Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tot School: Unit 2- Facial Expressions

     This week we're reading the book Baby Faces by Margaret Miller  , and completing some activities inspired by the book. For whatever reason, I've found that large photos of faces are really captivating for little ones. So, for our activities this week we're going to focus on the subject matter of the book- facial expressions.

Day 1: Make Faces Together to Match Book
     I read him the word on each page and made the appropriate face. Afterwards, I would ask him to make the same face. He was definitely intrigued by the faces, but didn't make them himself. Oh well, at least he still enjoyed the faces (even if I was the only one making them!).

Day 2: Velcro Mr. Potato Head Activity

(This facial expression by my husband. haha)
   Ideally, an actual Mr. Potato Head toy would have been great. We don't have one currently, but perhaps I can get one for him soon. In the meanwhile, I created a paper version for him. I printed the images from an online source, laminated them, and then used small velcro dots to adhere the pieces to the appropriate spots on the paper spud. During play, I'd say something like "I found Mr. Potato's ear! Where is your ear? Can you find Mama's/Annelise's ear? Where should we put Mr. Potato's ear?" Then, we'd place a piece, remove it, place another piece etc. One of the best parts of this activity being a paper version is that it easily fits into a pouch for a busy bag!

Day 3: Make Faces in Mirror
     Again, I made faces into a mirror and he watched with amusement. He's going to make those faces too one day (he's too amused by then not to!).

Day 4: Flip Through Family Faces Book Together

     Tennyson has a facebook! Just kidding! I did make a faces book for him, though. Since we live at a distance from all family, I thought it would be good for him to have a little photo book of all his family members. I simply printed out photos of his parents, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I then backed the photos with colored cardstock (one color for each family group), and then laminated all for durability. Lastly, a hole punch and binder ring made it into a book. We flipped through the little book several times and talked about who each person was. We might be at a distance, but we can still stay connected to family. :)

 (Note: I think I'd rather just done a small Shutterfly photobook when they offer a free photobook coupon code. That would definitely have been simpler! I didn't have time to create on and have it arrive by the time I planned for us to do this activity. Perhaps I will go back and do one in the future. My homemade version worked out just as well).

Day 5: Happy/Sad Face Card Sorting

     This idea originally came from The Princess and the Tot (awesome resource for tot trays!). Like her, I found images online of individuals demonstrating a happy or sad face. I laminated the cards for durability as usual. Then, we flipped through the cards noting if the person was showing a happy or a sad face. Happy faces were placed into the happy face bin and sad faces into the sad face bin. It was a pretty fun activity. I think he'll enjoy doing this again in the future. 

Busy Bag:
     The Mr. Potato Head activity doubled as our busy bag creation this week. :)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tot School: Unit 1 Dance/Music

  *Note: This post contains an affiliate link to I am a personal affiliate with, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).

   We kicked off tot school with a unit on music/dance. We did several activities with a variety of focuses (pretend play, matching, sound discrimination, movement etc.) using the book, Baby Dance by Ann Taylor as inspiration. We also watched our Baby Einstein - Meet the Orchestra - First Instruments video at times during the week. He caught on to many of the activities, though there were some in which he was less interested.. Overall, we really enjoy getting this time together! I look forward to us continuing our "homeschool" "tot school!"

Below is a little summary of our first tot school unit. Follow the tag on the right side of the page to follow along with all our tot schooling moments.

Day 1: Loud & Soft

     We began by reading the book & exploring the pictures on the pages. At the beginning of the book the mama is resting and the daddy is trying to quieten the baby. This scene provides a great inspiration point for learning the difference between loud and soft.

     We used homemade shakers to demonstrate  this concept. One shaker bottle was filled with salt and the other with dry pasta. I then shook each and talked about the sounds they made. I also talked about places (church, park etc) and occasions (Annelise sleeping) in which each sound is appropriate. For instance, I explained that we need to be quiet when Annelise sleeps & shook the salt shaker bottle. When we're outside, though, we can be loud & I shook the pasta shaker bottle. Throughout our time he was free to pick up & play with the bottles (of course, I reiterated the sound each made each time) & flip through the book himself. We concluded by reading the story one more time.

     I don't expect him to have fully understood everything. I do believe in speaking to our children on a mature level though. Again, my aim in our tot schooling is exposure & quality time between us. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy both of those elements today!

Day 2: Dance & Music Cards

     We used the 3 part Montessori cards that corresponds to the letter "d" packet from Moms Have Questions Too. I printed them out on cardstock, backed them with colored cardstock, and then laminated them for durability. My printer unintentionally printed and extra sheet of cards and so I clipped those together with a binder ring to make a busy bag activity.

     We began our time today by first reading the book. We then briefly reviewed yesterday's lesson with the shakers. Then, I brought out the cards. I showed him the cards with the words. I pointed out the picture and word on each. (I felt like only doing one part of the 3 part Montessori cards method was sufficient at his age). He them spent some time freely exploring the cards & I would say the word of whichever card he was holding. I later took our three cards from the other set for a matching game. Last, we concluded by rereading the book.

     He seemed fairly interested in the cards. I think they'll also make a pretty good busy bag for him. We're two days in to our "tot school" and having lots of fun!
Day 3: Do the Baby Dance
      We attempted to do the baby dance described in the book ourselves. Our first time involved me holding Tennyson & we danced to and fro in the living room while I recited the words or steps from the book. Then we tried it again with him also standing on the floor.

     He was not too amused by dancing. He has always been very taken by music and will be still & listen intensely to it. He doesn't dance to music though. So, today's movement activity using dance wasn't a big hit with him.

