Friday, August 31, 2012

Books on CD

We are enjoying the Candlewick Press READ, LISTEN, and WONDER series a crazy bunch!  You can, of course, purchase it, but we've been checking out the different titles from the library.  I am noticing there are some titles that are not shown in this above photo (via amazon) that we've also checked out, so there are more out there. 

We don't do any television/dvds/movies with our kiddos at this point, not even on car rides, so we've had to get creative to keep Quinn entertained on long drives.  Books on cd work perfectly!  She loves them so much that she also listens to them on her bedroom cd player as she falls asleep and even in the car on shorter trips--as the cd's are pretty short. 

I particularly love this series because they are primarily non-fiction.  Traditionally most books on cd are fiction, so this is a nice change.  It's important to expose young children to good quality non-fiction so they begin to learn its features, and these are a very good quality example!

Listening to the cds repeatedly builds comprehension and fluency.  Also the vocabulary in the stories is exceptional--lots of scientific vocabulary.  I have heard Quinn internalizing and using many of these words in her everyday conversations after she's learned them in the stories after hearing them read dozens of times.  Remember that children can comprehend something much more difficult if they hear it auditorily--even things they might not be able read/write/or say themselves.  This is a great reason to use books on cd with kids.  They also build concentration, understanding of plot elements, and are just plain enjoyable!

We've also checked out the complete series of Curious George, as well as a smattering of other titles as we come across them at the library.  We own several fairy tale/folk tale sets as well.

I highly recommend using books on cd with older toddlers and preschoolers...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ocean Songs and Fingerplays

Q and I worked last week on decorating our lyric cards for our ocean songs and fingerplays.  Beck is super into bees right now, as well, so we also included some Bee items.  I typed out the words and we glued those one one side of the card, and then Q and I worked together to illustrate the other side.  I then laminated the cards.  Here is a picture of a few of them.  We keep them in a basket, ready to go for song/fingerplay time!  They are great because they provide emergent literacy experiences for Q--she can tell by the illustration what song is being represented.  And it reminds me of all the songs we can sing!  Otherwise I tend to freeze up when we sit down to sing and I can't think of anything relevant!  And Beck just enjoys throwing them out of their basket and onto the floor.  :)
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Ocean Watercoloring

After a bit of research and discussion about the colors of water in the ocean, we determined that there are blues, greens and purples.  So we got out our big watercolor set and taped off any colors that WEREN'T in the ocean (to keep us from forgetting and dipping into a color that isn't needed).  Then we set to work painting our ocean water.  We'll use this page folded in half to make a cover for an ocean book we are both writing. 
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Sensory Water Play

This was another sensory play with water--I put some water and a little bit of bubbles into a tray.  We added some fabric fish from another play set.  Beck enjoyed catching them and splashing, and I worked with Quinn on "wringing."  I showed her how to squish with one hand or to use two hands to wring the water out of the fish.  And of course both kids just enjoyed some swirling, splashing, wet play!
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Simple Baby Rattle

I was putting together a little gift to mail to a sweet 2-month-old friend of ours last week and took this picture.  This is a very simple rattle perfect for little ones just learning to hold and refine movement of their large muscles (arms).  It's made from a long wooden macreme noddle (bought at Hob Lob), 2 jingle bells and some embroidery floss.  I tied it super-securely, as it is definitely destined for some mouth visits! 

This rattle is a great first toy for babies because it isn't overstimulating--many rattles combine different textures, different "rattly objects" and different colors all in one rattle.  This is often too much sensory input for very young babies who are first learning to explore the world through their senses.

It can be lifted, moved, twisted, lightly shaken, and explored by a very young baby. 
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Sensory play

We've been doing some simple sensory play with water lately to go along with our ocean unit.  This particular day I made green ocean water.  We've been looking at ocean water in different photographs in books and talking about the different colors we see.  Q and I watercolored an ocean and used different colors of blues and greens (post to come soon!). 
A friend loaned us a set of small ocean animals, so we've been having fun catching them.  I had a small slotted spoon that came with one of Q's kitchen sets, and then I made another little net with a piece of wire and some tulle I robbed from Beck's birthday bow stash.  They have fun catching the animals and Beck likes to feel the water and splash. 
This is a very simple sensory activity and nice because I can leave it out and we can revisit it several times during the day.  Q can of course stay engaged for long periods of time, but Beck has a very short attention span and so we like to come back and explore throughout the day. 
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Lately I have begun putting out "invitations" to projects/activities/work that I think might interest Q.  For example she's been very motivated to cut things lately, so I made this simple cutting work and left it out next to her scissors on her writing table in the kitchen.  Other times I leave out a basket of blocks I know she enjoys but hasn't used in a while--she goes downstairs and plays a bit in the mornings before everyone else wakes up--so I left the blocks right at the end of the stairs where she'd be sure to see it.  When I came downstairs there was a lovely creation she'd made! 
When she was younger I used to do this same thing in her room.  I'd leave out a puzzle or books or other items I knew she'd be excited to see and work with when she awoke in the morning.  It gave me a few more minutes of sleep and her some great independent play time. 
These days I leave work on her art table, her writing table, playroom floor (perhaps a dress up outfit draped across the doll cradle where she'll be sure to see it) and she loves discovering something I've set out for her.
This is a gentle, inviting and simple way to help direct and motivate children to work on a particular project you know would be good for their current skill/development level.  Of course a nice presentation makes it all the more appealing, so I try to do that when I can!
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Ocean Shelf Work

