Monday, August 31, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday: Circus

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

The theme for this week's Muffin Tin Monday was the Circus. Since we made this on Sunday for a family lunch, I cheated a bit this week and didn't actually use our muffin tin, but I will next week, I promise. For our Circus lunch we had: lemonade, animal crackers, vegetable and dip clowns, a clown fruit plate, and cheese quesadilla circus animals (elephants, lions and tigers).

My husband was in charge of the decorations while I made lunch. He use crepe paper streamers to make the big top and three rings, and he added barbies on toilet-paper trapezes.

The kids LOVED the circus lunch! Be sure to visit Michelle at Her Cup Overfloweth to see more creative and fun circus muffin tin meals.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tot School: Bumblebees

Sadly, I am still without my computer while they wait for a back-ordered part. However, I did manage to borrow my husband's work laptop long enough to get this post up. This week in Tot School our theme was Bumblebees.

I cut a beehive, 10 bees and a flower out of construction paper. We practiced counting with them and worked on positional words (on the floor, in the hive, over the hive, etc.) with them.

We did a combined art and sensory activity where M put bumblebee stickers onto a piece of paper. Then, I gave her a black crayon, and while listening to Flight of the Bumblebees by Rimsky-Korsakov, she drew the sticker bees flight paths. She really enjoyed this one.

We worked on our scissors skills. I drew black lines on yellow strips of paper and M cut on the lines. She still insists on holding her scissors wrong, but is improving with her cutting skills.

Then I made flowers with long stems with lines on them, and M pretended to be a bee and cut her way to the flowers (buzzing while she did it!) (They did not look this pretty when M was done cutting!)

Toilet paper bumblebees were harder to make than I thought they would be and involved me doing more of the project than M. We painted a tube yellow, but the paint didn't show up very well. Then I drew on black lines with a marker. We cut wings out of wax paper and pipe cleaner antennas. Of course, they had to get googly eyes. M loved playing with them once they were done, however.

I found that a straw stuck upright in some playdough on a paper plate provides the perfect holder for the toilet paper rolls. Then your tot just has to turn the plate to paint all the sides and not worry about trying to hold it.

Thumbrpint bumblebees were fun. M used yellow fingerprints for Bs and brown thumbprints for the hive. I added the details with a black marker. She loves anything involving painting her hands! (I know I saw this on another blog, but without my computer I don't know where, so if it was you please let me know!)

We used a paper bag and colored it yellow and black. Then we cut a head hole out, added the antenna from our ladybug costume, and M pretended she was a bumblebee. We also did a felt board activity with the rhyme Five Busy Bees (no photos of these two, sorry!).

This week we also worked on our puzzles matching baby and mama animals together, and drawing with our Magna Doodle.

That was our week in Tot School. Since this was J's first week of school and mine back at work, we are still working on finding a new routine. Next week I hope to do more trays. You can see what others have done this week over at 1+1+1=1.

Tot School: Ladybugs

I know this is a week late, but I did still want to post all of the fun activities we did with Ladybugs last week.

First, I cut a 10 leaves out of construction paper and labeled them 1-10. Then, I created 10 ladybugs. M had to put the proper number of ladybugs on the leaf. We were working on both counting and numeral recognition.

We also worked on tweezing. I created a ladybug with spots on her back, and gave M a tin full of pompoms and a pair of tweezers. She picked up the pompoms and placed them on each spot (we used the white pompom so it would show up, the black ones got too lost on the dots). This was probably her favorite of the week.

We stuck ladybug stickers onto "mama" and "baby" letter Ls.

For crafts we painted paper plates to make ladybugs. This was a great activity, M loves painting and the plate was very easy for her to do. (This came from No Time for Flashcards.)

We created a ladybug using a red balloon only partially blown up and a permanent marker. M loved balancing it on her head (or trying to) while she walked around, and played with it all week.

