Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Store Trip

Even shopping can be a learning experience for children.  I am a big advocate for involving our children in everything we do.  From housework to shopping - there are conversations and learning that are being missed out on because parents want to get things done fast, so it's rush rush and no time for interaction.  We went shopping on one of the rainy days of our vacation this summer and we stopped by a book store.  My daughter found a book that she thought she had, it had the same princess, but it didn't look the same.  I explained that there were a lot of books in the series, all written by the same person and that if she really wanted them, she could put them on her wish list for Christmas or her birthday.  She can't read yet, but I showed her how to find the author, the title and the illustrator - and what those people do to create the book.  Learning while shopping!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Science Center

Looking for something to do on your next summer vacation?  Check out the local Science Center or Museum!  They are a great place to explore on rainy days (or really, really hot days) and they provide some of the best hands-on learning experiences that I have ever seen!  That was the point of this trip to the Science Center!  Learning and fun all in one place!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Finger Plays and Songs

Going on a road trip?  A while back, I made these travel BINGO cards and they were GREAT for my daughter who is four - but for my son, who is only two, they weren't so great.  We took lots of other activities for him, but his favourite activity of all (and my daughter joined in, too) was singing together and doing finger plays. 

Here are a few of the songs and rhymes that we did on our trip:
  • Where is Thumbkin?
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • ABC's
  • 6 Little Ducks
  • Five Green and Speckled Frogs
What are your favourite rhymes and children's songs?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Egg Muffins

Here's the original recipe.  I used some different times, but basically followed the recipe step by step.  We love them and so did the kids!

1 24 oz. bag of shredded hash browns
2 tbs oil
1/3 cup shredded cheddar
Bacon bits or 8-10 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled
Extra shredded cheddar cheese
Muffin tins

  1. Take your bag of hash browns and mix in the oil and 1/3 cup shredded cheese.
  2. Divide amongst the cups in your muffin tin, making sure to grease tin beforehand.
  3. Bake hash browns at 425 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until toasty.
  4. Once they're finished, take them out and lower the temp of the oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Crack an egg into each of the cups
  6. Top with bacon and a sprinkle of extra cheese
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes (or until the eggs are as firm as you like them).
  8. Slide a knife along the edges to remove from pan when cooled.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Listening to Retell

We all know that reading to our children is important, but what are they doing while they listen?  Sometimes it's nice to just listen.  But it's good to see if your child is undertsanding what is being read to them.  This is a really big part of literacy.  My daughter wanted me to read her a Princess story so we read "Beauty and the Beast".  Short and sweet and both kids listened to it.

Once we finished reading, I laid out these retelling cards (you can print them too!, click here!) and I asked her to tell me about the story.  We started with the setting and moved along the path to the end.  At first she was a little bit confused.  She's never had to tell me what she listened to.  But by the end, she wasn't skipping a part!  I found the idea originally on Pinterest but I didn't like how it was for the "Wizard of Oz" - I wanted to make them more generic, which is why I made my own.  If you are interested in the other ones, please, go to her website and print them.  And check out the rest of her blog, it's pretty amazing!

Retelling is not a skill that children are just born with.  They must learn how to do this in order to be a great reader!  Here are some more tips:
  • The "If you give a ___ a ___" books by Laura Numeroff are great books to teach retelling.  They are simple, basic and a lot of fun!  There are many of her books out there including If you give a Moose a Muffin, If you give a Mouse a Cookie and If you give a Pig a Pancake.
  • When you are in the car, retell the old classics (Golidlocks, Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.).  In the beginning you will have to do the whole story.  After a while, get your child to start filling in the different parts.  In the end, your child will be able to tell YOU the story.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Taco Cupcakes

Here's the original recipe.  It looks yummy, doesn't it?  That's what a thought, too!  And it was.  It was VERY delicious.  We all really enjoyed them except my daughter because they were too "spicy".  Would I make them again?  Nope.  Not in a million years!  They took WAY too long to prepare and I just don't have time for them.  Would I make them for a get together or a potluck?  Maybe.  It would depend on how much time I had before the event because they were very good, I just wouldn't waste that kind of time JUST for the kids and my husband. 

1/2 lb learn ground beef
taco seasoning to taste
3/4 cup canned black beans (they were sold out when I went shopping so we used zucchini for our veggie)
16 wonton wrappers
5 tbsp queso dip
1 cup chunky salsa
1 cup shredded cheese

Step by Step

1. Heat the oven to 375F and lightly mist 8 cups in the tin (or more if you use more meat in the recipe, like I did)

2. Add the ground beef and taco seasoning to a pan and cook until the meat is brown.  Once the meat is brown throughout, add the beans (or in my case, the zucchini) and continue to cook, stirring occassionaly.

