Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dig, Dig Park

We headed out to the "Dig, Dig Park," as Jake puts it, for a play date. This is his favorite place in the world! This is a park that was designed by the Metro Parks Department. There is a Nature Center, a hiking trail and a fenced in dirt park. The dirt park is an area designated for children to just play in the dirt! There is a small log cabin, dirt piles and trenches. They provide dump trucks, shovels and other tools for the children to play with and explore.
Although it takes a conscious effort to release control and allow your little one get completely immersed in the moment, it is very important! And fun!! The key is to be prepared!
Jake loves all things outdoors but what this park has to offer is a combination of construction, digging and water. Nothing better in the world! He dug, he poured, he splashed and he climbed. He tripped, he fell, he was completely soaked in mud but no cuts or bruises! He even did a face plant right into a muddy puddle mouth open and all! Not a tear, until it was time to go! 
This dramatic play is so important to a child's development! They need to explore not only nature but digging, raking and shoveling. It makes me so upset to see children who are not allowed to play or who are told (yes in this environment) go play but don't get dirty! Then there are the children that are older and get to the park and do not even know what to do there! They just look around and after a few minutes ask to leave because it is boring! It is saddening! But there are the parents there that are digging along side of the kids too! 
I have recently watched a few youtube programs on Outdoor Kindergartens. Even with my education background I LOVE this idea! I find that (especially with boys) we can do, learn, play so much more outdoors. Getting into nature and learning through play is the most important way to learn for small children!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Puzzle Play

A portion of our Structured Play time is spent assembling puzzles. Jake has never shown a huge interest in puzzles, he enjoys playing with the pieces but not putting the pieces in their spots. I decided to get a new puzzle to hopefully spark his interest even more!
Jacob is all boy! He loves anything with a motor, wheels or that is a tool! I knew this Melissa and Doug  puzzle with cars and trucks would spark his interest! And boy was I right (love that!). He put this puzzle together over and over for about 30 minutes!
After introducing the new puzzle I made sure to discuss each car or truck pointing out details on the vehicle. Then after we dumped the puzzle Jake was able to look at the pieces and figure out where they went. He made connections to each vehicle which is important to literacy development, vocabulary and the obvious hand-eye coordination.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Arts and Crafts

Today we did arts and crafts! This is the first time that I introduced glue to Jake. I showed him how to glue using a glue stick. He was quite excited! We started by reading, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. I let him play in the sensory box while I read. He looked at the pictures and stayed engaged while still playing. 
I was prepared before we started with all the pieces cut out. We turned to the page pictured above to use as a reference. I started by putting each piece where it should go on the paper so Jacob knew what the picture would look like and how to put it together. 
 Next, I showed him how to use the glue stick. He got a kick out of this! I had him feel the glue so that he understood that it was sticky and that was what made it stick.
He did a great job putting it all together and even said, "Oooh!" After it was all finished.
I chose colors that mimicked the flower in the book. He pointed at the book while we were putting together the picture whenever I asked where the next piece belonged. He enjoyed this new experience so much that when we were finished he still wanted to glue! I improvised and grabbed some papers he had recently free painted. I cut out shapes and had him glue them down. 
Then, I pulled out our shapes puzzle and we practiced saying our shapes. I asked, "Where is the square?" and Jake would point to the square on his paper and put the square piece in its place.

play academy

Monday, May 23, 2011


Today we spent some time working with numbers. Jake has never shown much of an interest in wanting to count with me. We have an i-pad with counting games and he will play that but never counts out-loud with the program. I knew I wanted to make counting fun to get him interested. I wanted to introduce the digits with the counting so that he could start to recognize numbers as well. I glued wooden painted flowers to Popsicle sticks and wrote numbers one through 3 as well as adding one, two and three dots. I used an egg carton to hold the sticks. (I was plaining on painting it but didn't get that far)
After reading Kipper's book of Numbers by Mick Inkpen, I showed Jake the flowers. I let him pick them up and put them back. I then pointed out the numerals and dots on the flowers. We practiced counting the flowers and putting them in the correct location. I showed Jake that he should read the numerals in the middle of the flower and then look for the matching numeral on the egg carton. He did great with this! I even got him to count out-loud with me!
Next I took the three flowers and placed them behind my back. I pulled one out at a time and handed it to Jake to put it back in the egg carton in the correct order. Above- he is pointing at the 3 in the middle of the flower.
He was able to put all three back in the correct locations. We will continue to work on counting. He can say one, two and three but does not like to count!?! Because he is not showing interest in numbers and counting I wanted this activity to be a success so I kept it at 3 numbers as to not overwhelm him. 
(Notice the construction hat? He is all about being a "worker"!) 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dramatic Play: Flower Cookies

I love playing in the kitchen with my son. I guess it is because I remember doing the same thing with my mother. Seeing him learn life-skills at such a young age shows me that this will be skills he uses for the rest of his life!
He loves kitchen tools especially the ones that have motors. We put the ingredients together and started mixing. I make sure to explain what the ingredients add to the cookies, ie: sugar makes them sweet. I also name and explain the tools we are using and why. 
 The problem started when we took the bowl out of the mixing stand. Jake stole a little taste! Once he had that taste in his mouth he wanted more!
That is when the tears started! And they did not stop! The entire time we rolled the dough, cut the flower shapes, and put the cookies in the oven, he cried! I couldn't get him to stop so while the cookies cooked, he napped!

