Monday, January 31, 2011

Valentine's Book Shelf

These are the books we have on our rotating bookshelf for Valentine's Day. They are all about love, Valentine's Day, and showing we care. I love having a bookshelf that rotates books based on what we are's a great way to carry our themes throughout the day. We also do activities based on the characters or themes.

We have been writing, stamping, and delivering "mail" the way the mice do in Valentine Mice. I bought two different tin mailboxes from the Dollar Spot at Target and we set them up in two locations around the house. Buga has fun writing mail, making Valentine's and running them back and forth between mailboxes - putting the little flags up when they are full.

I Love You As Much...
Laura Krauss Melmed

I Love You Because You're You
Liza Baker

Valentine Mice!
Bethany Roberts

How Do I Love You?
P.K. Hallinan

How Do I Love You?
Marion Dane Bauer

I Love You Through And Through
Bernadette Rossetti Shustak

Happy Valentine's Day, Curious George
H.A. Rey

The Love-Me Bird
Joyce Dunbar

Guess How Much I Love You
Sam McBratney

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kumon Workbooks

Buga and I have been enjoying "school time" every day. She looks forward to it SO much. She enjoys it. She thrives on it. She asks for it. I love that she is so excited to sit down and work on critical skills. I like that it is one-on-one time for just her and I. I love the look she gets when she concentrates hard on a task. I love the look she gets when she knows she did a careful, thoughtful job.

Right now we work in three different Kumon workbooks. Tracing, Sticker/Pasting, and Coloring. I prepare a couple pages from each workbook at each "sit down" - at her new desk....which she also LOVES. Sometimes it takes us 15 minutes....sometimes it takes us 40....depending on how many pages. She always wants to do "more" but I make it clear how many pages we are doing at the beginning, because a. I want her to continue to be engaged and excited every time we sit down for this special time and b. I couldn't keep up with the cost of doing a whole workbook every day of the week! That's how much she loves it <3

If you are not familiar with these books, they offer different skill books in different age ranges. Each book starts out "easy" and progressively gets more difficult as the pages go on and your little ones skills further develop. They offer parent advice along the way, to.....focus more on the process than the outcome, what to talk about, etc. I find them easy to use, wonderful graphically, and best of all Buga LOVES them. You can find many of them on Amazon as part of the 4-for-3 promotion.

Here she is working on her sticker pasting skills. You would think: so what? They are just stickers. But do you see the fine motor skills required to pull them off the sheet? It's intense....find it, find the corner, peel it, try to peel it without breaking it, pull it off, think about where you want it to go, and try to stick it in just the right place.... There are a lot of pincer grasp motions involved in that "simple" task. Sometimes she can get frustrated, but I just put an emotional label on it..."I know you are feeling frustrated.....I know you can do it" ... and try to get her to "take her time" ---- of course, I will help her with the things she really struggles with, but sometimes she is just too impatient for her own good. Her mind moves so fast and she wants to keep up....


We explore the word of the - scene, item, picture, person, etc. and we talk about it more. About the picture itself, about the colors, numbers, counting, where things will go.....if we have ever done/used/been/were like what's going on in the picture. These little interactive conversations also build communication skills, description skills, much wonderful learning is jam-packed into our "school time." Even if it's not school, to take time out and play - and learn - one on one is amazing. She has grown so much and it is beautiful to watch. I miss her baby-ness, but also embrace this fascinating and wonderful stage of growing, learning, exploring, asking....and asking. Her world scope is growing in leaps and bounds. I am so honored to be a part of it :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Valentine's Play Dough

Here is a simple recipe that cooks up a lot of fun - Buga had just as much fun making it as she has playing with it (Every day since we made it!) Here is the recipe for fun.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon almond extract
red food coloring (to your taste)
silver glitter (as many shakes as you like)

Measure all of the ingredients into a nonstick pot and stir until it's mixed well (My little one poured and stirred). Cook over medium heat (I did this) until the dough pulls away to form a ball. Take the dough out of the pot and put it on a play dough mat or cutting board. Knead the dough (grown up job until it cools down a bit) until there are no more lumps (kind of like bread or pizza dough). The dough will stay good for several weeks if you are careful to put it in an airtight container or bag when you are done playing.