3. Push a wonton wrapper into each of the muffins cups and then add a tsp of queso dip into each wrapper.

4. Next add the a couple tablespoons of the meat mixture on top of the queso dip.  Put on the next wonton wrapper and tuck it in like a pie crust.

5. On top of that wonton wrapper add the salsa and cheese.

6. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown

I did the building part a little bit different because I was unsure of how much room I was going to have.  Also, once they were cooked, I pulled them out and they lost all of the insides.  It basically was an empty shell and then I used a spoon to scoop out all of the meat and add it to our plates.  Like I said, they were delicious, but not worth the time that I spent in the kitchen that day.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stranger Danger

With my daughter starting Kindergarten in the fall, my husband and I felt that she would be spending more and more time away from us so it would be to everyones benefits to start talking more in depth about the dangers of strangers.  We have talked about it before, but we wanted to be SURE she knew the dangers.
We love books, so we started with the oldie, "The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers".  There are many more books out there, this was just one that we had at home about strangers.  Next time we are at the library, I plan on looking for a more udpated stranger book to check out as a refresher for her.

A few days after we read the book, I printed off some papers that we could talk about and she could colour.  Because she loves colouring.  Click on this link to take you to the printables.
I didn't want to overload her with information, so we did the 6 pages over two different days, about a week apart.
Lastly, a couple days after we finished the pages we did some roleplay in the Living Room.  Daddy would pretend to be a stranger and at first, she did make some mistakes, but she learned very quickly.

 The main rules (reworded by us) that we talked about with our daughter were:
1. Who is a stranger?  Anyone you don't know.
2. What adults do you trust?  Police, family and teachers.
3. What do you do if a stranger tries to grab you?  Run away and scream.  If they do grab you?  Bite them.
4. Always play with a friend.
5. Don't talk to strangers.
6. Dont' get in cars with strangers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Make a Xylophone

The goal for todays activity was to create and imitate sound using an instrument.  I've actually never done this before, but I saw the idea on Pinterest and pinned it as a reminder to attempt it one day.  My daughter told me that morning that she liked xylophones because they made pretty music.  We talked about making one and I got down the cups.  She got really excited and told me that Max and Ruby had made a xylophone like this before and she couldn't "WAIT to try it!"
I did not have 6 tall cups, so we had to use short ones.  It worked, but if you have 6 tall cups, I would suggest using them because they would probably make better sounds.  I filled the cups with water and we sat down on the floor. 
Next we added the colours and this was where my son got to help out.  He named each of the colours as I made the cups.  Then to make purple, I asked my daughter how to make purple.  "Um, with blue and green?"  I told her she was close.  "Oh, I forgot.  Blue and RED!"  I did not have yellow food colouring, so we couldn't make a rainbow.  I still have to put that on the shopping list . . .
We used the drum stick from the instruments downstairs and they made wonderful sounds.  My daughter asked me to play Twinkle Twinkle, ABC's, Mary Had a Little Lamb and Itsy Bitsy Spider and then SHE tried to imitate the tunes.  My son learned the he could put the drumstick BETWEEN two glasses and move it back and forth really fast to make a neat noise.
What a fun activity!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


As we all know, exercise is important for all children - and adults - but running and other cardiovascular activities are not the ONLY exercises that we need.  Often - even as adults - we forget about the importance of stretching.  Stretching - if it isn't already - should be a HUGE part of your workout regime.  So that was our Physcial Education for the week.  Doing a little bit of Yoga.  I know some Yoga moves, but I haven't done it in a while, so I flipped on old trusty (Tony Horton) and his P90X Yoga program. She did really well trying to imitate what she was seeing but it didn't hold her attention for long.  She liked it, but when she was done, she let me know.

Making stretching a part of your every day routine:
  • Step Through the Stick: have your child hold a stick in front of them with two hands, forming a triangle (two arms and the stick).  Your child should be able to step over the stick - with both legs - forwards AND backwards.
  • Encourage your child to make their body into a bridge (older children can make a bridge looking up) and then roll a ball underneath them.
  • Hold a ball above your head, as high as you can reach and then bring the ball down and hold it out in front of you, as far away from your body as you can.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Which Way is Up?

Learning words to describe personal direction is a skill that we use on a daily basis.  I'll be honest, sometimes I even need help with it.  When my husband asks me where something is, my short answer is "Where it was yesterday."  But learning the words can be fun!  Learning through play?  That's what we do!  We started with my daughter standing in front of me.  I looked around the basement for a toy, then lead her to that toy only using direction words like left, right, front, up, down and back.  We also included counting by saying directions like "Four steps to the left."  Once we did it that one time, we traded spots and she lead me to a toy.  We laughed and then when I went upstairs to make lunch, she continued to TRY and play the game with her brother.

