Finding Quality Early Childhood Education

 

Before becoming a mom I spent a few years teaching 4 year-olds. I will always cherish those years that taught me as many valuable lessons as the children learned. I loved watching each day as a child learned something new or mastered a skill for the first time.

When it comes to learning, the early childhood years are the prime time to set the foundation for a love of learning. Along with learning academic skills like the alphabet, colors, and numbers, it’s also the perfect time to start learning essential life skills such as cooperation, social skills and independent thinking. Preschool can help children learn all these things, and more!

When deciding on preschool or child care for the preschool aged child, there are two things that I think are important to consider. You’ll want to find a program that allows for plenty of free play time (since kids learn a lot through play) and also offers a quality early childhood curriculum. Researching different offerings, I really fell in love with the Bright Horizons® curriculum.

What I like about Bright Horizons is that their developmentally appropriate Emergent Curriculum can be adapted to serve each child’s strengths and needs, so curriculum is tailored to the child and not the other way around. Their World at Their Fingertips® curriculum creates developmentally appropriate learning opportunities that empower children to be confident, successful, lifelong learners, helping them achieve school readiness in all areas of academic and social learning, making it a great option for preschool.

Parents can feel confident their child will be prepared for elementary school because Bright Horizons makes sure their curriculum syncs with local elementary schools and aligns with national academic standards to ensure the curriculum is preparing children to succeed when they graduate from the program and go in to elementary school.

It’s clear that whether you are looking for the ideal curriculum and environment to prepare your child for future schooling years or are a working parent needing a quality child care center, Bright Horizons is a great option for early childhood education.

And just because I’m reminiscing now….I’ll leave you with a picture of when my boys were little ❤️

Have you put your children in early education classes or child care? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

10 Great Educational Products For Children On The Autism Spectrum

Thanks to Lakeshore Learning for sponsoring this post.

 

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to share 10 great educational products for children on the Autism Spectrum. Most of these are products I’ve used with my own boys or in a classroom setting. They also have the added benefit of being great for all kids so even siblings or classmates not on the spectrum can enjoy them!

Magna-Tiles

These are fun to build with and were a favorite in my classroom when I taught Pre-K. I love these for children on the Spectrum because they are magnetized and stick together which helps minimize frustration for children as they are trying to build. Many children stick with simple designs but kids can really use their imaginations and build something fun with these.

Good For Me Reward Kit

Sticker charts work amazingly well for Lucas and many children on the spectrum. Being able to see his progress and how far he has to go is very motivating for him and encourages him to continue good behavior and other tasks we want to see him do. A clear goal and reward planned ahead of time are ideal for these types of charts.

Following Directions Building Sets

Have a little one who has a hard time following directions? This building sets bundle is perfect for them! I like this for Lucas because he has a hard time following directions that are more than just a step or two and this will help him practice the skills he needs to work on. It also allows children to start with easy creations and then build up to more complicated ones which gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Flip & Read Sight-Word Sentences

Learning sight words is all about one thing- repetition! Every child learns things in different ways and I love this set of books to help kids practice the sight words they need to master before they can start to read. I think this is great for Lucas because he hates plain flashcards and teacher or parent directed tasks. With these he creates the sentences he needs to read which gives him just enough control of the situation to actually be willing to sit down and do this.

What Should You Do? – A Game Of Consequences

In this fun-filled game of consequences, players face everyday dilemmas that deal with topics like honesty, bullying, manners and more. As children race around the game board, they take turns deciding what they should do in each situation—moving closer to the finish line with each correct answer! For children who are still learning social skills this game is perfect!

Understanding Addition & Subtraction Using Manipulatives

Kids learn best through hands-on-learning, especially when the concepts are as abstract as mathematics. This set of manipulatives help children connect an object to a number for learning addition and subtraction.

Sensory Ball Set 

This set can be used for a number of things, from playing catch and practicing hand-eye coordination to using the smaller ones as fidgets. These balls are also a great way for kids with tactile sensory issues to get used to touching different textures.

Real-Working Cash Register

Once children start learning about money this cash register is perfect for helping them practice money skills. We love setting up a little store with empty boxes and then “shopping” and paying for our items.

Kids Can! Resolve-A-Conflict

With siblings, conflicts are bound to arise so having this can of tools on hand is wonderful. Whether children decide to pick and number, draw straws or roll a dice, they learn to solve their own problems. We are really enjoying using this set and I feel that our house is much more peaceful now.

Engineer-A-Coaster Activity Kit

This fun kit lets children create a “roller coaster”. It provides hours of play as children learn to follow directions and learn from trial and error. I like that it’s large enough for two children to play at the same time so children can work together to build it (or at least side by side).

Find more toys and educational products here. What products do your children love to use to learn and practice important skills?

30 Fun LEGO Learning Activities

My boys love playing with LEGOs and have a massive collection of these brick pieces. I started looking around for LEGO ideas that would teach them something and wanted to share some here. These are my favorite LEGO activities that make learning fun!

Learn Math

Learn Science

Learn Writing/Reading

Other Categories

Playing With Purpose

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.)

When my kids were smaller it was always a joy to sit down on the floor with them and play. I noticed how much they progressed and learned just by playing with their baby toys and crawling around exploring the space around them. Bonding time with them through play at that age was priceless.

Today I am happy to announce a special fundraising and awareness campaign from Toys“R”Us, in partnership with Save the Children (a nonprofit committed to ensuring all U.S. children have a healthy start). Together, they are embarking on a mission to provide children in impoverished regions of the country with opportunities and resources to integrate purposeful play into their everyday lives; a factor proven critical in children’s emotional, physical and cognitive development and future growth.  The Play With Purpose campaign is designed to support Save the Children’s early childhood development programs – Early Steps to School Success, Literacy/Healthy Choices and the SummerBoost Initiative – which help children in some of America’s most underprivileged areas thrive. I love this special project because it will help all parents enjoy the bonding times through play that I enjoyed with my children.

From February 17 – April 17, customers can make cash donations at any Toys“R”Us or Babies“R”Us store, or online at Toysrus.com/PlayWithPurpose, to help bring learning through play to kids in need. Please take the time to watch this Save the Children video. It is worth everyone’s time to see it and share the video on social media using #PlayWithPurpose and tagging @Toysrus.

 

In 2014, Save the Children worked in 120 countries, including the United States, and helped more than 166 million children — including more than 55 million children directly. Together with the tremendous support of our donors and partners, we transformed children’s lives and the future we share. No one knows when or where the next crisis will hit. But we do know that children are disproportionally affected in times of crisis — and often suffer the most. That’s why Save the Children is dedicated to providing child-focused emergency readiness, relief and recovery in the United States and around the world.

Visit Toysrus.com/PlayWithPurpose to learn more about the program and make a donation. Donations will support Save the Children’s early childhood development programs, which help children in some of America’s most underprivileged areas thrive.

When my boys were younger our favorite way to play was stacking blocks and building elaborate train track configurations for trains. How about you and your kids?

 

Colorful Sensory Activities {HOP}

I’m really excited to be joining in as a host of the Hands-On Play Party with some fabulous bloggers. The linky will be posted each Tuesday. This week I’m sharing some of my favorite colorful sensory activities from bloggers that linked up to last week’s HOP linky.

Rainbow Finger Bath Paint from Frogs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

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Crazy Color Sensory Bin from Craftulate

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Rainbow Bubble Wrap Printing from Sow Sprout Play

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Edible Rainbow Sensory Bin from Life With Moore Babies

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Visit my co-hosts!