I put this is a Glad container - on a tray of dough tools. Buga loves rolling it into little snakes, making apple pie, smelling the delicious almond-y smell (she says it smells like almond croissants!) and making "cookies" with them...I put some heart shaped cookie cutters on the tray this time around. Play Dough can be messy....especially if it gets engrained in your carpet - but we have a rule : on the coffee table (her learning station table) and ON the Play Dough Mat (a placemat). It doesn't always work, but more often than not it keeps it to the table. At least this way she knows what to expect - boundary wise - and I can always reference the rule to get it back to the table.

It is such a great manipulative for little ones and there are so many learning possibilities .... volume, shape, part vs. whole, small vs. big, fine motor skills in rolling, cutting, pinching, balling, etc. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Valentine's Sensory Bin

More Sensory Bin Excitement!

Yes, it's true, we are putting all the "Valentine's Day" things out. Our house is decorated, our centers are accessible, and Buga is having a wonderful time enjoy the love. I put out this new Sensory Bin and she loves it. It's all about hearts - and containers / compartments / fractions / fitting. She loves opening each piece up and finding the treasure inside. I will definitely try to incorporate some container in all of my Sensory Tubs from now on because she really enjoys filling them, emptying them, discovering them...She plays with this one just about every day.

This ones main fill are plastic hearts I found at Target (I think there are about $10.00 worth of hearts in here.) I bought pink and red. We also use them for other activities (like transferring).

As you can see from the Eye Spy view, it's very heart-centric. It's almost all pink and red with tons of hearts in different textures: Plastic, glitter, foam, felt, eraser...

Here is one of the largest pieces in the box - a red, see-through container to hold other hearts. It holds four of these medium hearts....or a handful of the filler hearts....or two of the larger hearts. It's all about filling up and figuring out what fits best where...shape, size, contrast.

These are her main tools - measuring "cups" and "spoons" shaped like hearts! I also bought these at Target (in the "$1.00" spot. It was actually $2.50 for all of them...both cups and spoons) Not only do they work as tools for filling, scooping, and pouring; but they are also another practice in size ratios and proportion. Which heart fits where? They also stack and nest inside one another.

This is also a Target $1.00 find - the plastic hearts that open up. I think there were about 10 in the pack for $1.00 (pink and red). More treasure containers to fill and spill. More size work. They are also used for nesting inside the larger containers as well.

This flower trinket container was also a $1.00 Spot find. I love that they are like "love me, love me not" petals.....and have the perfect amount of slots for an AB pattern (red, pink, red, pink, red, pink).

This was yet another Target find. The red container heart came 2 per pack. When you open them up, it is divided into two sections, but you can take out the plastic divider to make it one compartment - and it happened to be the perfect size to fit the glitter heart (Also from Target's Spot)! I left one WITH the divider as a lesson in differences, fractions, etc. She fills it up using the smaller, filler hearts, the sparkle hearts (AC Moore) or the erasers (Dollar Tree).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Good Enough to Eat

Part II.

I finished the Candy Sorting Activity Center for Buga and she has been enjoying it VERY much. As much as I hate to admit it, if you want her to learn something....turn into into something sweet - literally! She doesn't get candy, chocolate, cake, cookies very often so she is fascinated with them. Though she realizes the importance of eating healthy things - "Cake has a lot of sugar, Mama. We can only eat it sometimes." Good to know :)

She loves playing with these little "candies" and likes to share these little sweets with everyone. She tells me a list of everyone she is going to give "something nice" to...I love that she is working on her fine motor skills (especially with the tongs), concentration, sorting, and shape and pattern recognition. It makes MY heart happy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Library Friends

Buga found some friends at the library. Statues, actually. Be she likes to sit and talk with them...and read them a story or two before she leaves. She makes me smile :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More Winter Activities

As a way to reuse and recycle those beautiful Christmas cards that we received, I cut them up to create mini "puzzles" for Buga. It seems simple enough, and it is....but she enjoys putting the pieces together to find a a beautiful picture. And she likes that each picture has a story behind it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Making "Chocolates" for a Holiday Learning Game

I started making "Candy Chocolates" (pretend) for a Valentine's Day Learning Game for Buga. It is my plan to use these chocolates in a candy box...with the little wrappers...for her to count, sort, and pretend with. She is going to use tongs to pick them up and put them in the box. Each box contains 6 "chocolates". I made two of each shape so we can match them. I made two of each design in each white and pink so we can sort them that way. We can sort by color, shape, design, or color & design. It was fun for me to create these little goodies. It was like playing with play dough. I know she is going to love them.