Teaching personal direction:
  • Use the language every day.  Instead of pointing, use descriptive words so that your child can find what they are looking for on their own.
  • Encourage your child to use the language every day by not accepting the words "over there" or "come here, I'll show you".

Friday, September 14, 2012

Building our Muscles

When I say Muscle Endurance, what do you think of?  Weight lifting?  Pull ups?  Push ups?  Yes, for adults.  But what about children?  Stretching and Muscle Building are two important parts of physical activity that we sometimes forget about - but we shouldn't!  And there are so many ways to have fun with it!  Here are just a FEW ideas about strengthening our children's muscles.

1. Crawl or crouch through a tunnel. 

 2. Climb up on structures that are safe to do so.

3. Balancing strengthens the core muscles in our bodies.

 4. There are a variety of animal walks that you can teach your children, including a bear walk,

 5. a crab walk,
 6. a duck walk,
 7. and a crocodile walk.

 8.  And last but not least, let your children give each other magic carpet rides around the kitchen - and for more resistance I'm sure you could do it on the carpet as well!


What kinds of animal walks are there?
Duck Walk: Squat down and waddle like a duck. 
Chicken Walk: Same as a duck walk except put your hands between your legs and grab your ankles.
Bear Walk: Move around on all fours and be sure to keep your arms and legs straight.
Crab Walk: Walk on all fours but with your stomach in the air.
Crocodile Walk: Lay on your stomach and pull your limp body around using only your arms.
Lame Dog Walk: Move around on all fours (bending of the legs is allowed) - but put one of your arms behind your back - so I guess move around on all THREES.
Kanagaroo Walk: Squat down and then jump staight up, extending the legs.  When you land, go right back into the squat position and do it again.

All of these walks can also be tried backwards for the older children or the younger children that have mastered them all already.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Speaking without Words

Understanding that words are not the only way to tell a story is something that children learn at a young age, whether they realize it or not.  There are so many times in our lives that we talk WITHOUT using language.  This was a family activity that we could do to explain what we meant - because everything is easier to learn when you're having fun!  A simple game of sherades!  We stuck with animals because that is what our kids know best and that is the easiest to act out.  Even our two year old got in on the action.  He used some sounds, but other than that, he did really good.  I think my favourite was when my daughter kept pushing her nose onto the dresser and when we didn't get it, she said "Peck, peck"  Ahhhh!  Woodpecker!

How else can you learn about gestures?
  • Have a meal when you eat in silence.  Only gestures will be allowed!  For older children, everytime they talk they lose a utensil!
  • People watch!  Sit with your older child on a bench in the park and watch people walk past you.  Watch how people use their hands to talk.
  • As a follow up to the previous activity - video tape yourself and then watch the video to see how many gestures you use in a short period without even knowing.

Next step: Sign Language! At preschool, my daughter actually learns some sign language so we sang those songs together. Then I taught her some new songs. We sang them together all day. That night when daddy came home, she taught him how to do all the signs for the songs. This is a great way to reinforce what they have learned - get them to teach someone else - an adult or another child. Teaching is learning.

We taught both of the kids sign language when they were babies - they have now outgrown it, but it's a wonderful way to get them to communicate when they are unable to talk. At first, I doubted it. I thought that teaching them sign language would stop them from talking when they should. Not an issue. We taught both of the kids the basics for mealtime - Please, Thank You, More and All Done.  There are so many books out there - go to your local library and check a couple out!  It's always to learn new things!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another Trip to the Bird Sanctuary

We have collected more bread, so we took a trip back to the Bird Sanctuary.  This time, I wanted to add a little bit of learning into the situation.  On the way to the Sanctuary, I talked to my daughter about what the word "sanctuary" means.  I told her to think about what was around the park (fence) and how that would make the birds feel when they were there.  She said it made them feel safe because no other animals could hurt them.  Could the other animals get in?  How did the birds and ducks get in?  The other animals couldn't get in because they can't fly like the birds and ducks can.  What happens in the winter when it gets cold?  This was my favourite answer: They fly to Mexico like we did!  She was able to answer all of my questions with confidence and in her own words.  She was right every time.  I forgot to take the camera, so here are some more pictures from our trip LAST time!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Magnets: Part One

This is a three part series about magnets.  This was part one, just introducing the magnet.  It started because we bought her a magnet bracelet when we were in Mexico and she was playing with it.  She asked me why the magnets were sticking together and I explained that some things are metal, which makes the magnets stick to them.  That was when we grabbed the magnet from the fridge and she went around the whole house trying to find what would stick to the magnet.  She found lots of neat things that I didn't even KNOW were magnetic - like the glass in some of the picture frames.  By the end, she had figured out that metal is USUALLY silver, but not always.  And a note for all of you out there - this activity does need parental supervision because the first things in every room that my daughter wanted to test were the electronics.  Magnets are not good for electronics so make sure your child understands this.  Other than that, have fun exploring!

