Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall Decos

A fall project for our dining room window.....

I used a very large, blunt metal needle (they also make them in plastic) and some embroidery floss.

Quinn and I collected a basket of leaves we liked. We strung them on the string, putting a large wooden bead between each leaf. The beads I used were fall colors--natural wood, red, orange, yellow and a darker wood.

A perfect toddler project that looks great in our dining room.

Every time she sees it, Q says, "Quinn and Mommy MADE!"
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Fall Learning Room

Here's what is going on in our learning room this fall....

Scarecrows on sticks and a big feather we found while camping, a pumpkin can filled with fabric blackbirds for playing and counting and examining body parts of a bird,
a cornucopia filled with nuts we've found outdoors, some real pumpkins and gourds from a farmer's market, some dried Indian corn in various sizes and colors.
All her Halloween cards from this year and past years on her bulletin board, a bowl of play pears, her branch all decked out for fall with leaves (artificial AND real ones we picked up on walks) and a black crow, some fall flowers on the dolly highchair, a black cat, spider puppet, stuffed pumpkin, and flannel board with fall pieces, and a basket of fall clings for the window.
Fall is my favorite, and I love to see all the parts of our house decked out in leaves and corn and pumpkins!!
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just Buttons....

Don't overlook the power of simple learning materials you have around the house.

An egg carton and 12 buttons can provide fun and learning experiences for infants through preschoolers!

Infants--use large buttons that they won't choke on--or if you only have smaller buttons, string them onto yarn/string, tie a solid knot and let your babe slide them, dangle them, shake them, suck on them, all the while learning about color, texture, size, shape, and sound.

Toddlers and Preschoolers are ready for smaller buttons to encourage their pincer grasp.

Try to vary the texture, weight, material, color and shape of the buttons you provide.

Toddlers can practice one-to-one correspondance by putting one button in each egg cup. Preschoolers can sort by various categories--size, shape, color, number of holes (1, 2, 4), etc.

With a blunt needle the buttons can be strung on some yarn or embroidery floss, unstrung, and done again and again.
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Simple "cooking"

Here's a snack my preschoolers love to make ALL BY THEMSELVES. Best part--you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen already!

They will most likely be able to do all these steps themselves (or with a little help the first few times):
-cut a banana in half.
-peel one half.
-spread peanut butter on a graham cracker
-slice the banana and press the slices into the peanut butter

We made this snack with our B unit--Banana Buttons!

Fine motor practice, math skills as the banana is cut (fractions), practical life......
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What's in our playroom right now....

We are all about being enveloped in all things fall! Well, me, really, and I let it rub off on my little one. :)
To get into the rhythm of the fall season and the harvest, we've been bringing finds from our nature walks into our play. Our playroom table holds a wicker corn-a-copia filled with pecans and other nuts we've harvested (some from our camping trip!!). Dried corn in a basket is fun to carry around and feed to our baby dolls. We sort acorns, pecans and pinecones into their respective baskets.
Through play, my little one is absorbing the essence of fall through her five senses. She knows to smell the green pecans because they smell stringer. She shakes her corn-a-copia to hear the soft tinkle of the nuts. And of course we are learning the properties of there are pecans CONSTANTLY rolling across our playroom floor.

We use the materials for pretend "food" in our little kitchen, we bring some into our artwork, and we use them to make decorations for our dining room.
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Infant Silk Cuddle Doll

Recently ran into THIS great tutorial (borrowed their photo as well!) for a silk cuddle doll. I have several friends with new babies so I knew I had to post a link for them! Love the simplicity of this first toy, and also know the silkiness is SOOO appealing to little ones! Many of the baby toys out there are WAY too detailed and over stimulating for little ones who are fascinated by something as simple as their hand or the leaves on a tree. I also love that this doll could be repurposed from some old jammies or a silk scarf you're no longer using.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Eyedropper Art

Super FUN fine motor practice and art project:

Thin a big of washable paint with water.
Use eyedroppers (available at pharmacies or use the one that came with your baby tylenor) to drop the paint onto paper. We used this at school during our 5 senses unit to paint eyeballs! Fun!!!!

