Monday, November 29, 2010

December Theme: Christmas

Well, no surprise here, December's theme is Christmas! I am saving the snow theme for January so it will strictly be Christmas without an emphasis on snow. Jake did experience snow last year but I am certain that he does not remember! We will wait until we get some first hand experience to explore the snow theme.
A few notes before you download the plans:
*Because Jacob is so young we will not be getting into other religious holidays this year. I do think this is very important and we will explore other holidays in the coming years. I feel this is an important way to help instill tolerance and understanding of others.
*We are going to attempt gift making. These are simple activities that Jacob can do alone for the most part. I want him to make and then pass out the gifts to experience the joy of gift giving.
*I have decided to make another mobile for this month. Jake loved the leaf mobile last month and walked under it allowing it to brush against his head daily. This month I decided that we would use stars and moon. This is only because Jake has shown recent interest in the sky and the moon and stars in the sky.

I want to reiterate:
1. My plans are not meant to be completed in any specific order. Each day is different and Structured Play time should be a fun learning experience. Pick an activity or activities that fit the mood of your child for that day.
2. Practice activities more than once because repetition is key to gaining new skills.
3. READ, READ, READ- Read everyday and reread stories to allows your child to 'read' the books themselves. This is the first step in literacy.
4. Walk Away- Try to keep Structured Play time 'fun'. If things get frustrating to you or your child, walk away and pick up where you left off the next day. Remember it is Structured PLAY, you are not preparing for SAT Exams. Enjoy every minute!

I will Post about each activity as we complete them to give further descriptions and pictures.


Just wanted to take some time and reflect on November's activities. I have seen some real growth in Jacob's skills this month. Toddlers are sponges and grow and learn so quickly it is important to take time to reflect on this growth.

Sensory Boxes- I am quite happy with the skills these Sensory Boxes have strengthen. Jacob is spooning/scooping very well. He takes time and really observes items and he has shown his imaginary skills by doing a lot of pretending.

Crafts- Jake loves to color, paint and glue! He is an artist and loves to create. Giving him the opportunity to do so almost daily fosters creativity.

Games- Jake is learning through game playing that one needs to take turns and to share. He is really doing well with sharing!

Reading- I have never spent extended time with toddlers but in the time I have spent with toddlers I have never seen a child love reading as much as Jake does! I think I am enjoying this the most! He reads all day long. I love watching him pick up books and read through them alone but it is much better when he grabs a book and brings it to me to read in bed! I love being able to cuddle with my active boy for a few minutes while reading books!

I am extremely happy with the progress we are making. I do not always get to all of the activities that I have planned (teacher advice: it is better to over plan than under plan!) and Jake does not always master the skill we are working on but success nonetheless! I hope you are having as much fun!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Leaf Place-mat

Today we decided to put together our Leaf Place-mat! We collected leaves on this month's Field Trip: nature walk. I place the leaves in between the pages of a big book to allow them to dry out flat. It is advised to leave them smashed between the pages of a book for at least a week. We left them in a bit longer just because we have not had the time to make the place-mat yet but the leaves were good and dried and nice and flat!
I used a piece of construction paper 9" x 12" hoping that it would fit in Jake's highchair tray. Next, I spread glue all over the paper. I thought this would be the best way to cover the paper but still have him participate. 
I spread the leaves out on the table to allow him to pick them up. I picked one up and placed it on the paper then pushed it down dramatically to make it look fun! I added Jacob's favorite phrase, "bang, bang," when I pushed it down. I did this hoping he would find it funny and want to participate. He jumped right in picking up leaves and bang, banging them down on the paper. (Don't you love the drool spot on his shirt? Poor guy, teething again!)
 You can see he is enjoying himself! We pretty much covered the paper, just putting the leaves in various places. We talked about the leaves and the colors as we were putting them on the paper. Then I let the extra glue around the paper dry.
The leaves are really pretty!
Finally, I covered the paper in contact paper to 'laminate' it. I purchased the clear contact paper from The Dollar Store for $1! I covered the front and back so that it could be washed after a meal. 
Here is the final product, a little dark so that you can see without a reflection. Durable and attractive!
Plus homemade!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Leaf Cookies