Take Two
After nap (and lunch) we iced and sprinkled the cookies. This went much better although we did not get very far before SOMEONE needed a sample!
What was that 3 cookies in? :)

He loved adding sprinkles.

After it is all said and done we enjoyed ourselves even after the tears! And we enjoyed a cookie!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Painting May Flowers

This activity was suppose to be a Mother's Day gift for Jacob's grandmothers but we had a new birth in the family and schedules were mixed up and we did not have a chance to make them. I wanted to go ahead and make them and send them on their way. We are having a very cool, rainy week so no better time!
I always start by getting my supplies together. I have a cheap little table that is just Jake's height that we use, although all the paint washes right off! The most important supply is the baby wipes to clean accidents right away or to wipe hands! The flower pot at the bottom of the picture came from Tip Junky. If you haven't checked out that site, spend a little time over there! There are a lot of neat ideas!
We made two pictures one for each grandmother. Because this activity included many steps I put one paper on the table at a time and then quickly pulled them down in between steps. I had another paper available for Jake to free paint on so that he did not get frustrated. We did one color then switched to the other paper.
Here is his free paint paper. See him mimicking me painting his hand to make a hand-print on the papers.

I think they turned out pretty cute and who doesn't want to see a sweet, little, fat hand-print?!?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Literature Connections

Today we read Flower Garden by Eve Bunting.
I feel it is important to make connections to your toddler's life, the world and the books you are reading. This helps facilitate reading and helps children gain comprehension. To go along with the introduction of the Sensory Box I chose to read Flower Garden. I started by introducing the Sensory Box and allowing Jake to try it out for about 15 minutes. He enjoyed planting flowers, watering them and looking for bugs!
It was very cute every time he found a bug he said, "Ewww!" and then laughed!
Next, I introduced the book. I started reading as he was still playing, but I made sure to point items out in the story or in the picture so Jake was listening and paying attention to the story. 
In the story the little girl plants flowers in a planter. 
Here I point out that she has dirt, a pot and shovel as well as flowers. At this point I pause the story and have Jake plant his flowers as the little girl does in the story. We lined up the pots with 'dirt' (beans) and flowers in front of the pot in the story.
Jake is pointing out that the flower in the book is yellow and he has yellow flowers too!
This is a direct connection between the story and his world (the plants he has planted). This will build his comprehension and make him enjoy this book even more. He will start to look through other garden books and make connections as well. 
He then watered his garden!

After we finished the story he enjoyed pouring the 'dirt' back into the tub. We of course had many spill out but that was a good opportunity to teach him to clean-up. I helped so it did not seem too overwhelming then high-fived him after to show him that cleaning can be fun and satisfying! 

Use your literature to make connections!

May Sensory Box (inside option)

Our Sensory Box for this month is designed to reiterate our flower theme. I used black beans as the base then added small ceramic pots, plastic bugs, flowers, a shovel, wooden watering can, and a bug catching net. 
We used the shovel to scoop the 'dirt' (beans) into the pots then planted the flowers. After planting the flowers we have to water them!
We can then use the bug catcher to pick up some of the bugs scattered throughout the tub. 
This is a mess free option for inside. We have an outdoor option that I will share in another post. I feel it is important to make play a real world experience and as spring and summer approach there is no reason for us not to be outside as much as possible! With a cold and rainy week ahead we will be using the inside sensory box! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Can I just cook dinner? Please!

Ever have one of those days? Or a lot of those days? I seem to feel like that every night between 5-7pm. I guess it is called the witching hour for a reason! I just want to make dinner then enjoy dinner without incident! It never seems to happen. Jake wants to be right at my side the entire time, as does the dog. We have an incredibly small kitchen and it just does not work! I love for Jake to help out in the kitchen, when that is what he is doing, but most of the time it is him whining (ugh, his new favorite past-time) while I am trying to speedily cook.

I decided I needed to get him out of the kitchen and the whole process would be faster and more pleasant for us both! I did not want to discourage his love of the kitchen and cooking so I made a compromise.

I put out an old baking sheet, a bowl of water and every (safe) kitchen utensil that Jake could pull out. I placed them on a built-in window seat, just his height for a counter, in the dinning room. He 'cooked' water for over an hour the first day, stirring, pouring, mixing in ingredients! And I was able to cook dinner and even clean-up the mess before we ate. It was miraculous!
He thoroughly enjoyed himself and now it is a pre-dinner routine. We are both very happy when it is time to sit down and eat! And the dog is happy because Jake likes to take the water, one spoon at a time, to the dog dish and pour it in for him! :)

Ok, so there is a HUGE mess of water everywhere after but I will take, yet another mess for an hour or so of peace!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May Lesson Plans: May Flowers Theme

Spring has sprung in Nashville! And it is a welcomed event!! It is so nice to have windows and doors open. We enjoy spending our days outside so this theme fits right in! I will be having Structured Play time outside when ever possible! It is not necessary to think activities, games, crafts, coloring need to be completed inside. Everything is more fun in the sun!

I want to reiterate a few points before the download:
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.

Ahhhhhh, back!

So sorry for those that have been loyal followers! I have been riddled with sickness! Started with mastitis and went on and on from there! After it is all said and done I am coming out of a dark place with some good news! Baby boy number 2 is on the way!

Although I have not posted I have not given up on our Structured Play time! It might not have been a thorough but we have still been learning, playing and reading! I am ready to jump back into the blogging world but it will come slowly, as I have fallen behind in A LOT of other areas as well!

Can't wait to catch-up!
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