     I decided to turn on some videos of dancing for him to watch for the remainder of today's school time. I found some great videos on YouTube on various dances like swing and he was fairly interested in watching. I was probably just as captured by their movements. Amazing to be able to move like that!

     (I don't have a single dancing bone in my body so I'm not surprised that he responds about the same to the idea of dancing. We also play a lot of classical or instrumental music for him which doesn't illicit the same desire for dancing as other music genres. Hahaha)

Day 4: Make Music- Instrument Play

       We started our time with reading the book once more. Then, we got out his music instruments and had some fun making lots of noise! Our instruments collection is rather small currently, involving only a drum and xylophone . I hope to get him more pieces in the future. Fortunately, young children don't know they're missing anything and will enjoy whatever is available.

Day 5: Dance with Monkey
     Today was suppose to be an opportunity for pretend play. The idea was that we would pretend we were doing the "baby dance" with his monkey stuffed animal. I playfully danced with his monkey pal, and Tennyson grinned as he watched. He didn't quite follow suit when it was his turn. Perhaps a little early still for pretend play? Oh well, we still enjoyed our time together!

Extra: Busy Bag(s)
Music/dance theme cards

/Violin button snake activity

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tot School

          School time has arrived at our home! Okay, so it is not really "school," but simply ways to keep my young toddler busy. (I've learned that a bored toddler is a destructive toddler. yikes!). But for a mama who intends to homeschool, it's fun to go ahead in jumping on the bandwagon by calling our activities and time together "tot school." Nonetheless, the focus will be less on structured schooling and more on purposeful play. (I've written before on why I feel it important to incorporate purposeful play into my children's day. You can read more on that here.)

      I will have pre-planned activities & we'll have a designated time each day to do them. The plans aren't critical and will likely be adapted each day as need arises. However, having something written down & supplies collected is just the best way for me ensure that we're taking time each day for purposeful play, as well as for quality one on one time.

    My goal is for us to have this intentional time together without overwhelming either of us. Therefore, I'm only planning one activity per day to be completed in a 30 minute timeframe. Mondays will likely be shorter in time spent on designated activities since there's only one. Each day we'll do that day's activity plus the previous day's. By Friday we should be able to utilize the full time. We'll certainly work our way to more activities and time before we reach preschool material. For now, though, my little man is only 19 months, and I think one a day is sufficient.

    I'm also planning to create a busy bag each week. I like the idea of busy bags and he having a few activities that will go with him anytime he needs to be quiet and still (restaurants, Dr offices, church etc). Pairing creation of "school" activities and busy bag activities ensures that both are prepped and completed.
     I'm intending to do two weeks of activities, one week off, repeat the two planned weeks and then start another set. I chose only two at a time so that I didn't get to overwhelmed with the planning and preparing aspects. The two weeks will consist of a book-based week and then a theme-based week. For instance, we'll be doing the book Corduroy in September as well as an "apple theme." The "off" week will be an opportunity for him to be fully self-directed, and he may choose any activity from the previous weeks or none at all. I will use that week to plan and prepare the next set of activities. The two weeks after that point will be the exact repeat activities and schedule from the activity set just completed. The purpose is for the concepts and skills to be reinforced and materials thoroughly enjoyed. It also allows me the opportunity to complete preparations and gather materials for the next activities set.

     I built in time for "tot school" in our morning schedule. So far, we have breakfast together. Tennyson then plays in the pack n' play for about 10 minutes while I tidy the kitchen and dining room back up. He then free plays for another 10 minutes while I get out our "school" material for the day. We then sit together at the kitchen table to read the chosen book and activity. (For book weeks, we read the same story each day. For theme weeks, I'll check out at least five books on that theme from the public library, and we'll read one new book each day). 

     Our main guide will be Pinterest and the book Story S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-r-s® for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos: Experiences, Activities, and Games for Popular Children's Books (affiliate link). This book includes story-based ideas for infants through toddlers. I really like how there are activities for all of the early years, which allows us to begin now instead of later (most "tot school" and literature based activities are designed for ages 2+). It also allows me to be able to include both of my children in some of the activities. We'll probably alternate between books and activities appropriate for infants and those appropriate for one year olds, so that they both can participate (or, at least she be exposed to language at an appropriate level.). The Story Stretchers book only provides three activities per book. I'll supplement the rest with something simple found on the internet (hello, Pinterest!).

     For our theme weeks, I'll utilize Pinterest and the public library for ideas. 

    A couple of other great resources are Let's Tot School and the letter curriculum from Moms Have Questions Too. Each offers a plethora of fantastic ideas. There are so many, in fact, that following along closely would be rather overwhelming to me at this time. We may, however, use some of the ideas on occasion.

Our "school bins" located on the bottom shelf of our bookshelf pantry. We moved pantry items up as Tennyson became more mobile and gave him the bottom shelf for playing while we worked in the kitchen. Space is limited in our home and I couldn't imagine adding any more pieces (shelf, cart etc) to organize our activities. So, this bottom shelf became our "school shelf." It's not ideal, and won't work forever but it works for now. Always trying to find ways to be content with the home God has given us!

     I hope to share some of our activities from time to time. We're a few weeks into our "school" and having so much fun already. I'm looking forward to continuing and adding some seasonal activities soon! Later this month, we'll be extending our activities fun by hosting a "baby book club" in which we'll gather with many of his friends to all read the chosen book and do a few activities. Should be a lot of fun! :)

*Note: This post contains an affiliate link to I am a personal affiliate with, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).

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