This blog is here for you to find fun learning activities to do with your children. We share great ideas we find and love on the Internet, as well as ideas we come up with on our own! We also like to share resources we find helpful.

To find ideas for your child, click on the age range blog label or on the theme/topic you are looking for (on the left side of the page). In each post, we try to list optimal age ranges for the activity, but you must judge for yourself if it is appropriate for your child. When you try an activity out, please comment and let us (and everyone else) know how your child liked it!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Making Diaper Changes Educational

I don't know a single parent who hasn't struggled at one time or another with a baby or toddler who insists on crying, screaming, or turning over during every diaper change. It's a short phase for some, and a longer phase for others. Either way, we change our kids' diapers so many times a day that we might as well take advantage of those times rather than dread them.

  • English Alphabet
  • Alphabet in another language--we sing the Hebrew alphabet because we plan to teach our son Hebrew. You can find the entire version here but we sing a simpler one that only identifies the letters and not every sound each letter makes. This is critical if you want to teach your child a second language because some languages have sounds that English doesn't have so they need to practice those. For example, Spanish has the rolled rr in many words.
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
*Nursery rhymes and knowing the alphabet are critical to early literacy and kindergarten readiness, even silly songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider really are teaching rhyming!

  • Name your child's body parts for him/her.
  • As they get older, ask child where his/her different body parts are.
  • peek-a-boo with clothes, this is how Tobias first learned to play peek-a-boo :)
  • say "uh oh, where'd your foot go?" when putting your baby's pants back on. Make a big deal about having "lost" the foot and then get really excited when it pops through the pant leg. Sounds silly, but it works for all kids I've ever done it with!
Or you could always just add a kitty to the mix and let them entertain the baby for you :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fall Scenery

One of my favorite things to do is to create a huge thematic scene. I used to do it in the classroom during rain forest week, when we studied the ocean, and pretty much any time I could justify making a huge picture as a group.
A few things I always try to have on hand: rolls of brown (or any color) butcher paper, craft glue (like Tacky Glue), glitter, and sheets of foam and/or construction paper. The rest can really be improvised.
Charis and I have made wall hangings when learning about different subjects, and today's theme was Fall.

Materials Needed:(all are optional,this is just my personal list of what I used)

  • Large sheet of paper, a plastic tablecloth, or even an old sheet

  • Black, green, and orange construction paper and/or foam

  • Orange and brown washable paint

  • Foam paint brushes

  • Baby food jar (1 plastic, lid included)

  • Cotton swab

  • Leaves (real and/or fake)

  • Paper plate(s)

  • Craft glue

  • Glitter (any color)

  • Pipe cleaners
  • Twisted craft paper

  • Wiggly eyes

This activity can be done in one day or you can break it up into steps and complete one or two a day.

Prep: Lay out brown paper (I put a plastic table cloth underneath because I knew I'd be using glitter and it's easier to shake out the cloth after).

  • Cut out the spider pieces (body, legs), bird pieces (body, beak, and feet)

  • Paint a large tree (if desired) on the paper for the bird and/or spiders.


1. If the time of the year is right, have your child hunt for fall colored leaves. We found some pretty neat ones right in the front yard. Yes, my child is still in her pajamas *gasp*. What can I say? It was one of those kind of days.

2. Paint paper plates, turning them into pumpkins. You can glue leaves and a stem as well. It's a great opportunity to talk about parts of a plant.

3. Make twirly vines out of pipe cleaners. I showed her how to twist them around her finger.

4. Assemble the crows. I showed her some possibilities, but let her apply all the glue (with cotton swab), and position all the body parts where she wanted.

5. Next she assembled the spiders. I gave her the eyes and legs and explained that they have 4 on each side. I let her position them.

6. I stapled the vine down. We positioned the pumpkins while I explained how they grow on vines. I let her choose where to glue the leaves, birds and spiders. She glued them on with the craft glue.
7. Last I made a line of glue to look like the spider was hanging from a web. She sprinkled glitter.