There are many different kinds of magnets:
  • Disk Magnets
  • Ring Magnets
  • Marble Magnets
  • Wand Magnets
  • Horseshoe Magnet
  • Bar Magnet

Friday, September 07, 2012

Music and Reading Combined

Children using stories to inspire Music is something that we don't really think of doing with our children.  But the more you think about it, the more it is in our every day lives.  From advertising to movies - people put music to words/pictures all the time to engage and excite the listeners.
We have musical instruments in the basement and the kids love to use them.  One day while sitting in the basement, my daughter asked me to read to her.  I agreed and brought over the instruments as well.  First we experimented with each instrument to see what kind of sound it made.  Then we read the first story together.  I read the story and made the music.  The kids listened.  For the second book, my daughter was the one who would make the music.  It was really neat to see how her brain worked (remember - in Art, nothing is "wrong").  She used the drum to make a thunder noise, her mouth to make a fish noise and she rubbed the sticks to make a frog noise.  That was my favourite - it actually sounded like a frog and I NEVER would have come up with that on my own!

Other ways to notice music telling a story:
  •  Find some music clips on the internet and play them for your child.  As them how they feel when they hear that music. (Ex. scared, excited, sad, happy, etc.)
  • When watching a movie, point out the music right before something happens

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Jump, Jump, Jump

By the age of 2 1/2 toddlers will have mastered the skill of jumping off the ground with two feet.  Since we have done this activity (about a month ago) he has come a long way. 
To teach him how to jump and make it into a game, we put the song "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" on the computer and he and his sister jumped and danced.  He learns a lot just by watching what his sister does, and this was no different.  Other ways that we encouraged him to jump (ADULT SUPERVISION REQUIRED IN 3, 2, 1) was jumping off of the couch onto a pile of pillows and blankets.  This is his most favourite game (and my daughters).
He started out doing a gallop kind of jump, by the next week he was getting a little bit better and now, a month later he can jump perfectly fine.  I love watching the transformation of the smallest tasks in my children!

Ways to teach your child to jump:
  • Don't discourage jumping in your home.  There are places to do it, but with adults supervision there should be no problem jumping off that last step.  Rules and restrictions just need to be known by the children so that they stay safe when you are not around.
  • Jump on a trampoline or put a pile of pillows on the ground and use the pile as a trampoline
  • Play hopscotch
  • Make an obstacle course and make them jump over things in their path

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Big VS Little

Somewhere between the ages of 24-36 months, toddlers should understand the difference between big and small and be able to use those adjectives in sentences.

This activity had two different parts to it, mostly because my son didn't quite understand the first one.  Please learn from this.  Just because your child (OR STUDENTS) don't understand something the FIRST time, it may not be that they don't understand.  Maybe it's the way you are teaching them.  All children learn in different ways.  So try a different route for everything that you teach.

Step One: Big VS Little Shapes.  This was just a basic stretch one weekend morning when we were upstairs getting dressed.  My boy can be kinda wild in the morning (and in the afternoon, early morning, late afternoon, evening, before bed . . . you get the point) so I was trying to calm him down while waking up my 4 year old (teenage) daughter.  I said, "Stretch BIG" and "Stretch SMALL" and we went back and forth like that.  My son copied for a little while but had not interest at all to stretch his body.  Had we continued, I would have gone into big and small animal stretches as well, but we didn't make it that far.

Step Two: Big VS Little Toys.  This was way more up my sons alley.  I juts found some toys in the basement that had big and little versions (blocks, alligators, balls, trains) and put them in front of him, one pair at a time.  Where's the little train?  Where's the big block?  He had a hard time at first, but he soon caught on.  I knew he had mastered this activity when he said "Mommy, I potty.  Little potty."

Teaching Big and Little to your little ones:
  • Use the language every day.  Do you see the small car?  Look at the big semi!
  • Blow up a balloon and watch it go from little to big.
  • Put items in order from littlest to biggest.  Stacking blocks are a great toy!
  • Finally, here are some books that include little and big concepts:
        • The Mitten by Jan Brett
        • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
        • Three Billy Goats
        • In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming