Sunday, September 8, 2019

Toddler School: Football Theme!

Toddler school is back! And in true #momlife fashion this is the week that both of my kiddos get the flu! Go figure. 😅 Needless to say we didn't get everything done that I wanted to but such is life. We are just rolling with it!

 It feels so weird good to be blogging again. And I am so excited to kick it off (see what I did there!?) with a fun football theme! 🏈

If you're new around here, here's the run down on how I toddler school:
- I do weekly themes with my little ones
- All activities are adaptable to meet your kiddos wherever they are
- Each activity is play-based and focuses on the development areas of your little one
- I do one activity a day (usually) that lasts around 20-30 minutes

Here's what we did this week:

You can get my blank thematic planner here.

One of my favorite things about setting up a new theme is getting all the cute books that go along with it! Here are some of our favorite football themed books:

Austin Plays Fair
by Tony Dungy

by Lisa Wheeler
**Cohen (4) is dinosaur obsessed (like many 4 year olds are amiright?)
so this one was by far his favorite**

Goodnight Football
by Michael Dahl

My First Book of Football
by Beth Bugler

My Football Book
by Gail Gibbons

NFL 1-2-3
**Avery (almost 2) LOVED this one in particular. It was so cute
hearing him read the numbers for me**

T is for Touchdown
by Brad Herzog


Football Sensory Table:
This is a super cute and easy to set up sensory table! We just used our green rice, mini footballs, mini helmets, mini trophies and goal posts. Anytime I'm working on a new theme I always take a trip to dollar tree first! You can find all kinds of fun themed things there to toss into any sensory table 👌

Encourage your little one to explore the sensory table! Use helmets and trophies to scoop. Flick footballs through the field goal posts. Just have fun with it!

** In the beginning little ones will need supervision and help learning the boundaries and rules associated with sensory play **

Touchdown Letters:
Using yellow construction paper create goal posts onto butcher paper. Print out the letters included and glue onto butcher paper. Practice calling out letters and having your little one find them!

Don't want to create a giant field goal? You can get a small printable version here! Fo' freesies!

Football Drop:
Prep football drop box by coloring a shoe box green and adding goal posts. Cut slits into the box and label with shapes! Print and cut out football shapes (you can get these in the activity pack below!) Work with your little one to identify the shapes and drop into the right goal post!

Football Cubes:
Print and assemble cube. Let your little one roll the cube and identify the number shown. 

To add in a little gross motor fun: once your little one identifies the number have them do that many jumps, laps, etc.

Football Art:

Football Kicker:
Truthfully we did not get to this activity this week due to all the sickness but it is super easy to set up! Using plain 'ol paper write numbers 1 through 5 (1 number per page) and lay on the floor in a line - think like a football field. Let your little one kick a football and call out the number they get!

Want any of this week's printables?  You can grab them here!

Up next week: 1st Day of Preschool ðŸ«

Saturday, August 24, 2019

How to Build the Perfect Sensory Bin!

Fall is right around the corner! 

I am really excited for this fall for a number of reasons:

1. I love fall and everything about it! The cooler weather, the boots, the PSL (it comes back on the 28th, don't worry, I asked. You're welcome), everything!

2. Cohen starts preschool this fall and we are a bag of mixed emotions over here. He will be going 3 days a week from 9-12. It will be a crazy adjustment but I think he's going to rock it!

3. Fall also means back to our routines and toddler school! We always take a break in the summer due to all the craziness with travel, good weather and the general overheated laziness that overtakes our family. By August though, we are all feeling it and ready to get back into our normal routines.

4. Since big brother will be in school part time that means mama will get some much needed (and wanted) one on one time with Avery. I can't wait to do all the toddler school activities with him that I got to do with big brother when he was younger. I am really looking forward to this special time with my baby and I can't wait to watch his love of learning grow just like brother. 💙

With the new school year starting here at Confessions I wanted to share how we do sensory tables! We use sensory table religiously. I swap ours out every week to fit our changing themes and we love them. If you're new to sensory tables or don't know where to begin - don't get overwhelmed and just have fun with it! Also remember Rome wasn't built in a day and in that same breath your toddler won't be responsible with the table right off the bat, it takes learning! Our first few sensory tables ended up ALL over my couch/carpet. 

Whether you're a seasoned expert when it comes to sensory tables or brand new, I'm going to share some of my favorite tips and tricks for building the perfect sensory table. 

The Basics
First things first, you need a place to contain all those fun sensory learning experiences. You can buy one on amazon, make your own or totally just use a plastic bin! Whatever works for you! Personally I built one! I wanted to have a dedicated table the boys could stand at and explore. It also breaks down for travel AND has a lid. We've also added decals to the lid to make a play stove top, turned it upside down and filled with Christmas lights to make a light box and even taken it outside to double as our water table! I love how versatile it is! We made ours 4 years ago and it's still going strong!