8. We hung her picture in the hall at the house. It makes a very festive decoration!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Baby Yoga-Rock and Roll Tummy

Back when I was pregnant and had all these idealistic visions of working hard to get rid of my baby weight after giving birth I bought a mommy and baby yoga video. Of course, that was before the realities of birth and the recovery set in! So anyway, I just now watched my video for the first time and attempted to do some of it with Tobias :)

Here is a fun yoga exercise to do with infants-toddlers:

-lay your child on his back, take his hands in yours and hold them up by his chest. Rock him back and forth gently still holding his hands saying "rock, rock, rock". After the third "rock" you bring his hands to his chest again and move them in a circle around his abdomen saying "roll!"
-tuck his legs up over his tummy and hold his feet while he's in that position. Rock him back and forth gently while holding his legs this time saying "rock, rock, rock" again. After the third "rock" you move his legs in a circle while still tucked into his abdomen saying "roll!"
-bring your child's feet up over his chest (babies and toddlers are quite flexible!) and grab his hands as well. Hold his feet and hands together over his abdomen and rock back and forth again, then bring them in a circle and say "roll!".

After all that scrunching you may want to stretch your baby back out again. You can do this by gently stretching his or her right arm up and left leg down saying "long baby!". Repeat with the left arm and right leg as well.

Tobias giggled a lot about this one, he thought it was great fun to scrunch up and roll around. For babies this can be a great way to build their tummy muscles and get one-on-one physical interaction with Mom or Dad.

Video to come as soon as I convince my ever-patient husband to videotape us doing this :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Traditions

I love traditions. Traditions can really help a child feel like they are part of something. The exact importance of traditions varies from person to person. You might think young children aren't capable of remember if anything is a tradition or not. You will be surprised at how much your child remembers from year to year. Of course, a new tradition can be started any time :) I thought it would be fun for everyone to share their favorite Halloween traditions to do with your family. Then we can get ideas! Here are our traditions:

We make a paper chain to count down to Halloween. Here is my post about it.

We have a lot of corn mazes around us. Every October, we go to a corn maze. They also have a straw fort (which the kids love). This is one of their favorite activities of the year.

One town in our area does what they call a pumpkin walk. Local people create elaborate scenes using painted pumpkins. The kids have a lot of fun going to this--and it is free! Look into what your area has locally that is kid friendly.

Our church has a party every year. We dress up, share soup, and have some games for the kids.

My husband's family does a party every year. We have fun games we play each year. One game is where we draw names. We then go to a pumpkin patch and pick out a pumpkin. We then paint a scene on our pumpkin to represent the name we drew. Then we all guess which pumpkin represents each person.

Each year, we carve and paint pumpkins as a family. We involve our children from baby age. As a baby, they can play with the guts. None of my babies have had a special thrill over this. Their interest in it doesn't last long, but I love the initial look on their face.

The next year, they can paint a little pumpkin.

Then they can continue painting. If they want to carve, they can draw the face with a crayon and Daddy carves it.

This year, Brayden carved most of his pumpkin by himself (age four).

Everyone in our family dresses up. So far, we have chosen a theme and each person is a character in that theme. It is a lot of fun.

Halloween night, my parents come trick-or-treating with us. We go to a few houses in our neighborhood. Then we come home and eat soup and visit with each other.

Feel free to comment with the traditions your family enjoys!

Witch Cupcakes

This is a fun way to decorate cupcakes, and it is definitely something your toddler can help you do.

1 and up with assistance. Two with lots of guidance. Three and up with their own imagination.

  • Cooking/baking
  • Math
  • Fine motor skills


  • Cupcakes (and all that it takes to make them)
  • Sugar ice cream cones (the pointy ones)
  • String licorice
  • Candy corn
  • Frosting
  • Food coloring if desired
  • Scissors (for you)


  1. Have your child help you bake cupcakes. This is where the math learning comes in.
  2. After cupcakes have cooled, frost them. You are making a witch, so I dye it green.
  3. Cut string licorice into pieces of hair. I use red licorice because no one in my house likes black.
  4. Let your child put hair on the witch.
  5. Put her pointy hat on.
  6. Add her candy corn nose.
  7. Eat her!