A few plastic ocean animals put out at a time on a tray.  I have more to rotate over the course of our studies.  I will limit it to just a few at a time so my kids can really focus in on the ones put out.  We'll talk casually about their names, facts we've learned through our reading, and Q and I may do a little research in our ocean reference books if the mood strikes us!

She has her own basket of "choking-sized" shells we keep up out of Baby Boy's reach.

These shells are larger and baby-proof.  I also borrowed these supercool ocean specimans for our unit!

3 board books for little man to peruse.  We also use them during circle time.  3 is a good, managable number for a little guy like him! Re-reading them builds fluency, comprehension and interest as he grows to know what will happen next and begins to anticipate the next pictures!
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Acts 5- Ananias and Sapphira Lesson

Today we started studying the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  We started by finding the New Testament, then Acts, then Acts 5 and reading the story.  I had prepared some simple cardboard figures for Ananias and Sapphira by cutting some thin coardboard into two half-ovals and folding the bottoms under so they'd stand up.  I am focusing on making our Bible lesson materials simple--to allow plenty of room for imagination and to put the focus on the scriptures and not the objects.  I also used a piece of brown felt for the field, and two elements already in our Bible study basket--a cork (for the man selling the field) and coins (from earlier stories).  I love being able to double up uses on items so our basket stays managable.  Also teaches Q to think outside the box and find multiple uses for objects (and stretches her imagination--in an earlier lesson the cork was it's a person!). 

So here comes the man (cork) to buy the field. 

He gives them the coins.

They keep some of the coins back (we hid them).

Ananias goes to Peter and tells him it's all the money from the field.  Peter has a conversation with Ananias that he's lied and let Satan in his heart.  I loved coming across this phrasing because that's exactly what we say to Quinn when we explain sin/sinful actions--that they happen when we choose to let Satan in our hearts.  Then Ananias dies, of course, which doesn't shock my fairy-tale-lovin' daughter one bit.....

Then Sapphira comes and repeats the process.

Here they are "dead."

We had a lengthy discussion about the fact that God doesn't really want our money or our things--we wants us to love Him more than our stuff.  We talked about certain instances we've loved our money/stuff more (we had a specific incident involving Q to reflect on today) and we prayed together telling God we were sorry for the times we love our stuff more.  She had brought up earlier "But I really LOVE my ice cream cone bubbles and that's why I don't want to give them to God."  So we also asked the Holy Spirit to spur our hearts to love our stuff less and God more.  Yikes, weighty lesson for Mommies, too.  We'll see what types of discussions come up the rest of the week as we continue to process through/act out the story......
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Beach Theme

We've started back into our school rhythm....which means we eat breakfast (in no hurry), clean up (Q is in charge of spraying/wiping table and chairs and vacuuming up the dust piles after I sweep), and then the "baby lesson."  That involves some songs and music, a read-aloud in the reading tent and then some type of activity if time allows and he is still interested.

We will do a beach trip for Quinn's birthday, so I decided we'll focus on beachy-ness for a few weeks leading up to that.  Yesterday I scoured my bookshelves for beachy books and put them out in the playroom.  I put a couple non-fiction "referency-type" books on our expanding shelf we keep on our kitchen table for our reference library.  Next week we'll do a library trip to check out a few more titles, but I want to start slow and take our time soaking up our learning! 

Today we read a board book about beach animals.  Then we fingerpainted an ocean.  We used two colors of blue paint.  Fingerpaint is a great art medium because it's a hit with any age!  Even older kiddos love it, and it's pretty low maintnance to set up/clean up--just wipe up paint! 

Sidenote, little man painted for all of 2 minutes before signing "all done" and trying to crawl away.  This could be frustrating, but I am remembering that this early "art training" will pay off down the road, as evidenced by Quinn at 3 years of age.  So I will hang in there with the super-fast art experiences, I'll encourage him to try some new things (today I showed him how to "pat-pat" on the paper with his painty hand) to get him to stay with the activity just a little longer, and I'll remember that early art experiences are about the process and not the product.  He learned quite a bit, even in 2 short minutes, about the process of painting and concepts of paint and color.  And definitely how it tastes! 

