my mind didn’t care.

It all started when I took Baby Miss to ArtBeast this morning. ArtBeast is a FABULOUS kid’s art studio that we try to go to at least once a week. We participated in their toddler story and art time this morning. The craft was to use painter’s tape and create letters or shapes on a canvas. Then the little ones sponge painted over it. When the paint dries, you peel the tape off and voila!, a beautiful piece of art.

I decided to make a snowflake on Baby Miss’ canvas. She covered it in blue and purple paint and once dry, we peeled the tape off. It came out super cute! It’s now hanging on the wall and she’s getting a kick out of seeing her art up there. Love it!
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Next, on the way home from preschool today, Little Miss asked, “Are we going to do anything fun today?”. To which I quickly responded, “Of course not, we never do anything fun”.

She did not find the hilarity in my sarcasm. 🙂

I had been trying to think of something all morning to do with Little Miss when she got home from school, and I finally remembered a  “snow” paint recipe I saw on Pinterest. It looked easy, and lots of FUN. All it needed was shaving cream and white glue (the glue is supposed to help it dry puffy). I added some tempura paint too, for color.
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Little Miss loved it! She thought it was hilarious how the paint stood up. I had a bowl for each color and a big stack of construction paper and gave her free reign. It was neat to be able to create a somewhat 3D picture. I think they turned out pretty cute. What do you think?
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And you know what? There is even enough shaving cream left over to have some really fun sensory play with Baby Miss tomorrow. Oh boy I’m excited!

Lastly, during Baby Miss’ nap, I created these “counting snowmen”. She has started to mimic her sister’s counting, so I thought, why not put that to good use and teach her some numbers. I wrote a number on the bottom of the snowmen and put that number of buttons down his front. They turned out adorable!
Now she can count the buttons, and see the corresponding number. We can even work on sequencing the numbers once she gets the hang of it. Yay!
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What will my obsession be tomorrow? Lord only knows. 🙂

Love!

Sugar high!

I have to say, as much as I’m trying to obstain from sweets… it really isn’t the holiday season without doing some form of baking. Yesterday my mom and I had our annual cookie baking extravaganza! We bake gobs of cookies, sing along to Christmas music, and watch Christmas movies that we’ve completely memorized. I love it. It’s one of my favorite parts of the whole season, heck, the whole year!

Poor Mr. Right got stuck in the middle of it. He and Rocky-the- wonderdog watched football in the other room. Of course they had to come and taste test everything. 🙂 Hard life, huh?

Here’s Mom and I with just some our “load”.

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I also mixed a batch of sugar cookie dough to bring to the girls today. I baked them off this morning and Little Miss and I decorated them all after lunch. It was a lot of cookies, and I only made half the batch!

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You can find the recipe I used here.

So good! I made her simple cookie glaze too and put it in squeeze bottles for easy decorating for the girls.

I had so much fun sharing my love of baking during the holidays with Little Miss and Baby Miss. It was great to one day enjoy a yearly tradition with my mom, and the next see that same tradition afresh through youthful eyes.

I can’t wait till I have my own kids that can join me and my mother, covered in flour, singing super loudly, and giggling uncontrollably!

What’s your favorite family holiday tradition?

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!

Fa La La and Yum Yum Yum

Ah Christmas. I love it. I mean Fall is my favorite season, but Christmas is my ultimate favorite thing in the universe! Now, no, I’m not the type to put up my decorations right after Halloween, but let’s just say the moment I’ve eaten the turkey and downed a glass of bubbly apple cider, all my thoughts fall to Christmas.

Mr. Right and I are going to pick out our tree next weekend, and tonight starts the super exciting “decking of the halls!” or hall… seeing as my apartment only has one. 🙂 We even started watching Christmas movies this week. It’s just not Christmas without, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Rudolph, or the Grinch.

And I am so excited to share my love of Christmas with Little Miss and Baby Miss. Last year I was able to do lots of fun things with Little Miss, but now Baby Miss is old enough to get in on the fun. Yay!

Today, while Little Miss was at preschool, Baby Miss and I created Rudolph, complete with shiny nose and all!

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Isn’t he cute?

All I had her do was color a paper plate brown. Then we added big googly eyes, and a red pompom for a nose. The antlers are her hand prints on brown paper. We poked a hole on the top and stuck a pipe cleaner through. It may end up on the Christmas tree when it arrives, otherwise, Rudolph looks pretty cozy hanging on the kitchen cabinets. 🙂

Little Miss and I made our first batch of Christmas cookies today. (Yes, I know cookies aren’t exactly Paleo… but they are very much Christmas, and I only ate one…ish.) ;-p

We had planned on making peanut butter cookies, but realized we couldn’t find any peanut butter in the house. EEk! So, we opted to create Nutella cookies. They turned out fabulous. All I did was slightly tweak the peanut butter cookie recipe.

The recipe we followed came from America’s Test Kitchen, found here.

I changed a few things in the recipe. Because Nutella is much sweeter than peanut butter, I halved the sugar (both white and brown). The first batch also came out slightly salty, so I decided to halve the salt too. The dough is quite sticky, so I recommend refrigerating it for a bit to make it easier to form balls. Then just roll out tbsp size balls, and bake 10-12 min at 350. They are fabulous! Feel free to sprinkle raw sugar on before baking (it gives them a great texture) or mix in nuts, chocolate chips, or anything else you fancy, into the dough.

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That’s it! Easy peasy. Hope you love them as much as I do.

Love!

xoxo