Sugar Cookies

Okay. Here is the truth. I really don't enjoy making sugar cookies. By the time they are made, my back is just killing me and my stress level is peaked. When I am eating them, I think to myself, "Chocolate chip cookies taste a lot better than these and they are WAY easier." However, the kids love to make them. They are a lot of fun to make around holidays. So, I make them a few times a year. One day this month while I was grocery shopping, I found these cute Halloween cookie cutters and in a moment of thinking like a child instead of a mom, I bought them. So now add October to the list of months I must make sugar cookies. Some day I will miss it :) I will be like my grandma who made TONS of sugar cookies every Christmas in anticipation of our arrival.


One and up. My kids love to help cook. I let them start as soon as they are interested and I allow them to "help."


  • Cooking/Baking
  • Math
  • Fine motor skills
  • Colors if you do frosting


  • If you let your child help make the dough, you don't need to do anything more than put on your apron and wash your hands.
  • One more thing...put your "patient" hat on.


  • Make dough (recipe below)
  • Chill dough if needed
  • Roll out dough. Let your child help
  • Cut out shapes. Let your child help. At first, I let them put the cookie cutters wherever they wanted to, but I soon realized we would be there all night that way (since they were not spaced close together). I then placed it on the dough and let them cut it out
  • Bake the cookies
  • Make frosting (recipe below)
  • Frost cookies once cooled
  • Eat cookies


Note that the cookies are not going to be perfect. They are going to be mis-shaped. They will have large finger imprints in them. They will still taste the same :) This is for the kids!


Note the imperfect cookies

I got this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book .
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla (I sometimes change this to another flavoring...like almond. I love almond)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Beat butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds
  2. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt
  3. Beat until combined, scraping sides occasionally
  4. Add flour. Finish by hand if it gets too thick for mixer
  5. Cover and chill dough for 30 minutes or until it is easy to handle
  6. Divide in half
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time until 1/8 inch thick
  8. Cut using cookie cutters
  9. Place on cookie sheet one inch apart
  10. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes (until edges are firm)
  11. Cool
  12. Ice if desired

I got this recipe from a neighbor. It is delicious. I half the recipe when I use it with the sugar cookie recipe above. Take note that this is a frosting recipe, not a icing or glaze. I use this because I love it. If you want an icing or glaze, do not use this recipe.

  • 1 cube margarine or butter softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 caps full of flavoring of your choice. If you put a flavor in the cookies other than vanilla, you might want to just do vanilla in the frosting. I find vanilla might need a bit more than two caps full
  • Coloring (if desired)
  1. Mix together ingredients with beaters
  2. If too dry, add milk or water (I add water)
If you add coloring to the frosting, it helps your child with colors. For the older child, you can mix two colors together to make a new color (like red and yellow to make orange).

You can do this with any holiday. You can also cut out letters for teaching letters or shapes for teaching shapes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Faces

It's funny to me the reactions you'll get from certain activities. Often times I think Charis will love something and she either has no interest or she thinks it's okay (which can be frustrating when you put time and effort into getting an activity together). Then I'll throw together a last minute idea and she loves it. This was one of those moments. For this reason I'll try anything at least once. If she's not interested now, my efforts aren't wasted. Perhaps in a few months she'll be interested. Either way, she's getting introduced to lots of new skills presented many different ways. This is a good way to work on fine motor skills, shapes (oval, half moon, triangle, circle, square), concentration, and focus!

Ages: 18 months (with help). My 28 month old did this almost unassisted once I showed her what to do.

  • Sheets of foam or construction paper in black and orange

  • Scissors (for you)

  • Glue
  • Cotton swabs

  • Container to put glue in (I used a clean babyfood jar lid)

  • Plastic sandwich bags (3)

  • Magnetic tape (optional)


  • Put small amount of glue in lid

  • Cut out large and small pumpkins from orange foam

  • Cut out lots of different eye, nose, and mouth shapes

  • Sort eyes, noses, and mouths into sandwich bags


  1. Do the first pumpkin (without using glue). Show them how to choose 2 eyes. I asked her "How many eyes should our pumpkin have?" Two is normally the answer, unless your child wants to make a cyclops or another creative idea. I also tried to involve shapes, asking "Are you going to choose the square or triangle nose? Do you want the oval or half moon shaped mouth?"
  2. I put the eyes down on the pumpkin and showed her how to dip the cotton swab and put glue on the back of the eyes. I then explained that the white part (the part with the glue) has to touch the orange pumpkin. Repeat with nose and mouth.

