Friday, May 20, 2011

Baby Movement Poem

The following is a classic children's poem that lends itself to great fun adding movements that correspond to the words. Consider making a poster or sign with the words and adding this to your daily routine with poem and do the actions with baby in your arms!

You might also make a little card with a picture of a baby on one side and the words on the other. Baby can then hold the card and look at it while you read the poem!

The Baby's Dance
~Ann Taylor
Dance, little baby, dance up high,

Never mind baby, mother is by;

Crow and caper, caper and crow,

There little baby, there you go:

Up to the ceiling, down to the ground,

Backwards and forwards, round and round.

Then dance, little baby, and mother shall sing,

With the merry happy coral, ding, ding, a-ding, ding!

*toddlers and preschoolers might enjoy learning this poem to say to their baby dolls as they act out the corresponding movements!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

a spiritual one....

Yesterday I was stressing over something having to do with my kiddo. During my quiet time with God I was reading through a packet from a recent conference and came across the following excerpt from the book Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young.

Entrust your Loved Ones to ME; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands. If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one--as well as yourself. Remember the extreme measures I used with Abraham and Isaac. I took Isaac to the very point of death to free Abraham from son-worship. Both Abraham and Isaac suffered terribly because of the father's undisciplined emotions. I detest idolatry, even in the form of parental love.

When you release loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand. As you entrust others into My care, I am free to shower blessings on them. My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest. This same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in me. Watch to see what I will do.

Genesis 2: 9-12, Eph 3:20, Ex 33:14

This surely spoke to me. I bolded/italicized the portions I underlined on my paper as I read the passage....
I don't think there is a whole lot more to say....the passage pretty well covers this topic, but I wanted to post this because I think at this season of life I (and many of my friends) are in, it's very easy to forget God calls us to discipline our emotions and love Him most of all, and that ANYTHING we put before Him in our hearts is an idol--and I know I've put my child in front of Him when I let worry regarding that child overtake my trust in God.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Toilet paper flower stamping

To go along with our flower study, we decided to stamp some flowers today using toilet paper tubes.

1) cut a toilet paper tube in half
2) set out two colors of paint
3) dip tube in one color of paint and stamp center of flower
4) dip tube in other color and stamp circles around the center to form petals
5) tear a strip of green paper for a stem
6) cut or tear leaves to glue onto stem

We made flowers together, then we each made our own. Hers looked nothing like a flower, but I had to remind myself....PROCESS over PRODUCT. She loved pressing the tube down to make circles and it was great wrist control practice, as you have to hold your wrist just right to get the tube flat enough to print the whole circle. FABULOUS practice for soon-to-be writers!

This activity could have so many different would be adorable to do a big sheet of tissue or craft paper to turn into wrapping paper!!

We taped our finished flowers (after I cut them out) onto the playroom wall to make a pretty garden!!

Infants--you could hold their hand and help them make the prints.
Preschoolers--what else can they create with their circles? Caterpillars? Cats? Houses? Spaceships?
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Stamping Work

Stamping work is a wonderful fine motor skill that promotes wrist strength.

Q has a set of large foam shapes (practices shape vocabulary), and at a recent trip to Lakeshore I bought her a large stamp pad. She has really been enjoying stamping on paper!

Stamping also promotes responsibility, because I talk to Q about the need to put the lid on her stamp pad because if it dries out, she won't be able to use it anymore. She understands what this means because we had to (sadly to her) throw away some playdough because the lid didn't get put on all the way and it dried out. So Q is getting some practice in responsibility with taking care of her supplies!

Different sizes of stamps and stamp pads are available for different ages.

Infants enjoy using objects as stamps to stamp paint onto paper. Ie: dipping a toilet paper tube in paint and then pressing it onto paper.

Preschoolers can even make their own stamps by cutting foam shapes and gluing them onto large pieces of dowel rods (tutorial to come).
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Silly version of Itsy Bitsy Spider

Q has been enjoying changing the words of her favorite songs lately to say silly things...that may or may not make sense. This is her beginning to explore the relationships between words, word meanings, beginning sounds of words, and her ability as a writer to manipulate the order of words. All wonderful emergent literacy skills that show up in the preschool years.
We were singing silly made-up versions of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" in the car yesterday, so while she napped I decided to "record" our song using the flannelboard.

