Monday, August 30, 2010

Toothpick Activities

This activity is a variation on something I found on 1+1+1=1's tot tray link.  If you haven't checked this site out, there are so many great ideas here.

I purchased an inexpensive Parmesan cheese shaker and some colored toothpicks at either Wally World or the Dollar Tree.  The object of the activity is to have your preschooler use his fingers to poke the toothpicks through the holes in the top of the shaker.  This strengthens the finger muscles, improving the fine motor skills they need to write.

Mr. Two (my preschooler) loves to use his pincher fingers to poke the toothpicks into the container's holes.  Mr. One (my kindergartener) liked using the toothpicks to make pictures.  Together, they also sorted the toothpicks by color and took turns poking them into the container.

If you want to go really crazy, give the kiddos some marshmallows with the toothpicks and let them create three dimensional works of art with them.  Fun times.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

While You Are At School

Dear Mr. One,

You often ask me, "What do you do when I am at school?"  You seem curious how we spend our time, and then a little disappointed when it doesn't sound like very much.  Here is some documentation of our day at home while you are off learning.

We start off with breakfast and getting dressed.  This may not seem like a big thing, but it takes us lots of time to accomplish these tasks with two little boys.  Sometimes we even have visitors at the table.  I get distracted (baby cries, phone rings, etc.) many mornings and forget to finish my cereal (sound familiar?).

While I finish feeding Mr. Three, I surf the 'net and Mr. Two occupies himself on the couch. 

Mr. Three falls asleep on my shoulder and I attempt to type this way.  I love sleeping babies.  I debate on whether to hold him a bit longer and enjoy the moment, or use this nap as an opportunity to get something else done.

I check the clock and realize we need to get going.  I have an eye appointment at Costco and we need to pick up Grammy to come with us.  Mr. Two is enjoying his pilfered snack of Ritz crackers.  He loves using the step stool in the kitchen...

Mr. Two attempts to use the potty before getting in the car.  We spend a lot of time in this room...

We get to experience the first of several temper tantrums as Mr. Two decides he wants to get in the car.  No, doesn't want to get in the car.  Wants to put his shoes on himself.  No, wants me to put his shoes on.  (sigh)  Finally, we're buckled in.

We make it to Costco.  Mr. Three poops, so I have to run back to the car for the diaper bag.  Diaper changed and kids in cart.  The eye doctor is running late, so we wander the store.  Mr. Two enjoys scavenging through my purse for some fruit snacks.

We go to Grammy's for lunch.  Mr. Three takes a short nap.

I pause for a minute to glance in my purse.  What happened here?  Add on to do list, "clean out purse."

Enjoy a bit of play time after lunch.  Watch some Noggin (Nick Jr.) and act silly for the camera.  Squeeze in a few tickles and dance to the song on TV.

Grammy enjoys one last chance to hold Mr. Three.  Isn't he cute?  Then Mr. Three promptly spits up all down Grammy's shirt.  It's not a productive day if we don't have to clean a spit up mess.

Mr. Two doesn't want to be outdone, so he spills his cup of water on the carpet, then cleans it up with a napkin.  Somehow after cleaning, the floor usually looks worse than it did before the original spill.  Hmm...

Realize it's getting late in the afternoon and I still need to work on dinner and make some honey buns.  Rush home and start work on the buns.  Mr. Two helps.  I still have no idea what to do for dinner.

Read a few stories in between bun-making steps.

I rush through making the dough and finish kneading just in time to buckle into the car again and pick you up from school.  One small temper tantrum and Mr. Two and Mr. Three are asleep in the car.

Ok, maybe just Mr. Two is asleep...

After about 20 minutes of waiting in the car pick up line, we are at the pick up zone, and we see your happy face.  Now we can go home and spend time with our favorite kindergartener, you!  Maybe you can help us figure out what to make for dinner...



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Day of School Sweet Tradition

After dinner on the first day of school, we took the boys out for a sweet treat and an opportunity to sit and recount their day. We went to Bahama Bucks (a long time favorite spot) and got shaved ice.

We ate away and chatted about our day. Mr. One had lots to say about kindergarten. Mr. Two chimed in and shared his day as the "big boy" in the house. Mr. Three took a nap. Mike and I loved listening. New friends. New school. New teacher. New routines. New found freedom to play without interruption for Mr. Two...