Today we went into the kitchen for a little dramatic play! We made some sugar cookies then used a cookie cutter to cut out leaf (and pumpkin) shapes.
Jake loves the kitchen! Come on, it is where we keep the food that he must constantly be feeding himself! :) 
He really likes to 'help' me cook and clean. I thought this would be a favorite activity for November. From the beginning Jake was right in the mix! Can you hear the "Brrrrr?" Jake loved listening to the motor of the mixer.
Although he still needed to stir the batter after it was mixed!
"Playing" in the kitchen is A LOT of work! It can be a joyous time and create memories of a lifetime but one must truly let some control go to allow this to happen! Case in point, above, I was rolling out the dough and trying to have Jake help me when he took over! He has never used a rolling pin and did not truly know how to use it but he HAD to have it and try! This is when you give-up control and let him experiment. It was really kind of cute! He used the rolling pin as a 'hammer' to hit the dough. Hitting the dough did cause some to break off and then consequently fall to the floor. But, I let him experiment until he was finished (about a whole minute!) then rerolled out the dough. As I did that he stirred the empty bowl! Such a good helper! ;)
He had never used cookie cutters either! I have tried play dough with him, let's just say he is not ready for that! So the cookie cutter experiment was a fun new activity. He really did not quite understand that the cookie cutter was a shape and that we were making leaves from the dough. (Learning experience!)
Notice in the picture above, he is putting the cookie cutter on top of the spot we already cut out. But the real lesson is that you can push down on the cutter to cut out a shape. I was really impressed with is first experience with the cookie cutters. This was NOT my first impression! While we were in the kitchen I was stressed and felt a sense of trying to rush to make 'it' happen and at the same time keep Jacob interested. But going back and reflecting I see that it was fun for both of us! He learned a new skill, learned not mastered! This reflection time is something I learned from teaching but so important in all areas of life! It is especially important while working with your children. If I had not gone back and reflected I might not want to have dramatic play time in the kitchen again. At the time it seems stressful and it IS messy but oh so worth it! 
I would say we got one sheet of cookies cut out before he lost interest and climbed down. Notice the flour all over his shirt? 
I was able to finish baking the rest of the cookies but we did not decorate them! That is probably best saved for another day! Our kitchen is small and the mess was big!

We had a great time and for our first cookie making activity it was a success. I will keep the cookie cutter and the rolling pin out to play for the rest of the month. I might even try play dough again! I can see that practicing the rolling pin, in particular, will be fun for Jake!
Get into the kitchen and have some fun!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reading with a Toddler

Reading is something that we all do daily, but trying to read to and with a toddler is not the reading we are used to doing. Exposure to reading and to books is key for toddlers not the story line or comprehension of the text. At this point, reading might  not even include 'reading.' It is very hard for adults to accept that we can open a book, look at pictures and even talk about a book when we do not read the words. Many times I find myself reading Jacob's stories after he walks out of the room just because I want to enjoy the story.
When going to the library weekly, I always have a list of books to look for from our monthly theme list. But I also try to find books that might spark interest in my son. These are books that have pictures that Jake can identify. At this point in his development he is not interesting in listening to stories but rather looking at the pictures and naming the items that he knows. *That does not mean that I do not read the stories to him!
So here are the steps we go through when 'reading' a story:
(These steps can be all at once or over a week, depending on interest, time and length of story.)
1. Have books laying out.
2. Take a book that I choose or that Jake brings to me and look at the cover and point to items that he knows or that might interest him.
3. Open the book and go through the pages only looking at the pictures. Identify items that he knows as well as items that we are focusing on for the month. (This is called a Picture Walk)
4.  Go back to the beginning of the book and go through again this time first pointing and naming the items then reading the words of the story. This process is very SLOW! You might have to even stop and name items several times while you are reading the words.
5. Allow Jake to then hold the book by himself and 'read' it to mom.
(He is reading to me and pointing at the tractor. Although he cannot say tractor he points and says, "Brrrrrrr"- the sound the tractor makes!)