Also, you can thin watercolor paints and drop the paint onto papertowels or coffee filters for more of a washed-out look.

This is fabulous practice in developing those finger muscles!
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Feed your Lil Peanut some...peanuts!

Did you know snack time can also encourage fine motor development and problem solving skills? Just offer your child (who isn't allergic, of course) some peanuts in the shells, still. For my 2 year old I give the peanut an initial crack, as she isn't yet ready to do this on her own with her limited finger strength. From there she picks off the rest of the shell and figures out how to get the little nut out! This also encourages sorting--nut from shell, and counting, as peanuts can have 1, 2, 3 or more nuts inside them!

Older children might enjoy sunflowers.

Preschoolers love using a nutcracker on any nuts still in the shell. We did this activity with 4 year olds at a montessori preschool where I taught and they were so independent with it! We were amazed! We offered mixed nuts and they began sorting and grouping the nuts by variety all on their own.

This activity also offers many practical life experiences--sweeping up peanut shell crumbs from the floor, dumping the shell into the trash carefully, etc.

Fall is a great time for snacking on nuts as they are widely available in the produce department.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Stickers are fabulous for encouraging fine motor skills in toddlers and preschoolers. They have to exercise some problem-solving to figure out how to get the sticker off the page and then use a pincer grasp to pull it off (promoting good pencil control when they become a writer). I save address labels or stickers that come in junk mail. I also pulled out some stickers leftover in my teaching box, but when they run out I will buy some more because I love Q working with them!

For young children (toddlers), stickers with an even border is best--those colored circles often used for garage sale stickers, address labels--any sticker that is somewhat large and uniform.

For preschoolers with better motor control, alphabet and number stickers are fabulous! The child has to work carefully to remove the sticker without tearing off a letter's leg or teaches them properties of letters (some letters have tails, some have lines, etc.) and familiarizes them with the visual forms of letters/numbers.

Children that recognize their letters can make words or match sticker letters with written letters.

And stickers for babies? They are called post-it notes! Babies that are sitting up (and actively supervised, of course) love tearing sticky notes off the pad or even try sticking them onto a wall and letting them pull them off.

I like to use sentence strips (pictured above in orange) for sticker activities. It encourages the child to place the stickers in a somewhat linear fashion that lends itself to counting, and I also encourage Q to work from left to right with the stickers on the sentence strip (print awareness).

Plus--it's fun!!

I also keep some in my purse for emergencies when I need to keep Q entertained! Stickers can turn into all sorts of fun in a pinch!
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Brrrr! at Bathtime

Spotting all of Quinn's little plastic creepy-crawlies around the house reminded me of this great activity. I used it to bribe the two little boys I nannied for in college to take a bath at least once a week back in the I figured it was time to introduce it to Quinn.

You can use either a dab of paint or food coloring to make the ice colored. I just add the color (paint) and try not to mix it around too much when I top it off with water so the ice has a splotchy coloring.

It melts in about 2 minutes, releasing the bugs or toy cars or whatever you hide inside.

Great opportunity to talk about the change from a solid to a liquid, to introduce vocabulary such as "melting" and "frozen." It's also a wonderful science lesson just to let the kids enjoy for the fun that it is!

For the record, Quinn was not at all interested in the ice when I put it in the bath. She instead wanted to wash her Papa's duck decoy she keeps in the bath. She's a stinker, this girl of mine. :) Of course we'll repeat soon and see if it peaks her interest.
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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kick Bells

These huge jingle bells came from Hobby Lobby. Our infant teacher put a metal ring through some of them (big enough an infants hand could fit through it to be worn on the wrist or grasped by a baby hand) and then elastic on some of the others. Older babies (5 months and up) can use the ringed bells for grasping, hand-to- hand transfering of objects, cause and effect (when I shake it, it makes noise!), mouth exploration, and music time (shaking along to music).
For younger babies who aren't holding objects yet (under 5 months), the elastic bells can be placed around the baby's foot while baby is lying on his back. As he kicks his feet, the bell will make noise.
My silly toddler loved playing with them, too. She liked shaking them while she sang. Toddlers can use them to participate in songs, they can place them on various body parts ("Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake your bell! Put it on your______________.")