It was so great to go somewhere and share a special treat together. I think this tradition's a keeper!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First Day, Kindergarten Edition

Mr. One is now a full-time student. I sent him off, tear free (for both of us) last Wednesday morning. He LOVES school.

I agonized over where to send him, starting in January (yes, you read that right, January). Should he go to our neighborhood school? A nearby magnet school with a focus in the arts? A back to basics school? The school I taught at previously? Honestly, there are so many good schools nearby. I cannot say that one was better than the other. Just different. I made up my mind. Then I changed it. Then changed back, then worried about making the wrong decision. Then worried some more. (My poor husband, trying to be supportive, let me vent my countless worries and listened to my pros and cons lists through the summer.)

Ultimately, I went with what I felt in my heart was the best choice for my precious son. I sent him to the place that felt like home to me: the school I taught in. I knew he'd be loved, he'd be safe, and he'd learn. So much. And have a wonderful kindergarten experience.

The night before, we went to school for Meet the Teacher Night. It is an entirely different thing to walk in the doors of the elementary school, not as a teacher, but as a parent. A new set of worries and excitements filled my mind. During the evening, part of me wanted to sneak into my old classroom and greet the new students myself. I loved that part of my job. The other part of me is so relieved to be a mom full time now and not have to worry about 20-something other sweet children in the classroom. He bravely walked the halls with us, greeting his teacher and taking in the new sights. We chatted with teachers and families we knew. We filled out form after form and got a school t-shirt. He became so quiet. So nervous.

That night, through teary eyes, he told us he was scared. My husband and I reassured him that all would be fine. He would be safe and he would have fun. His teacher would make sure he knew where to go and what to do, and we would be waiting for him when he was done. A father's blessing and lots of hugs made things better.

The next morning came, and my kindergartener was up and eager to get to school. My mom watched the younger ones so I could take him to school myself. We drove and talked. I walked him through the grounds to his teacher. It was so thrilling to see my little boy walking up to his line, ready to start his day. I will always remember how gigantic his backpack seemed. How adorable he looked in his new outfit, hair combed, parted and carefully combed to the side, glasses just slightly askew. How small his hand looked, secured in mine. I will remember with fondness his slightly shy smile as we waved good-bye and said "I love you" as he nervously walked in line, following his teacher inside to his classroom.

And I knew I'd be anxious to hear all about his new school and his new adventures.

It's going to be a wonderful year.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

More Activity Bags

I am always on the lookout for new ideas for activity bags.

Don't know what an activity bag is? Basically, the idea is to create a ready-to-go activity that will fit inside a gallon ziploc bag.  I love having a stash of them so I can grab one or two for keeping my young children occupied.  I throw them in my purse/diaper bag for doctor office visits, church, or even to use when I'm getting dinner ready.

I realized that I have amassed quite a collection of my own, yet I have only posted one or two here.  Oops!  Lately, I have come across some new wonderful ideas around the web.  Here are a few activities I've made for my boys (and the links so you can make some too). 

Magnifying Pictures:

My boys love looking through magnifying glasses.  As soon as I saw this awesome idea and printable, I printed this baby off!  Basically, you look at the cards with a tiny picture through a magnifying glass to determine what the picture is and match it up to the large picture on the game mat.  Genius!

Mr. One really examined the pics with the magnifying glass, and enjoyed trying to use it correctly.   Mr. Two didn't really understand the magnifying glass concept, but he enjoyed the prop and used his extra sharp preschooler eyes to figure out what the tiny picture was on his own.

Shape Sorter:

I found this activity in this post (along with some other great ideas).  The 3D shapes were in the dollar bin at Target (thank goodness they weren't sold out when I got there).  I used a Pringles can instead of an oatmeal can to hold the shapes.  (I was pushing Pringles for lunch to all family members because I wanted to finish this project asap!)  I used my exacto knife to cut the shapes on the lid, and mod podged some scrapbook paper onto the outside of the can.  If you want all three bags of foam shapes to fit in one container, use the oatmeal canister.  If you want something a bit smaller, use the Pringles can, just know you can't fit all 150 shape pieces into it (I figured I'd use the extra shapes for other projects).

No joke, my two and a half year old LOVES this!  He played with it for hours the first day.  His older brother (who is five) enjoyed it too, but he had more fun building objects with the little shapes. 