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb Mask Crafts from Stir the Wonder

Cardboard Tube Kazoo from P is for Preschooler

Easter Egg Listening Game from Little Bins for Little Hands

The Lorax: Truffula Forest Sensory Bin from Lemon Lime Adventures

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Check out our Pinterest board!

HandsOnPinterest

Now it’s your turn! What fun hands-on play activities have you been creating at home? If you are a blogger you can link up your blog posts (no more than 3 please) or, if you don’t have a blog, share your activities on Facebook and leave a link in the comments below. Just looking for activity ideas? You can do that as well by clicking on images linked up below to view the full posts.

(Please note: If you are linking up below you give the hosts permission to use an image with a link back if you are featured in a future HOP post.)



Exploring Scientific Concepts With Kids

(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Netflix. I am a member of their Stream Team but all thoughts are my own.)

When I taught preschool I loved doing hands on learning activities with my kids. One of my favorite memories was doing a simple ice melting experiment with the kids on a very long winter day. I gave them a variety of things (like warm water, fabric, etc) and asked them which would melt the ice and which would not. They then worked in pairs to test out their hypotheses. I loved watching their little minds work through the problem and their expressions as they discovered which things worked and which didn’t.

Now that I have my own kids and work full-time outside a classroom, I don’t have eight hours a day to do projects so I look for other fun ways to teach science concepts. My boys learn about cause and effect in the bathtub, gravity and velocity when racing their derby cars at Awana, and learn about photosynthesis when planting flowers. There are opportunities to learn everywhere we go.

Some of my favorite bloggers feature science experiments on their blogs. Follow my Science for Kids Pinterest board to check out their posts as I pin them. This easy lightbulb experiment from KLS Crafts is fun, too!

We also enjoy some great kid’s tv shows that explore science and problem solving. My favorite is the Magic School Bus which is a well-known show that’s been on for years. Recently we’ve discovered Peep and the Big Wide World on Netflix. Other science-based shows for young kids include Jimmy Neutron Boy GeniusAnimal Mechanicals, and Wild Kratts.

What are the ways you teach science to your kids?

Go On A Reading Adventure With Ooka Island

Jacob is just starting to read and I’m trying to do everything I can to encourage him in this journey. Ooka Island recently contacted me about working with them and using their adaptive reading program so I am going to try it out and write about it in a few weeks.

Ooka Island is a learn-to-read adventure for children ages 3-7. They are an educational company committed to using science-based reading methods and technology to increase literacy skills for children. The goal is to teach children to read fluently and well through reading instruction that is fun and compelling.

The key word there for me is “fun”. As a teacher of young children I believed that play was important and a key way children learned. As a mom I still believe that.

Ooka Island contains everything a child needs in one big learn-to-read adventure, including:

  • 80 hours of research-based curriculum for preschool to 2nd grade
  • An integrated, science-based approach to the five pillars of reading: Phonemic Awareness, Phonological Development, Fluency, Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension
  • Over 500 sequenced lessons with 7,000 discrete learning objectives
  • Guided progression through 24 levels in a variety of 3D, virtual world environments
  • A built-in e-Reader designed specifically to teach reading with highlighting and narration
  • 85 original Ooka Island e-Books, leveled and sequenced from preschool to 2nd grade
  • A fun and engaging learning flow cycle that motivates and supports each child’s journey
  • Comprehensive online progress reporting for parents and educators
  • Access to the Ooka Bookstore featuring all 85 e-Books and guides in print
  • Free motivational toolsworkbooks and a musical soundtrack app in iTunes
  • Curriculum alignment with Common Core State Standards for K-1
Want to try out Ooka Island? My readers can get 30% off a subscription here.
(Disclosure: Disclosure: I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this Ambassadorship via Splash Media Engagement. The opinions on this blog are my own.)

Language Stars’ Free Trial Weeks and a Giveaway

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.)

As a teenager I took many years of Spanish class. Most of the learning was taught using flashcards and was memorization of sayings and words. I learned a little but now, years later, I probably only remember about 1% of what I learned. I think this is because, as research has shown, language is picked up easiest when we are young and becomes harder as we grow older.

Language Stars is a play-driven foreign language class for kids between the ages of 1 and 10 years old. They make learning fun instead of using flashcards which I think is great. Utilizing a high-energy, FunImmersion® method of instruction, students learn a foreign language through games, art projects, music and more.

There are 15 locations in the Chicago area and all of the centers are running a great promotion through January 18th. During this time, parents can take their children to one free class — and if they attend, they’ll get a $10 iTunes gift card. Plus, if a new family enrolls during the Free Class Weeks, they’ll get $100 off their tuition.

As if that promotion weren’t awesome enough, I have a great giveaway to share with you all. Enter below to win a free month of Language Stars classes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Top Ten Games For Preschoolers

I’m  excited to be joining in with a great group of bloggers for a special Top Ten Holiday Gift Ideas series. Please join us as we share our favorite books, games, building toys, pretend play toys, crafting supplies or kits, and stocking stuffers! Each participating blog will create their own unique list each week for each of the categories so be sure to stop by each of the links at the bottom of this post.

Here are 10 of my favorite games for preschoolers. Some of these games the kids in my preschool classroom enjoyed playing, some my own kids play, and some I have received for review in the past years.

 Memory 

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Elefun Snackin’ Safari

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Candy Land

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Garanimals Paw Print Game

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Fruitominoes

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Raccoon Rumpus

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Don’t Break The Ice

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Go Fish

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Cluck N’ Chuck

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The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game

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Here are more favorite games and puzzles from other bloggers:

Our Favorite Games & Puzzles {Top Ten Holiday Lists} from Something 2 Offer

Top 10 Games & Puzzles for 2-3 Year Olds from Stir the Wonder

Top 10 Lists: Puzzles for under 3 year olds from Powerful Mothering

Games Recommendations for Brainy Kids from Afterschool for Smarty Paints

Top 10 Games and Puzzles on Our Shelf from Creative World of Varya

Top 10 Board Games and Puzzles for Preschoolers from P is for Preschooler

Top 10 Preschool Board Games from Little Bins for Little Hands

Top 10 Games for Preschoolers from Makeovers & Motherhood

Top 10 Books For Preschoolers

I’m  excited to be joining in with a great group of bloggers for a special Top Ten Holiday Gift Ideas series over the next 6 weeks. Please join us as we share our favorite books, games, building toys, pretend play toys, crafting supplies or kits, and stocking stuffers! Each participating blog will create their own unique list each week for each of the categories so be sure to stop by each of the links at the bottom of this post.

This week we are talking books. Having taught preschool I have hundreds of preschool books and I’m sharing my favorites with you all! These are good for the older 4s.

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Here are favorite book lists from other bloggers:

Thaleia Maher from Something 2 Offer: Books for all Ages

 Nicolette Roux from Powerful Mothering: Books for under 3 year olds

Sarah McClelland from Little Bins for Little Hands: Picture Books

Emma Craig from P is for Preschooler: Books for Preschoolers

Samantha Soper-Caetano from Stir the Wonder: Books for Toddler Boys

 Natalie Figge from Afterschool for Smarty Pants: Books for Advanced Bookworms

Alisha Carlson from Makeovers & Motherhood: Holiday Books

Varya Sanina-Garmroud from Creative World of Varya: Books for Non-English Speakers

What are your favorite books for children? I’d love to check them out!

