Play Dough, Painting, Playing and a Birthday Parade… Day 12 Activities

My daughter just wasn’t feeling it today so I didn’t push her. She really needed a day of free play and rest so that is exactly what we did!

Play Dough- – Is there anything better than a giant batch of fresh play dough? My daughter enjoyed helping me make homemade play dough. As I stated in an earlier post, the best play dough recipes are the ones that require heat. I used my tried and true preschool play dough recipe, shared with me by a former teaching partner twenty-five years ago!! (How can I be that old?) Play dough making is filled with countless learning opportunities… math, measuring, science (color mixing) and following directions. My daughter requested purple play dough and we added a vanilla scent. Don’t forget to add a color and a scent. Some people add glitter for extra fun! Once your play dough is ready, use cookie cutters, scissors and straws as play dough tools. We made pretend cookies and constructed numbers. (roll the play dough into long skinny snakes and then construct numbers)Painting– People have posted some beautiful stained glass window creations on line. We used paint dobbers designed for windows and painted stained glass crosses on several of our interior windows. My daughter really enjoyed painting and said, “Now when we have church at home our house will look like church too!”

The Power of Play– Young children learn the best through play and they need to engage in imaginative play often so they can learn and grow not only academically but socially and emotionally. My daughter uses a sweet high pitched voice when she creates dialogue for her action figures or stuffed animals. Our home was filled with the sweet sound of play and through this play my daughter was learning to navigate her new reality, After she played with her toys for a awhile she was happier and better equipped to face the rest of the day.

Birthday Parade– A preschool friend turned five today and we participated in her birthday parade. A birthday parade was exactly what we needed to raise our spirits and we ended the day on a happy note! We used the paint dobbers made for windows to decorate the windows in daddy’s truck. Then we made a sign and added some balloons. During the parade my daughter and I jumped in the bed of the truck and held our signs for the birthday girl to see. We also made a special birthday card for the birthday girl.

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Muffins, Maps, Play, Gratitude & Generosity…Day 11 Activities

We didn’t accomplish as much today as I had originally planned and that’s OK. Some days will be like that. As we navigate eLearning and isolation the biggest lessons often come in the unplanned.

Encouraging Play and Clean Up– We began our day cleaning up. With spending all of our time at home our house was getting out of control! So I put on some music and mommy, daddy and our reluctant little one began putting away toys, dishes and art supplies. My daughter loves to play and in doing so she creates scenes that she does not want to destroy by putting the pieces back in place. The latest project was a well designed Doggy Daycare swimming pool complete with a deck for cats to sit on so they don’t get wet. The other project was the bear den we constructed the day before. As she ran around the house, screaming that we were ruining her life by cleaning up, I was reminded that play is a child’s work. I also recalled the “Work in Progress” signs I often see in her classroom. That gave me the idea of compromising and telling my daughter she can keep one “Work in Progress” out per day but the rest will have to be put away. Satisfied with our new agreement it was decided the bear den would be dismantled while the swimming pool would stay open.

Muffins– My daughter loves to bake so today we made raspberry muffins. I pulled out the book If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff and after reading we made muffins together. Through baking my daughter was learning a lot…how to follow directions, how to measure and how to be generous as we saved some to take to Maw Maw and Paw Paw and to their neighbor.

Maps– A mom friend suggested we read Me by Joan Sweeney. I know we had the book upstairs (working for a textbook company has its benefits) so I pulled it out and daddy read it to our little one. Click Here to read a digital copy of the book. Then the two of them set out to draw a map of our house. But our little one had other ideas. She wanted to draw a map of her Doggy Daycare so that’s exactly what we did! Gratitude Journal– Per her teacher’s suggestion we began a Gratitude Journal. Her first entry was a picture of mommy and daddy and her beloved blanket! She knows how to write mommy and daddy on her own and I helped her write the word blanket. We will add a new page to the journal everyday.

Generosity– Perhaps the best part of our day was delivering a weekly care package to Maw Maw and Paw Paw and to their neighbor. While practicing social distancing we were able to see our loved ones and model an example of generosity for our impressionable little one. Without a complicated lesson plan or an on line resource, children are learning. By watching the adults in their life, by listening to the sounds in their environment and by being actively engaged in activity, children are learning. Through play and imagination, children are learning!

Let’s Hear it for Our Teachers! Going on a Bear Hunt, Color Songs and Big Universe…Activities for Day 10

Teachers across the country are putting in countless hours creating, compiling and sharing eLearning plans with their students. Many are learning too as they quickly navigate new digital tools. I want to thank the teachers, especially my daughter’s preschool teacher (Mrs. Stanglein), who arranged for us to pick up materials for a class project and began leading her class in a virtual daily circle time. Seeing her teacher and friends everyday, even if it’s not face to face, is helping my daughter feel connected to her classroom community.

Keeping proper social distancing while picking up a project packet from her teacher’s house.

Bear Hunt– Our neighborhood held a “Bear Hunt” today, actually, it was yesterday but I thought it was today…Epic Mom Fail! We enjoyed putting stuffed bears out for our neighbors to hunt.

Bear Books Before we set out for a bear hunt through our neighborhood (a few bears were still out) we completed the Scholastic Learn At Home module on bears. Still my favorite online resource we read Bear Snores On for our fiction selection and then read and a non-fiction book about bears. We watched a video of a mother bear teaching her cubs how to fish for Salomon in Alaska and learned how to be safe from bears while camping. Other bear books we enjoyed were: Goldilocks and the Three Bears (which we acted out with stuffed animals), Going on a Bear Hunt and Berlioz the Bear. My daughter enjoyed making a bear den out of a blanket and chairs and that captivated her creative play for hours.

Hiding in the bear den she made out of a blanket and chairs.

Color Songs– When I was a kindergarten teacher I loved singing the Color Songs by Frog Street Press with my class. These catchy songs have captivated my daughter as well. I just discovered individuals have posted the original songs on YouTube and added animation. Back in the day, before Smart Boards and YouTube, I wrote the lyrics on chart paper so the children could follow along while we sang. I discovered that Kindergarten Works has compiled all of the videos and color word resources in one place. Click Here for this valuable resource and happy singing!

Big UniverseExciting news! McGraw Hill’s partner Big Universe is offering FREE access to more than 17,000 eBooks!! BigU is a digital platform of K-12 books! An ever-growing library of over 17K authentic texts. Searchable by grade, topic, language, and reading level. GO TO: www.biguniverse.com to register. Enjoy my friends!

Finding JOY in the Journey

This is a photo from our weekend. Taken right before sunset it epitomizes the innocence of childhood, a care free little girl simply experiencing joy in her journey. The photo was taken as we walked (she ran) around the pond in our backyard. Earlier our neighborhood rang with dogs barking, children laughing and lawn mowers humming with the sounds of spring. In this scene people had retreated inside to start their evening routines and our soundtrack came from song birds proudly singing a tune and allowing us to listen in. The grass we walked upon, once dull and brown in color, had awoken to a luscious green. The smell of pollen from flowering trees was in the air giving us another reminder of rebirth. Spring is not in quarantine and neither is God. He created this beautiful day and He is with us on good days and in trying times. Love embraced me as I gazed at our house (shown here in the distance), knowing we would return home to a nutritious meal prepared lovingly by my husband. The wind began to blow indicating a spring storm was on the horizon. But when I looked up at the sky there was hope among the darkness. God was sending a visual reminder as rays of sunlight were peeking through a mass of clouds, reassuring me that we will all get through this.

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!

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?

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 www.starfall.com 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.

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.