Monday, September 3, 2018

Toddler School Must Haves (and A Planner Freebie)!

Back to school? End of August? When did this happen!?

I don't know about you but I am so ready for summer to be over! Don't get me wrong, I love sunshine and all the fun summer activities but this summer was rough. Between potty training, crib training, Avery's I-can't-walk-but-think-I-can stage and then Cohen's I-hate-water-and-can't-get-wet phase, this mama is over it. O-V-E-R!

I am so ready to get back into a routine, wear my boots, drink my cocoa and start toddler school with BOTH of my boys (can you believe Avery is almost 1!?) We officially kick off toddler school this week with our Apple Theme 🍎🍏🍎

But before I jump back into the routine of toddler school I wanted to share some of my organization tips and must have items!

First things first, my weekly planner! I use this bad boy every week (usually while sipping a hot chocolate) to map out my ideal week. This is by no means set in stone because let's be honest nothing is when you have little kids. But it is nice to have an outline for the activities and outings I would like to accomplish! You can snag your freebie below! πŸ‘‡

In addition to this weekly planner there are a couple of other items we use every week. These are staples in our house. We couldn't do toddler school without them! 

Sensory table 

Don't have one!? They are really easy to DIY (and super affordable too)! I used this DIY from A Teaching Mommy a few years ago and ours is still standing strong! Highly recommend! 

Liquid water color

This stuff is a miracle worker for sensory table fillers! Rice, beans, oats you name it! This stuff gives the most vibrant colors!


We love our bookshelf! For just $12 this thing has been amazing. It has lasted 3 years. With boys. Who climb. On everything!

And that's it! 

 What about you guys? Any must have items for your little ones!?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Confessions from Toddler School: Cars!

It's that time of year again! Cohen's favorite theme: CARS! 

We busted out some of our favorite activities from last year to incorporate into our new activities. It was really cool to see how far his development has come in a year!

 (link to all those activities below)

Here's what we did this week:

You can get my blank thematic planner here.

Car City:
This was the perfect week to whip our car floor mat! We don't keep it out all the time so Cohen was very excited to see it! If you don't have a car mat like this there are plenty of other DIYs to create a car city to explore! 

Cardboard buildings:
Dig through your recycling and pull out any boxes. Cut down one side, flip inside out and tape! I cut out little holes for cars to go in and out of and added some details, but it's not necessary. 

Tape roads:

If you follow me already you may remember this idea from last year! You can use any masking tape for this activity OR this awesome tape that we use! And just start taping! Get creative! 

Not the creative type? Look on Pinterest and get inspired! 

Table Top City
This is another fun way to create a car city for your little one! Just take a large piece of butcher paper and start drawing! Now I know my drawing abilities are lacking  (I used to get made fun of a lot in the classroom) but little ones don't care! He thought this was the coolest thing ever! I started with a road and then started adding in buildings that my son would recognize. Of course Target had to be on there!

Stop Light Toss:
This stoplight is probably one of the best things I've ever made! Of course my kid is obsessed with cars which doesn't hurt. But we get so much use out of this bad boy! 

To prepare the activity: 
Take 2 pieces of black construction paper and tape together vertically. Using a plate, trace a circle on the red, yellow and green construction paper to create the lights. Glue lights in place.

      πŸ’‘This item was too large to fit in my laminator so I used packing tape to wrap around it for durability!

The activity: 
Place stoplight on the ground in front of your child. Take turns tossing the bean bags and trying to get them on the matching color! 

Our other favorite stoplight activities:
• Using red, yellow and green stickers practice color sorting onto the stop light! (you can see the stickers in the photo)
• Create a ramp and race cars down it and identify the color the car lands on.
• Hang on a wall/fence and toss water balloons at it
• Go on a nature walk and color sort onto the stoplight (or print out pictures, cut out of a magazine, etc)

Car Color Sorting:
To prepare the activity: 
On a large poster board (I chose black but works on any color.) Using any coloring utensil, make colored squares on the bottom of the board for each color of car you have. We have hundreds of cars around our house so we could use every color of the rainbow, check your colors ahead of time!

The activity: 
Grab cars at random and ask your child to match the color. This was a really great activity to help identify different shades of colors. 

Sight Word Sentence Cars:
We have been working a lot on reading/spelling some pre-primer sight words. Now that he knows about 15-20 words, I wanted to start stringing them together into sentences. I was so surprised by how quickly he picked this up!

To prepare the activity:
Pick up some dot stickers and start writing down the skill you would like to practice with your child. (letters, numbers, shapes, words, etc). Place stickers onto cars.

