Saturday, February 28, 2009

Top Ten Play Things

Mary, over at A Mom Learning More Everyday recently posted her daughter's top ten play things and I thought it was a great idea, so I am making my own list.



Here's Little Bean's List, in no particular order:

1. Books, books, books. Doesn't matter what kind of book--it could be a picture dictionary, a Disney character book, a chapter book, or a library book. This kid LOVES to be read to. He would read all day, every day, if I was willing and able to read to him that much.

2. Felt. This has been a recent new love. I made a felt board several months back and Velcroed it to our playroom wall. I also found a bunch of felt characters and shapes at the thrift store and a few weeks ago made them more accessible in the playroom. Apparently it was a good move because he has been doing a lot of felt play lately.

3. The Guidecraft Mystery Bag. I found this on craigslist and snatched it right up. He likes making ME feel in the bag for the correct shape!

4. Tinker Toys. I found ours at the thrift store a few months back. He always comes up with some crazy inventions.

5. Trains and tracks. This boy loves trains and tracks. He loves building a giant line of tracks and then lining up all his trains on them. Recently he has started pretending with the trains and it's so cute to watch him have little conversations between the trains.

6. Blocks. He just loves to build.

7. Markers. I really don't like letting them use markers because they are so messy, but they love how easy it is for the color to show up with marker. It seems with crayons they have to use a much stronger grip in order to get the desired color, so markers are always a favorite. And Little Bean has just started making the cutest little drawings of people--big round head and eyes, and long, straight legs, arms and hair. I just love his drawings.

8. Games. Any game will do whether it's homemade or store bought, whether it uses dice, cards or a game board. He loves games, I think because they are so interactive and he just loves when I can get down and play WITH him.

9. The park. Okay, I guess the park isn't exactly a play thing, but he enjoys a good park day very much. We are lucky enough to have a play structure in our housing complex, and spend a lot of time there finding little treasures and playing on the structure.

10. "House". Little Bean and Miss O play some form of "house" pretty much every day. I know house isn't a play thing either, but they use all their toys when they play house. The doctor kit stethoscope becomes a dog leash for Miss O, and the dress up box becomes a table for their picnic.

Here is Miss O's list, also in no particular order:

1. Dolls. Miss O is rarely without a baby doll. She just loves them. Her dolls go everywhere with her and they do everything with her.

2. Her play kitchen. We have this one: http://www.amazon.com/KidKraft-Sweet-Pastel-Kitchen/dp/B000XWATI8/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&s=baby-products&qid=1235852693&sr=8-13.

3. Books. Miss O also loves to read, but she mostly likes to read on her own. It's not uncommon to see her sitting on the couch with a few books and chatting to herself as she makes up the story and turns the pages.

4. Giant blocks. We have these ridiculously giant blocks for climbing that we got at Target a few years ago. Miss O loves them and she climbs all over them. I couldn't find the link to what they look like or I would have posted it.

5. Music. I know music isn't a plaything, but that is what Miss O loves. We do have a little mp3 player for kids and she carries it around and dances to the songs.

6. Cooking. Again, not a plaything, sorry. But she loves to help me cook and measure.

7. Playdough. Miss O loves playdough. She loves smooshing it and ripping it apart. Most of all she loves when I make little playdough babies and strollers and bottles and she plays dolls with her dough!

8. Rice. Yes, she loves playing with rice. Whether we are pouring and scooping or digging for treasures or playing with an I Spy bottle, she loves playing with rice.

9. The dustpan and broom. Maybe this falls under "house", but Miss O loves cleaning up. She likes to play with the dustpan and broom, "shining" shoes and a slew of other house cleaning toys.

10. Puzzles. She's been into puzzles lately. I think she finally figured out how to do them and so it's becoming more enjoyable and less frustrating for her.

What does your little one like to play with?