That was our ladybug week in Tot School. To see what other's did in Tot School visit 1+1+1=1.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Laptop Issues

My laptop developed some issues this week, and is in getting repaired. Unfortunately, my pictures for Tot School were already downloaded onto my computer and deleted off of my camera before it died. I am sorry to say that the Tot School post for this week will be delayed until my computer returns - probably mid-week.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Abstract Art

The space above our fireplace has been empty since we moved in to our house 2 1/2 years ago. My husband and I have very different tastes in art. In fact, we only have one piece hung anywhere in our house - the only piece we have ever agreed on. Our solution: let the kids paint the artwork for our family room. This past weekend we bought four 16 x 20 canvases and taped them together at the back. We supplied artist-quality oil paints, palettes and brushes and set the kids up in the garage with directions on how to be abstract. We let them each start painting and periodically turned the canvas so they worked on every side. The result - one fun family afternoon, one very messy baby, and one abstract painting that now hangs proudly over our fireplace.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fall Planning

I go back to work tutoring high school students this week. The nice thing about this job is that I am home all day to do school, swimming lessons, play dates and field trips. The downside is that it cuts into my evening planning and prep time, meaning I have to be even more organized than usual. (It also adds 20 additional students I need to prep!)

So, I have selected themes for M for Tot School through November. Themes work best for me, and M enjoys them.

I want to be sure we do crafts (because M loves them) and free art each week, as well as working on math and literacy activities, practical life, dramatic play and a sensory activity. While that seems like a lot to do, M has a short attention span so we need lots of choices. We spend less than an hour a day doing planned Tot School activities, the rest of the time M free plays.

Our upcoming themes are:
Ladybugs (this week)
Trucks & Buses
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (M's current favorite book)
Leaves & Acorns
Pumpkins (we'll spend 2 weeks here)
Squirrels & Forest Animals
Thanksgiving (focus on being thankful and pilgrims)

I am currently hunting for ideas that fit within these themes. Luckily, there are many free resources and talented mommies out there with great ideas to share!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tot School - Ice Cream

This week was busy with lot's of outside-the-home activities, but we still managed to do a bit of Tot School. Since we are still in triple digits here, this seemed like a good week to focus on ice cream! (Sorry some of the pictures are fuzzy, our camera is not focusing right lately.)

Theme Activities:
We are starting to work more with M's felt board. This week we did ice cream cones and scoops to go along with Shel Silverstein's Eighteen Flavors poem and a few other related rhymes. M also played with her felt people and clothes.

Simple matching has become too easy for M, so we are beginning to work on some AB patterns. I cut construction paper cones and scoops out, and printed the simpler of the pattern cards from Making Learning Fun. This is something we plan to do more of with future themes.

We did a counting tray where I had strips of paper with a numeral 0-5 on them and then white pompom "scoops". M had to place the correct number of pompoms to match each card. She really enjoyed this one!

We also did a cone and scoop color-matching tray. This was was pretty easy for M, so we will probably just sort into groups for colors from now on.

And of course, what is ice cream week without a little eating!

We are not afraid to risk a little mess around here, as this week's sensory activity proves. I gave M a variety of scoops, spoons and bowls and a tub of vanilla ice cream to play with. She had a great time scooping and playing with the ice cream, and surprisingly ate only a little of it. This fun lasted until well after the ice cream melted.

Arts & Crafts:
We did several crafts this week, and J joined us. For all of these photos, M is on the left and J on the right. The first focused on shapes (circles and triangles) to make ice cream cones.

The second project used puffy paint. We combined 1 c flour, 1 c salt and 1 c water with pink food coloring. I put it into an old honey squeeze jar we had. They squeezed out the paint, and then smeared it around with paint brushes. Very fun!

Finally, we cut ice cream scoops out using our hands (with the fingers together) and made cones with them. M loves any craft that involves tracing her hands or feet.

Non-Theme Activities:
We like to do some free art every week along with our planned crafts. This week we used watercolors to paint.

M also did a scoop and transfer tray using Cheerios. She loved using this particular scoop and was very careful with her transferring, although a few still spilled.

We also played with lots of blocks this week. M has stacking and nesting blocks, screw & bolt building blocks, alphabet blocks and duplos in her collection, and they all got used this week.

I finally got around to making pipe cleaner letters. I still plan to do Montessori sandpaper letters, but these are also a nice multi-sensory tool. They have been on several Tot School blogs, but the first place I saw them was when Melissa over at Chasing Cheerios made them last year. I used foam for the backing and hot-glued the pipe cleaners on. (J helped me cut them, so they are not perfectly square, but he loved making something for his sister.)

I didn't get a picture of it, but T and M worked on opposites a lot this week by doing charades and acting them out with her toys.