First I used felt to make the traditional pieces--water spout, rain, sun, spider.
Then the silly items:
Milk, juice, shampoo, soup

Click to see large sizes.
To make the pieces I just cut felt scraps and hot glued the pieces together.
The feltboard was one from my 1st grade classroom. You can easily make a feltboard by using spray adhesive, a sheet of felt and cardboard. Or you can just lay out a big piece of felt and that works fine, too!

"The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.
Down came the MILK and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun and dried up all the MILK
and the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again."

I used a textile marker to write the words on each item as Q is beginning to pay attention to print and the starting letters of words.

This activity can be adapted for all ages--babies would enjoy listening to the singing and watching you manipulate the felt pieces (and very soon begin to "help" you move the pieces)

Preschoolers can actually cut the flt and help make their own pieces for songs they want to write new verses for. For preschoolers you might consider writing out a large copy of the song they wrote to post next to the flannelboard--they can sing it and point to the words.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Teddy Bear Patterning

Our neighbors gave us a set of teddy bear counters that their kiddos had outgrown about a year ago. I have put them out at different times for Q to play with, to sort by color and to "count." I decided this week she is ready for some simple patterning (the roots of algebra, did ya know!!). I made some cards that have patterns on them--I just made circles in Word and filled them with different colors. You could do the same thing with a marker or crayon or dot sticker. Then I laminated them.
You can buy the actual teddy bear cards that have pics of the teddies in the different colors, but I didn't want to spend any money, and using plain circles means you can use the same cards for any type of manipulative.

Q's task is to match the bears to the colors. She will eventually begin to notice she is repeating a pattern! For now I just have her set the bears on and when she's finished we "read" the bears--"red, green, red, green...." This teaches her to read a pattern from left to right while pointing at each bear.

Later I may ask her to:
-keep on extending the pattern onto the carpet (past the card).....
-name the pattern using letters "A, B, A, B, A, B..."
-make her own pattern

Patterning is suck a vital early mathmatical skill and a fun one for kids to learn through play!

If you don't have bears use flat marbles, bread ties, colored pastas, buttons, spray-painted baby food caps, bottle caps (from milk, juices, etc.), or even cardstock cut into circles.
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Flower Shared Writing

Last week, to start our flower unit, Q and I completed a shared writing activity--a diagram of a flower. We each got a big piece of white paper and some markers. First I put a title on my paper. I read it to her and talked about the letters I was writing as I worked. "P is Papa's letter and it is also the letter for "parts."

Then we started drawing a flower. I had her watch me and then asked her to do it on her own paper. We drew petals, seeds, stem, flowers, and roots. She loved this activity and was very engaged!

We posted both up on the cabinet in the learning room. She loves using the froggy pointer (aka flyswatter) to point to the words in the title (she can point to each word as she says it) and also the parts of the flower. Sometimes I quiz her-- "Where are the roots?" or "What's this?" and sometimes she quizzes me!

This is a wonderful emergent reading and writing activity and is something that can be done on a very frequent basis with older toddlers and preschoolers!
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Dry Erase Writing

Recently at a friends' bday party Q went gaga over the dry erase board that was one of the activities to choose from at the party. So I turned around her easel to the dry erase side and put out a marker! She has lots of fun practicing her writing in a different method. Additionally, it is SO VALUABLE for toddlers and preschoolers to practice writing on something upright because it really works the muscles in their wrists and forearms and even shoulders. Refining their motor control in these muscles will help them when they are forming precise lines and curves needed to make numbers and letters later on.

Using a dry erase board is also great for supervised infants--ie: an infant set in Mom's lap or with Mom (or dad or whomever, of course) standing behind them at the board. Dry erase markers are very easy to mark with (if they are new and not dried out), and don't require as much "push" as crayons and pencils need to make their mark. Obviously dry erase marker is not safe to eat and it isn't washable, so infants need to be supervised, but they can have writing times as well! Draw people, trace their hands, dry letters, or even shapes!

Preschoolers love playing pictionary on a dry erase board!

In my classroom I have sometimes attached the dry erase marker and eraser to the board with a string so they don't "wander" too far from home. :)
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Apple Matching Work

This activity came from my first grade files. That's why it looks a little old and is! :)

To make this work I stamped apples randomly on a piece of paper. This is the paper that had the least amount of stamps on it, so I chose it for Q to start working with first. For my 1st graders I had different sheets with different numbers of stamps (and different types of stamps....some have cats, some have turtles, etc.).

The task is to put one manipulative on each stamp. I had a different manipulative that went with each paper--buttons, unifix cubes, pennies, beans, pastas, etc.

For my first graders, after they put one manipulative on each stamp, they would then remove them one at a time and count the number of stamps.

