Sunday, September 26, 2010

Apple Printing

Today I pulled out the paint for the first time. I tried to use nap time as a prep time to get everything ready so there would be no surprises when we started. (I should have known better!)
I wanted to stamp the apple in both red and green because we see both colors in our Structured Play time. I wanted to do the stamping in our Structured Play area even though I was worried that maybe paint might get everywhere. To prepare I pulled out a piece of poster board that I had on hand as a safe guard. I thought I would keep the paint away from Jake and just pull it over when it was time to stamp. (Ha!)  
I did the first two to model the process and he did the third. Looks great right? He really enjoyed it too! Then decided that he needed to get up and move around and as he stood-up he put his hand into my stamps. Then turned and put his hand on the wall. (Of course!) 
Then I wanted to do the green stamping before he lost too much interest. When he saw me squeeze out the green paint and use the paint brush to spread it on the paper plate, he lost interest in the stamping and NEEDED that paint brush! 
 I let him have it and he proceeded to paint the poster board, carpet, socks and paper. He loved painting! (Note to self) 
We did manage to get a few green apples stamped before the room was a total disaster and he lost interest.
Overall the project was great fun, especially for him! So next time what will I do differently? I believe I will get a clear, plastic shower curtain and put that down on the carpet. I was able to get the paint up, (water based, washable paint!) but I was running around with a baby wipe like a crazy person. I could put him in a highchair but I want him to be in our Structured Play area. Plus I think he has more fun being able to move around, even if it drives me nuts! :)

The next step it for me, I want to take Jake's stamped apples and frame them in some way. Update to come! 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Attempt at Sorting

Some days are better than others and today was a better day! I decided to try the Sorting Game so I pulled the cards out. Jake was excited to see something new in our Structured Play area. I laid all the cards out for him to see and he picked one up and tried to eat it! (I know great start!)
I tried to show, him by modeling, how to sort. He just kept 'eating' the apples. (Another great reason to laminate the cards!) Then throwing the apples. I finally gave up and just let him play with the pieces. (This is an important lesson in of itself, letting your child lead the way sometimes can lead to an even better lesson than you had hoped.)
This is when it got good...
As he was walking around and playing with the pieces he walked over to get a small red wagon. He plays with it all the time so I did not think much about it. He then proceeded to put the apple Sorting pieces into the red wagon. 
I could not believe it! 
When we went to the Apple Orchard we put the apples we picked in a red wagon. Jake did this all on his own. No modeling, no prompting! I was a proud mama! This is a good example of the value and importance of 'Field Trips'. Giving children real world exposure helps them to learn and retain knowledge and experience. To see him make a connection from a real world experience is priceless! This is what Structured Play is all about!

Friday, September 24, 2010


Things are going exceedingly well! I am very impressed with the progress we have made. Although I had planned on spending 5 to 15 minutes on Structured Play we have been spending 30 minutes to an hour playing. The first day we started we actually spent an hour just exploring the Sensory Box
I have really enjoyed every minute we have spent playing and exploring. Things have not always gone as planned and every day has not been the most successful but over all I am quite pleased. I have had to make a few changes as we progress but that is to be expected. I have also had a few pleasant surprises. It has been exciting to see connections being made.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Apple Orchard

We took a trip to the Apple Orchard on Saturday afternoon. It was so much fun! I was really excited to see Jake make some connections from our Structured Play time. 
Jake practically jumped out of the wagon trying to get the 'balls'. He was very excited to find the apples and place them in the basket. 
Although there were apples on the ground he appeared to know that there were apples to pick in the trees. I can only hope this was from our Story Board time with '5 Little Apples'. 
He placed most apples in the basket but of course had to take a bite or two to taste test the apples.
Unknowingly, Tennessee does not have any red apples this year. I guess between the spring flood and the extraordinary heat the only apples that have survived were yellow delicious. I was happy to find these, though, most nearby orchards were closed completely. Plus these were sweet and scrumptious! 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Play Zone

