Saturday, November 10, 2018

Fall Tot School/Preschool Activities

  Our fall activities have been what we have predominately done for school time recently. One wonderful aspect of homeschooling the early years is the ability to adapt concepts into fun themes! My goal, as always, is to present concepts in a fun, hands-on manner (with lots of reading as well!). The following are the activities we did to learn while also celebrate the fall season!

1) Leaf Color Sorting
       We brought along this activity on a trip, and enjoyed it with the company of a cousin. It's such a simple and fun activity for learning colors!
      For this activity, I wrote the names of the colors on construction paper and taped them to a wall. The children were then handed a foam leaf sticker, which they then ran to place it on the matching paper. (This activity doubles as gross motor skill activity! Perfect for energetic little ones!). 

2) Pumpkin Salt Tray 
      A salt tray allows children to learn to form letters/numbers/shapes etc. even before their fine motor skills are developed enough for proper pencil grip and writing. I chose pumpkins for our letter cards. I found an image online and printed it out on orange paper, and then wrote each letter. Finally, each pumpkin was run through the laminator to add durability so that we can continue to enjoy the activity in the future. (A far less time consuming approach would have been to purchase die-cuts as would be used on a classroom calendar or bulletin board. I may do this in the future because it was a lot of cutting. haha). For the salt, I decided to color it orange to match the pumpkins. For another tie to pumpkins, I used pie plates as the trays (as in pumpkin pie, get it?). 
     To use: Simple select a card. Demonstrate how the letter is formed. Allow the child to try. Shake the tray to practice another letter. 
      I really like the idea of the children being able to learn the shape of the letters even while their fine motor skills aren't quite developed enough for proper pencil grip and writing. However, I have been a little hesitant to introduce a salt tray as I imagined salt being tossed everywhere. (We've not had great success with sensory bins). However they were so engaged in this activity that they didn't just play wildly with it. They really surprised me in how well they already knew how to form the letters, though we've not done any formal lessons in writing. Shows you how much they naturally pick up on!

3) Leaf identification and matching
     When you live in an area that doesn't have the kind of trees that changes in the fall, you create some! I made these last year and don't know where I found the leaf images. I printed the leaf images twice. I wrote the type on the backs. Then, I laminated them for durability. This activity is small enough to easily use as an activity bag when out and about. 
     To use: Use these to identify the various leaves. You could also use these to develop description such as noting the shapes and color of each type of leaf. A third way to use these is to double print them to use as a matching game.  

4) Scented Play Dough with fall theme cookie cutters
       We do a lot of activities with play dough. It's inexpensive, easy and great for fine motor skill development. I made a batch of homemade play dough and added pumpkin spice blend seasoning and orange dye. We also had a set of fall theme cookie cutters that they used. They enjoyed making lots of play dough leaves! (I did have to watch them closely because the dough smelled delicious with all the fall spices!)

5) Memory/Matching Cards
      I printed and laminated these cards last year. (I can't remember where I found them online- sorry). For my youngest ones, we simply used these to match. For my older one (and sometimes my three year old as well), we used them to introduce the game of Memory. I started out with just four pairs. As they got the idea, I added another pair. I think the important aspect of learning this game is to start slow so that it doesn't become overwhelming and they feel defeated by it. This was another activity that was small enough to be used as an activity bag (though, I recommend only taking a small set. The entire set would be way too many cards to be managed on-the-go).

6) Scarecrow Flannelboard
       A fellow homeschool co-op mama introduced me to a flannelboard, and I've been in love with one ever since! For a fall flannelboard activity, we used felt scarecrows to go through the poem "Five Little Scarecrows." It's a fun, hands-on way to teach literacy (through the rhyme and rhythm of the poem) and math (counting, the concept of addition and subtraction). All the children were able to participate in this activity!
      Note- I discovered a new way of doing felt pieces. Print the desired image onto transfer paper, and then iron it onto the felt. Easy peasy felt pieces for the flannelboard! I found a friendly scarecrow image online, and thought it created the cutest felt scarecrow pieces!

7) Acorn Number Search
        This number recognition activity was inspired by nature's preparation for winter. The words on the sheet read, "Can you help the squirrel collect all the acorns to store for winter?" I attached large craft sticks to the acorns and stuck them in the ground in the backyard. The children then were given a sheet and a crayon. Each time they "found" and acorn they colored it in on their papers. It was a pretty fun activity to bring schooltime outside!

8) Leaf Toss/Raking
     We've had these leaves since Tennyson was a young toddler, and they are still a favorite. Back then, I had a little child-size rake for him to rake them up. It was such a fun activity for him at that age, especially since we didn't have a yard or trees for him to actually rake. I would still like to repeat that activity. However, I didn't want to contend with purchasing several rakes or the three oldest disputing over a single rake. So, this year we simply enjoyed tossing the leaves up and watching them fall. It's such a simple, simple activity but they all absolutely love it. (Plus, the leaves can double as decor when not in use!)

9) Pumpkin Painting
      We purchased each of the children a small pumpkin, and then enjoyed an afternoon on the back patio painting them! I have painted a pumpkin each fall for quite a few of my adult years, and it's always an enjoyable part of the season. This is one tradition I hope we continue for years to come!

10) Tea Time
       When possible, we gather together for a tea and story time each week. For a fall tea time, I lit a pumpkin spice candle, made individual pumpkin mug cakes (which were terrible, but we ate them anyways haha), and read several of our fall books. We're slowly trying to establish this as a weekly occasion. It's always a delightful pause to our ordinarily loud and busy days. I wish for them to be able to recognize and enjoy the beauty of slow and simple moments. (This sort of activity is the perfect calm and refreshment my soul needs. I'm the kind of person who enjoys a warm beverage, tasty treat, soft candle and good book most of all.)

11) Books, books, and more books!
      If we don't get to any schooltime activities, we at least have read several books. Books are central to our schooltime and family life.
     I love celebrating with books. Books are such a wonderful way to mark the beginning of a new season, a holiday or other occasion like a birthday. And so, I usually try to include a new book for us to enjoy. This year, I decided to get two books as my older two are able to understand books at a different level than my younger two. The older two received, The Berenstain Bears Fall Collection by Mike and Jan Berenstain*. And the younger two received, The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri*  (board book).
      I collect seasonal books year round from online marketplace sales, library book sales, and used book store. We've grown to have quite a collection that we read over and over again each fall!

12) Homeschool co-op
       One of the mamas in our homeschool co-op hosted a fun fall gathering for us. She created a picture checklist of fall items found in nature. The children then went on a scavenger hunt in the backyard for those items. When they found the item, they checked it off their lists. It was a delightful way to incorporate nature into learning!

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