Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sharing Saturday: Gg and Apples

Gg is for Garrett after all!

If you’re reading this and you know my little Garrett, you know that he is a busy, busy little guy.  He wakes up in the morning bright-eyed and ready to go.  He usually asks what we’re going to do that day before he even has breakfast. 

I decided that I better have an answer for him! I started planning a few little activities for him to do each day. Nothing scheduled or too serious, but just something I can pull out for those down times when he needs a little stimulation. 

One of my goals is for him to be able to recognize the letters in his name. I’ve been using Erica’s Letter of the Week Curriculum  (you can purchase it all together or just download what you need for FREE) to print some activities to help with this.  I also have some theme ideas (apples, pumpkins,etc)  collected from my teaching days that I will be pulling things from.

Here are a few things that we’ve done in the past week.  By the way, it’s imperative that I be able to tweak the activity so that my 2 year old can do it-he MUST not be left out ;-)

Kool-Aid Playdough
(this was supposed to be green apple playdough but I couldn’t find the “electric apple” jello that it required…so I nabbed this recipe from the Internet-see separate post)

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Apple Counting Game
He just counted the apples and matched them to the correct numbers. He knows #1-10 so far, mostly just from reading number books. Then we arranged the numbers from 1-10 and played “which one is missing”. I would take a number and he would have to figure out which one was missing. Then we’d switch. He loved this! The apple game and numbers can be found here.

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Apple Suncatcher
A fun craft to dress up our windows. Draw an apple out of cardstock and then cut the inside out. Lay it flat on a piece of contact paper and stick little squares of tissue paper on them. Lay another sheet of contact paper, cut out and voila! Instead suncatchers!

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Do-a-Dot Markers with the letter Gg
These are super fun little markers that my kids LOVE. I got them at Michael’s with a 40% coupon.  The letter printables can be found here.

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Apple Shake-Up Snack
Just cut up an apple into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over them. Let the kids shake and then enjoy. Hey, any new way to eat something is bound to be fun, right?

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Fine Motor-Cutting up Straws
I just put a package of neon straws into a container, gave him a scissors and told him I needed help cutting them.  This kept both of them busy for quite awhile, for several days. Definitely worth the cost of the straws! Of course Colin had to find some way to put them in his mouth.  Is it me, or is that picture just adorable?

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Number Game Matchup
Awhile ago, I printed out this game but I can’t remember where from. He had to count the objects and then find the correct number. Notice he’s in his pajamas in the next few…yep, BEFORE breakfast!

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Lacing a Necklace
I found this little foam necklace kit at the Dollar Tree awhile ago and knew it would be good eye-hand coordination practice. Shhh…don’t tell him it’s a purse!

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And lastly,  just some good old-fashioned painting.

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We’ve also been doing all of the letter “Gg is for Gumballs” activities found in the Letter of the Week Curriculum. Garrett asks to do an activity at least once a day, if not more. As long as he keeps interested, we’ll keep doing it. I hope to do a “sharing Saturday” post from this point on. It’s so worth the time to plan when I hear “Mom, this is fun”!!! I love it!

Friday, September 24, 2010

TOS Review: Schleich

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Do you appreciate toys that don’t beep, whistle, require batteries, wear down, or annoy you? I know I do.  That’s why I was thrilled when I found out I would be reviewing a fabulous product as part of my participation on the TOS  Crew. This one is a winner!

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About the Company:

Schleich is a German company that was founded in 1935.   The now famous Schleich figurines first came to life in the 1950's with comic characters such as the Smurfs, Snoopy, and the Muppets.    Since the 1980’s, they have expanded into the animal kingdom, dinosaurs, knights, pioneers, Indians and the magical world of Bayala. Even better-they have many buildings and accessories to go with them. There are over 500 different figures available  (Target and Amazon included) and the prices range from $2.29-$180. Check the website for pictures of what they offer.

Our Experience:

8 beautiful hand-painted, animal figurines were delivered to our door and enthusiastically dumped out on the living room floor.  The next 30 minutes or so were filled with two little boys opening, examining, and playing with each of the animals. I watched them line up their animals, feed them, and many other imaginative things that I love to see as a mom.

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The package also came with a catalogue that they devoured.  We had such fun finding all of our animals. I even learned about a few animals that I’ve never even heard of! I have to admit, I also enjoyed looking at all of the options and planning which ones I wanted to add to our collection. Christmas maybe?

The thing that impressed me most about these animals is the quality.  They are solid, sturdy and most of all, detailed.  These are the most detailed high quality animal figurines I have ever seen. Here are a few pictures of some animals so you can see just how beautiful they are.

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My boys ( ages 3 & 2) played with the figures a lot the first day, and then the play tapered off a bit. I think this is a toy that will grow with them and they will appreciate more in the future.  I also plan to add some of the accessories to our collection which I’m sure will be a huge hit.

Overall, a simple, beautiful toy that any family would enjoy!

To see what others are saying about Schleich, click here.