Once we did one together, I let her do it on her own.

We put magnets on the back and put them up on the refrigerator.She liked this so much we ran out of pumpkins before she was ready to quit. The (unassisted) finished product:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yarn Spider

This activity is not one that a child can do much of, but the kids love to play with it.

All kids can have fun playing with it. But only an older child can create it. I would say probably 4 and up. Some 3 year olds might be able to do it.

  • Science (if you talk about spiders)
  • Fine motor for the child who helps.
  • Yarn
  • Square piece of cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaner
  1. Cut out a small square of cardboard
  2. Wrap yarn around it
  3. Tie a piece of yarn around it horizontally. Don't knot it because you will tighten it when you remove the cardboard
  4. Use the scissors to cut the yarn wrapped around the cardboard
  5. Remove the cardboard
  6. Tighten the horizontal piece of yarn
  7. Cut one side of the horizontal piece of yarn to be as long as the rest of the yard for the spider. Leave the other one long
  8. Insert pipe cleaner
  9. Add eyes if desired
Here are some photos of the process. We did grey because we are learning about the color grey this week. The kids have had fun playing with them, but it really wasn't something my two year old could do at all.

I got this idea from Preschooler's Busy Book

Egg Carton Spiders

This is a fun little activity to do with your child around Halloween.


I got this idea from Preschooler's Busy Book. The book is written for ages 3-6. I did this with my 4 year old and 2.5 year old, so I know it can be done with a 2.5 year old. I would say if your child enjoys painting or coloring, she will enjoy this activity.

  • Science (if you talk about spiders)
  • Art
  • Fine motor skills
  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Paint, markers, or crayons
  • Construction paper for eyes (or a marker)
  • Glue (if you used construction paper)
  • Thread or yarn (optional)
  • Cut out the cup sections of the egg carton
  • Get out supplies
  • If you are painting and you are like me, prep the area (art smock/T-shirt/down to underwear and a vinyl tablecloth)
  • Have your child color/paint the egg cup
  • After the egg cup dries, insert pipe cleaner into the cup to be legs. I poked holes in the cup so the kids could insert it themselves and work on their fine motor skills
  • Bend the pipe cleaner so it looks like legs
  • Draw eyes or attach eyes out of construction paper
  • Optional: attach string to the top so you can hang it somewhere

This is kind of cheesy and they don't look a lot like spiders...but it is a fun thing to do.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Books

Looking for a few Halloween books to check out or buy? Check out these titles:
The Night Before Halloween by Natasha Wing
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! by Lucille Colandro

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

Hoodwinked by Arthur Howard

The Hallo-Wiener by Dav Pilkey

Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet by Diane de Groat

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams

Knock, Knock It's Halloween! by Betty Schwartz
This is a book of Halloween knock-knock jokes. Great for the preschooler with a budding sense of humor.

Today is Halloween by P.K. Hallinan

Say Boo! by Lynda Graham-Barber
The Halloween Play by Felicia Bond
Wee Witches Halloween by Jerry Smath
T-Rex Trick-Or-Treats by Lois G. Grambling
Spooky Night by Tish Rabe
And don't forget Halloween books of your child's favorite characters, like Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baby Ghost

-take a scrap of white fabric and ball it up
-take a second scrap of white fabric and wrap it around the balled fabric, securing it at the bottom of the ball with a piece of yarn or a hair tie.
-draw eyes and an open mouth on the ghost (feel free to make it as scary or friendly looking as fits your child's age and maturity level)

Sing this song while waving the ghost puppet around to touch each body part.
*This is a great way to distract a squirmy baby or toddler during diaper changes!

Baby ghost, baby ghost
Flying through the air.
Baby ghost, baby ghost
Touching your hair.

(Move puppet back and forth in front of toddler.)

(Have ghost touch toddlers hair.)

Baby ghost, baby ghost
Flying down low.
Baby ghost, baby ghost
Touches your toe.

(Bring hand with puppet down low.)

(Bend down and touch ghost to toddlers toe.)