Bells are a must-have baby toy for all ages. Even newborns can work with bells. Mommy or Daddy can gently shake the bell and encourage baby to begin to focus their eyes on the source of the sound. At 2ish months the bell can be taken from baby's far left side (baby is lying on his back) in an arc over his head and down to the right side, encouraging baby to track the bell with his eyes. Gentle shaking of the bell may be pleasurable and cause the baby to kick and wave his arms and coo for more!

This is a simple toy that can last for a long time!!! Cheap, easy to make and highly recommended by me and all the babies I've worked with.
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Baby Beads

Our infant teacher came up with the great idea of hanging different lengths of mardi gras beads on her door. I took this photo before she had a chance to cut the loop in the bottom (to reduce the choking hazard). These are great for sensory awareness--the children love running their hands down the lengths of the beads. They also make a wonderful sound when they hit against the door as it opens and shuts. The beads allow opportunities for vocabulary experiences including words such as longer, shorter, and color words.

Quinn LOVED these beads as a baby (still does, as you can see from the top photo!) and if I have another baby, I want to remember this and hang some beads in a spot in my house. Thinking maybe near a stool where diaper changes are done or in some area of the house where baby needs to stay busy (for us it would be my laundry room!) Obviously baby would need to be supervised around these.....

I am also thinking these could be fun to hang on a part of the highchair or even the handle of an infant carrier car seat--could let baby have some fun on a car ride!

We had these beads all over the house and I know I never bought any of them, they just seem to appear, so I am considering them a free material. :)
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The smaller the pencil the better!

The best writing instruments for young children are the smallest ones you can get. Really short pencils and crayons force the child to hold it with a pincer grasp and not a fist grasp. In our classroom we love these little Pipsqueak colored pencils. They are chubby but really short and encourage a good writing grasp. I love once we've sharpened them down to just little nubs, because then they really require our lil ones to hold them correctly! Plus our kids love the fun size and color! Teach your kiddo how to use the enclosed pencil sharpener--it's great fine motor that promotes wrist strength!

These can be bought at Walmart. For toddlers I would just put out 3-4 pencils at a time to not overwhelm them with too many color choices (and to make cleaning up managable for a young artist).

We also break our crayons into smaller pieces--3rds, usually, to also encourage pincer grasps.
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Repurposing jars for tablework!

Save empty jars and containers for your child to use for the practical life area. I try to include jars of different sizes and different opening styles (screw on, snap on, etc.) You can leave some of the labels on the jars if you want--makes for great environmental print encounters! See if your child can find their letter on any of the jars!!
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Tonging Pom Poms

Toddlers and preschoolers love using tongs and they provide fabulous fine motor development. Tongs prepare children to master the movements necessary for both scissoring (open, close) and pencil control.

We teach our kiddos to verbalize "open" and "close" as they work with the tongs.

A great starter activity is to use really big pompoms and large, but easy to squeeze tongs. I get all mine at the Salvation Army. (tongs, that is...)

Always encourage your child to work from left to write, the way that print runs, to train their brain to work that way. (prereading skill)

Your child may need a little hand-over-hand guidance initially, but they will soon be moving poms like a pro! You can then move on to smaller pom poms (or cotton balls). Fluffy objects are easier to tong because they squeeze a little big (they have some 'give' to them) and you can easily catch any part of the pom with the tongs. Hard objects (such as marbles, rocks, buttons, etc.) are a little more difficult to tong because you have to get a better hold on them to pick them up and maintain an even squeeze to keep them in the tongs but not shooting out from too much pressure.

You can also turn this into a color practice or a counting activity!
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