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Showing posts from 2013

Pre-Writing: Story Building

My big boy, Jake is really into telling stories and making up tales. He does NOT like to attempt to write, though. He has trouble with his fine motor skills and if he cannot do something he does not want to try! Roaring Springs has these super Color Me Notebooks with pictured covers. You can color the pictures and the inside of the notebook is just lined paper. I saw these and got inspired. I knew that Jacob would love these and want to color right away. My idea was to use the cover as inspiration for writing a story. Jake saw this and jumped right in! He colored the front and named the story The Missing Shark and Turtle.
I convinced Jacob to write his name (getting there) and we started the story. I wrote what Jacob told me to write- exactly. I repeated it as I wrote then read it back to him after we finished that page. This process caused some editing on his part. (You can see those below.) After I finished writing a page he illustrated it.  I love that he was able to self edit his …

How to Teach Play- #4 What Should We Play?

What Should We Play?
Here are some examples to help you know what and how to play with your child. 
Note: These are example of my son and I playing together. In some cases it involves my second son as well, but teaching play is not done with a room full of childhood friends. That is valuable on its own, but it is something different and works best with older toddlers/children. Children learn a lot from each other.  You may find after spending time teaching your first or oldest child how to play they do the hard work for you for your subsequent children. My second son learned a lot from his big brother. I did have to sit down and help him with a few types of playing, like the farm, building with blocks and playing ball. 
Dramatic Play Examples: Fishing- Using Props Post Office 1 Post Office 2 Snow Plow Whole Town Play Puppets Tools  Farm Fishing Hanging Clothes on a Clothesline Train Ride Truck Driving Lion
Tent/Camping Construction- Building a House
Physical Play Examples: Raking Leaves Deep Sea Diving

How to Teach Play- #3 How Do I Teach Play?

How Do I Teach Play?
I believe that play is something children learn. They learn play by modeling during Onlooker Play. The modeling can be by siblings, parents or other children. Sometimes that modeling comes from life experiences for example; cooking in the kitchen, going to a Pick Your Own Produce farm, or taking a ride on a bus. Play can also be learned from direct modeling. This is when someone sits down and plays with them, showing the child exactly what to do without them noticing that is what you are doing.  
Think of a playing a board game with a small child- you cannot give them the game and expect them to play correctly. Reading the directions is usually not enough either. You must play the game with the child reminding them of the directions while playing. 
The same must be done with toys. Most parents think a toddler can pick up a toy and know how to play. That is just not the case. Take the Fisher Price Little People Barn. I have seen people give that to toddlers and wa…

How to Teach Play- #2 What Should We Expect from Our Children?

What Should We Expect from Our Children?
"Where are your kids? Playing? They are toddlers! I swear they could play for hours on their own. How can I get my kids to do that?"
This is something I have heard numerous times. Parents love their children but want them to be able to go play by themselves sometimes. It is a very important skill for numerous reasons but in the minds' of most parents the most important reason is a moment of piece and quiet! 
Children learn through play and then use play to occupy themselves. They should be able to play alone and with others. The goal for play is to get "Lost in Play." To be Lost in Play is when a child is so deeply playing he/she may not be able to hear you call their name- the world around them stops. This is when the real learning is happening and this is when true play is happening. When our children are lost in play they do not want to be disturbed. Calling them to dinner is the end of the world. It is usually not so…

How to Teach Play- #1 What is Play?

What is play? Play is THE most important thing children do! Children learn through play. If you want your children to learn, teach them through play. A toddler's job is playing, their days should be consumed by play. 
-OK, I get it! But what does play look like for a toddler?
There are many stages of play from infants cooing and kicking to children having extensive Lego cities. We categorize play to help with the understanding of the larger concept. The six categories were developed by Sociologist Mildred Parten. 
Stages of Play: 1. Unoccupied Play- This is the play of infants; kicking, cooing, swatting  2. Solo Play- When toddlers are playing by themselves 3. Onlooker Play- When a toddler watches others play and absorbs or learns from their play 4. Parallel Play- Playing in the same room with children side by side but not engaged in the same activity  5. Associative Play- Playing with the same toys as other children but not interacting with eachother 6. Cooperative Play- Playing …

Dramatic Play- Camping

The boys and I did a little at-home camping this week. Here is a picture of our set-up.