Friday, February 27, 2009

My Alphabet Hero

You've got to check this blog post out--http://funnydayswithmommyandmaddie.blogspot.com/2009/02/our-alphabet-kitchen.html. I hope Miss O, Little Bean and I can finish the whole alphabet some time. So far, we've only done three letters and it's been a couple months since we started. It looks like they had alot of fun making a project for each letter, and they all turned out so cute. Hopefully some day I can make a post like that too with all of our finished alphabet projects!

Puffball Caterpillars

I guess I am on a puffball craze, I don't know, but I just realized many of my recent posts use puffballs. If you don't have these, then you should get some, because these seem to have many uses and are a great addition to your craft stash. ;)

I saw these puffball caterpillars on http://jennwa.blogspot.com/ and knew I had to make them with my kids. Be sure to visit her over there, she has a ton of great ideas!

These are so simple and so cute! All you need is glue, tongue depressors, puffballs and wiggly eyes. The kids made several they liked them so much. By the way, I just LOVE their facial expressions in these pictures! Too funny!



Montessori Activity--Jars and Lids

I believe that I've seen this activity on many sites, but I *think* I first saw it on http://www.chasingcheerios.blogspot.com/, a wonderful blog about a mom who is implementing Montessori-type schooling at home. It's a very simple activity, but it carries so many possibilities, so I thought I'd share it here.

All you need are some glass jars and matching lids, a basket to contain them all and a carpeted room for your children to explore the jars in a safe environment. I was really nervous letting my kids play with the jars, but then I realized that part of the Montessori philosophy is about teaching children to handle real-life objects and to learn to respect and and be gentle with the materials. So the activity isn't just about screwing lids on the correct jars, it's about learning to properly handle different materials, about determining size and shape, about manual dexterity, about volume and weight, and a plethora of other mathematical concepts. Did my kids realize this when they were playing with the jars and lids? Well, no, not consciously. But I believe they were learning these things in subtle little ways that they probably didn't realize.

Anyway, enough on that. I had the kids start by just handling the materials--screwing the lids on and taking them off. Then we experimented with sorting. We sorted puff balls by color and then by size. I occurred to me that it would be interesting to sort beans or other hard objects because then you have the added benefit of the sound the objects make when you fill the jars. Both the kids realized that the jars had a scent to them (because the jars were washed out spaghetti sauce and applesauce jars, and had maintained some of their scent) and began smelling the lids and the jars and matching the scents--this was sort of silly, but I thought it was interesting that it occurred to them to sort in this manner. Little Bean was really attracted to this activity, which surprised me; I had intended it for Miss O since it seemed simple and easy for her to accomplish. This will definitely be one that I bring out again and again. Try this and see what your little ones think!

Monday, February 23, 2009

My First Lapbook--I'm so proud!

I've mentioned before that I am interested in lapbooking, but I've never been brave enough to try it in the past. Lapbooking is basically just a bunch of mini books/activities that you attach to a folder and the child uses the book (on his lap) as a review of already learned skills or as tool for learning new skills. Well I saw this wonderful VeggieTales lapbook on a blog I follow and had to make it. Check out her blog at http://ourcraftsnthings.com/. I now know why I was wary to try this; it is kind of time consuming and it's difficult to make something that will hold up under lots of use by two toddlers. But, I managed, and even whipped out a second Thomas the Train lapbook while I was at it. I know I have alot to learn, but here is the final product for your enjoyment. Also, if you are interested in doing this or other lapbooks, visit http://lapbooksbycarisa.homestead.com/TotBooks.html, where I got the print outs for these lapbooks.
Here's the VeggieTales lapbook:









And here's the Thomas lapbook:




Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tot School

Tot School
Tot School is a time each day(or several times each day) that I spend interacting with my kids and exposing them to early learning skills. To find out more about Tot School, visit Carisa over at 1+1+1=1 (you can click the button at the top of this post to visist her page).
Little Bean is 45 months and Miss O is 31 months old.
This week in Tot School:
Little Bean played this counting game I made for him:


He also spent some time cutting, which is really fun and challenging for him:



He also made up some stories using our felt board, which is always a favorite:



And built a giant block tower:



He did this animal matching game:


Miss O spent some time doing puzzles, like this fishing game puzzle:



She also tried her hand at the animal matching game:



Since Little Bean and Miss O are so close in age, there were a number of activities that they chose to do together:
Here they are playing with magnets on our magnet board:


And here they were reading together:


This Mystery Bag puzzle was a favorite this week. You set up the puzzle tiles and then reach in a cloth bag and feel for the correct pieces. Here they are playing this game together:


Our Tinker Toys always end up becoming interesting inventions:


And here they are stringing Unifix cubes:


Digging through rice for buried treasure (Daddy made this one up!):




So that was our week. We had a great time playing and learning together this week, and we definitely kept busy. Look for our Tot School posts every week or so, and please be sure to check out Carissa's blog (as well as the other ladies who participate in Tot School) by clicking the button in my sidebar or at the top of this post.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Moon Sand--I love this stuff!

String Bean and I were perusing Target last night and picked up some Moon Sand for Little Bean and Miss O to try out. They immediately noticed the little containers sitting on the counter this morning and were excited to give it a try. Moon Sand is truly a strange and wonderous product! I can't quite figure out what it reminds me of, but it definitely reminds me of something!

Little Bean and Miss O had a great time experimenting with the Moon Sand, squishing it, stamping on it with rubber stamps, and espescially pouring it from container to container. I will warn you though, this product is way messier than playdough. You definitely want them to play with it on top of a tray to try to contain the mess and I even had mine wear pocket bibs to catch any crumbs that flew off the table. Even with that, I still had to do a little sweeping when they were finished.

How does your child like Moon Sand??

Sweeping--Practical Life Activity

I don't know about your little ones, but mine love to do anything I do. If I'm dusting, they want to dust, if I'm cleaning the mirrors, they want to clean the mirrors, if I'm sweeping, they want to sweep. The aren't coordinated enough at this point to do much real sweeping, so I made up this little activity to help build this practical life skill.

All you need is a dustpan, a hand-held broom (I got mine at the dollar spot at Target) and some puff balls. First I showed Little Bean what to do; I poured out a container of puff balls and then gathered them into the dustpan with the broom. Then I poured them from the dustpan back into the container. He really enjoyed this. At first he was a little reticent, thinking that he couldn't do it, but once he saw how easy it was, he liked it. Also, he wanted to use his hands rather than the broom, and I was perfectly okay with that because the whole point is to build his confidence that he can do it--the skill can come later on. Miss O of course wanted to do it as well. Actually I made the activity with her in mind because she is constantly wanting to use the sweeper. She ended up using her hands for the majority of the activity, but I am confident that they will enjoy doing this again and again. What a great activity, and so simple!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shape Train

Since we've been thinking about shapes a lot lately, and since Little Bean just loves trains, I decided to make a shape train with them today. It was very easy and a wonderful way to reinforce the names of the different shapes and colors.

First I cut out my shapes--a long rectangle for the train, 4 circles for wheels, 4 squares for windows, a rectangle for the smoke stack and a right triangle for the grate on the front of an engine. Then we pasted everything to the paper and added animal stickers in the windows, pretending it was a circus train! That's it! So simple and yet packed with learning. These turned out so cute, Little Bean insisted we hang them up right away in our playroom.

Sound Jars

This project has been in the works for a while now. I first saw this while exploring Montessori activities online and thought my kids would really enjoy it. One of the key beliefs in Montessori schooling is the refining of the senses , developing visual, tactile and auditory discrimination. Therefore, they do a lot of sensory activities that are supposed to help the child discriminate between different sounds. One of the activities they do is called "sound jars". These can easily be made at home, and I will show you how I made them.

Gather your materials--stickers, several 35 mm film canisters, and small objects that make different sounds. Fill each fill canister with different objects, making a match for each object (fill two with rice, two with paper clips, two with jingle bells, etc). Then put a sticker on the bottom of each canister, making sure that the matching sounds also have matching stickers on the bottom. The purpose of the stickers is to provide the child with a way to self correct, which is also a core belief in Montessori schooling. He picks up two canisters, shakes them, and determines if the sounds match. He can turn them over to see if the stickers match--if they do, he has indeed found a match.


