Fun Friday: Jelly Bean Math, a Jan Brett Book Study and Animals in Our Backyard..Day 9 Activities

Today was FUN FRIDAY but before I explain the fun activities l wanted to share some age appropriate explanations about COVID-19. We had a virtual meeting with our Parents As Teacher home educator the other day and she sent us files of two age appropriate books to help young children better understand what is happening. One explains, in a child friendly way, what Contraviris is and the other offers young children support on why they are having school with their teachers from home. Click on the links below to read on line or print them out and make them into a book to read with your child.

What Is the Contravirus

My New Home School

Jelly Bean Math– My daughter really enjoyed doing math with jelly beans! We each got a baggie of jelly beans and used the free templates created by Simply Kinder on line to sort the jelly beans by color. Then we used the tally mark sheet and made tally marks next to each color indicating how many of each color we had. Our last step was creating a bar graph showing how many jelly beans of each color we had in our bag. We practiced math vocabulary by commenting on which color we had more or less of and which colors were equal. Since my daughter struggles with writing numbers I had her write the total number of each color on the sorting page. This was a great exercise in sorting, counting,  comparing numbers, number recognition and number writing and the best part was eating the jelly beans at the end! 

Holes in the Jelly Beans?– We cut out our jelly bean shapes and punched holes in the jelly beans by using a hole punch to punch the correct number of holes on each jelly bean. Then we strung them together and made a necklace. My daughter needs to work on hand strength and this activity suggested by her teacher really challenged her. Jan Brett– One of my favorite authors is Jan Brett so I pulled out all of my Jan Brett books and shared them with my daughter. We had read some of the books previously but some were new to her. After I took the picture I discovered even more Jan Brett books in my daughters closet! Her intricate illustrations are simply captivating and the fact that she loves animals and incorporates animals from around the world in her stories is one of the reasons why she is one of my favorite authors. Her creative spin on classic fairy tales is another reason why I love her so! In 1994 I had the privilege of meeting Jan Brett and her husband Joe (a double base player for the Boston Pops) at an early childhood conference in southern Illinois. This was decades before smart phones so I don’t think I got a picture of our meeting but she did sign and date one of my favorite books, Berlioz the Bear. My daughter’s favorite book is Comet’s Nine Lives and we adore the Gingerbread Baby books and of course her most famous book, The Mitten.  A family friend presented us with a copy of The Easter Egg a few years ago and my daughter has been requesting it be read every night now that we are nearing Easter. We went to Jan Brett’s website where we played games, watched a video of Jan reading one of her newest books (Cozy, a delightful story of a helpful musk ox from Alaska) and printed out some coloring pages of Hegie the Hedgehog. We also wrote her a letter and are anxiously anticipating a response. Backyard Animal Discovery– My daughter’s teacher shared the brilliant idea of watching for animals (in our backyard and on our daily walks) and graphing how many of each animal we found. We watched for ducks, cardinals, sparrows, robins, rabbits and squirrels and after printing out pictures of each animal my daughter helped me create a chart that we hung on the wall. We enjoyed looking out the window to see if another duck took a swim in the pond or if we could spot a robin on our daily walks around the neighborhood. My daughter loved adding tally marks on our graph and sharing the final count with her teacher. The activity was such a hit we are going to do it again next week!

Spreading SONshine Project– Yesterday was virtual sunglasses day at school and it reminded me to spread SONshine. So spread some SONshine this weekend by calling a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in awhile, mailing a letter or sending a text of encouragement to someone or posting an encouraging bible verse on social media. #spreadingSONshine project

Letter Writing, Hop Scotch, Engineering and Gary the Puppet.. Day 8 Activities

Today was hat day and we enjoyed searching the house for the wildest and.craziest hat to wear! We defiantly get the award for the biggest hat!

Calendar- We are keeping a daily calendar where my daughter draws a picture and writes something about our day. Chapel With Gary the Puppet– Our senior pastor and Gary the Puppet occasionally lead chapel at my daughter’s school. They recorded a special message and the huge smile on my daughter’s face was proof that their efforts were a huge success. Click Here to view the video. Letters to Loved Ones- Like her momma my little one loves to write. We have been writing letters everyday. Today she chose to write a letter to her teacher and to my parents. Through the letter writing she is learning how to address a letter, add a stamp and put the letter in the mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up. Building With Daddy- My husband and daughter created structures out of toothpicks and marshmallows. Daddy taught her how to build a strong foundation and they enjoyed building together.