Now I know that sounds like it's probably super fancy, but trust me when I say that me building anything is laughable so if I can do it, so can you. It took less that 10 minutes and cost about $30. 

You can find the DIY link here!

The Filler
The filler is the base of any sensory table! It's the thing that takes up the bulk of the space. Think small items you can buy in bulk. Some of our favorites are:

* Rice
* Noodles (cooked or dry)
* Sand
* Oats
* Sticks/twigs
* Cotton balls
* Shredded paper 
* Corn kernels
* Dry beans (there are so many color and size/shape options here)
* Water Beads
* Ice (when it's hot outside)

You see where I'm going here! Another fun tip is that a lot of these things can be DYED to make it more fun and engaging!

The Tools
This can be as simple as cups for sorting, tweezers for grabbing, magnifying glasses, water droppers, you name it! Whatever you want to add in to help your kiddos explore!  

I don't always add tools to mine but it is a nice addition sometimes!

The Add-Ons
Now this is where the magic happens! The add-ons are the fun things you hide in the sensory bin! Here's where the theme comes into play generally! Our favorite things to add:

* Toobs (these are little tubes of animals/vehicles/etc) - we have a bajillion of these for a variety of different themes
* Mini erasers 
* Picture cards - can have letters, numbers, animals, words, whatever!
* Gold coins

Get Creative here! This is really the fun part!


Clean Up/Storage
This can often be the most intimidating part of sensory tables - what do you do with it when you're done playing? The nice thing is that most of these items store and last FOREVER. Just toss anything that can't be reused and store the rest or easy pull out next time!

I buy these little dollar tree storage bins and store everything so I can bust it out at a moments notice! Here's a little peek into my storage - I apologize for the quality of the photo my toddler storage room is rather dark so this is as good as it gets. 🤷

I hope you've gotten some new ideas from this post! I can't wait to see what you come up with! 

Do you have any favorite sensory activities!?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Building Water Confidence in Toddlers Through Bath Play!

Around the time my oldest turned 3 he suddenly became afraid of water. He went from 0 to 100 real quick. And with no explanation. He used to love all things water. He would spend hours in the bath if we let him, loved splash pads and shower time with mama. Then all of a sudden he hated water. I'm talking if a single drop of water touched his skin or clothes he would go into full on meltdown mode.  It was as if a switch flipped over night!

So when a local swim school reached out about collaborating on an article about building water confidence through bath play I just had to jump on it! I sat down with Kristin, owner of Farber Swim School in Portland, OR. If you are local and haven't heard of Farber Swim School I would highly recommend it! They have a really great open swim for little ones that allows parents to get in the pool with their kiddos which as you can imagine is a big deal given our current relationship with water! Bonus: the water is nice and warm (90degrees)! 👌

Below are some tips for building water confidence (and safety!) at home!

Ears all in OR all out:
Apparently it is a common misconception that covering a kids ears with water can lead to ear infection. As long as they are fully submerged they will be fine (it's the half in/half out that's the culprit)! Keep in mind they did spend 9 months in water before they were born 😜

Flutter kicks: 
This is an important one to practice because it is an essential skill needed for swimming. Little ones can practice this in bath or even in a kiddie pool! Making it fun and engaging is key. We played Making Waves! We practiced using our flutter kicks to make waves for our boats!

Blowing bubbles:
Being able to blow bubbles into water is one of the first skills taught in traditional swim classes. However if your little one is like mine they don't understand the difference between blow, spit and drink. I won't tell you which child I'm talking about, that would be embarrassing 🤪Ease into this skill with straws! What kid doesn't love blowing bubbles into their drinks, cereal, soup, spit...!? Introduce blowing bubbles in standing water (like bath!)

We turned this into a fun game as well! Duck Races I gave both boys a straw and a rubber ducky and they had to blow bubbles to race their ducks across the tub! The trick was not to drink the water while we played...Still working on this one!

Reaching for toys under water:
This one may seem silly or unimportant but reaching for toys under water is an important skill for little ones to practice as well. It helps with depth perception and just confidence in the water. Making water play fun is the first step to water confidence!

We haven't practiced this one yet but Kristin mentioned getting your little ones used to goggles early would also be helpful! The 2 brands Farber Swim recommends are Speedo Skoogles and Swimple TYR. They're relatively inexpensive and have cute kid friendly prints!

Pouring water over head:
We're still building to this one!

