Sunday, February 19, 2017

Confessions from Toddler School: Valentine's Day

Wow! This week has been the longest and shortest week of my life! In some ways it just flew by and in other ways I swear it's still Monday.

On Sunday I hosted a really cute little Toddler Valentine's Party for my mom group that I started on Facebook! I put out a bunch of these activities and the kids had a blast! Having all the activities prepped ahead of time really helped the week flow more smoothly!

Here's what we did this week:

You can get my blank thematic planner here.

Color Sorting Hearts: 
These Foam Hearts have been amazing! We've used them for so many different activities! Our favorite right now is color sorting. I chose 3 colors red, purple and pink. I set one of each out and then we practice color sorting (check out my IG for a video of this in action). 

I say "This heart is red. Does the red go here (putting it by purple)?" Then I model shaking my head and saying no. I do the same thing by pink. When we get to red I say yes, have Cohen repeat "yes" and then we clap!

When we first started he had no clue and would only last about 2 seconds. But he brings me the hearts several times a day and now we can get all the way through the stack. He shakes his head "no" on his own and says "yes" when we get to the right color!

Repetition works ya'll!

Valentine's Themed Sensory Table: 
This sensory table was a huge hit at our Toddler Valentine's Party!

What we used:
- Pink Dyed Rice
- Small Glitter Hearts
- Heart Slinkies
- Heart Rings

 All of these things were found at Dollar Tree! TGFDT (Thank God for Dollar Tree)!

Giant Sticky Heart: 
I made this heart on the end of our island using contact paper! We had it set up for our Valentine's Party and Cohen adds to it every day! It also spruces up our floor quite a bit. 😂


Giant Heart Letter Matching:
I saw this idea on Pinterest and thought it was so cute! We used the same Foam Hearts as above and a long sheet of white butcher paper (my husband keeps it in stock for his business and we use it all the time). I put all the letters to spell Cohen and his friends names on the hearts and then traced the hearts onto the paper in the right color. 

This game has so many options! Matching colors, matching letters, even as a gross motor twister kind of game! The possibilities are endless!

Admittedly this activity was way above Cohen's pay grade so we used it to continue our color matching!

Torn Paper Heart: 
This was our super easy and relatively mess free art project for the week! I provided some Valentine's colored scrap paper for Cohen to tear (fine motor) and glue onto this cute little heart template I found from Learning with Letty. You can find this free template here. Cohen thought it was more fun to watch me tear the paper (have you seen that video of the baby giggling hysterically while the dad rips paper, yeah, it was like that haha). But just look at how focused he is! 

I love how it turned out so much that I decided to keep it in his little art binder!

Lacing Hearts: 
We used our Foam Hearts again for this fine motor activity! I took a hole punch and made these little lacing boards for Cohen! He loved practicing weaving the ribbons in and out. These are great too for on the go! We've been taking them in the car with us since our car seat is something that can be used to torture prisoners for information... or so he seems to think.

Outings this week:

none - We're still getting over a minor cold this week so we didn't go on many fun baby outings. Our Toddler Valentine's Party was our socialization this week :) 

📙📘📗 Our favorite books this week 📗📘📙

Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff & Felicia Bond
Llama Llama I Love You by Anna Dewdney
I Love You, Snugglesaurus! by Sandra Magsamen

Cohen is obsessed with anything If You Give A Mouse or Llama Llama so he was super happy with our books this week!

Up next week: My Body 💃

Monday, February 13, 2017

Confessions from Toddler School: Cars!

You guys are not going to believe the last 2 weeks we have had. I'm not even sure I believe it myself! It started with a cold that got our entire family. Just when we started to feel better, Cohen got his 18 month shots and was not feeling hot. And then the kicker, my husband ended up in the hospital for some crippling stomach pains. Long story short, while in the hospital I started to get the same pains and then about an hour after we got home, Cohen got them. We spent a solid 48 hours down for the count. Being sick and dealing with a sick toddler (and husband - not sure which was worse) was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I had to summon strength I didn't know I had. 

Needless to say, we did not get to all of our activities in a single week. We stretched it out over 2 weeks and got to almost all of them!

Here's what we did planned to do this week:

You can get my blank thematic planner here.
And here's what we actually did:

Car Ramp Painting: 
This activity was SO much fun! And super messy! To build the ramp I used some cardboard and taped it to the top of his sensory table. I put some towels at the bottom to protect the floor as best I could! 

On the top, I put blobs of colored paint and mirrored how to drive the car in the paint and then down the ramp. He picked it up (and behaved) so much better than I anticipated! I definitely want to do this one again.

Car Themed Sensory Table: 
This sensory table was a big hit! Here's what we used:
- Rice dyed black *PRO TIP use this Black Food Coloring. It's the only dye I've found that gets that deep black color 👌*
- I made these cute little road signs. (You can find the signs in my car pack on TpT). Then I just taped onto tooth picks! 
- Throw in some tp rolls and cars 
and voila!

Road Tape: 
I found this awesome Road Tape on Amazon and it was perfect for our car unit! We actually had a play date this day and the littles loved walking on the roads! It was super cute to watch. 

Number Roads: 
We have been working on our numbers this week with our cars! I made these number roads for Cohen to drive his cars on! They are the perfect width for the little hot wheel cars! 

I posted the shape ones on our wall. Cohen loves to point to them while I say the shape name! You can find the number and shape roads in my car pack! He's really starting to be able to identify numbers, shapes and colors! It's amazing watching him learn!

Number Parking Lot: 
This is one of the activities from my car pack! The original page just has the numbers (no dots). I added the dots using an expo marker so it can wipe off! I then put numbers/dots on 6 of his hot wheels. Cohen has a million cars, literally a million, so finding 6 wasn't difficult! Admittedly this activity is still a little over his head, but he had fun watching me drive the cars to the right parking spot. He's just starting to get matching so he should be able to do this on his own soon enough!

Driving in Sugar Salt: 
We actually had to do this activity twice because the first time Cohen just ate his road 😝. This was a fun little texture activity (and made up for the fact that we didn't get to play with our texture ramps). If I had to do it again I would find something to give us a bigger driving space though. Perhaps the sensory table! 

**fun fact: if you try to dye salt black to make it more like asphalt it will turn green. Don't ask me how I know this... #momfail**

Our Stop Sign: 
I have a feeling this bad boy is never coming off of our wall! And I am okay with that! Just like the shape roads, Cohen has a blast pointing to the colors and having me say the name! After having this up for a few weeks he can already identify red, yellow and green!

To make: 
- 2 black sheets of construction paper
- 1 red, 1, yellow, 1 green
- toddler plate (I'm sure you have one)

I used the plate to trace the lights. Glued on and then laminated for durability!

We also used the stop sign as a landing pad for our car launching! We used our trusty hot wheels launcher (you may remember this bad boy from our penguin unit) and launched cars onto the stop light trying to get in the red! If you follow my IG you may have seen the video I posted of us playing this. His giggles would melt your heart! 💕

Car Painting: 
Originally I had planned to sponge paint these car templates but with all the sickness and fussy baby we've got going on, I decided to hold off and do something mess free!

What we used:
- Car template found in my car pack
- Plastic dollar tree storage bin with lid
- Poms
- Paint

I taped the image down to the bottom of the plastic bin, dipped the poms in paint, dropped them in, put on the lid and let the little ones shake! So much fun! They turned out great too!

One tip: When you drop in the paint covered poms, do it off to the side or you get big circle splotches on your image. 

Outings this week the last 2 weeks:

Play Boutique - Before we got struck down by the plague we were able to get out for a play date at this awesome indoor gym for kids. We spent a lot of time driving cars around which was tied in nicely. Although Cohen's favorite was the bouncy house! I couldn't believe he just climbed in on his own! 

Ceramic Shop - Another fun outing we had was a trip to my parents ceramic shop! Cohen got to pick out his own little car to paint! He had so much fun and it turned out SO cute. He takes it everywhere with him. 💙

Firestone - We had to take our car in for a tire leak this week which worked out nicely for our car unit! I can not say enough nice things about the mechanics! They let Cohen play with the tires on the wall and even played cars with him in the lobby. It was so sweet and Cohen had a blast!

📙📘📗 Our favorite books this week 📗📘📙

Cars Galore by Peter Stein
Honk Honk! Beep Beep! by Daniel Kirk
Alphabeep by by Deborah Pearson
Counting Cars by by Mara Van Der Meer
(this one we didn't really read/count. We found the pages to be very dense and overwhelming. Instead, we looked at the different cars and talked about colors)
Toot Toot Beep Beep by by Emma Garcia

Because we have been battling so much illness we didn't get to a lot of the activities in my car pack. But you can find it in my TpT store. If you do try any of them out, I'd love to know how they go!

Up next week: Valentine's Day 💖

Monday, January 23, 2017

Confessions from Toddler School: Penguins!

Man, these past couple of weeks have been rough! First, we had a crazy snowpocalypse that left us snowed in for over a week! And let me tell you, being snowed in with a very active toddler is not for the faint of heart! The snow finally melted just in time for Cohen to start getting his 2 year molars (waaaaaay early) and now he has a cold. I haven't slept more than an hour or 2 each night for a week. I feel like I deserve some sort of award here. 😪💤
Never a dull moment. #parenthood #whereami #canisleepyet

Thank goodness I had so many fun penguin activities planned to keep us entertained! And the snow actually added a lot to the fun!

Here's what we did this week:

You can get my blank thematic planner here!

Feed the Penguin: This was probably one of Cohen's favorites! He pulls it off the shelf several times a day! I made this little penguin out of an old frosting container and some construction paper (and then covered it with packing tape to protect it)! He did have a 3-D nose but someone got hungry. 😂 The fish are part of my Penguin Toddler Unit! I laminated them for durability and bent the tails up so they were easier to pick up!

We started with just red and slowly added in other colors for
color recognition practice.

Alphabet Flip Game: This game was definitely over Cohen's head (especially the taking turns part) but it was still fun. I chose a handful of letters to start. We would take turns flip over all the cards and say the letter names as we went. You can also get these alphabet cards in my Penguin Toddler Unit.

Real Snow Sensory Table: This is where all that snow came in handy! We brought some indoors to use in our sensory table with our penguins! If you aren't as lucky as we were to get real snow, you can use this fake snow.

Bonus: You don't have to wear clothes to play with snow indoors! win-win! 

Painting Igloos: I actually stumbled upon this activity while on IG one day and it fit perfectly with what we were doing! The idea comes from Mrs. Plemons Kindergarten! You take those little fruit cups (that we had in our sensory bin above) and freeze water in them. Then use water colors to paint them while they melt! Mrs. Plemon's is a genius! You should definitely check out her stuff!

Penguin Launch: Cohen gets all the credit for this game! He got a Hot Wheels Launcher for Christmas and found that he could also use it to launch his penguins. We had so much fun with this! You can't see it but I put colored landing pads at the end for some color practice. But you could also do letters, numbers, spell out child's name... The possibilities are endless!

Torn Paper Penguin Art: This is another activity in my Penguin Toddler Unit but you can easily do it without! Just draw a penguin body on a white paper and you're ready to go! My son helped tear the black paper pieces and glue them on. 

We then traced his hands (I can't believe he cooperated with that) and then I added the face. It turned out super cute!

Excuse the black background, someone had serious
 mom brain and didn't think that one through...

Painting Snow: As you can see we ditched the paint brushes and used our hands. And due to being snowed in (and out of food coloring) our color options were limited but it was still fun and it kept him entertained forever!

Penguin Pom Push: This is one of my favorites! I have done this before with different themes/images and Cohen absolutely loves it! It's such a great quiet time activity and is amazing fine motor practice. He's a pro now! 

You can find this penguin image in my Penguin Toddler Unit. It fits any standard shoe box. I didn't have any shoe boxes (looks like I need to go shoe shopping!😍) so I made one out of a cereal box. I will be posting that DIY soon!

Outings this week:

Children's museum - We were able to get out after the snow finally cleared and boy were we ready! The Children's Museum had a penguin snow globe room which fit our theme perfectly! They had little penguin hats, igloos and white loofahs everywhere! He had so much fun. Just look at that smile! 💓

Sledding - We took advantage of the snow and did some sledding! We happen to live on a really steep hill so we went out and practiced our penguin belly sliding! 

📙📘📗 Our favorite books this week 📗📘📙
If you follow this blog or my IG you know that Cohen is obsessed with books! As a teacher, that makes me so happy! Here are some of our favorites from the week:

Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton
Penguin in Love by Salina yoon
My Life in the Wild: Penguin by Meredith Costain

(although reading them 500 times a day can be a bit much) 

So there you have it! Our first OFFICIAL toddler school unit! I'm so excited to be starting this new adventure and I can't wait to see where it takes me! Leave me some comments! I'd love to get some feedback 🙂

Up next week: Cars! 🚗

Friday, January 20, 2017

My 5 W's of Toddler School

People often ask me how I come up with all the fun activities I do with my son and how I find the time to incorporate these activities into our daily schedule. The answer? It kind of happened on accident!

Don't get me wrong, being able to be home with my son has been such an amazing experience that not everyone gets to have and I feel so lucky. But man can it be tedious! I was bored. One can only read the same book or play the same peek-a-boo game so many times before you start to go a little crazy! I found myself fantasizing about being back in the classroom and getting to plan all the fun activities I used to do when I was teaching and then it hit me:

Why not plan these same kinds of activities for Cohen!?

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that Cohen has a car in his hand in every. single. photo. He is a tad obsessed. So I started out with a little car unit to follow his interests. I swear, nothing else exists when cars do! 

I immediately jumped on Pinterest and I instantly felt my creative teacher juices flowing! I got so much positive feedback from my other mom friends and from Cohen that I knew I needed to start this new adventure! 

So what are the 5 W's of Toddler School?

Who: Well that's obvious! But you can't have the 5 W's without it :)

What: I see some posts out there about toddler school with the perfect weekly plan complete with coordinated themed snacks every day, the picture perfect toddler in every photo cooperating with every activity (and not trying to eat the playdough or take everything out of the sensory table and putting it on the floor..) and I'm not going to lie it can be very intimidating! 

Let me just tell you, that's not how we roll! Some days are a hot mess. Some days all he wants to do is destroy everything in his path. It happens. So I try to focus on 1-2 small activities a day depending on interest. Our themes sometimes last a few days and sometimes they last a few weeks. But that's parenthood. We just roll with it! It's all about having fun and introducing learning opportunities!

When: Finding time can be the most difficult thing for parents. Between jobs, chores, children's schedules and just needing a minute to shower it can be tricky. But I have found that many of these activities take less that 30 minutes because let's be honest, what toddler can focus for longer than that anyways?

We are down to a single nap each day so I try to incorporate 1 activity in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. And it really does help the days go by! 

As for planning, my husband has Fridays off and I like to use some of this time to plan! I use this time to go to a coffee shop, drink some hot chocolate, stalk Pinterest and have some much needed me time! I actually look forward to this every week and it takes less than an hour! You can get my planner below by clicking on the image!

Where: Most activities take place in our home. I created a little area for all of our themed stuff and it is really easy to rotate out. We have a little DIY sensory table (more info on that below), a book display and we put any art projects on the wall as we go!

Here's a little peek with our penguin stuff!

I have also found a lot of resources out of the house for little field trips! I like to try and get out of the house at least once a day just to keep everyone from going stir crazy. Outings aren't always fun and theme related. Errands have to get run sometime! But a few times a week I like to take Cohen somewhere to run around and I try to coordinate it to the theme!

Below are some of the kinds of places we like to visit in our city! But you can easily google toddler friendly attractions and see what your city has to offer!

Some ideas:
children's museums (we have a science specific one here and it is amazing)
nature walks/parks
children's theaters
local festivals/events
toddler playgrounds (we have a lot of indoor ones here)
car shows (from our car theme)

Why: I mentioned before that boredom was a large motivator for us starting toddler school but another big reason is language development. Cohen has always been very smart and alert and he loves to engage and interact with his surroundings. He developed very early in many ways but he has shown zero interest in talking. I mean, he babbles non stop. Literally, NON STOP. But he will say a word for a week (mastering it and it's use) and then never say it again. I really wanted to do something to encourage him to use his words and hopefully spark his desire to talk! 

Fingers crossed!

How: To start out, Fridays we go to the library to pick out new books for our new theme! We usually grab 6-10 books. I like to try and find ones with a repetitive pattern because Cohen seems to like those the best. Cohen loves the library SO much that it can be difficult to choose books with him there. So I usually try to request books to be put on hold a week ahead of time so that they are ready for me when I get there and I can spend the time with Cohen reading books/playing!

There are 2 things that I couldn't do without:

Book Display: We got our amazing book display on Amazon for $12! The price has since gone up but it is still totally worth it! This bad boy is made from a thick cardboard and has withstood my son being in it! So that's a pretty solid endorsement! 

Sensory Table: Awhile back I stumbled upon this DIY PVC sensory table on Pinterest and knew I just had to make it. You can find that post here! It was so easy to make! And if you ask the people at the hardware store they will cut the PVC down for you so that all you have to do is assemble when you get home! We love our sensory table! It has been so much fun for us!

As you can see we reinforced ours with duct tape for durability (and so my son couldn't take it apart). It was cute watching him take it apart and try to put it back together until he decided to do it one day while it was full of water and now we have warped floors...So duct tape.

And that's all folks!

You now have my beginners guide to start doing toddler school yourself! It really is a lot of fun and I promise it's not as much work as you think it is. If you are still feeling hesitant, I would love to share resources and help out in any way I can! Cohen has loved all the fun activities and I look forward to having a plan everyday. It has gotten us out of our boredom rut! 

Happy Toddler Schooling!