Baby ghost, baby ghost
Flying up high.
Baby ghost, baby ghost
Touches your eye.

(Raise ghost puppet up high.)

(Toddler shuts eye, while ghost touches eye lid.)

-body parts

I found this activity at a neat site I just discovered: http://www.preschoolexpress.com/
(This activity is in the toddlers section)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sweet Treats:Fall

One of my favorite things to do with my toddler is cook. It's a great way to teach her self-control with her hands, following step-by-step instructions, practice scooping, measuring, and pouring, and spending some quality time together. It also helps her learn hands-on kitchen safety, the names of the cooking tools we use, and proper clean-up after and during cooking.She then gets to enjoy the fruits of her labor...literally! We've been cooking together since she was one. It can get messy, but it's worth every second of it, in my opinion.

Here's a fun one for you and your little one(s) to try together:

Pumpkin Pie Popsicles
*1 can of 100% Pure Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
*1/4-1/2 cup of Maple syrup
*2/3 cup of light cream
*1 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
*Popsicle molds


  1. Put pumpkin and cream in a bowl and mix. Add maple syrup to desired sweetness. You may not need as much as 1/2 a cup. Add cinnamon.
  2. Pour into popsicle molds. Let it freeze.

*This makes 6-8 large popsicles. You can also freeze it in an ice cube tray, put plastic wrap over it, and stick the popsicle sticks through to keep the sticks in place while it freezes.

Most importantly...don't be afraid to make a mess. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sorting Dinosaur Hunt

-large plastic container
-dry rice, beans, or lentils
-small toys (we used dinosaurs)
-small bowl
-spoons, measuring cups (optional)

-fill large container with rice
-hide toys in the rice, leave some barely covered to make it easier for little kids

-show child how to uncover a dinosaur and put it in a bowl
-let child collect all the dinosaurs in the bowl
-after all the toys have been found in the rice, your child can practice scooping the rice with spoons or measuring cups.


-read a book about dinosaurs or watch "Dinosaur Train" on PBS to learn more about dinosaurs.
-talk with your child about how archeologists dig for dinosaur skeletons so we can learn about dinosaurs that lived a long time ago.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Teaching Emotions

When Brayden was about two, we started this game I call, "I am going to look..." He absolutely loved it. We started the same game with Kaitlyn around two, and at 2.5 it is still a favorite game for her.

Two and up.

This is a great activity to help your child identify feelings. This really helps cut down on tantrums due to communication issues. When your child is upset, you can talk to your child about how he is feeling because he will have a vocabulary for it. It also is a great one-on-one activity for a parent and child.

  • Parent
  • Child
  1. Sit down and face your child. I have found this to be effective in the child's room on the bed (if it is big enough for both of you). Wherever you do it, just be sure it is somewhere the child is comfortable mentally.
  2. Tell your child, "I am going to look..." (pause)..."happy!"
  3. Smile and look happy.
  4. Tell your child, "I am going to look..." (pause)..."sad."
  5. Look sad.
  6. Repeat this, alternating through emotions. At some point, your child will likely want to do it too. If not, ask if he wants to try.
  7. Another way to involve your child is ask him how he wants you to look.
As your child gets used to this game, you can alternate. Expect that in the beginning, he won't remember how to look for different emotions. This is building a new vocabulary for him. When you first start this, use simple emotions such as "happy," "sad," "scared," etc. As your child grows, you can add more complex emotions that build on the basic ones such as "confident" and "anxious"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Letter Recognition

Learning the alphabet is such an exciting accomplishment for kids. Letters and words in the environment are starting to have meaning and children are at one of the beginning stages of learning how to read.
However, sometimes the crossover from the alphabet they learn at home and recognizing those same letters and words in other places can prove difficult for some children.
That's where this activity can help. Have you noticed that more books are published in different fonts? Letters and numbers are presented in many different ways in real life. Not every book is published in "Times New Roman," nor are advertisements, signs, magazines, or websites. Take these examples:

Your child may know the alphabet, but would they recognize the alphabet if it was presented a new way?

Ages: As soon as they begin recognizing letters!

Prep: Print the letters that they are learning in different fonts. I went to my Word program and typed the letter 10 times and then printed it off in 10 different fonts. Print them out as large as possible. I also printed them off in small squares (approximately 24 point font).