I stored mine in an old egg carton, but they can be stored however you wish. Also, I posted on craigslist in the wanted section for someone willing to donate film canisters and only had to wait about a week for a response, so if you're wondering how I got so many film canisters when everyone is using digital these days, that's how! Also note that since the film canisters do open, this would only be appropriate as a supervised activity, or for children who know not to put things in their mouths. You could also try hot gluing them shut, but since my kids are older, I didn't bother with that.

Little Bean did really well with this activity. He was able to match all the sounds. The hardest part for him was just being willing to see the activity through until the end. Miss O really enjoyed shaking the canisters, but she wasn't able to match them, except for the ones that were very obvious, like the rice. Try this with your little one. It's very quick to make and can be played again and again!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Color Farm

We checked this book out from the library last week and Miss O is just in LOVE with it. It's a very simple book, with very few words and bright colors. Each page consists of a farm animal made up entirely of geometric shapes that are cut out of the pages. As you flip the page, it becomes apparent what shape the animal is made up of. Because of the cut-outs, this book would only be appropriate for children who can handle paper materials gently, but be sure to check it out. Miss O insisted I read this one to her at least 5 times in a row last night. I didn't mind because it's too cute hearing her say "rhombus" and Isosceles triangle!

Glittery Shapes

The idea for this project came from a post I saw on http://www.flipflopsandapplesauce.com/, a blog I frequent. She did the same project with a winter theme, making snowflakes. It also occurred to me that this would be a great one for constellations. I might have to try that one sometime.

Instead of snowflakes, we made shapes. All you need is glitter, glue, Q-Tips and wax paper. Make geometric shapes using the Q-Tips. Do this on top of the wax paper. Use generous amounts of glue to hold the cotton portions of the Q-Tips together. Sprinkle with generous amounts of glitter. Let dry--this took all night for us, which tells you how much glue we used! Peel the shapes off of the wax paper (peel them from the glue, not the Q-Tip so that they don't break). Hang from yarn or fishing wire and enjoy.

These turned out so glittery and pretty, and I love that they helped Miss O memorize her shapes. This was also a very cognitive activity for Little Bean because he had to figure out how to construct the different shapes (Miss O couldn't do it on her own). Add in gobs of glue and handfuls of glitter and you have a project every kid will love!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Change Is In The Air

I've been thinking a lot lately about where I want to take this blog. Do I want to continue just posting crafts and activities for toddlers and preschoolers? Do I want to include some of my thoughts about homeschooling? Do I want to use this blog to record my journey as a new homeschooling mom? Should I use this blog to record what my children are learning on a daily basis?

And the truth is, I really don't know. What I do know is that I want to expand what this blog has to offer. I'd like to share more than just crafts and activities with my readers.

All this to say that you may be seeing some new features popping up on My Two Happy Homeschoolers. So keep checking up on us and hopefully some of the new topics will catch your interest.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Working Their Fingers To The Bone!

I got the idea for this activity from a wonderful blog that I follow. You can view the blog here: http://www.chasingcherrios.blogspot.com/. This is a great activity to improve manual dexterity, improve fine motor skills, and prompt your little one to problem solve. All you need is plenty of rubber bands or hair ties and a door knob. Ask your child to put all the hair ties on the door knob. Then have them take them all off. Both actions require very specific and different finger manipulations. You can expand this activity by having the child put them all on his or her wrist or ankle (again very specific and different movements). If you have two children, make it a race to see who can put the most on or who can put them on the fastest.
This kept my two and three year old entertained for a good ten to fifteen minutes. It was interesting that both of them thought that the activity would be really easy, but upon attempting to put the hair ties on the knob, they quickly discovered that they had to manipulate the tie in a very specific way to get it over the knob. I definitely saw their minds working as they worked through this activity.
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