For Q, the task right now is just to cover each stamp with an "apple." She is learning one-to-one correspondance and the very earliest fundamentals of counting--real counting--not rote memorization, but what it really means to count a quantity.
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Puzzle work

Q got this geometric shape set for Christmas and I just put it out this week. She is loving it! Each board (it comes with many but I only put out 2 for now) has different pictures with spaces for filling in the missing shapes (of which I only put out a few---not all). She is really doing well manipulating the pieces--turning them to make them fit. I often have to remind her her--we sing, "turn it, turn it, turn it, turn it, turn it till it fits!" to the jeopardy tune.

I name the pieces she doesn't yet know for her as she works with them (rectangle and oval) and ask her the names of the shapes she does know!

The pieces can later be used for building freeform designs when she gets a little older!

shape awareness, visual discrimination, spatial awareness, one-to-one correspondance, vocabulary, fine motor
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Fruity transfer

These little water-filled plastic ice cubes are fun....but I never remember to use them for their real purpose. So I decided to incorporate them into some work this month. There are 12 cubes out and Q can use the tongs to transfer one to each compartment in the egg carton.
Fine motor, one-to-one correspondance, sorting, counting, and practical life.
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At a friends' house a few weeks ago Q had a blast playing with a candle arrangement that had rocks all around it. Taking her lead, I decided to put out some rocks for her to explore. These were from a science kit I had when teaching 1st grade, but could be purchased at a craft store, or even good ole rocks found outside would work well, too! She loves to grab a handful and feel them pouring out of her hand, put them in things (tea cups, bowls, etc.), shake them, set them up in rows, and just expore them! In the meantime she is learning properties of matter, properties of rocks, fine motor skills, counting skills....

Infants can be given rocks large enough so they don't choke. If they're clean rocks it won't even hurt them to mouth them (once again, as long as they are big enough not to fit in their mouth!)
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Flower Planting

We are casually studying flowers in our learning room this month. Here is Q's favorite activity right now--flower planting.

I had Matt make this shredded brown paper last year for her to use in her sensory area just for digging and touching. This year I repurposed it! Her job is to fill the two little pots with "dirt," choose one of the plant tags to stick into the dirt and them add the flowers. She loves perusing the plant tags and choosing the one she wants.

This is a sometimes messy activity, as that shredded paper seems to multiply on the floor, but our dustbuster sucks it up marveously!

This activity encourages following multi-step procedures, practical life, fine motor, sensory awareness, and science skills.

Infants and younger toddlers can be given a tub of the shredded paper to dig in (with hands or a shovel), can be encouraged to fill a large pail with the paper, or even to transfer from one container to another (under adult supervision, of course).
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Birds in Our Yard

We've been casually "studying" the birds in our back yard. I decided to make a simple activity to go along with them. Our fridge was the perfect spot! The title says, "Birds in Our Yard." I included a title to begin teaching Q simple graphing skills--the first of which is that the title tells what the graph will be about. Then I used metal clips and put the name of each bird on a clip (typed them, printed them, mounted them on scrapbook paper, laminated them). I put 4 round magnets on the fridge and the metal clips stick to the magnets. Then I found pictures of our birds (most came from a set of greeting cards I already had, but a few I printed off the internet.) There are red-headed woodpeckers, bluejays, mockingbirds, and cardinals. There are a couple of each type of bird. Q can take them all off, sort them by type and clip them back up again! She just needs a little of my help to read the names of the birds!
This encourages sorting, classification, visual discrimination, nature skills, prereading skills, and graphing skills.
Daddy's also been reading her a little tiny bird book before bed that names several more birds that we don't have in our yard....but I got a hummer feeder for mother's day, so we may be adding hummers to our fridge soon!

The same thing could be done with butterflies, insects, mammals, etc.
For infants, you could just provide a basket of the laminated cards in a more general fashion--squirrel, bird, butterfly, spider, worm, etc., naming living things you have in your yard.
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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Stencil Work

Stencils are great emergent-writing tools for children learning the features of print. They help encourage pencil control, promote the forms used in print (straight lines, diagonal lines, arcs, etc.) and let children make actual forms in a controlled fashion.
This stencil has large, simple shapes--a good place to start. Some stencils can be difficult for young children because of small areas that make it hard to fit the pencil. I like to begin with large shapes, especially circles and squares.
I tied a pen (easier to begin with than a pencil) to a clipboard--this helps keep children from marking on other surfaces. The clipboard holds the stencil in place so the child can focus on tracing the inside of the stencil.