Letter “H” Crafts & Activities

This week’s letter is H. Hip! Hip! Hooray! Find letter H crafts, activities, and delicious lunch ideas on my Letter “H” Pinterest board.

 

10 Pumpkin Crafts For Preschoolers

Halloween is right around the corner so I wanted to do a quick pumpkin craft roundup. All of these activities are great for preschoolers (and some work for toddlers and elementary aged kids as well). Have fun!

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Shaving Cream Pumpkins from Teaching Mama

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Button and Ribbon Pumpkins from Toddler Approved

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Paper Roll Pumpkin from Little Family Fun

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Pasta Pumpkin

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Tissue Paper Pumpkins from Mama’s Learning Corner

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Beaded Pumpkin from Craftulate

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Scented Pumpkins from Education.com

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Puffy Pumpkin Lacing from I Can Teach My Child

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Pumpkin Stamping from The Little People Place

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Water Bottle Pumpkin Jack O’ Lantern from Motherhood on a Dime

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Find 10 more Halloween crafts for preschoolers here.

Shape Monster Craft For Kids

I teach Sunday School and it’s held in a preschool classroom. I couldn’t resist the cuteness of these shape monsters on the wall! How adorable are they?

Make them with your own kiddos by cutting out various shapes in different sizes along with arms and legs and let the creativity happen!

Letter “F” Crafts & Activities

Time for the new letter of the week! This week I’m sharing letter “F” activities. Which one is your favorite?

 

Letter “E” Crafts & Activities

This week I’m sharing letter “e” crafts and activities. Check out my Pinterest board for lots of fun egg, elephant and eagle ideas!

 

An Expert Answers My Questions About Choosing Educational Toys & Games

(Disclosure: This interview is sponsored by LeapFrog and I am receiving some of their products in exchange for posting. Thoughts are my own.)

The Holiday gift giving season is coming up and if you are anything like me you are overwhelmed by the choices of educational toys and games on the shelves. I had a chance to ask some of my top questions when it comes to this topic and get them answered by Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos. Jody is the math and science development expert of LeapFrog’s Learning Team where she works on products across all platforms to teach math and science concepts in developmentally appropriate ways using research-based techniques. Before joining LeapFrog, she was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, a researcher and instructor, and a math textbook author. She is also the proud mother of two boys.

Here were the questions I asked her:

  • How are the age ranges on toys/games/apps decided?
  • How would you suggest dealing with younger siblings wanting older siblings games/toys that are not made for them?
  • What should parents look for when buying toys for preschoolers?
  • What Leapfrog toys do you think will be hot this Christmas season?

Check out her answers to my questions below:

If you can’t view the video, here is a direct link: http://bcove.me/tegllg0zFind more details about the LeapPad Ultra mentioned in the video here.

P.S. Stay tuned this weekend for an awesome LeapPad prize pack giveaway!!

13 Halloween Sensory Bins

I had lots of fun creating a roundup of Fall sensory bins (find that post here) so I wanted to do another one focused on Halloween sensory bins! Here are 13 different ones to help you have some spooky sensory fun this season.

via 3 Dinosaurs

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Spooky Boo Bubbles via Momma’s Fun World

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 via Plain Vanilla Mom

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CREEPY, CRAWLY HALLOWEEN WATER BEADS SENSORY BIN via Little Bins For Little Hands

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via Glittering Muffins

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Purple Monster Tub via Dandelions In My Vase

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Goblin Guts via Growing A Jeweled Rose

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via Suzy Homeschooler

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Spooky Sensory Bin via Happy Hooligans

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via Tutus & Tea Parties

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Spooky Slime Sensory Tub via What Do You Do All Day?

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via Housing A Forest

Linked up at:

Photobucket

Pasta Pumpkin Craft

Looking to do a pumpkin craft with your kids? Check out this cute craft Lucas made at school! All you have to do is paint round pasta pieces orange and a few mostacholi pasta pieces green, let the paint dry, and then glue them on to a pumpkin shaped piece of paper. (Luke’s teacher used white paper but you can use orange to make it more pumpkin-like.)

Letter “C” Crafts & Activities

This week I’m sharing letter “C” crafts and activities. Check out my Pinterest board for lots of fun ideas!

 

Letter “B” Crafts & Activities

This week I am sharing my favorite letter “B” crafts and activities I’ve found on the internet. Check out my Pinterest board below!

 

8 Tips For Teaching Your Child To Read

Teaching your Child to Read

Image courtesy of Rusty & Rosy Reading.

Letter “A” Crafts & Activities

I love alphabet crafts. I’m going to be working through the alphabet and sharing my favorite crafts and activities that I’ve found for each letter. If you have a young one learning their letters this is a fun way for them to learn! Click below to be taken to my letter “A” Pinterest board!

 

 

15 Leaf Crafts & Activities For Kids

One of my favorite Fall activities is to take the boys on a nature walk and collect leaves that we normally turn into leaf collages. I want to do something different this Fall so I searched online for some other ways to use the leaves we collect and other leaf themed activities and crafts that would be fun to do. Here are 15 of the best ones I found. Enjoy!

Building Speech & Language with Leaf Man by Author Lois Ehlert from Playing With Words 365

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Nature Crowns from Wildlife Fun 4 Kids

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Contact Paper Nature Collage from The Chocolate Muffin Tree

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Classifying Leaves from Two Little Seeds

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Bean Leaf Craft from All Kids Network

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Leaf Rubbing Garland from Creative Family Fun

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Printable Leaf Counting Book from Enchanted Learning

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Leaf Ghosts from She Knows

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Leaf Turkeys from Toddler Approved

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Leaf Family from Putti’s World

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Autumn Trees Craft from Full Circle

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Leaf Wreath from Preschool Panda

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Leaf Lacing Activity from Happy Hooligans

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Nature Placemat from Momma’s Fun World

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Leaf People from Happy Home Fairy

Fun With PLAY-DOH’s Let’s Create Series

We were supposed to go out to an amusement park today but it’s raining outside so we decided to stay home. By 10am the kids were already restless so I needed to find something to do to keep them busy. I remembered that PLAY-DOH had sent me two of their new “Let’s Create” products so I pulled them out for some late morning fun.

The two books are Let’s Create: Letters and Let’s Create: Shapes. Both books combine tactile, interactive play with learning to not only help children retain basic concepts taught at the preschool level but also make the learning experience fun.  Let’s Create:  Letters introduces youngsters to the letters of the alphabet, the first step in learning to read.  Kids follow Zany Zebra through different classroom settings to identify key object related to letters. Similarly, in Let’s Create: Shapes, kids take a trip through “town” and learn basic shape recognition – a key pre-school math skill.

Both books are fully illustrated by clay artists using colorful PLAY-DOH.  Hands-on education is priority number one with this new series, and children can make their own shapes and letters using the PLAY-DOH compound, letter and shape molds, and double-sided play mat that are enclosed with each book.

Both boys really enjoyed this activity and it kept them busy for a while. Lucas did the shape book and matched his PLAY-DOH shapes with the ones on the mat. Jacob did the letter one which is a little more advanced than the shape book. Jake had to find all the letter cookie cutters and then match the letters to the ones on the mat.

(Disclosure: As stated above, I received these products for review. All thoughts are my own.)