Hop Scotch– Daily physical activity along with “brain breaks” are imperative for learning and growing. My daughter got this Melissa and Doug hopscotch set for her birthday and we have been using it as an option for our daily movement.

Today was a peak weather day. With the sun and warm temperatures we took advantage of this gift and played outside enjoying the SONshine!

Recyclable Art, Searching for Signs of Spring and Letting the SONshine In…Day 7 Activities

Today was crazy sock day. These virtual spirit days has been a wonderful way for us to feel connected to my daughter’s school. A personal FaceTime conversation with her teacher and a surprise book sent in the mail from a family friend made for a pretty perfect day!
Recyclable Art– My daughter asked if she could use this paper tube to make a butterfly for our neighborhood art walk. Without any direction from me she planned and created this work of art completely on her own! It was a reminder that sometimes the unplanned activities, led by our children, are the most successful! I encourage you and your family to make works of art out of recyclable materials you have lying around the house. Signs of Spring– After completing the Scholastic Learn From Home lesson on spring we took a walk around our neighborhood looking for signs of spring. My daughter recalled many of the things she learned from our on line reading and pointed them out as we walked. I documented the signs she found and tomorrow we will print out the pictures and make our own book.
Spreading SONshine Project- A few days ago I began the Spreading SONshine Project where I encouraged others to share the love of Jesus by drawing a sun with a cross and or sharing a bible verse on social media with #spreadingSONshineproject The movement hasn’t caught on but my dad, who is an artist, began drawing daily SONshine crosses. If you are interested in seeing more please follow Spreading SONahine Project on Facebook or Instagram. Connecting Virtually- We connected with my daughter’s teacher, Mrs. Stanglein, this morning via a FaceTime chat and after dinner had a Talley family meeting on Zoom. My daughter enjoyed seeing Maw Maw and Paw Paw Talley (who live nearby) along with my sister in law and her family who live in Georgia. As virtual meet ups become our norm, seeing familiar faces brings comfort. We also watched our church’s weekly Lenten service. Participating in our normal religious practices brought joy into our home. My daughter even fetched her church busy bag before we gathered around the TV for worship. Our music director, who is the best organist I know, played an amazing prelude and postlude. His playing inspired our daughter to pull out her cat keyboard and play along! Do we have a future organist among us? Click HERE to watch.
As the news indicates that isolation will be extended through April 24, I pray you and your family create some special memories together. Make a personal or a family goal to try something new. While practicing social distancing, reach out to friends and family you haven’t talked to in months or even years. And in the darkest of days, remember the SONshine.

The Weather, Shaving Cream, Trail Mix and Friends!…Day 6 Activities

Today was a good day. In fact it was a GREAT day! We have finally settled into a routine that included a lot of learning and fun! We begin each day with a family meeting where we go over our schedule. Creating a visual schedule for the early childhood age group is a must!

What is the Weather?– This week we began a weather chart. When I was a kindergarten teacher we sang about the weather every day and graphed the weather each week. Singing the weather song signals the beginning of our “school” day. And using weather cards (sunny, windy, rainy, snowy, foggy, rainy) builds vocabulary and graphing builds math skills.

Writing Letters to Friends– My daughter LOVES to write so we are incorporating some writing everyday. Today she wrote letters to her two best friends and a letter to Pete the Cat! She helped me address the letters, add the stamps and then we went outside and placed the letters in the mailbox. Receiving a response back will be exciting and something to look forward to. If you would like to write to Pete the Cat, here is his address…Crazy Hair Day– My daughter’s school is having a virtual spirit week and today was Crazy Hair Day! We read the books Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch and Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg . My little one decided she wanted to wear her hair in a side ponytail! Having a dress up week or day is a lot of fun!

Try Some Math With Your Trail Mix– We made our own trail mix for snack! The activity began with my daughter deciding what five ingredients she wanted to include. Then she scooped each ingredient into a bowl and we mixed it together. After she got her portion she sorted the individual pieces and we created a graph that showed how many pieces of each item she had. My daughter wrote the numbers and I realized she needs more practice on writing numbers as she was a bit unsure how some of the numbers were formed. We worked on the following math vocabulary by asking.. which had more, which had less and were there any that were equal?Friend, Friends, Friends– My daughter misses her friends terribly so I set up a Zoom play date with her two besties from school. The girls loved seeing and talking to each other and the virtual play date went on for an hour! One friend showed us her bunnies, my daughter shared some drawings and another friend showed us her favorite book.

We had a GREAT day but I know not every day will go as well as today. When I was a classroom teacher it was the same way so why would I think schooling from home would be any different?