Other ideas to help make water play fun and engaging:

Glow baths: 
Throw glow sticks in the bath, turn out the lights and have fun! Even our new kitty got in on this one 🤣

Rainbow baths:
This is a favorite of ours! Pick a different color each night. Dye the bath water (we use these!) and add matching colored items from around the house! Easy, educational and fun! Not to mention pretty!

Popsicle baths:
Do you see a pattern here!? We usually do this on sick days (or really really hot days!) We take our popsicles into the bath! It's a great way to shake up bath time AND makes for easy clean up!

Water beads:
Add some water beads to the tub and it's a whole new game! They're also perfectly safe to go down the drain! 👌
Tip: If you haven't used bath beads before they take about 24hrs to expand in size so soak ahead of time!

Wash away games:
If you've been following us for awhile we love wash away games! All you do is draw a picture, letter, number, shape, etc and let your little one erase it! You can erase with washcloths, pouring water, squirt guns, you name it! The possibilities are endless! We do a lot of different adaptations to these kinds of activities and bath is a perfect place for it!

Letter Squirt:
I'm sure by now you've figured out that foam letters stick to the sides of the bath tub/wall so why not put that to good use!? We took squirt guns into bath and practiced squirting off the letters!

What are you favorite bath play activities!?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

My Favorite Apps for Toddlers

One of the big questions I get asked a lot about is screen time! Yes, my kids do get screen time.  Screen time in our house comes in 2 forms: TV and tablet (we call it game time). Each morning our boys each get to pick a show to watch while we all wake up. The other time my kiddos get screen time is during Avery's nap. Cohen is allowed to play his game for an hour. I know, I know. That's a long time but hear me out:

1. I know my kid best. And I know that for him, game time is used productively and helps him to calm his body and center himself
2. It is the only time he gets to play anything without brother wanting to take everything he has 

With all things, I believe in moderation and screen time is no exception. And we are lucky that we live in a time where so many educational apps are available for our little ones so I don't feel as bad letting him play as much!

Below is a list of some of our favorite apps for game time. As always, I would recommend downloading and trying them yourself first before introducing to your kiddos! This is what I always do! The BIGGEST issue I have/advice is if you like the free version - spend the $2 for the paid version! The only reason I say this is because the free versions play commercials and they are NOT always kid friendly. The paid apps have no commercials! 

Image result for balloon pop app image
Balloon Pop!: 
This is a very basic one and is one of Avery’s favorites (he's 18mos)! There are balloons you pop to practice colors and letters. Super simple, not much substance but a good beginner game to get your little one used to operating a game.

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Toddler Games for 2 year olds: 
This is another popping game but is a little more substantial. You pick the skill to focus on and then it increases in difficulty asking them to tap that letter/shape/color/etc. 

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ABC Mouse: 
I 100% recommend this one hands down. I used this in the classroom too and loved it. It does cost $10/mo but you get a free trial to test it out! My favorite is that you can customize the skills and lessons to your kiddo and you can use the app on your phone to track their progress as they go!

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ABC Kids: 
This one has pros and cons! Pro: It’s really good for pre-writing! That's the main reason I like it! They help your little one practice tracing the letters. It also has lots of other letter practice. Con: it doesn’t have the letter sounds correct. For example for B they say “buh” which is linguistically not correct. Most apps/teachers make this mistake too (putting an /uh/ at the end of letter sounds which is confusing). I didn't let Cohen start playing this one until he had mastered his letter sounds AND was old enough to understand that these sounds weren't correct.

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Alphabet Aquarium: 
I like this one because each letter has several activities to practice the name and sound. Your little one starts by building the letter, building an animal that starts with that letter, beginning sound picture puzzles. There's a lot of fine motor and repetition of each letter which is great!

Image result for epic app image
This is another subscription but also has a free trial and it is BOOKS. So. Many. Books! Audio books, read to me books, it’s amazing! Definitely worth a trial!

Just for fun:

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Tap Color: 
This is a color by number app - Cohen is obsessed! They have kid versions too but he likes the adult challenge! While I put this app in my "just for fun" list it does work on color recognition, number recognition and fine motor skills (just not explicitly).

Image result for car wash app for kids
Car Wash: 
Exactly what the name is, the kids wash cars. Cohen loooooves this one.  ðŸ˜‚

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Pipe Art: 
This one is really challenging but really good for spatial awareness! It starts easy and gets harder. The goal is to make each pipe so that it fits within the box and doesn't overlap with another pipe. It's a lot harder than it looks! 

Image result for homescapes app image
This is probably the funniest one that Cohen is into! There’s a little game you play to earn stars and then you use the stars to remodel a house ðŸ˜‚

There you have it! Our favorites! What are some of your little one's favorite apps? I'm always on the look out for new and exciting educational (and fun) apps!