10 Fall Sensory Tables For Kids

I love sensory tables. It could be the preschool teacher in me or the fact that my children, who have sensory processing issues, enjoy playing in the table for long periods of time. I’m already thinking of Autumn themed tables so I wanted to share mine with you and 9 others I found online:

After this picture was taken I also added pinecones, fake apples, and cups/scoops

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Check out this corn cob filled table from Reggio Inspired

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Trigger the sense of smell in your sensory bin by using the scents of Fall like Fantastic Fun & Learning did.

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I love this Fall farm themed table from No Time for Flash Cards

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Mom To 2 Posh Lil Divas added straw to her Fall sensory table

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Have apple picking on the brain? This apple themed sensory box by Pink and Green Mama is so cute!

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Kids Activities Blog shares 10 natural items you can put in your Fall sensory tub. Great way to connect with nature!

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Cloud dough is fun, especially when it’s a nice scent like this pumpkin scented cloud dough from Growing a Jeweled Rose.

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Instead of dry pasta in your sensory bin, try cooked pasta. This completely different texture adds to the sensory experience. Visit 123 Homeschool 4 Me to learn more.

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I like the scraps of materials and papers that Sugar Aunts put in their Fall sensory bin.

(Linked up at: Upside Down Homeschooling)

Learn, Motivate & Reward With ArtSkills Products From Dollar General

Back in my preschool teaching years I loved shopping for bulletin board items, incentives, stickers, and all the fun goodies I could find for my classroom. Now, as a mom, I get to continue using them with my young children. ArtSkills sent me their whole line of products that they sell in Dollar General and I was impressed with the quality and variety of what they have. Check out all the items below!

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The Little Artist Work Frames will be great for all the pieces of art Lucas creates on a daily basis. I think both my boys will love playing with the “I Spy” Spinner and it’s color coded so they can use it by themselves even though they can’t read. We will use the Incentive Charts with the stickers to reward good behavior, helping out around the house, and sharing. The puzzles and lace & learn cards are small enough to be portable so we will be taking them on vacation with us to keep the children busy in the hotel room.

What is your favorite item above?

(Disclosure: As stated, I received the line of items to review but all thoughts are my own.)

Valplayso: Best Playground Ever! {Valparaiso, IN}

While on a day trip to Indiana last month we stopped at a well-known playground called Valplayso. I think there is so much to do at this playground and so many places the imagination could take children while they are playing that my kids could have spent all day there.

The playground is made mostly of wood and some of the pieces have seen better days but it’s still worth a visit. I found an article that was written the day we were there that says the playground is going to get rebuilt next year. The article said that some elements would be kept and built upon. It also said that more would be done to accommodate children with special needs. You can read the article here.

Enough of the text, let’s get to the fun part–the pictures!!

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We had a hard time finding the park since the address we had was wrong. Here is a description of where the park is and a link to the map directly from the Valpo Parks website.

10 Back to School Resolutions for Parents

Each new school year is a chance for children to start fresh and establish new routines. The same is true for parents, who play a huge role in a child’s education. As you send your children back to school this year, consider making a few resolutions of your own to make this a successful academic year. Most importantly, share the list with your child to help set expectations for both of you.

Education expert Renee Thompson, Kiddie Academy, offers the following thought starters for resolutions parents may wish to make, along with the reason why each is important.

Parents’ Back to School Resolutions:

1. I will give you a break after school if you need it before asking you to start homework.

Why: Some children can jump right into homework and others are more focused after having some time to unwind. See what works best for your child.

2. I will stay in touch with your teachers throughout the year.

Why: Communication is the key to early detection of potential problems. If your child is struggling, an open line of communication with the teacher will help in resolving the issue.

3. I will ask for positive feedback from your teachers.

Why: We’re all busy, including teachers, meaning that sometimes parents only hear when there is a problem. That’s not really fair to your kids or to you – if you’re going to endure the bad stuff, you both deserve to hear the good stuff, too.

4. I will offer guidance and assistance, but not a full solution, when you encounter a challenge.

Why: Children need to develop problem-solving skills. If their parents are constantly “fixing” things, the child will never learn to negotiate the inevitable bumps in the road.

5. I will enforce a consistent bed time, even if you fight me on it.

Why: Getting a good night’s sleep will allow your child to start the school day refreshed and ready to learn.

6. I will provide a healthy, nutritious breakfast.

Why: Just like sleep, your body and your brain need fuel to function at their highest level.

7. I will stock up on school supplies so you’ll have what you need.

Why: Nobody wants to run out of paper or glue when finishing a project. Stock up in the fall, when prices are low, and keep the supplies in an easy-to-access location. Consider making a Homework Bin – you can find directions here.

8. I will listen to your opinions on Back To School fashion choices, and do my best to accommodate your requests — within reason.

Why: It’s important to show your child that you respect and value their opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. You can still have the final say; however, listening is key.

9. I will document your FIRST day of school with a photo every year. I will be discreet and take the photo at home. I will not follow you to school or ride the bus to get candid shots.

Why: One day, your child will want to look back and remember how they looked as they grew up. You can save the memories for them until they’re old enough to appreciate them.

10. I will take a picture of you on your LAST day of school each year.

Why: It’s amazing how much kids grow over the course of a school year. Take a photo and compare it to the first day of school picture. Sharing the photos with your child is the perfect opportunity to review the year’s accomplishments.

 

20 Fine Motor Activities For Preschoolers

It’s been shown that children lose skills over the summer so I wanted to share 20 activities you can have your preschooler do to help them practice their fine motor skills. Most of these work for other seasons as well so this list can be used year-round.

1) Have them blow bubbles and pop them with their pointer finger or clapping with two hands.

2) Have them use sidewalk chalk to draw pictures or practice writing their name

3) Let them help you pull weeds using their pincer grasp.

4) Play finger soccer with cotton balls

5) “Paint” with water on the sidewalk

6) Make a rain stick out of toothpicks, beads, and pebbles and a paper towel tube. Let them poke the holes in the tube with the toothpicks.

7) Have a toy wash. Have them squeeze the water out of the sponge while washing the toys and press the nozzle on the hose to rinse the toys off.

8) Make cookies together. Have your preschooler help stir the thick batter.

9) Have your child make a paper chain to count down to a vacation or fun summer event. Have them cut out strips of paper and then loop together and glue the ends to make a chain.

10) Squirt shaving cream onto a clean table and let your child draw pictures in it. (Watch that they don’t put it in their mouth)

11) Have a picnic in the backyard or at a local park and let your child open the containers and baggies.

12) Get the playdough out and have your child make faces with the playdough. Roll the playdough into a long piece for the mouth, roll into balls for the eyes, etc.

13) Make necklaces. Have your child paint pasta noodles and then, once dry, put them on a string.

14) Celebrate friendship. Color a picture for a friend.

15) Have a lemonade stand! Let your child stir the lemonade.

16) Sponge paint flower pots together and then plant something in them.

17) Head to the beach or a sandbox and have your child practice writing their name in the sand.

18) Make a marshmallow sculpture with your child. Poke toothpicks into marshmallows and build a sculpture.

19) Read books together. Let your child turn the pages themselves.

20) Have your child sort pom poms or other small items into ice cube trays. You can have your child do the sorting by shape or color.