Here are some pictures of our Structured Play area. It is a small corner in a spare bedroom. We have company about once a month but not consistently. This area is not aesthetically pleasing but it is doing much more so I let it go! (We rent and can't do anything to the house anyway!) The area is perfect because it has a lot of natural light, a built in bookcase and a window seat. Plus it is out of the way so we can go there just for our Structured Play time!
Yes, the blue trim IS that obnoxious! It is not the picture!
I have used the window seat as a shelf, it is perfect hight, for items I want him to explore. There is a basket of library books and a basket of 'game' pieces. The game pieces are the Matching, Sorting and finger puppets. The big comfy chair (one of the first major purchases I made after college, can't part with it!) would be idea for reading but Jake will not sit to read with me. Across from the chair is a dry erase board that has the flannel board and this month's theme words. Above that are large flashcards that have a circle and red apple.
Baskets with books and game pieces
Dry Erase Board and Flannel Board
This is across from the chair and window. It is a built in shelf the bottom shelf has a theme appropriate puzzle. Next shelf up has family board books that will stay permanently. They are color, shape, word books. Above that are art supplies and mommy supplies that are out of reach. On the floor in front of the shelf is the sensory box.
Everything starts neat and in its place but certainly does not stay that way! Here are a few 'after' shots. And these are after a short session of Structured Play!

Wait, I must have picked up before taking these! They are not as bad as I remember it being! Come on those puzzle pieces are never in the correct place!

The important thing to remember is that this is play even if it is
Structured Play so it is ok for the place to be a disaster, it SHOULD be! I usually know it is time to walk away and end Structured Play when Jake starts throwing things, breaking things (He pulled Johnny Appleseed's arm off) or just not seeming interested. 

Notice the room is not over the top and does not looks like a classroom. It isn't a classroom! I do not want it to be over stimulating, he is 1 after all. He needs to focus on playing not looking around. As he gets older and has more focus that may be an option, but for now small details are enough. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

September: Apple Theme

For September I chose the theme of Apples, Red, and Circle. (I am not going to get into number are letters just yet.) I chose apples because it is harvest season. I chose red and circles because apples can be red and are fairly circular. You want your theme to naturally flow that way it reinforces skills over and over. 

I have broken my plans into Literature/Music, Crafts/Games, and Dramatic Play. There are activities for each of the three sections. They do not need to be completed in any particular order and should be repeated multiple times (sometimes daily) to reiterate the skill. 
September: Apple Theme Plans
The Plans Document includes all of the activities as well as a book list. Included are; words to songs and story board stories. It is important to reiterate that the plans do not need to be completed in any particular order. It can be problematic to try to plan too much in advance. My suggestion is to have all supplies on hand, that way if your toddler's mood is compliant than you can do an activity. You want to make sure that Structured Play time stays fun and exciting. You never want tension, frustration, or boredom!
September: Apple Theme Resources
The Resources Document should be printed on card stock paper, preferably with a color printer. If that is not available just color the pictures after printing. Next cut them out and laminate. If you do not have the resources to laminate a great option would be to use clear contact paper. (This is a teacher trick.) Pick up some clear contact paper (Found at the Dollar Tree dollar store!!) Peal the backing and lay cut out pieces on top. Then place another sheet over top of that one. Squish down to seal all the edges and then just cut out! Instant laminating! :) This will protect your game pieces for quite sometime.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Puppets are an important learning tool for toddlers. First of all, toddlers are enamored with puppets. They know that they are not real people/animals but they see them move and hear them talk. They are a great way to tell a story, as well. On a day when you are losing, or never could get the attention of your child, you will still get Structured Play time. They also help teach your child to pretend and use an imagination. This is a very, very important skill that believe it or not does need to be modeled/taught! 

Puppets can be traditional hand puppets, finger puppets, or even sock puppets. They can be store bought or handmade. Children really do not care they just love exploring and playing with them!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sensory Boxes

Sensory Boxes started off as Sensory Tables. They have been used in preschool and kindergarten classes as well as being use by Special Education professionals. They have evolved into boxes for smaller situations. They were designed to give students a hands-on approach to exploration. Children can see, touch, smell items at the table or in the box. The items usually follow a theme and work together. This exploration time is very valuable for children to freely explore common items that they might otherwise pass by or be rushed through. This free exploration time allows the children to really take apart items and discover how they work or how they work together. It is suppose to be a fun exportation that can be very messy at times. 