A Science Lesson, Dances Around the World, Mary and Martha and Extra Snuggles… Surviving Day 5

Dances Around the World– My daughter’s dance studio, the Performing Arts Centre, put together virtual dance classes via Zoom. We had our first class today and for the preschool program they are using is Dances Around the World. Prior to class we were sent instructions on how to make props. Today’s lesson was on Italy and I helped my daughter create a plate of spaghetti, gold coins and a wishing well. She was also instructed to bring a stuffed dog to class. (and if you know my daughter that wasn’t a difficult request). The dancers used the props during class and my daughter had a blast! It was the happiest I have seen her in days. Dressed in her normal pink leotard, tights and ballet shoes, she took the class seriously and enthusiastically followed along with the instructor.

Scratch Garden– We watched an animated song about the sun by Scratch Garden. My daughter loved the song and requested to watch the animation several times. Scratch Garden has an extensive catalog of learning videos that teach the preschool set concepts through visuals. We will watch more Scratch Garden videos in the future.

Books, Books and More Books– After reading about the moon last week we learned about the sun. We began by reading the book Sun Up, Sun Down by Gail Gibbons. I found someone reading the book on YouTube. We read the book Wake Up, Sun! by David L. Harrison, a fun fictional selection about a group of farm animals who think the sun has forgotten to rise. This is a book I digitally checked out of our local library and we read it through Libby.

Sun Science– We used three different sized balls to represent the sun, Earth and the moon and daddy helped us act out how our Earth rotates around the sun while turning on its axis and how the moon orbits Earth while turning on its axis. Daddy was the sun and he stood still in the middle. It is a difficult concept for a five year old to fully grasp but the activity required movement and daddy enjoyed participating.

Sun Art– Our neighborhood is having a sunshine hunt tomorrow so we drew suns to put in our windows for neighbors to find. The idea inspired me to create the Spreading SONshine Project, a way to spread sunshine and Jesus’s love to others during this time of isolation. Spread the SONshine by drawing a sun with a cross and placing it in your window for neighbors to see. Or spread some SONshine by sharing a comforting bible verse via social media or email. Don’t forget to share #spreadingSONshineproject and follow the Spreading SONshine Project page on facebook and Instagram.

Mary and Martha and The Beginner’s Bible– Our church uses The Beginner’s Bible Curriculum for early childhood children. Go to The Beginner’s Bible website for free downloadable material. I also discovered there is an App and I can’t wait to get that for my daughter. We were sent the weekly lesson plan and did the lesson as a family. We read the following stories (“Mary and Martha,” “Lazarus Lives Again,” and “A Gift for Jesus”) in our daughter’s The Beginner’s Bible and after some discussion she colored the accompanying coloring page. Our amazing early childhood preschool director recorded herself reading the book Sit Down (Marty and Martha) by Mary Manz Simon and it fit perfectly with the Jesus Time we had planned for today.. Click here to listen to this engaging story. My daughter watched it three times and loved joining in on the repetitive parts.

Comfort Comes When We Connect… The Power of Technology During This Time of Uncertainty

The first few days of being isolated at home were fun; perhaps a bit of a novelty if you will. But over the weekend reality set in and this time of uncertainty and worry manifested itself into two sleepless nights for our preschooler. If your children are struggling with the changes we are currently facing please take comfort knowing you are not alone.

We turned to technology for comfort. How extremely fortunate we are to have it as technology helped us connect with grandparents, friends and our church family over the weekend. Our daughter was comforted after seeing the smiling faces of loved ones on FaceTime and basked in the familiar as we participated in our church’s Sunday worship service streaming through the TV. Watching her preschool teacher read a favorite book on Instagram made settling into bed a tad bit easier. Bedtime continued to be a struggle but she fell asleep quicker than the night before and I pray she stays in a sweet slumber for the rest of the night.

Worshiping at home with Zion Lutheran Church Harvester. Click Here to watch our church service. Pastor Rouland, our senior pastor, gave an age appropriate and comforting children’s’ message. Go to 21:00 to view his message.

Our use of technology as a way to connect with others will become our new normal when her dance studio holds a virtual class through Zoom and we video conference with our Parents As Teachers home educator and her speech therapist. A FaceTime chat with her preschool teacher and then a virtual play date with a classmate will round out our virtual social calendar.

After all of this is over I predict our relationships will be stronger and spending time with others in person is something we will no longer take for granted. I hope we continue to use technology as a way to connect with others and that we continue to use it to help those in need.

A FaceTime play date with a family friend and her cats.

Bows and Buttons, Buttons, Buttons… Day 4 Activities

We began day 4 with a bow and a smile! Today was supposed to be spirit day at school and a group of moms suggested we have a virtual school spirit day by dressing in school colors and sharing pictures online. Seeing familiar faces brought some normalcy to our day.
Buttons, Buttons, Buttons- We read the book The Button Box by Margarette S. Reid, a fabulous book about a boy who enjoys exploring a box of buttons with his grandmother. Although I had the book from my teaching days, you can find the book on YouTube. We got out a box of buttons hidden away in our art cabinet and after reading we sorted the buttons in various ways…by color, by size, by number of holes. We made some patterns with the buttons and then we did some math fact practice. If you have 3 blue buttons and 3 purple buttons how many do you have in all? Our button box contained a baseball button and a flower button. We had one shank button as well.

Puppy Pictures– Lillian’s preschool teacher communicates with us daily and yesterday she posted a picture of her three dogs: Dobby, Leo and Spartacus. My little dog lover requested to draw a picture of Mrs. Stanglein’s pups and then she wrote their names. Notice Dobby’s growling teeth and the speech bubbles with the word woof above each pup? (creative ideas from my girl) She wrote the word love without asking how the word was spelled and was extremely proud of her accomplishments.

Story Time– Technology continues to connect us to others. We enjoyed story time with Lillian’s teacher and with Santa Claus. Search for Santa Frank (our favorite local Santa) on Facebook and enjoy his daily story time.

Starfall-When I taught kindergarten sixteen years ago Starfall was a popular on-line program to share with my students. It continues to be a useful tool as it allows young children to practice the foundations of reading. If you contact Starfall via their website at they will send you a code to gain full access to their material for thirty days. No personal information is shared as they are donating their services for free during this time of isolation.

The Moon, Music and Muddy Puddles…Day 3 Activities

Today is day 3 and we continued our moon investigation, danced to some fun music and jumped in muddy puddles.

Moon Web– We began our third day by creating a web that documented everything we know about the moon. At first I wrote while my daughter dictated what to write but then she wanted to write and I helped her spell the words. She remembered a few facts from the books we read the day before and through prompting we were able to recall even more. Moon Dot to Dot, Cutting Practice and Drawing– Dot to dots are so good for preschoolers and I found a moon one. I also found lines to trace to help strengthen fine motor skills and a picture of the moon that Lillian drew a face on.

Phases of the Moon– We made a phases of the moon mini book and then made the phases of the moon with Oreo cookies. We didn’t have any chocolate Oreos in the house so we used vanilla and it worked just as well. Visit Science Bob’s website for more details and a template.
Finger Training Activity- My daughter struggles with holding a pencil properly so I am always on the lookout for new activities to strengthen these skills. Her teacher sent home this fun activity.

Dance Party- Laurie Berkner, one of our favorite musicians who sings kid music is doing daily live concerts through Facebook. She also read a book. Go to Laurie Berkner’s website and visit her on Facebook for more info. Muddy Puddles– In our effort to get outside everyday we took a walk around the neighborhood and jumped in muddy puddles!

The Moon, Virtual Learning and Fresh Air…Day 2 Activities

Each day I’m going to share some of the activities we engage in during the quarantine. While I took pride in the fact that day 1 lacked technology, day 2 was filled with it and I’m simply going to be ok with that. I chose the moon activities because my daughter loves Luna Girl, from the animated series PJ Masks, and I know how important it is to create projects on children’s interests.

Scholastic Learn at Home– We are going to do one of the Scholastic Learn at Home modules every day. The modules are broken into different grade levels with each one containing four activities based on a theme. We did one on the moon and it had two books about the moon (one fiction and one non-fiction), a sequencing activity, a fiction/non-fiction sort, a video about the moon and directions for the moon crater activity described below. There were also links to other age appropriate web sites on the topic.

Moon Craters– With a tray of flour acting as the moon’s surface we collected balls and marbles of various weights and sizes to create craters on the moon’s surface. We made predications about the size and circumstance of craters that would be formed when we dropped the various balls and marbles from different distances.

Astronaut Helmets- We used construction paper, tin foil, buttons and star stickers to create an astronaut helmet. This prompted some imaginative play where our staircase turned into a rocket that went on a mission to the moon.

Outdoor Play- Knowing the importance of physical exercise and fresh air we took a walk around our neighborhood searching for shamrocks leftover from yesterday’s neighborhood shamrock hunt.

Weekly Lenten Worship We ended our day by watching the weekly Lenten service recorded by our dedicated church staff at Zion Lutheran Church. My daughter and I found comfort in seeing familiar faces and praying together.

click here to watch the service

Fun and Educational Activities to Get Your Family Through the Quarantine!

As schools around the country close in response to COVID-19 every family in America is attempting to  home school. Along with wonderful suggestions from my daughter’s school, this Noteworthy Mommy is putting on her kindergarten teacher hat and planning a day full of fun and educational activities for my pre-school aged daughter. In this article I will outline some of the activities I am planning. Check back often as I will continue to share activities with you.

DISCLAIMER– Our first day did not go exactly as planned when I offered to care for the son of a church friend who was suddenly without childcare. I quickly made lesson plans for a preschooler and a first grader but we didn’t come close to following the schedule! We did celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day by decorating some shamrocks for our front door, discovering some real clover in the yard and writing about what we would like to find at the end of the rainbow. The kids were full of excitement when we created all of the colors of the rainbows by mixing colors. We filled one container with water and red food coloring, another with water and blue food coloring and the last with water and yellow food coloring. Then they used pipettes and mixed the colors in an ice cube tray. We predicted what color we would get when we mixed red and blue, yellow and green and so on.Each child read some leveled texts appropriate for their age and reading level and the first grader drew a diagram of a flower after reading a book about plants. We reviewed math facts with colored chalk on the driveway and played on the play set in the backyard.

After lunch we did our Lenten devotional and during snack I snuck in some rhyming and had the first grader work on some phonics. We had a dance party and I surprised both of them when I got out the Star Wars figures I played with as a child (now vintage of course).

But their favorite part of our day was creating super heroes and villains out of pipe cleaners, play dough and cotton balls; an activity they self initiated by pulling supplies out of the art cabinet. This was unplanned but it occupied their creative imaginations for part of the afternoon. As they worked I overheard them giving each other compliments and quickly offer suggestions. Hearing the first grade boy say “Hey, your super hero is cool,” when he saw the preschooler’s creation warmed my heart. And in turn seeing my preschool girl watch her companion with great concentration and then make improvements to her own creation reminded me how much children learn from each other. They created names and backstories for their figures and made a book together. (without any prompting I might add) They simply enjoyed playing and learning together. I take pride in the fact that we did not watch any TV and only played on a digital device for fifteen minutes. During this uncertain time our day was filled with creation, imagination, discovery, cooperation and play. There was no fighting and no tears from any of us..including from the Noteworthy Mommy!

Below is the post I originally planned to publish. As I reflect on our first day I think we accomplished and learned a lot…all three of us!           

Schedule– Children thrive on routine so I am in the process of developing a daily schedule for us to follow. I began by asking my daughter what we should include and plan to incorporate the things she does at school. I went to The Mom Advantage for ideas on creating an age appropriate schedule for my family. This website and companion The Mom Advantage Facebook page was created by an educational friend of mine and I highly recommend subscribing to her newsletter. What I really like about The Mom Advantage is she provides several sample schedules for mommies who find themselves home schooling while trying to work from home. The Mom Advantage is filled with resources for children preschool-grade 3.

Jesus Time– We are a Christian family so setting extra time aside for family devotionals and worship, bible stories, songs and prayer will be important. We will begin our day with a morning Jesus Time and have a family devotional with daddy after dinner. During Lent my daughter has enjoyed opening a new window on a Lenten calendar. There is a bible verse to go along with each revealed picture.

Journal Time or Writing Time– My daughter has recently gotten into book making and writing. We will take time each day to write, illustrate and read books that we write together. Allow your children to freely write each day or give them a topic or sentence starter. Remember young children may draw pictures or use scribbles and mock letters to represent their thoughts and ideas.

Play Dough– Have your child help you make some homemade play dough. There are many recipes out there but I have found the ones that involve boiling water to work the best. We used Mrs. Stanglein’s Playdough recipe. Don’t forget to add some scented oils, vanilla, cinnamon or Kool Aid to make the mixture smell good. It’s also fun to add food coloring and glitter to make it extra fun to play with. Use cookie cutters, straws and scissors to play with the play dough. Playing with play dough helps little hands build fine motor skills.

Storytime– We have a lot of picture books at home but to add variety to our read aloud time we have been watching videos on-line of other people reading. Josh Gad who voices Olaf on Frozen has been recording his favorite books and Lillian’s teacher is sending out a nightly read aloud as well. Click Here to link to favorite authors reading their books. I recommend video chatting with a relative or friend and reading each other books as well. After reading it is always fun to write or draw a picture in response to the reading. You could start a “Reading Response Journal” and add to it after each book you read.