Again, this process can be completed all at one sitting or over a week. It also happens more than once.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November Sensory Box

This month's sensory box includes popcorn kernels as a base. I have silk leaves, plastic acorns, scarecrow and pilgrim faces, foam pumpkins, and a stuffed squirrel and turkey. There are measuring spoons and a bowl as well. 
I introduce the box by letting Jacob explore on his own for a few minutes. Then I start pointing out different items in the box. I show him what he can do with them and I model observing each item to learn more about them. 
My goals for this sensory box are:
1. Practice fine motor skills by scooping popcorn kernels with spoons

2. Imaginary play by pretending to feed squirrel acorns

3. Identify facial features and 'hats' on scarecrow and pilgrim faces
(He is pointing to his own mouth instead of the one on the pilgrim)

4. Free play and Having Fun! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hide the Turkey!

Jake really gets a kick out of 'finding' things. So this month I decided to include a game where we do just that! I made a little toy turkey out of some supplies from the craft store; a small puff ball, foam pieces and googly eyes.
I started by showing Jake the turkey and repeatedly calling it a turkey so he learned what it was (he gets stuck on balls so when he saw that it was made using a ball he just wanted it to be a ball!). Next, I closed my hands around it and asked, "Where is the turkey?" He laughed and pulled my hands apart. Then we started being more creative, hiding it up our shirts, in our pockets and behind our backs. Finally, I moved on to around the room; behind the chair, under the window and inside of the book. Each time I would hide it in front of him then ask, "Where is the turkey?". He would go and get it and I would emphasize vocabulary such as, "Yes, you found the turkey inside of the book, you found the turkey under the window, behind the chair!"

We are not to the point where I can hide it without him watching and expect him to go look for it. (We tried!) He is too easily distracted and rather play with something he can see! :) I did encourage him to hide it as well. He would hide it in spots that I had hidden it in and we would go get it together. Although he would usually beat me there! We will be playing this game some more today, it is a rainy, cold day!

Friday, November 12, 2010

November Finger Painting

Today I decided to do some finger painting. As in the monthly plans, the plan was to paint Jake's hand and arm and stamp it on the paper to represent a tree. Then to finger stamp leaves on the tree and falling from the tree. After painting a few times we have learned to be prepared! As you can see from the picture above I have everything ready before we start! All my supplies are out; paper, paper plates, WIPES, paint, brushes, and a smock. The smock was a new addition. It was like $6 for this little smock but well worth it! It as long sleeves with elastic around the wrists to keep clothes out of the way. It is long but not cumbersome. 
I started by painting his hand and a bit of his arm. He loved this, laughing and squishing the paint in between his fingers. I held his arm the entire time so he could not paint the walls! As soon as I stamped it down I wiped it off with a baby wipe. It all came off with one wipe and without any trouble!  
 Next we added some leaves. In the plans I, originally, planned on doing finger prints but found these Bingo Stampers at the dollar store and thought we would try these. Jake enjoyed stamping with them but probably because I said, "Bang, bang as he stamped. He loves bangs! I modeled how to do it first. 
We did red and purple this way. Notice he is on different sides of the table in each photo. He was walking around while I was changing supplies. He is a very active young boy and to keep his interest he needs to be able to move around. He always stayed engaged but just liked to watch me getting things ready.  
Next, we stamped our fingers. I used a green stamp pad and started by modeling with my finger. Then I held his hand and stamped his fingers. This was very easy and I was able to reinforce vocabulary words more as we did these 'leaves.' I even sang our Falling Leaves song.
We finished off the painting with a paint brush and green paint used to make the grass. Jake did great with this but with us both having colds and not napping well, he quickly lost patience. 
He wanted yellow next. When I told him that we were finished (I could see him fading) he started crying. Wanting to leave it a fun experience I told him I would let him do yellow too, but he would not give me the yellow to open it up. So we had to close shop right away!
What a cute crybaby face! 