Dear Social Worker At My Son’s Preschool

Dear Social Worker at my son’s school,

Jacob is my first-born child. I loved and cherished him as a little one in my womb while mourning the loss of his twin. I walked around for months with cankles and spent half my pregnancy with my head in a toilet. I gave birth and attempted breastfeeding. I joined mommy and me groups so I could make friends with other moms and he’d have playmates. I listened to everything I could about how to be a “good mom” and tried to do it all. I read book after book at my child’s request, cleaned up mess after mess, and changed diaper after diaper.

A few years into his young life, after I swallowed my pride, I took him to the Doctor and shared some concerns I had. When my son’s Doctor dismissed me, I pushed because I knew, I knew, something was not right. I had him tested and, with delays found in multiple areas, he was put in Early Intervention. After learning he had some difficulty processing his senses I researched everything I could on Sensory Processing Disorder. I sat through endless hours of therapies to help him catch up to his peers and then he was tested for preschool and he qualified for services in the public school district. Fast forward to the end of his second year of Preschool and today’s IEP meeting where I sat, outnumbered, in a room  listening to how worried the school staff was about my son.

This wasn’t the first meeting that I’ve endured but somehow this seemed to be the most important that I’d ever have since this was the meeting where we’d start discussing placement for Kindergarten. This is a heavy decision for any parent, including myself, because it’s the one that would probably determine the rest of his school career. I knew once he was in a track at school, be it special education or children labeled with “behavior problems” or regular education, he would most likely be in that category for years to come and I’d have to fight to change it if I ever felt like the placement needed to change. I’ve heard horror stories of parents trying to change services or add things in and I knew my journey would be a long one. I wanted to make the right choices now and it was a lot of stress knowing that I was making such a big decision in the coming months.

All the school personnel on Jacob’s team shared about their experiences with Jacob, both what he was doing well and what their concerns were. Then it was your turn. Seeing that a mother was hurting, worried, and anxious it would have been best to assure me that we would figure this out as a team and that, in the end, everything would be okay. Instead you decided to use many of your words to bring me down and attack my child.

You told me how your team couldn’t be expected to change my child’s behavior that he’d spent the past four and a half years learning {assuming, I guess, that I had not spent the past four years trying to raise him correctly}. You told me how the school personnel was ultimately the one who’d decide placement for my child and basically told me that in the end it wasn’t up to me and I could make suggestions but they wouldn’t really make much of a difference. Then, and this really, really hurt, you implied that I would do anything other than what was in my child’s best interest when all I was doing was trying to understand the different options that were available.

What hurt most of all though, and what made me meltdown once I was safely in the hallway away from you, was that you spent the majority of your time criticizing my child. You used the results of a survey his current teacher and his old teacher had taken and pointed out everything that was “wrong” with my son. Not once did you point out one of the great things about him. Not once.

But that’s probably because you don’t know him. You’ve spent, what? 15 minutes with him?

He isn’t perfect by any means and when you brought up attention problems and ADHD I believe you probably aren’t too far off. All those other things you listed? Yep, those are issues I’m aware of and we are working on.

You seemed to have missed a few things though. His smile. His belief in right vs. wrong. His willingness to help. His laugh. His ability to remember the smallest detail. His inquisitive nature. His joy for life. His love for others. His excitement. His concern for friends who aren’t on the bus or at school.

Any of these qualities you could have pointed out among the other things but you didn’t. Instead, you chose to look at a chart full of dots that represented all his “problems” and completely missed the child behind the chart.

I’m begging you, next time you are in an IEP meeting, think about the parent sitting on the other side of the table and at least one positive thing you can say about their child. Of course, to do that you may actually have to get to know the child you are talking about. They are more than just a list of behaviors, dots on a chart or a diagnosis. They are special regardless of what problems brought their parents into that meeting with you.

Signed,

Jacob’s mom

The Gardner School {Tour Recap}

(Disclosure: I was compensated for my time touring the school and for my social media efforts but all thoughts are my own. When it comes to childcare I would only recommend somewhere that I would feel comfortable bringing my own children.)

Early Childhood Education and care is very important to me. Having two preschoolers myself and working with young children for years both as a volunteer and as a professional I have a good idea of what a quality learning environment looks like. With that said, I feel confident in being able to recommend The Gardner School, an educational preschool for children six weeks to five years. The school’s first location was in Tennessee, and it has since spread to other states including their newest locations in my home state of Illinois. The Gardner School will open four locations in the Chicago area, the first of which is in the suburb of Warrenville. I got a sneak peak at the school before it’s opening and wanted to share some of the pictures I took {but not all, I got a little too excited to be back in a classroom that I took way too many pictures!} and my thoughts on the preschool. The school actually opened on Monday, March 18th, so call them for a tour today!

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First, let’s start with safety since that is the most important thing on every parent’s mind. With all of the safety concerns regarding schools lately, parents will feel confident knowing that visitors have multiple locked doors to go through to reach the children. Along with a locked door at the entry of the building which lets people into the lobby and to the front desk, every family gets a security code that they have to enter to go through another set of doors which leads to the hallways with the classrooms. Another great safety feature is a live feed of the classrooms in the lobby so that the family members can watch what goes on in the classroom. {This is also a great feature for those who have children who cry when they leave. You can see that 99.9% of the time your child stops crying the second you leave. As a Pre-K teacher this happened all the time and I would have to reassure the parents that their child would be fine but with the live feed parents can see their child really is okay.}

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The center has lots of natural light which is great. Each room is spacious so there is plenty of room for the children to move around.

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The classrooms are fun which is important since I believe that children learn through play. I can imagine that children will be so excited to go to school every day. I mean seriously, look at the picture above! Not just books on a bookshelf in the library area. There’s a tent they can read in, a nice comfy seat, puppets, and some felt board pieces so they can retell the story. I love reading areas like this.

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The home living area of the classroom was full of items that encouraged imagination as well. Each classroom had a kitchen area, some dress up clothes, and lots of other items that would help them pretend.

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The block section had lots of room for multiple children to build at the same time. This was nice because I can attest to the fact that if an area like this is too small the children end up knocking each other’s creations over, which is no fun. I think the addition of vehicles, buildings and animals in this area will make it an area where so much more goes on than just building towers.

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If there is one area in the classroom that is my favorite it would be the writing area. The one above was pretty empty when I took this picture, because the school hadn’t opened yet, but I imagine it is now full of papers, envelopes, stickers, writing utensils and the like that will make children want to write. That excites me so much! I also like that there’s room for multiple children. In my old classroom I had one seat at the writing table and all the kids loved the area but there wasn’t the ability to do writing activities with friends so I think the fact that there are a few chairs is awesome. I also liked that the classrooms had computers so they can play educational games.

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I spy lots of paints! This easel is nice and big, with space for four children. I think they will have fun painting and drawing at the easel.
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Each classroom has a sensory table. The contents in these tables will vary throughout the year, but they will all give the children a chance to use their different senses and experience different textures. We have a sensory table at home and the boys love it!
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Children have plenty of opportunities to explore and learn with science and math activities. There were also lots of different ‘table toys’ that they could play with solo or with a friend that work on fine motor skills.

On the subject of learning, the school uses a curriculum called ‘The DLM Early Childhood Express’ for Preschool, Pre-K & Kindergarten Readiness. According to the website, “each lesson begins with a FOCUS strategy that prepares children for the instruction and helps them focus their attention. The DEVELOP strategies that follow present the instruction. Children then participate in several PRACTICE activities, which allow them to apply and make sense of what they have just learned. Finally, they are encouraged to REFLECT on what they have learned and on how they will use the new information.” I think this is a great way for children to learn new concepts. They also use two programs I’m not familiar with but that I was interested to learn more about: Handwriting Without Tears and Growing With Mathematics. You can learn more about all of the curriculum (including the infant curriculum) on their website here.