Disclaimer: This product was given to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review as part of the TOS Crew.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TOS Review: Salem Ridge Press

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As a member of the TOS’s Review Crew, I was given three books to review.  Being that my children are so young, this review is based solely on my personal experience as a mother of potential future readers and previous middle school reading teacher.

About the Company:

Salem Ridge Press is a publishing company, established in 2005, dedicated to bringing back quality children’s books of the 1800’s and early 1900’s for a new generation of readers.  It was started by homeschooling graduate, Daniel Mills, and it strives to incorporate Godly character and high moral values into it’s literature.

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When I first read about the purpose of this company, I was very excited because let’s face it, the world is full of bad influences and negative  things for our young people.  I was looking forward to literature that was uplifting, positive and most importantly, that which helped teach the character traits that we so desperately need to be teaching.  The three books I reviewed are entitled Soldier Fritz, Young Robin Hood, and Down the Snow Stairs

My Thoughts on Soldier Fritz by Emma Leslie

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This book is wonderful historical/church fiction.  In fact, I learned quite a bit about this period in history.  Fritz, a young man, wants to follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther, and be a soldier for the Lord. He chooses a bible from from the peddler’s pack for his birthday gift.  Fritz and his mother (the countess) take a powerful stand  against organized religion.  I found it be an interesting read and would love to someday try it out on my boys. A synopsis and ordering information for Soldier Fritz can be found here.

Young Robin Hood by George Manville Fenn

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This is a cute story for younger readers about a boy named Robin who gets lost in the forest.  He is taken in by Robin Hood, Little John, and Maid Marian.  What I liked most about this book was the moral: that man should be judged by behavior and how he treats others.  It also encourages the traits of kindness, hospitality and forgiveness.  What wonderful morals to instill in our kids!   Click here for a more detailed synopsis and ordering information.

Down the Snow Stairs by Alice Corkran

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In this allegory, young Kitty struggles with being obedient.  Isn’t that a subject all kids can relate to? She travels to a dreamland where she learns what becomes of contentment, vanity and greed.  Overall, I thought this book had a great message.  I only wish the author would’ve left out words such as “stupid” and “idiot”…the message could’ve come across without using those words. Overall, a delightful adventure the whole family will enjoy. Click here for for a synopsis and ordering information.

My Overall Impression:

It’s evident that Salem Ridge Press has very high values and standards as a company. Their  desire  to be a trusted source for the kind of books parents can feel good about giving to their children, is invaluable in today’s world.  We need more companies like this and I applaud Daniel and his mission.

Because these books were written so long ago, you might find the language to be difficult for children.   To me, this makes for a perfect read-aloud.  Take the time to discuss the language and unfamiliar words with your kids, and their world will be expanded because of it.  As a former 6th grade reading/language arts teacher, I can see a definite advantage in using these books.  After all, well-written books that teach godly content and morals are hard to come by. I believe so much can be taught through literature, and these books would be a wonderful resource for any family.

Click here to see what others have to say about Salem Ridge Press.

Disclaimer: Salem Ridge Press provided these materials free of charge in exchange for my honest review as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our Calendar Setup

I’ve given in. Anybody who knows me knows that I don’t believe in pushing formal education too early. However, this summer my 3 1/2 year old took an interest in days of the week and was asking questions related to “what day is today” and “what day is after Monday”, etc etc. It was hard for me to explain to him without a visual. Since we had a very busy summer, it was also difficult to explain to him how many days he had to wait for camping, vacation, and other fun things in his world.

So I gave in and set up a calendar in our sunroom.  Notice I’m a little behind on this post :-)

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I went out and got a bulletin board from Wal-Mart and the calendar came from Michael’s (40% coupon of course!)  The rest of the printables came from Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler. If you have little ones, you MUST check out her blog. You will spend hours devouring all of her free printables.

So basically we “do calendar” after breakfast as a way to start the day.  It’s nothing formal.  We discuss:

-the month and year (I still need to get the year up)

-the day of the month 
*to practice ordinal counting, we always count the days and then he tells me which number comes next.

-the day of the week
I always say “today is Monday, September 30th, 2010”
*we sing the days of the week song to the tune of the Munsters (click at the bottom for the words to this song)
 
-the season (see spinner above)

-the weather
*they go out on the front step to check the weather and tell me if it’s sunny, partly sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowy or windy. Then we find the card and someone puts it up. That is the printable with the rainbow on it. We then chart the weather on the graph and compare at the end of the month.

-Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
*we discuss the day that was yesterday, today and tomorrow. This part is a little beyond him so I don’t spend too much time on it.

-Links for patterning
*I got these learning links from Amazon and use them to make patterns on the calendar. This is awesome and I’m psyched that I won’t need to have 12 different sets of numbers. We’ll focus on the AB pattern for as many months as it takes, and then branch off from there. We do the same as the numbers, he goes through and tells me “green, yellow, green, yellow, green,yellow” until we get to today’s.

-Address, phone number and 911
*I just review with him our address, phone number and what number to call in an emergency.