Are you getting excited about activity bags like I am?  I'm going to post more as I get to them.  In the meantime, here's a great resource of activity bag ideas over at Delicious Ambiguity.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pirate Games

Now that you've done your pirate research, you're ready to act the part.  Enjoy these activities.

Make a map and make sure to give an X to mark the spot.  You could even practice printing x's on old maps (bus route maps, highway maps, maps from amusement parks, etc.)  If you want them to be reusable, laminate your map first, then use a dry erase marker on the laminated surface, then wipe off.

Dig for treasure in your sand box or sensory tub.  Gold coins, costume jewelry, plastic gems, or anything else that looks treasure-like will be perfect.

Don't forget a treasure chest to store your loot.

Make a treasure chest:

This was a craft from our storytime.  It was something that the preschool teachers learned how to make in a Dr. Jean seminar.  (LOVE Dr. Jean!)

You will need:

small brown paper bag
stickers, glitter, whatever you want to use to decorate with

To make the treasure chest:

1.  Cut 1/3 of your paper bag off from the top.  (You could just fold the excess under if you want to skip this step.)

2.  Cut down the sides of the bag until you get to the fold in the bag.

3.  Fold down the front and two sides (this will reinforce your box).

4.  Fold the back side over the top of the box to make the lid.

5.  If you want a lock, tear off a piece of one of the side flaps  or extra cut bag and cut it into an oval.  Glue half of the oval onto the outer edge of the lid and fold the other half down to hang over the front of your box.

6.  Decorate the box as you wish.

7.  Don't forget to fill it with treasure!

Hang on to your peg legs and eyepatches.  I have more pirate "treasure" to come!

abc button

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hunting for Treasure

One of the first rides we went on at Disneyland was Pirates of the Caribbean. I wasn't sure how my boys would like it. They aren't big on scary things, but after our last summer storytime, which was pirate themed, they were excited to go on a pirate ride. In the spirit of adventure, I'm posting a bounty of pirate themed activities to enjoy with your own rascally crew.

First, you must have some pirate literature.

Shiver Me Letters:  A Pirate ABC by June Sobel

A clever ABC book with a pirate theme.  "R," The pirate crew must search the sea and nearby island for all the alphabet letters, or walk the plank.  Each letter is hiding in the pages for you to find, accompanied by an adjective and/or object using that same letter's beginning sound (ex:  V is veiled in velvet, T is on a turtle).  Mr. Two especially loved shouting "R!" each time he saw it in the book, just like the pirates.
Can You See What I See? Treasure Ship by Walter Wick
This is my favorite I Spy book so far.  It is full of fun pirate things to find and implied pirate story lines within the pages.  As the book progresses, each page becomes a bigger piece of the picture (ex:  the first page is a large gold coin, the next page has the same gold coin surrounded by more treasure.)  This book is great for all ages.  I even caught the adults on our vacation pouring through the pages looking for treasure when the kids were off playing.

Tough Boris by Mem Fox
Boris is a rough and tough pirate, but even rough and tough pirates have feelings.  Another winning Mem Fox book.

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long
 The little boy in the story agrees to goes along on a great pirate adventure, as long as he's back by soccer practice.  With no parents, and few rules, life is great.  But as the sky grows dark, being a pirate doesn't seem like as much fun as before.  Luckily, the pirates have heart, and return their recruit to land and home.  Find out the clever place they hide their treasure.  I see on Amazon that there is a sequel to this story, Pirates Don't Change Diapers.  We'll have to check that one out soon!

Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy

Pirate Pete has a problem.  He needs a good crew, a crew that is rough and tough and can shoot a cannon, but most of all, a crew who can talk like a pirate.  Clever, funny and fantastic word choice.

Go and grab your own little buckaneers and settle in for a tale or two.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

School Surprises

We have been busy here getting Mr. One ready for kindergarten.  He is so excited to go to school and asks every day how many more days there are until kindergarten.  When we were at Target getting his backpack and lunchbox, Mr. Two became very upset that we weren't getting anything for him.  He wanted a backpack too. 
We appeased him by letting him get a new set of watercolors. 

A few days later, while getting more school items, Mr. Two exclaimed, "We are getting school surprises!"

School surprises sounds so much more exciting than school supplies.