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The fun doesn’t end in the classroom! Look at this outdoor area. The climbing structure is nice and large. I like that it’s surrounded so children can’t easily fall off. There was plenty of room to run around and burn off energy as well. Okay…now on to my favorite area of The Gardner School…

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How absolutely amazing is that!? Back when I worked at the daycare, I loathed rainy days or days that were really cold (which here in Chicago means being cooped up all winter long). Lots of children in one room for hours? Not fun! This area is a heated “outdoor” type space where children can be active and still stay warm and dry.

Since this center has so many fantastic areas I wanted to share some of my other pictures with some collages:

 

Fun areas of the classroom

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Toys!

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Outside the Classrooms

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Spaces for parents to connect

If you are looking for childcare in the Chicago area you should look into The Gardner School. There you will find a safe place for your children to stay when you can’t be with them during the day. You will find highly qualified teachers, a sound curriculum, and classrooms that are perfect for learning. When this school opens I expect one will hear lots of laughter and excitement all throughout the building!

Truth In The Tinsel: Advent Experience For Little Hands {New Ornaments!}

Spend December impressing God’s Word on your kids’ heart! You’ll get 24 days of Scripture reading, ornament crafts, talking points and extension activities. Plus fun printables and templates! You can read my review of last year’s Truth In The Tinsel ebook here.

This is the perfect book for kids of any age–from preschool to elementary!

Click here to order the ebook!


NEW for 2012! Get the printable Truth in the Tinsel ornaments! Use these on days you’re too busy to do a big craft, for toddlers, while you’re at Grandma’s or if you just want to save a little money on supplies!

Click here to order the ornaments!

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)

 

Shout Unstructured Play Contest {Giveaway}

I am a firm believer that children learn through play and having taught preschool I have seen this first hand. Freedom to play also means lots of stains but with Shout® you can let the kids play without having to worry about stained clothing.To encourage unstructured play Shout® has teamed up with Olympic athlete and mom Jennie Finch to bring you the Shout® Unstructured Play photo contest! I am happy to share this information with you all {but hurry! The contest ends tomorrow, July 1st!}

To enter the Shout® contest, submit photos of your children creating a game with just their imaginations, three objects (such as glitter, a fly swatter, and a water wing) and the permission to play. Fans can then vote for their favorite photos. Visit Shout® brand’s Facebook page to explore!

Five winners will be selected tomorrow to win a prize pack including all the Shout® products needed to treat stains whenever and wherever they happen: Shout® Advanced Ultra Gel Brush, Shout® Wipes, Shout® Triple Acting Formula, Shout® Color Catche, $25 gift card, and a vintage Shout® t-shirt.

I think this is a great contest that promotes play and the winners get some great Shout® products so I hope you all will enter! Along with their great contest you also have a chance to win some stain fighting products right here at Making Time For Mommy. I use Shout® on all our stained laundry. If I didn’t have it I don’t think I’d be as open to letting my children explore or eat all the foods they wanted to because I’d be afraid of them ruining their clothes. Knowing I have the stain fighting power of Shout® I am not so worried about the boys messing up their clothes.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a Shout® prize pack of products mentioned above

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me which summer stain you find on your children’s clothes the most

2) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

3) Like Shout® laundry on Facebook

4) Share this giveaway on a social network

5) Leave a comment on another one of my posts {found here}

Giveaway ends July 18, 2012 at 11:59pm. US only.

(Disclosure: I received products from Shout® to try but all thoughts are my own. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook in any way.)

100+ Fun Things To Do This Summer {Our Summer Bucket List}

Summer is my favorite season. I love the sunny, warm weather and all the time spent cooling off with water related activities. If one were to have been with my family last summer though, you would have thought I despised summer since we spent too much of it indoors and I spent a lot of it working. I have vowed that this summer will be different and that my kids will enjoy this summer to the fullest, despite the fact that I work from home. To help ensure that I’d give them all the great memories of summertime that I had as a child, I created a Summer bucket list for our family with over 100 ideas for summer fun. The list is geared towards preschoolers.

Outdoor Fun:

*Have a picnic lunch

*Plant flowers

*Host a backyard playdate

*Make smores

*Get ice cream from the ice cream truck

*Make a mud pie

*Paint with colored ice cubes

*Play in the sprinkler

*Make a nature collage

*Blow bubbles

*Host a family party

*Build a sandcastle

*Play in the rain

*Go on a nature scavenger hunt

*Go fishing

*Paint with water

*Wash the family car together

*Draw with chalk on the sidewalk

*Paint rocks

*Play soccer in the backyard

*Eat juicy watermelon

*Create a car racetrack on the sidewalk

*Make {and eat!} ice cream sundaes

*Read books outside in the shade of a tree

*Fly a kite

*Have a water balloon fight

*Freeze toys in a block of ice and then try to get them out

*Teach the boys how to ride their tricycles

*Catch fireflies

*Slide on a slip n’ slide

*Decorate t-shirts

*Go for a wagon ride

*Roll down a hill

*Pick flowers and make a bouquet

*Play catch in the backyard

Indoor Fun:

*Make homemade pizza

*Have a pajama day

*Make a musical instrument

*Compete to see who can build the tallest block tower

*Have a sleepover

*Board game day

*Bake cookies together

*Play playdough

*Make {and eat} “dirt cups”

*Read through a children’s Bible together

*Make a fort

*Cook dinner together

*Dance to songs from a children’s CD

*Dress up in costumes

*Have a family movie night with popcorn

*Pretend to be in a marching band

*Make homemade popsicles

*Play “I Spy”

*Make a fruit salad

*Fingerpaint in the bathtub

*Make {and play} a memory game

*Serve lunch in an ice cube tray

*Make a craft for every letter of the alphabet

*Make a suncatcher

On The Go:

*Go somewhere fun for Jake’s birthday

*Go somewhere fun for Luke’s birthday

*Go to an amusement park

*Visit a children’s museum

*Walk around a children’s garden

*Play in a splash pad

*Go to a carnival

*Attend an outdoor concert

*Go to the aquarium

*Eat at a train themed restaurant

*Go to the Indiana Dunes

*Walk along the lakefront

*Go to Starved Rock

*Visit a waterpark

*Go to a farmer’s market

*Go see a movie at the theater

*Visit daddy at work

*Go to the Museum of Science and Industry

*Take GiGi to lunch

*Go to Navy Pier

*Visit a pet store and buy a fish

*Go to a children’s concert

*Eat at a restaurant and sit on the patio

*Take a train ride

*Go garage-saling

*Feed ducks

*Go berry picking

*Watch a fireworks show

*Go on a picnic

*Go for a family walk

*Go swimming

*Go to Chuck-E-Cheese

*Attend a workshop at Home Depot or Lowe’s

*Go on a nature walk

*Try out 5 different playgrounds in town (went to 1)

*Listen to stories at library storytime

*Go to a parade

*Go bowling

*Go to a children’s farm

*Go downtown Chicago

*Attend a Vacation Bible School

*Play mini-golf

*Do the summer reading challenge at the library (signed up)

*Take a 2 day vacation somewhere within driving distance

*Jump in a bounce house

*Go out for ice cream

*Swim lessons

*Go to Day Out With Thomas

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What’s on your summer bucket list?