Sensory Boxes are also used to strengthen fine motor skills such as picking up, squeezing, pouring, and transferring items from one hand to the other. There are many resources and ideas online to help facilitate the use of Sensory Boxes at home. This might be the activity that occupies your little one for the longest period of time. 

When planning a sensory box try to keep all the senses in mind. Have items that are realistic and that are not realistic to show contrast. Have soft, light, heavy, hard things as well as things that work together and that do not. Anything that might inspire your child. Allow your child's interests and curiosity to motivate what you put in the box. 

Common things used as a 'base' for the box/table are sand, water, rice or beans. Common tools include; magnifying glasses, cups, spoons, jars and shovels. One month/week you might have sand and construction supplies such as a digger, back hoe, bulldozer and some cups. Another month you may have leaves, acorns, gourds, pumpkin seeds, mason jars. The best place to look for items for the box is the Dollar Store. They have seasonal items, small items and of course everything is $1! 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Flannel Boards

A Flannel, Felt or Story Board is a common tool used in preschools and kindergartens to tell a story. This is an excellent tool to use with children before/as they learn to write. (Or in my case talk) It allows kids to tell a story using important story elements while playing. 

Definition: a flannel-covered surface to which other flannel pieces, as lettersof the alphabet, numbersetc., adhere merely by contact, used mainly in schools as a visual aid.

You can find these boards in many stores and online. Or you can make one for a lot less money. I found a sturdy cork board without a frame for $9.99 on sale for 40% off at Joann's. I did not know what I was looking for when I went into Joann's but just looked around until I found what I thought could work. I then went over to the fabric section and picked out a 1/2 yard of a pale blue flannel. I covered the cork board with the flannel using a staple gun. The whole project took 5 minutes and cost less than $10! 

Friday, September 3, 2010

When and Where


It is important to use your time wisely! Do not choose your Structured Play time when your little one is tired, fussy, hungry or otherwise. Saying that, you should know that the best time might not be the same time everyday or even everyday at all. This needs to be a fun, one-on-one time so make sure there are no distractions. (Phone off)

You should plan your
Structured Play time for only 5 to 15 minutes at first. Then as things progress, adjust accordingly. Remember it is play time so as soon as your little one shows signs of loss of interest or frustration move on to something else. Do not push it!


Ideally, you want to find a spot for Structured Play that is out of the normal path of traffic. It should be a spot that your little one does not solo play everyday. The rationale is that this spot should be 'special' for Structured Play. A time when little one gets to play one-on-one and receives full attention. Now that being said, I understand that this cannot always be the case. Depending on your living situation and other children. You want to try to set it up somewhere where there are not other toys, T.V., or people to distract from your goal. On the other hand, some activities will call for distracting situations. (Outings, group play, etc.) So use your best judgement.

After your
Structured Play time do not leave the activity out for your child play with daily. This should be an item that is 'special' so that it does not turn into an old standby toy. You can put items into general rotation once your little one has mastered the desired skill or once you feel the activity has become routine. Remember repetition is very important so you want to play with the same items for a prolonged amount of days. Then once the skilled is mastered it is a good to put the item (if appropriate) into their play items so that they continue to use the skill on their own. For example, if you follow a monthly theme keep the items you use for Structured Play separate for the entire month then you can allow your little one to use them on his/her own. If a skill is not mastered within that month continue working on the skill but perhaps change the item used to practice the skill in accordance with the next month's theme. 

You want to see a smile on the face of your little one when you go to this space or when you pull out the activities. You want this to be a exciting, inspiring time of learning and exploration. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What to Work On

When starting to teach your child the best place to begin is where their interests lie. Toddlers should start by learning to identify and more forward from there.
They should work to: 
Identify: (In no particular order)
           *Common household items

           *Body parts

Match Items that are the Same
Sort By:

          *Other Commonalities 
Order Items From Start to Finish or by Quantity

These examples are all a place to begin. They are not the end all be all. Most importantly you should allow your child's skill and interest lead the way. It is a good idea to stay one step ahead by directing your strategies to where you want to take them but not too far head that they are getting lost or frustrated. This is structured play it SHOULD be fun!!

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