That was our week in Tot School. Next week's theme is Ladybugs! You can see what else we have done in Tot School here. You can also see what others have done in Tot School this week at 1+1+1=1.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Snuggle Time

M doesn't always wake up from her nap in a great mood, and usually needs some cuddling time (or "snuggling" as M calls it) before she is ready to face the afternoon. The other day, I came out of the laundry room to see this.

M had woken up and needed some snuggling, which her brother provided. We are so blessed that J is such a great big brother to M, always so patient and caring of her!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

All About Spelling and Handwriting Without Tears

I wanted to share two resources that we tried new in our house this summer: All About Spelling and Handwriting Without Tears.

Our son J, who is turning 10, has dyslexia. This means he not only struggles with decoding written word but also with encoding words. Especially hard for him is spelling. We are realistic and know that he will never be a great speller, but we do want him to be able to spell well enough for other people to understand what he has written. Traditional spelling programs that require memorizing word lists have brought endless frustration and tears at our house, but no true learning. After reading the reviews, we decided to give All About Spelling a try. We have just completed Book 1, and love it!!!

AAS is based on the Orton-Gillingham method which teaches the students the rules of spelling. J is able to understand when we give him a rule that says the "k" sound at a beginning of the word is spelled with a c except before the letters e, i and y. A concrete rule that can be applied to phonetic sounds works for him, and that is what AAS is about. It is also multi-sensory, using letter tiles initially when learning a rule before spelling on paper. Best of all, J loves to do it and has already shown great improvement in just one book! We cannot recommend All About Spelling enough in our house.

Another program we tried new this summer was Handwriting Without Tears. We were told that J might have an easier time writing in cursive than in print, and wanted to work on learning cursive letters. Certainly it is easier to mix-up a printed b or d than a cursive one. After doing some research, we decided to start with the Handwriting Without Tears' Cursive Writing program for 3rd and 4th grade students. We are about half-way through the book, and J's handwriting has made a significant improvement already. Their letters are easy to learn to write, without excessive loops and tails. The book offers enough practice on each page to get mastery but no so much that J is bored. He has started to incorporate the cursive writing into his journaling and other work he does, so I know it is sticking with him even outside the workbook.

Both All About Spelling and Handwriting Without Tears can be used with any child, not just those students who struggle with spelling or handwriting. Personally, we have liked both programs so much with J that we plan to start M with them when she gets old enough.

(Edited to add: These are products we purchased with our own money for use in our own home and are in no way a sponsored review - just my honest opinion.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Practical Life: Shucking Corn

M loves to help around the house. Sweeping, wiping tables and washing windows are all tasks she can accomplish safely. However, her working in the kitchen is something that makes me nervous, and we usually restrict her to stirring the bowl. When I realized we were going to have corn on the cob the other day, I saw a great practical life activity.

M LOVED shucking the corn (and tasting it) and then washing it in the sink. We cut some off the cob for her later so she could enjoy the yummy results after it was cooked.

Be warned, corn silks stick to your tongue if you taste them!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tot School: Butterfly Edition

We were back into our regular Tot School routine this week. M was so excited to have a backpack of her own, and insisted on wearing it around the house. My mother decorated this one just for M with flowers and jeweled dragonflies.

M received a wonderful HABA lacing set from my parents for her birthday. The beads include flowers, leaves, a bumblebee and a three-part butterfly. One of the things I love about this set is the wooden "needle" she can use to help her thread the beads onto the string. Since she loved doing this set so much, especially the butterfly, we decided to do a butterfly theme this week.

This week's trays included butterfly matching cards I made in Word using clipart, her stringing beads, a coloring page and butterfly color-matching book printed from Making Learning Fun and a butterfly counting game. We also did playdough with a butterfly-shaped cookie cutter.

There are so many butterfly crafts you can do, and it was very hard to narrow them down this week. We made butterflies out of M's footprints and decorated with dot markers.

Then we made coffee filter butterflies. We colored coffee filters using washable markers. Then we sprayed them lightly with water. The water spreads the marker out, similar to water colors. We bunched them up and tied them with pipe cleaners.

We also made terrariums, painted using chocolate syrup and played with our new birthday toys including Curious George nesting and stacking blocks, dress up clothes, and a Leap Frog fridge phonics game.

Finally, M enjoyed popping a whole roll of bubble wrap that she found in the craft closet.

That was our week in Tot School. You can see what others did in their Tot School this week by checking out the posts at 1+1+1=1.