ABC’s with Bingzy Bee: Phonics {Free App- 2 Days Only!}

I’ve been working with Bing Note to help promote their new IPhone/IPod application, ABC’s with Bingzy Bee: Phonics. This application uses a fun ABC song to teach phonics and was developed by an award winning teacher who found success with this method in her classroom. I had to share this with you all this weekend because for today and tomorrow (March 31st and April 1st) this application is FREE! {It’s normally only 99 cents but a penny saved is a penny saved, right?}

I don’t have an IPhone but I have seen great reviews from other bloggers. Here’s what other moms and teachers had to say about the application:

“My students enjoyed this game and were able to play it with ease.” ~Rebecca, The Beauty of it all

“…it’s really a great way to introduce basic phonics skills to your child.” ~Kimberly, 2 Kids and a Coupon

“Overall my son and I really like this app as it is another fun way for him to explore and learn his letters.” ~Alicia, The Mama Report

“This app is a cute & fun app for waiting in the doctor’s office or a way to keep the kids busy for a few minutes.” ~Kristi, Creative Kristi

“….this is what makes it a great app.  She can use it for years to come.” ~Brande, Faith and Family Reviews

“This app is one of Willow’s favorite apps right now.” ~Debi,The Spring Mount 6 Pack

You can find out more about the app on their website here or download ABC’s with Bingzy Bee: Phonics from the app store here.

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for posting this on my personal blog, however, this is a client of Living Your Moment, a company I am co-owner of. Bloggers quoted received compensation for their time. All thoughts are our own and honest opinions.)

Easter Crafts For Kids

Keep your kids busy with these fun Easter crafts!

Click on the pictures to be taken to the posts they are from.

Paper Easter Egg Basket

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Handprint Easter Chick

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Textured Easter Eggs

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Paper Plate Easter Wreath

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Sheep

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Stained Glass Window Egg

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Bunnies

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Marshmallow Easter Egg

Dr. Seuss Themed Crafts & Activities

In less than one week we will be celebrating Dr.  Seuss’ birthday. Here are some fabulous Dr. Seuss ideas I found online {click the pictures to be taken to the posts they come from}.

Find Dr. Seuss themed FOOD here.

“Are You My Mother” activity

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Dr. Seuss book cover bowling

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This playdough looks like the hat!

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Cute handprint craft

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Fun Learning Activity

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30 pages of FREE printables for preschoolers!

Here’s a fun book collection for your little Dr. Suess fans!

(affiliate link)

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Get more Dr. Seuss party ideas here!

https://makingtimeformommy.com/2017/02/23/how-to-throw-a-fun-dr-seuss-party/

Find Dr. Seuss Themed treats here:

https://makingtimeformommy.com/2012/02/25/dr-seuss-themed-treats/

 

Valentine’s Day Sensory Table

My children have sensory processing issues that make sensory table a must have item in our home but I think sensory activities are a great activity for all young children. I like to create themed ones around Holidays or certain things that interest my children. Our latest table is Valentine’s themed.

 

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A close up of the items that are in the table

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Items in the table:

-mini themed erasers

-mini spiked balls

-clear decorative stones

-red heart shaped stones

-white feathers

-white pom poms

-red,white, pink shaped heart beads

-white yarn tied in bows

-pieces of white ball garland cut into smaller strands

-small heart shaped containers with lids

-heart shaped bowls

-Valentine’s themed cups

Hot Cocoa Sensory Tub

Now that it’s cold outside we are always looking for fun activities to do. I put together a hot cocoa sensory bin with a canister of hot cocoa mix, a bag of mini gingerbread man marshmallows, a funnel, a spoon, and some cups and bowls. Jake loved playing with this sensory tub and it smelled delicious!

Hot cocoa w/ marshmallows. The marshmallows were on clearance because thcy were from Christmas.

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Ready for playtime

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Jake liked eating the marshmallows, too!

Fun Winter Activity Ideas For Kids

Cold day? Here are some fun activities that kids can do in the winter to keep busy!

{Click the pictures to be taken to the posts they come from}:

Snow Dough

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Colorful Ice Sculptures

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Snow painting

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Build with sugar cubes

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Snow Globes

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Soap bubble prints

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Make “snow” out of soap

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Stuffed Snowman

Winter Sensory Table

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Close up of what’s in the table

 

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The other side of the winter sensory table

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What’s in the table: white yarn tied into little bows, strands of white glittered beads, snowflake ornaments, clear snowflake beads, clear stones, colored snowflake confetti, white pom poms, white star garland (cut into pieces), blue tree ornaments

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Large items they can include in play: white tree and bear

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Containers the boys can put stuff in

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What other ideas do you have for great winter sensory table fillers?

{Check out my winter themed tot school post for more winter activity ideas!}

Christmas Sensory Table

Christmas Sensory Table

Items Included:

-Garland (cut into 6 inch pieces)

-Jingle Bells

-Holly Berries

-Mini Ornaments

-Mini Present

-Small stockings

-Bows

-Red cups

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Did you make a Christmas themed sensory table or bin for your children?

I’d love to see what you included if you did! :)

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Linked up at: The Sunday Showcase, Sharing Time, Weekend Wrap Up Party, and Link & Learn

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North “Poll”

Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North “Poll!” You’ll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at MelissaAndDoug.com just for voting!

(Disclosure: I received a gift certificate from Melissa & Doug to post this information but I’m happy to post about it because I love their products.)

Neighborhood Toy Store Day

Tomorrow, November 12, is Neighborhood Toy Store Day! Small toy stores across the country will be celebrating the joy of play to launch the Holiday shopping season. Shopping at local owned toy stores is wonderful because you get great customer service and knowledgeable staff, special services (some have free gift wrapping!), and best of all you are keeping your hard earned money in your community.

Many stores will be having special events to celebrate this special day. You can see a list of stores participating here. If you live in the Chicago area, Building Blocks Toy Store will be having costumed characters, giveaways, entertainment, and more at their events.

Check back tomorrow when I will share the 2011 “Best Toys For Kids” list from ASTRA, The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association.

(Disclosure: I recently went to an event at my local toy store but all thoughts are my own and I was not compensated for posting this information.)

10 Fun Literacy Activities

Today is National Family Literacy Day!

Since 1994, National Family Literacy Day has helped communities celebrate the wonders of literacy and reminded people of the importance of literacy. The entire month is special as well – many families, programs and communities now join us in celebrating family literacy throughout the entire month. That’s right, November is National Family Literacy Month!

Here are ten fun activities to do with your children throughout the year:

1) National Children’s Book Week is November 13-19th. Read your child’s favorite book together and talk about what happened in the story afterwards.

2) National Cookie Day is December 4th. Make cookies with your child and use a recipe to talk about sequence. (ie. “first we have to preheat the oven, next we get the ingredients out”)

3) January is National Soup Month. Serve alphabet soup and spell words using the noodles in the soup.

4) The first day of Spring is March 21st. Help your child make a list of nature’s first signs of Spring and then go on a nature walk and have your child check off the signs that they see.

5) Mother Goose Day is May 1. Take turns reciting all the Mother Goose rhymes you can think of or read them from a storybook

6) June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. Ask your child to try to name a fruit or vegetable for each letter of the alphabet. Try to eat as many as you can during the month.