So there you have it. At this point, it is just a way for me to introduce what’s going on that day. We also put special days on there to see what’s coming up in our lives. I’d say about 70% of it goes over his head, but that’s okay. I don’t push anything and figure it’s just a starting point.

We always end calendar with story time. It’s become a nice morning tradition to get us all going. And Garrett really seems to like doing it, which is the most important thing.

Click here for more pics from Erica’s blog and details about how to set up a calendar.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kool-Aid Playdoh

Today I tried a super easy new play-doh recipe and thought I’d share.  It doesn’t make a ton, so I would recommend making a double batch if you have more than 2 kids, or want to make multiple colors. Here is what you’ll need:

Ingredients:

-2 1/2 cups flour
-1/2 cup salt
-2 cups boiling water
-2 tbsp. vegetable oil
-2 packages kool-aid (any color)

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How to make:

Mix all dry ingredients together until blended
Add water and oil and stir
Knead with hands when mixture is cool
Divide dough in half
Knead on pack of Kool-Aid into one half, and the second pack in the second half. Store in airtight container.

I had tropical punch and lemon-lime flavors on hand, that just so happen to look like Christmas colors, but that wasn’t my intention! Also, I thought the dough was a little sticky so I added a bit more flour. 

Here they are rolling, mixing, cutting to their hearts content. This is Colin’s best “smile” :-)

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*Tip-2 year olds don’t understand “don’t mix the colors” so we ended up with one light greenish-red color.  Oh well!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday

I’m a day late with this post, but wanted to share a fun way to spice up a Monday. The concept is “Muffin Tin Monday” and although I can’t take credit for the idea, it’s a great one that my preschooler is very excited about. In fact, today he asked if he could have Muffin Tin Tuesday…so I know we’ll be doing this for awhile.

The idea is simple…you just serve lunch in a 6 cup muffin tin pan. Yes, you have to come up with 6 different things, but I’ve found it’s a great way to introduce new food that you just want your child to try a few bites of. There are some things I know he won’t eat, but I at least feel like I tried and exposed him to it. Here is what our muffin tins looked like last week.

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Now, I’m not saying this is the most nutritious meal, it’s more like what I had on hand. I had been forgetting to do it all summer and just remembered that day, so I just pulled some things together. You could theme the lunch any way you like…red food, food that starts with a certain letter, etc. This was our first go at it so it was just a hodgepodge of things thrown together. They LOVED it! Check out these faces!

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For more information and more creative ideas, check these links out.

Muffin Tin Moms
Another Lunch (this is star themed)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

“Playing” with Marshmallows

When I asked my 3 year old what he wanted to do the other day, his answer was “play with marshmallows”. That is the last thing I expected him to say, but luckily we had a half-stale bag on hand and here is what we did. Nothing extravagant but then again, that is what they usually think is the most fun anyway!

The first thing we did is just glue the marshmallows to paper. Simple, but good practice with making glue dots.

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Here is what my 2 year old was doing most of the time…that’s right, eating them!

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But he did make a few things and he was quite proud of himself.

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So if you have a day where you can’t think of anything to do, just  get out the marshmallows!

Friday, September 3, 2010

TOS Review: Time4Learning

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As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given the opportunity to review Time4Learning Preschool with my 3 1/2 year old son. Initially, I was a little apprehensive about doing this because up until now, he has had no exposure to the computer. I don’t think 3 year olds typically need loads of screen time, but after trying out this curriculum, I can see that there might be a place for it. Plus, it’s just plain FUN and he loved it!

About Time4Learning:

Time4Learning is a technology-based online educational program that teaches preschool to eighth grade curriculum using a combination of animated lessons, interactive activities and reinforcing worksheets.”

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Being that my son is only 3, we used part 1 of the 2 preschool components for 4 weeks. It was nice that the program figured my child’s level based on a simple quiz. Because the preschool pages are colorful and simple,  it only took my novice a few sessions to learn how to navigate and use the mouse. This pleasantly surprised me. The preschool pages have icons (such as letters, numbers, colors, garden, tools, etc) and the child just clicks on whatever interests them. From there, they are taken to a page where they have 4-5 activities related to that theme. Garrett’s favorites were the stories, concentration type games, and coloring. After a child completes all of the activities in that category, a red check mark appears so that the parent can easy check to see what they have done.

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Time 4 Learning is not just for preschoolers. It is a comprehensive on-line program for PK-8th with thousands of interactive lessons.

The Cost per month  is $19.95 for the first child, and $14.95 for each additional child. They offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

What I liked:

I really liked that it was simple for him to use. I also thought most of the “games” really reinforced what I was doing with him at home.  Anytime you can approach something in a fun, new light = success. Plus,  he loved it and asked to “do computer” every day. 

What I disliked:

There’s very little that I disliked in the preschool program. The only thing that would keep us from purchasing it is the cost. For our family, the price is not feasible.

If you’re looking for a fun and educational activity to add to your preschooler’s day, I would highly recommend Time4Learning!

You can see what others are saying about Time4Learning here!

Disclaimer: Time4Learning was provided free of charge for my review as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew. I received no other compensation, and this review is my honest opinion.