Another modification to this is tracing work--where you make a stencil by cutting out a shape and the child traces the OUTSIDE of the figure. It's good to provide practice with both types of stencils, and using a clipboard for a "stencil holder" while the child traces is a great tool!
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Recommended Easter Book

We checked this book out from Q's school library and really loved it for the Easter season. It tells about Jesus's birth, life, death and resurrection in simple terms perfect for a toddler with great illustrations. Q really enjoyed this book, it kept her attention and she learned several things about Jesus from it!
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Tie Die Tablecloth

One day we were using watercolor paint and Q said she wanted to make a tablecloth for her babies. Great idea! We went upstairs and found a small piece of white muslin. She painted it up so pretty, we hung it on the clothesline to dry, and when it was finished it was PERFECT for decorating her little table! Loved this project, and most of all that it was her idea!

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Candle Holders

Candles and candleholders are a traditional Montessori activity. There are many different things that can be done--first simply placing the candlesticks in the holders. Great one-to-one correspondance, fine motor practice and practical life. This is great for older infants and toddlers (as long as they won't eat the candles).
Candles can also be used in dramatic play to place on tables during pretend mealtime.
Preschoolers can polish candlesticks with silver polish and a small cloth (they LOVE this!!).

Candlesticks and candleholders can also be added to the table-setting routine at family meals! They add such a nice ambiance. :)
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Cutting Work--one snip strips

My toddler is past the first couple stages of cutting (tearing and random cuts into paper) and ready for some organized cutting activities. I made some "ladders" in Microsoft word (using the "table" feature) and printed them on pink paper for her to cut. The length of each rung is short enough that she can snip it in one open-close motion (one snip).

To modify--make longer "two snip" strips and even "three snip" strips.
Make wavy lines. Make diagonal lines.

This encourages fine motor skills, scissor holding (remember that we always give a "thumbs up" when we cut and keep our thumb facing up), scissor safety, and wrist/finger control.

Once strips are snipped they can be glued into a collage!
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Monday, May 2, 2011

Infant Mealtime Basics

Much of these procedures come from the Montessori philosophy are used in Montessori infant and toddler classrooms.

When babies start eating solids (cereal, purees, fingerfoods, etc.), they are offered water at each feeding in a cup just their size. We liked these small plastic shot glasses. I bought them at Ross and they were the perfect size for Q's little hands to reach around, and I also liked that she could see through them so she could see the level of the water change (an important science and math skill--basic measurement!). I bought the little pitcher in the coffee department at Sur La Table (it's for espresso).

Initially at about 5-6 months we would put a very small amount of water in the cup. We signed and said, "Water," and held it up to Q's lips so she could take a drink. Eventually she started reaching for the cup, and at this point we knew she was ready to "drink" herself. We always put a very small amount of water in the cup because of course she was going to spill it or dump it on her highchair tray or the floor. We kept the pitcher close to refill (always signing and saying "more") when the cup was empty.

I also kept a small washrag close (the pile pictured above looks a little ragged from all the Quinny meals they survived!) and if she did spill water, I placed her hand on the washrag and let her help me "clean up!"

We only put water in the small cups until around a year when we also offered milk. Just using water initially helps to not confuse babies who may be doing some initial introductions to water, and later around a year when they are discovering whole milk. As a general rule at mealtimes we ONLY used small cups--no sippy cups at mealtime. Milk was given in a bottle and later in a sippy cup if it was used (either before or after the meal.)

Using a cup and being able to drink with very minimal spilling is a 1 year milestone. Obviously it takes LOTS of practice to build up to this point! Drinking from a cup encourages body awareness, hand-eye coordination, balance and also promotes cause and effect relationships ("if I turn the cup upside down water spills out!"), and it fosters independence.

We also conducted mealtime (at home) with Q only in her diaper (this is a Montessori procedure as well). This enabled Q to have immediate awareness anytime she dropped food or spilled water because it landed on her bare skin. Clothing and/or bibs prohibits the food/water from touching the child and often they don't even get the cause/effect relationship that they spilled something because they don't even notice.

After a year, Q could drink successfully with a cup. Some modifications we made were letting her pour water from the pitcher into her own cup (just make sure there isn't too much water in the pitcher to overflow the cup, because at this stage they don't know to stop pouring when the cup is full), using a larger cup, and also drinking milk from a cup. Now at 2 years Q only drinks from regular cups (except her water bottle in the car) and at meals uses even glass cups (glasses) successfully.

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