7) July is National Picnic Month. Use the newspaper to find a day that will be nice for a picnic.

8) The first Sunday in August is friendship day. Have your child write a letter to one of their friends.

9) September is Library-Card Sign Up Month. Take your child to get a library card if they don’t have one yet.

10) October is National Popcorn Popping Month. Enjoy popcorn with your child while your child makes a list of all their favorite things about popcorn.

These ideas came from the National Center For Family’s  Celebrate Literacy Calendar. Check it out because it has lots more ideas for activities to do with your children!

This post is linked to Oh Amanda’s Top 10 Tuesday.

Wordless Wednesday: Beginning Writing Skills

Jacob's first attempts at writing his name

I have linked this post to: Wordless Wednesday Home

5 Minutes for Mom ~ Go Graham Go! ~ Jolly Mom

Mom of 3 Girls ~MomStart ~ Two of a Kind…

Momma Findings ~ Mom Knows It All

A Daily Dose of Toni

The Divine Miss Mommy

Grammy Mouse Tails

Fall Sensory Table

Our Fall Sensory Table: beans, leaves, and gourdes

The boys were also given spoons and nesting cups.

After this picture was taken I added other items:

Acorn Bells

Pretend apples and small pinecones

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More ideas of what you can put in your Fall sensory bins can be found on the following blogs:

1+1+1=1

Counting Coconuts

I Can Teach My Child

No Time For Flashcards

Our Cup Of Tea

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Linked up to: The Sunday Showcase and Link & Learn

Teach Your Preschooler To Share Through Early Lessons In Cooperation (Guest Post)

Cooperation is a basic life skill that allows us to make friends, work successfully in groups and get along well with others. Unfortunately though, babies are not born knowing how to cooperate or share, this ability is learned through interactions and experiences with parents and other significant care givers. Around age three, children begin to practice real cooperation through their play by sharing and taking turns.

“Cooperation and sharing are key character traits that teach children how to get along with others,” said Dr. Mary Zurn (V.P. of education for Primrose Schools). “Parents and teachers encourage and model these traits because they are critical for children to understand. They help children to form friendships and to have harmonious and respectful interactions with others. Sharing is a necessary daily activity that builds a foundation for positive character development and is a common thread that runs through caring, cooperation, generosity and citizenship.”

Here are a few tips that parents can use to teach children cooperation skills at home:

Model Cooperative Behavior: You are your child’s first teacher, and your behavior greatly influences the way your child acts and feels. Modeling cooperative behavior and talking to your child about lending a helping hand sets the expectation that these are important values. For example, you could say “If we work together to clean up the kitchen after dinner, we’ll all be able to listen to the new book you borrowed from the library.”

Family Projects: Plan a family project that includes a task for each family member, such as starting a vegetable or flower garden, mapping out the family vacation or playing a game. Help them see the fun in working together to accomplish a goal.

Cooperation Soup: Cooking is a perfect time to learn about cooperation because children can actively help by gathering ingredients, measuring, mixing and then serving and eating.

Making Music: The way children respond to music is magical. Listen to a short piece of music and discuss how the members of the chorus, band or orchestra worked together to make a beautiful sound. It’s easy to gather a simple set of rhythm instruments that children can use to keep time with the music or just sing along with a song on a CD. If you record their production, they will love hearing it over and over knowing that they accomplished it together.

Submitted by Emily Patterson on behalf of Primrose Schools. For over 25 years, they have helped individuals achieve higher levels of success by providing them with an AdvancED® accredited, early child care services and education.  Through an accelerated Balanced Learning® preschool curriculum, Primrose Schools students are exposed to a widely diverse range of subject matter giving them a much greater opportunity to develop mentally, physically and socially. Emily has written a number of articles on topics varying from bilingual learning to teaching the importance of volunteering. 

 (Disclosure: This post was submitted by an advertiser on MakingTimeForMommy.com.)

Kindercare Offers Boredom Busters for Winter Fun

KinderCare Winter Science Camp:

The secret’s about to get out: science is a blast! At the end of December, 1600 KinderCare Learning Centers across the U.S. transform into Winter Science Camps that give preschoolers through school-agers a chance to unlock the mysteries of the natural world. Split into eight 1-day segments to better meet the needs of busy families staying in town for the holidays, Winter Science Camp uses age-appropriate activities and a lively, hands-on approach to get kids excited about what they’re learning. From fish to flowers, from robots to recycling-each center’s camp covers chemistry, earth science, and physics. Among many activities, younger campers will get to be “science detectives,” solving a series of science mysteries by using touch, smell and hearing. Meanwhile, school-aged kids will be busy experimenting with colored dyes, creating everything from paper to volcanic eruptions, building balloon rockets, and more. Kids can attend all eight days of camp, or drop in for a day or more. For more information about how KinderCare Winter Science Camp makes science as fun as it is smart, visit http://www.KinderCare.com/wintersciencecamp.

Winter Reading:

There is nothing better than snuggling up with your child and a good book. Reading to a child on a regular basis is by far the best way to encourage a budding reader.   From the earliest ages, parents are encouraged to begin a reading routine with their children. Building on its robust literacy curriculum and teaching expertise, KinderCare is now providing parents with a comprehensive reading guide  (available at http://www2.kindercare.com/uploadedFiles/Documents/a_guide_to_reading_to_your_child.pdf) that incorporates tips on reading to infants, toddlers and preschoolers as well as recommended age-appropriate book titles.   Some tips include:

o   You can help cultivate baby’s interest in books by choosing ones that capture his or her attention such as board books, pop-up books, etc. Your child will want to see these again and again.

o   While reading together, ask questions about the pictures. Children are delighted in finding objects on the page. If they’re saying ‘da’ and pointing at the dog, say, ‘Yes, that’s the dog,’ If the child says ‘ball,’ follow up with, ‘That’s a blue ball.’ You’ll be giving them additional language for their verbal bank.

o   Ask your child open-ended questions about the story you are reading, such as “Why do you think that happened?”

Play Time

The colder weather outdoors offers a good excuse for good old-fashioned indoor play time. Play is the natural work of children and essential to learning. Through play, children develop social skills, the ability to solve problems and the courage to express their ideas. The following are some quick tips for educational and fun family playtime:

o   For infants, playing peek-a-boo will help baby recognize your voice.

o   To help infants and toddlers develop fine motor skills, provide a variety of soft, easy-to-grasp toys, such as soft blocks or plush toys.

o   Blow bubbles with your child and watch them have a blast as they chase and catch the bubbles  – both reinforce motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

About KinderCare

With more than 1,600 centers located in 39 states and the District of Columbia, KinderCare Learning Centers, an accredited early childhood provider, offer a range of educational programs and after-school care for infants as young as six weeks old to school-aged children through age 12. For more information, visit www.KinderCare.com.

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(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post however I did work for Kindercare as both a teacher and as an Assistant Director and I believe that their programs are wonderful for young children.)

Toddler Gift Ideas (Learning Toys)

After reading this post at 1plus1plus1equals1 where Carisa gives Christmas gift ideas for toddlers, I put a list together for Jacob and Lucas and here are ten of the items on it:

Also, I love this Melissa and Doug Shopping cart and it’s available in my Open Sky shop!!!

This post is linked up to Oh Amanda’s Top 10 Tuesday post.

(Disclosure: Some of the links are affiliate links.)