The activity: 
We used ours for sight words! Call out a word and have your child find it. Once you have your sentence, point to each word and have your child read the whole sentence. 

Name Road: 
Cohen loves seeing his name on things these days and gets very excited! He has even tried to start writing his name. He has the O and H down, but outside of that it's mostly circles and lines. Any activity to help him practice is a win!

To prepare the activity: 
Print out your child’s name in large letters. Using a white or yellow pen draw in the lines. Let your child pick out a car to drive around their name!

The activity: 
Model saying the letter out loud and describe the motions used to write it as you drive the letter on the car. Ex: “C! Start at the top and draw a half circle.”

      πŸ’‘It doesn’t matter the language you use to describe how to draw each letter as long as it is consistent.

Want more car fun ideas? Check out last years activities here!

Up next week: Dr. Seuss 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Confessions from Toddler School: Emotions

This unit couldn't come soon enough for us! My toddler is very much a 2 year old and all about himself and his needs. He is completely oblivious to the needs of others. This has been especially challenging with the birth of his baby brother. He doesn't understand that brother gets sad/mad too and needs attention. I wanted him to identify these emotions, not only in himself, but in others as well to hopefully help him develop some empathy. 

Lofty goal with a 2 year old, right!? 

Here's what we did this week:

You can get my blank thematic planner here

Feelings Wall:
This wall got a lot of use this week! Anytime anyone was showing an emotion we identified it on the wall. I chose happy, sad and mad to focus on since those are the most basic emotions and definitely the ones we see most in our house.

To prepare the activity: 
Decide which feelings you want to focus on with your little one. Print out feelings posters and post on the wall to refer to throughout the unit.

      πŸ’‘ You can also use construction paper to make a happy face, a sad face and an angry face.
πŸ’‘You can use pictures of your own child to identify emotions too!

The activity: 
Read The Feelings Book by Todd Parr and The Way I Feel by Janan Cain and talk about different feelings. Use the mirrors to practice the facial expressions that go with each emotion. Cohen got a little too good at his fake sad face, sound included.  

We also used this to identify how he was feeling throughout the week. 

"I see that you are feeling mad because _______" 
"I see that you are sad. Why don't we find something to help make you happy?"
"You look so happy! That makes mama so happy."

Feelings Sort:
Now that we had mastered our own facial expressions and identifying our own emotions I really wanted to start taking it to the next level and focus on other people and how to identify how they are feeling. 

To prepare the activity: 
Print out the feelings posters or use construction paper faces from previous activity. Find real images of people expressing different emotions to use for sorting.

The activity: 
Read Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney and Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley. Talk about the emotions and the facial features that help us identify them. Practice sorting the real life pictures into the right categories. 

Look at this boy. He is crying. Does he look happy, sad or mad?
Look at this girl, she has her arms crossed and she isn't smiling. Does she look happy, sad or mad?

Feelings Dice:
I always love making dice when I get a chance. They have so many purposes and Cohen loves rolling them over and over. This one was no exception! He enjoyed rolling the dice and making the faces to go with the expressions.

To prepare the activity: 
Print out the feelings dice and fold along the tab lines. Glue or tape together.

The activity: 
Take turns rolling the dice and acting out the emotions. 

Feelings Flip:

To prepare the activity: 
Print out the feelings character and facial expression tabs.

The activity: 
Have your little one color the pieces for the feelings flip. Cut out (or help your child cut out) the facial expressions tabs. Glue down the tabs. Flip through the emotions! 

Emotions 4 Corners:
This is a fun little gross motor activity to get your little one moving! We have spent many hours playing this game throughout the week and it is super easy to set up too!

To prepare the activity: 
Place emotion posters around the house (or outside if weather permits). 

The activity: 
Played like 4 corners! Call out an emotion and have your child run to it!

πŸ’‘ Play with your child and make it a race!
πŸ’‘ Have your child make the expression to go with the emotion once they reach it!

Want all of this week's printables and plans? You can grab them here!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Confessions from Toddler School: Nursery Rhymes

This may have been one of my favorite units so far! The activities were so simple and proved to be a big hit with my toddler. He loved all the singing and interactive activities!

Here's what we did this week:

You can get my blank thematic planner here.

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep:

To prepare the activity: 
Sing Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. Gather materials for the art project. Get a bowl of water and add the black dye. Set out all the materials for exploration first.

The activity: 
Allow your child to dip the cotton balls into the black water mixture. This free exploration was Cohen's favorite part! Model placing the wet cotton balls into the brown paper bags. Close and shake to decorate the inside. Cut open bags and lay flat. I let Cohen use this as his activity mat while he continued to play with the wet cotton balls! Plus it got more color on the bag! 

πŸ’‘ If you are concerned about mess, you can use a clothespin to hold and dip cotton balls
     πŸ’‘  If the weather permits you can take this activity outside and have child throw the wet \cotton balls at a blank canvas, poster board or even a fence!

Little Bo Peep:

To prepare the activity: 
Sing Little Bo Peep to familiarize your child with the nursery rhyme. Print out sheep and hide around the house.

      πŸ’‘ Set up during naptime or at bedtime for a little extra surprise!

The activity: 
This activity is just like hide and go seek! Let your child explore to find all of the lost sheep. This activity is also a great way to practice prepositions with your little ones!

Do you see a sheep by the chair?
Do you see a sheep under the table?
Do you see a sheep on the car?

You get the idea! 

Old MacDonald:
Like many little ones, mine loves animals and making animal sounds. So this was a fun activity for us! We played for hours. days. I wish I were kidding. 

To prepare the activity: 
 Print out the barn, animals and peek-a-boo windows and assemble! Laminate ahead of time for durability. 

πŸ’‘ Don't want to print and assemble? You can use these figurines and a box/scarf/your shirt anything.

The activity: 
While you sing Old McDonald Had a Farm have your child open peek-a-boo windows to choose an animal! Encourage them to make the sounds as you sing together.

Hickory Dickory Dock:
For Cohen's birthday last year his papa got him this amazing learning activity table. And he took to it very quickly! Seriously, if you have a little one who is hungry for knowledge, this thing is AMAZING! For Christmas we even bought the additional activity packs. 

One of the activity packs is nursery rhymes and has been a great addition to our nursery rhyme unit. His hands down favorite is hickory dickory dock. He loves all the animals and has really shown an interest in telling time!

To prepare the activity: Print out the toddler sized clock and animals. Color the clock (3 pieces) and assemble. Use Velcro on the animals and the top of the clock to help with easy acting out!

πŸ’‘ Allow child to color the clock!

The activity: While you sing Hickory Dickory Dock allow child to act it out with Velcro animals. 

Itsy Bitsy Spider:

To prepare the activity: Find an empty paper towel roll and tape onto a wall. Print out the spiders and laminate for durability.

The activity: While you sing Itsy Bitsy Spider, have child drop spiders down the “spout”.

Humpty Dumpty:

To prepare the activity: Trace an egg shape (or use printable) and draw on the cracks. Cut along the lines to create the egg puzzle. Laminate for multi-use.

πŸ’‘Make more than one egg puzzle at varying levels of difficulty for extra practice!

The activity: Act out Humpty Dumpty with the egg puzzle. Help your child put Humpty back together again!

Want all of this week's printables and plans?  You can grab them here!

UP NEXT: Emotions! 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Confessions from Toddler School: Penguins

Here we are on year 2 *holy moly* of toddler school! Cohen is now 2 1/2 and has a new baby brother, Avery, who is 3 months old!

In the past year of implementing toddler school I have seen Cohen's language and skills take off! I have never been so proud! Mom brag for a second, bare with me here, he can count to 20 forwards and backwards, knows all his letters and their sounds and is starting to spell and trace letters. He's also learned a few sight words! Like seriously, how smart is this kid!?

This is one of my all time favorite toddler units because Cohen is obsessed with penguins and I love seeing his face light up with all the penguin activities. 

Here's what we did this week:

You can get my blank thematic planner here.

Identifying Penguins: 
My little one is obsessed with penguins. I mean obsessed. Like meltdown when we have to leave the penguin exhibit at the zoo, obsessed. So it is no shock that this was a very easy task for him! I swear he has penguin sensors or something. He has this uncanny ability to find a penguin everywhere we go. It's a gift! πŸ˜‚

To prepare the activity: 
We read National Geographic Readers: Penguins! by Anne Schreiber and talked about what penguins look like (colors, feathers, etc). I really wanted to build his vocabulary with this read aloud. If your child isn’t familiar with penguins work on identifying penguins in the book as you read. Gather a handful of animals for your child to sort. These can be figurines like the ones we use (you can find those here)  OR you can print out images, find images from magazines, etc. and use those to sort! Using a piece of paper, split into penguins vs. not penguins. 

The activity: 
Model grabbing an animal and asking “Is this a penguin?” If yes, place on the penguin side, if no, place on the not a penguin side. Hold up an animal for your child and ask the question while allowing child to sort. Help as needed. It's that easy and a great way to introduce the penguin unit! 