This wonderful day(s) of play all started after we received a package in the mail. Smart-Fab, a company that makes a cool fabric material that is strong and durable yet easy to cut, glue and paint. Smart-Fab sent us a sample of their product to allow us to get creative and have a little fun! 
I asked Jacob (4 years old) what we should make using the Smart-Fab product. Without a second thought Jacob said he wanted to make a tent. I thought it was an unusual idea to come from him because we have yet to go camping as a family and really have never talked about a tent or camping. But the big guy knew what he wanted to do and he wanted to do it that moment! We had to get creative with what we had around the house to make the tent. I kept it basic by stringing a rope from a tree to the fence and then laid the Smart-Fab over the rope. We also stuck the Smart-Fab to the ground using stakes. The stakes wen…

New Series: How to Teach Your Child to Play

I hear time and again that parents wish their children could play by themselves for an extended amount of time. Our new series will help you Teach your Child to Play.

In this Series we will address:
1. What is play?
2. What Should we Expect from our Children?
 3. How do I teach play?
 4. What should we play?

Color by Number

We are well into our Airplane Theme and the boys are having a fun time. I was able to click a few pictures (on my phone) as Jacob worked on his color by number picture.
All I did was print the picture and add numbers and colors. (see top left of picture) I explained to Jacob what to do he and he got busy right away. He enjoyed having to follow the directions, surprise! At first he just colored the numbers so I had to clarify to him that he should color the whole section.  He did a nice job and stayed in the lines for the most part. Usually he colors all around inside and outside of the lines, which is developmentally appropriate but not so appealing. I was happily surprised to see him staying within the lines. Notice how he is holding the crayon.  As you can see from this chart, Jacob at 4 years old at the end of August, is right on track. If you have been following the blog for a while, you will notice his progression with holding a crayon. This absolutely happens naturally without p…

August Plans- Airplane

We have a new baby coming and a wedding/vacation coming up so I wanted to get the plans ready and for both! I have chosen an Airplane Theme this month because we will be taking our first airplane trip with the kids. Yay! (I think.) I am hoping these activities will be fun and help educate the boys before we make the venture. I will try to post more but am just having a hard time keeping up. I figure the plans are the important part, right?!?
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 a first step in literacy.
4. Walk Away- Try to keep Structured Pla…

Shell Imprints

Today we spent some time playing with sea shells and play-doh. I had Jake roll out the doh and use the shells to make some imprints.
I had some shells from our last beach trip but I bought some at Michael's Craft Store as well. I wanted to do some projects with shells in addition to this activity. 

We made some observations of the imprints using our senses. We then talked about what we liked or thought was neat about the shell imprints. Lastly, we made predictions about what a shell imprint might look like before imprinting it based on other shells we imprinted.
Little brother tried some as well. He is much different than his big brother. Jacob was doing Structured Play Activities starting at 13 months old. Joey was NOT ready at 13 months! He is just a different kiddo but he is now slowly showing signs of readiness.  Look what I made!


I have switched my organization process a bit to make things easier and faster for me. I found these 5 plastic boxes at Costco for about $30. I thought they would be a perfect way to organize our monthly activities while all the while keeping them neat and out of the way. I have 5 labels for the boxes including; Reading, Pre-writing, Arts and Crafts, Motor Skills and Math. These are the areas in which we have activities every month. You can download the labels here. I print them as notes so that they are small and fit on the front of the box. They could also be larger and on top of the box.
What I am doing is preparing all of my activities for the month and placing them in the appropriate box. Each day when it is time to do our Structured Play Activities I ask Jacob to grab a box he would like to work on today. It has to be a box he has not done for that week. I have found that by letting him choose the box and the activity it cuts down on his lack of cooperation. Then once we open t…

June Activities- Beach Theme

We are back on track, I hope! This month we are doing a Beach Theme. Please remember these important points:
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 a 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!

Beach Theme Documents

Summer Schedule

Sorry I have been MIA. One thing after another has come up but the best news is the announcement of a new baby boy coming in August! I am trying to get back on track before baby comes!

Here is our summer schedule:
Summer Schedule I find having some kind of schedule really helps keep ME on track. This is more for me than for the boys, although they will enjoy it as much as I will! The guide above is a baseline for our mornings. We will be flexible and do what we can when we can do it.