Final Product!
He went a little crazy with the purple but I think it looks great and what a fun project! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Leaf Mobile

We decided to put together the Leaf Mobile today after reading a few of our Leaf Books. Our leaves are fading fast around here so I decided to use paper leaf cutouts that I picked up at our local teacher store instead of real leaves. 
I just used thread to string the leaves to the hanger. (Real generic) I knew I would be doing this craft and that he would not pay too much attention to the details. I did decided to put two of the same leaves together when stringing them so that you can see the leaf from both sides. 
Jake did not help much during the time of putting it all together, although he thought he did. He would take leaves and throw them up at the mobile. He also held the thread as I cut pieces off. 
As we were putting together the mobile I tried to reiterate the vocabulary; leaves and falling. I kind of made up a song as I went:

To the tune of Frere Jacques 
Leaves are falling,
Leaves are falling,
To the ground,
To the ground,
All the leaves are falling,
All the leaves are falling,
Down to the ground,
Down to the ground.
(I know not genius but it works and uses our vocabulary! 
At least you don't have to hear me sing it!)

I hung the mobile in the center of the room. I hung it low enough that he could reach the leaves and walk under them. Jake loves to walk under and through things so he got a kick of walking under the leaves and letting them sweep over his head. 

After the mobile was finished we continued to sing the song as we took turns walking under the leaves. I also added some hand movements to the song. I wiggled my fingers in the air as we sing leaves are falling. Then drop them to the floor and tap them as we sing down to the ground. 
He really enjoyed himself! And the dog even participated!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dramatic Play

Raking Leaves
We are doing many of our outside activities right away this month because we do not know how much longer we are going to be able to enjoy the outdoors with winter at our doorstep! 
We headed outside to rake some leaves. I chose to add this activity to our plans for a few reasons: 
1. It is an outside activity where we can practice gross motor skills
2. Jake LOVES sweeping and raking is the same idea so I knew he would enjoy this activity
3. It gives us time to practice vocabulary words; leaves, falling, raking, tree...
I started by giving Jake a small rake while I took the bigger one. I then raked a small (in comparison to the yard, big in comparison to him) pile of leaves. You can see that he really enjoyed himself! He did not understand that we could jump into the pile and have fun too! I had to do it first to model it for him and then he still was not too sure. I walked into the pile and he liked that much better. 
We took time to throw the leaves around too! It was a lot of fun!
Get out there and enjoy fall!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Field Trip

Our Field Trip this month includes a Leaf Walk. This can be done at a park, through your neighborhood or even at the zoo! We took our walk around our neighborhood. We take a daily walk anyway but for this 'Field Trip' I wanted to make sure Jake was experiencing the leaves so he walked! Usually he rides in the stroller and we usually take the dog. I did take the dog, next time probably will not, it was hard managing the dog and a walking toddler. It was a very slow walk, as it should be, we took time to notice leaves on trees and on the ground. We picked up leaves and we stomped leaves.
Jake enjoyed the walk. It was like his first walk because he was actually walking. He was so proud of himself! He was taking my lead by looking at the leaves and taking time with them! He would pick one up, look at it, then bring it to me to share! Through the process, he found a few nuts and even a stick he wanted me to see. I was very happy about these discoveries, because he displayed that he could explore and discover and in-turn share. He was taking time to really 'look' around and know his surroundings. 
He got a kick out of stomping on the leaves and listening to the crunching sound! I had to model the stomping for him. Once he took time to listen and notice the sound he could not be stopped! We had a lot of fun stomping around! He would crack-up every time he heard the crunch, crunch! As we were walking around if the sidewalk was clear of leaves he would walk up onto people's grass to find leaves to crunch. :)
We started the walk by noticing the 'pretty' color of the leaves and picking our favorites. Then we watched the leaves falling from the trees. Lastly, we stomped the leaves. We did collect some leaves for future projects, as well!

(Sorry about the quality of the pictures! 
I, of course, forgot my camera but luckily had my phone with me!)

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