After little man got a sinkbath and went down for morning nap, Q and I added sea creatures to her paper.  She chose animals, asked me to draw them, and then she cut them out (she only wanted to draw their eyes today) and we glued them onto her ocean.  Then we labeled them (talking about the sounds in each word briefly) and she wrote the word Ocean by watching me write it.  We put our titles next to our finished artwork on our little clothesline in the window of the breakfast nook for all to see!  More ocean exploration planned tomorrow. 
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Acts 8: 26-40 Bible Lesson

We skipped ahead a little bit (we'll go back and catch a couple intermediary stories the next two weeks) to the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian man.  As always we find the story in the Children's Bible and read it to start off our week.  Then we use hands-on objects to connect to the story.

For this story we use a play horse and a trailer "cart" we rounded up in our toys.  We also happened to have a peg man with black skin that works out perfect.  Quinn has a cousin and a soon-to-be-adopted good friend that are both from Ethiopia, so this lesson was immediately one of her favorites.  We also made a Phillip.  We have an angel somewhere we've been looking for (from our nativity set I made) and until it turns up we're just pretending an angel is there.  We act out the story with the objects.  I made a little scroll with Isaiah 53:5-7 on it that we unroll for the man to read, and we talk about what this passage means and that it is about Jesus. 

Then of course the best part is the baptism.  Quinn has even baptized the horse.  :)
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Art Desk

For her birthday last year Quinn's Mimi and Papa got her an art desk.  We decided on a children's table from Ikea--it has legs that can raise as she grows and when Beck gets bigger we can turn the table so it will fit two.  All of the other items are pretty much rounded up from around the house or people's trash.

The blue metal box with drawers was in Grandbob's garagesale pile a few years ago.  We ran the drawers through the dishwasher and I spraypainted the outside and now it houses little items for Q to work with--beads, google eyes, pompoms, etc.  It's great for organization as well as promoting the skill of sorting.  She knows how to put items back in the correct compartment based on the type of item. 

On top are some salt shakers someone gave us and I filled them with glitter.  Love the small holes that slows down the glitter exit.  Often the glitter containers have holes that are WAY to big for preschoolers. 

The color wheel is a piece of wood I cut into a circle and we mixed/painted the colors earlier in the year when we were studying color theory.  We keep it there for reference. 

On the way are a couple pieces (my faves) of artwork she's made.  I plan to add more in time. 

There is a wooden box (great find at the sal army) that holds scissors, paintbrushes, glue, etc.  Next to that is a metal can that holds dirty brushes.  When it gets full we soak them in the sink and wash them up.  Nex to that is her marker block.  And look at her breaking a rule and painting on the bare table.....tsk, tsk, tsk. 

Under the table is a rug I got for $5 at a garage sale.  I love it because I don't care about spills that way.  If she does spill on the rug she still cleans up her mess  (with my help) as part of the art process is knowing how to clean up materials!

This shelf came out of someone's trash pile.  It's from Ikea and perfect for holding her materials.  Mimi bought her a wooden lazy susan that spins and several glass jars.  The jars hold gluesticks, markers, colored pencils, crayons, etc.  In the middle is a metal bucket of glitterglues--her favorite medium.  Also her own tape dispenser.  Next to that is a paper tray that holds paper for her to use.  I just put out a few choices at a time, otherwise they get strewn all over the places when she is making her color choice.  I also often put scraps in there for her to work with. 

On the shelves are different baskets/trays that offer choices of work.  I trade these out just like I do all her other work in the house.  Out right now are:
-some foam letters that can be glued (backwards) onto a popsicle stick and pressed into ink to make word stamps
-some rolling pin-type painters and paint
-chalk (she loves wet-on-wet wth chalk--dipping it in water)
-beads and pipecleaners to make bracelets
-stencils, pens and paper for tracing
-the collage basket--this is the most popular spot.  Basically I put any little scraps of string, yarn, ribbon, fabric, scrapbook paper, etc., in here and she uses them to glue into collages.  She LOVES anytime I give her new pieces!
-dot stampers

And these are two shoe racks also from a garage sale.  They serve as the drying rack for all her work.  On top of this shelf is a roll of paper towels (can't see in this pic) and a roll of big paper.  Also on the shelf is a box of wipes for cleaning the table when she's finished. 

The rules of the art table are:
-wear an art smock when working
-paint and glue on an art tray
-clean up after yourself
-all art needs to be done on the table

I spent many years teaching her the processes of different materials--how to use crayons, markers, paint, etc.  I always taught her step-by-step how to use each tool and never let her use items incorrectly or unsupervised, as I didn't want her to learn to misuse the tools.  This doesn't mean that when she was little I didn't let her explore with the tools, it just meant I worked hard to teach her correct uses.  For example-
*crayons and markers only write on paper
*markers are for writing gently (not smashing)
*when you take the lid off a marker you put it onto the end of the marker
*when you put the lid back you listen for the click
*when you close a glue bottle you wipe the end off so it doesn't make a "glue booger"

Finally all of those lessons have paid off and she has become very independent in creating her own art as well as cleaning up/caring for her materials!

I love that she enjoys long stretches of creating--and that she is doing true art, for the most part.  We have a few "crafty" projects thrown in here and there, but on the whole what she does is explore artistic concepts as she works at her art area. 
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