I used brown Crayola Model Magic for the candies and pink and white puffy paint for the "icing".

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Sensory Bin

We have been using Sensory Bins as a way to incorporate the Season or Holiday into our daily routine for awhile now. However, I have not been very good at documenting them until recently. Buga really enjoys playing with different nicknacks in a tub filled with something tactile - I mean, who wouldn't? It's a great way to add texture while exploring a subject through excavation and discovery. Sometimes she mulls through the bin on her own and sometimes we work on it together, incorporating more conversation as she explores. Either way she is learning some very important lessons: physics, gravity, volume, shape, size, sound, how things fit together, similar and different, size relation...the list goes on.

I usually try to incorporate something that show size relation :
Small, Medium, Large
Big, Bigger
Small, Smaller, Smallest

I almost always include a Magnifying glass as she is big into "investigating".
We talk about what we see - the finer details.

There are always some kind of scoops, cups, spoons to help with studying volume.
I usually include some kind of funnel or, in this case, paper towel tube -
What fits in? Where does it end up? Does it go fast or slow? Does it get stuck?

This is an Eye Spy picture of the goodies included in this bin:

- Christmas Erasers -
I liked that these had a rubbery texture, were colorful, and had two of each character in a pack so we could work on making matching pairs.

- Bells -
I liked these because there were a bunch (I think 12) in a pack. I liked that it added a sound to the bin. I liked that it provided a good end number to count to.

- Candy Canes -
She has been really interested in Candy Canes because this is the first year she was able to eat them, so I thought it would be fun to have some to play with in the bin. She would often take them out and put them on our Christmas Tree as decorations. We also used these to count.

- Ornaments -
Most of the ornaments in the bin are little tiny ones I wouldn't even put on my Christmas tree. I liked that it provided another counting tool. It also provided a sorting tool as it came with about 4 or so of each color. I added 2 larger ornaments from the Tree to give i
t another learning dimension : Size Relationships.

- Red Bows -
This provided yet another counting tool but one very different in color and texture. They were shiny red bows, very festive...soft, yet prickly. They slide through the tube pretty well, too!

- Wooden Snowman - Wooden Tree -
I thought these made a fun imaginative addition. We used them to make "Snow
Scapes" with the cotton balls as snow. They also provided a story telling conversation starter. She has been very interested in playing "boys and girls" ie. using her dollhouse. This was a holiday extension of that in her sensory bin. This is one of the products I sold in my shop this season....and as many of you know, she gets to be my product tester!


If your little one is too young for small objects, then use a bigger tub, with some bigger object. When Buga was little I used an "under the bed storage container" and filled it with Cheerios so if she decided to eat the "Sensory Material" it was completely safe. I liked the size because she could actually get in and sit down in there. Sometimes I saw it as more of a trough than a play box....but she absolutely LOVED it. There was not a single day that went by that she wouldn't sit and play in there - pouring, scooping, placing, shaking, eating...the Cheerios. And I just covered it up when we were done.

(This was the trial run, before I decided the Cheerio Bin would be around to stay. That's when I upgraded to the "under the bed storage container with the lid".)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Target Circle

Every time we go to Target (the big ones) they have a circle cutout near the front entrance of the store. Buga LOVES to "sit in the circle". I don't know what about it is so fascinating or appealing, but there is something magical that happens in that circle - and it provides the perfect opportunity for photo shoot pictures! She hams it up in no other place more...I am grateful for those smiles, for sure! Now, if only we could get our shopping done, too...

Friday, January 7, 2011


I love having the easel easily accessible. So does Buga. She often asks to get her paints out (I don't leave the acrylic ones out all the time). It is a special project, but she has really enjoyed playing and experimenting lately. I have since added more colors, but actually like the simplicity of four. I like that she doesn't spend as much time figuring out which color to use, and more time on her strokes, figures, and combinations of color. Either way, it's magical. I loved this creation so much that I took a picture of it. And have a video of the artist in action.