      πŸ’‘ If your child isn’t verbal yet, model nodding and shaking head to sort penguins.

Penguin Habitat: 
For our sensory activity this week we kept it pretty simple! This year we were not so lucky to have real snow during our penguin unit. So we used fake snow and frozen ice in different shapes to create our penguin wonderland! 

To prepare the activity: 
To prepare this sensory table find a variety of different sized/shaped containers and freeze water in them. Collect penguins and allow child to explore this cold environment. Bonus: Add fake snow (or real snow if you get lucky!) to add to the penguin fun!

The activity:  
Let your child explore!

πŸ’‘ A fun extension of this is watching a penguin cam! There are several out there, but our favorite is this one at the California Academy of Sciences.

Label the Penguin:
Here is our little penguin from last year! He is made out of construction paper and covered with contact paper to make him more durable. All I had to do this year was add some velcro and print out body part labels! We worked on using the vocabulary and comparing our body parts to the penguins. Cohen thought it was pretty silly when I asked him if he had "flippers" or a "bill".

To prepare the activity: 
Find a penguin to use for labeling. You can make your own or use an image in a book! Read That’s Not My Penguin by Fiona Watt. Discuss what makes up a penguin and start identifying body parts and penguin characteristics as you go. 

πŸ’‘I added velcro to my penguin and the labels to increase durability and make it reusable!

The activity: 
Ask child to find body parts as you call them out. “Where is the penguins _____?” Can extend further by asking them to find the corresponding body part on their own body!

Feed the Penguin:
You may remember this activity from last year! It was one of Cohen's favorites so I decided to bring it back! It is a great way to incorporate fine motor practice and content all in one simple and fun activity. 

To prepare the activity: 
Empty out a container. It can be any container! Last year I used a small frosting can, this year a cereal box. It can be any shape/size! Cut a slit for the fish to go through. Use colored construction paper to create a penguin. Make or print some fish and decide which skill you’d like to focus on (colors, shapers, letters)!

πŸ’‘Laminate the fish and they become dry erase! This makes it easy to swap out the skill you want to focus on! 

The activity: 
Before starting this activity read Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups, by Tadgh Bentley and Penguin and the Cupcake, by Ashley Spires. Discuss what penguins really eat and practice feeding the penguin.

“Can you feed the penguin a (blue) fish?”
“Can you feed the penguin the letter (a)?”
“Can you feed the penguin a (square)?”

 We focused on some of the tricky lowercase letters (b,d,p,q)!

Penguin Movements:
I do not have a photo for this as it is a movement activity and every photo I attempted to take was blurry! One of these days I will get better at taking action shots but we had a lot of fun with this activity!

To prepare the activity: 
Read 5 Little Penguins Slipping on the Ice by Steve Metzger. Talk about the different movements penguins make.

The activity: 
Using the song Have you Ever Seen a Penguin? (sung to the tune Did You Ever See a Lassie?) Call out a penguin movement and have your child act it out while you sing!

Have you ever seen a penguin, a penguin, a penguin
Have you ever seen a penguin flap his wings just like that?
Flap this way and that way, flap this way and that,
Have you ever seen a penguin flap his wings just like that?

Other movements:
twirl around
sit on an egg
waddle around
stretch tall 
...You get the idea!

Writing with Penguins:
My little one has been showing a lot of interest in writing and tracing his letters lately! So what better way than to get his love of penguins involved!

To prepare the activity: 
Read Penguins ABC by Kevin Schafer and practice identifying letters/singing the alphabet. Setting up the writing activity is simple: find a tray (we used a cookie tray) and pour in some sugar or salt!

The activity: 
Pick one letter at a time. Model sliding the penguin through the “snow” to make the letters. Hold child’s hand and help them make the letters, identifying them as you go.

πŸ’‘ There are many ways to adapt this to fit your childs' needs. Hold their hand, provide a letter card for them to reference, or even find a see through tray to place letters under so they can trace!

 Winter can be rough with toddlers (I don't have to tell you that) so finding opportunities to get out is key! We took this weeks theme as an opportunity to go visit the penguins at our local zoo! We were able to see the penguins, observe their habitat and see them during feeding time! It was the perfect activity to get out of the house and it tied right in with our learning for the week. Win-win!

πŸ’‘ Call ahead of time to find out when feeding time is! It really added to our unit!

Want all of this week's printables and plans?  You can grab them here!

UP NEXT: Nursery Rhymes!