Activity: Here are a few activities:

  • Hide different letters (in the different fonts) around the house or around the room. Go on a hunt!
  • Hide the letters and let them hunt, but this time give clues. Call out the letters as they search. "Find all Ys that you can!" "Can you find a capital T?" "I see a letter that makes the /p/ sound. Can you find it?" "I see a letter that is only made of curvy lines (S,O,C)."
  • If you are using the entire alphabet, have them put the alphabet in order after they find the letters.
  • Fold a large piece of construction paper in half (or thirds, depending if you want to work with 2 or 3 letters). Have them sort two different letters into piles (for example, M vs. R). Glue on paper according to the letter. You could also have them do the same letter, but sort capital and lower case. This works really well when you are working on letters that are similar, like M and N or P and R.
  • Play ABC Relay.
  • Play Find the Letter.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Peek-A-Boo is not just a game that is stereotypically fun for baby. It is a great way to teach baby about object permanence. This game helps baby to grasp the idea that objects exist even if she can't see them. This can really help reduce the distress of separation anxiety.

I did this activity a lot with my oldest, Brayden. He loved it. At seven months old, he started doing it himself. He would cover himself with his blanket and then say "ahh. ahh" Then he would pull down his blanket with great pleasure.
You can start to play this as early as you want to, but don't expect baby to really enjoy the game until somewhere around 5-6 months old. I wouldn't really recommend it prior to three months old because it can really overstimulate the newborn.

  • Understanding of object permanence.


  • Peek-a-boo-er (mom)
  • Peek-a-boo-ee (baby)

Okay, we all know how to play peek-a-boo. In case not:

  • Lay baby on the floor or another surface you feel comfortable with.
  • Cover your face with your hands (or something else).
  • Remove your hands and say "peek-a-boo"!

I do peek-a-boo a little differently. We always play peek-a-boo on Monday's. Why? Monday is laundry day. I hate folding laundry. But I have found it to be a lot more enjoyable if I play peek-a-boo with my baby while I fold my laundry.

  • Put my laundry on my bed.
  • Put my baby on my bed (I don't leave my baby on the bed unattended).
  • Hold up whatever I am folding in front of my face. As I hold it up, I fold it without exposing my face.
  • Say, "Where is Mommy? Where's Mommy?"
  • Pause.
  • Put the item down and say, "There she is! Peek-a-boo!" This brings out the giggles in my baby.
  • Move on to next item to fold and repeat.

This is great because I am able to enjoy folding laundry and I also do peek-a-boo over and over again. Babies (kids) love repetition.

For the older baby, cover a favorite toy with a blanket and say, "Where did [toy] go?" Hold your hands up like you are unsure. Then pull the blanket off and say, "there it is!" As your baby gets older, you can let her pull the blanket off.

This is a fun activity a sibling can do with baby.

Here is seven month old Brayden playing peek-a-boo with his towel:

And six month old McKenna smiling at me after I peek-a-boo'ed her:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Talk With Your Child

Alright, alright, I know this seems like a silly suggestion to some of you. Of course we talk to our children. But, as a kindergarten and first grade teacher one of my biggest issues was that my students did not know how to communicate. They had very limited vocabulary, babyish speech habits, and could not answer a question or relate an event. This spilled over into their behavior, their social skills with other students, and of course their academic work, particularly in phonics and reading.

The intelligence of children is intimately connected with the quality and extent of their exposure to language. -Montessori from the Start

If you are a quiet person like me, start talking! I nannied for a toddler back during my quiet, shy early college days and honestly we didn't talk a whole lot since she had nothing to say besides baby jabber and I felt silly talking to myself. Her parents were also not the talkative type, they did tons for their daughter and showed her lots of affection, they just weren't very verbal people once they got home from their jobs each evening. That girl ended up in speech therapy to get her talking clearly when she was about 4 years old. Nobody is around, get over any silliness you feel talking "to yourself" when you're at home with the baby and just start getting into the habit of talking and listening to your child.

Therefore, it is imperative to talk to your baby often throughout his day, naming objects, discussing actions, relating events, and describing people and their apparent feelings. -Montessori from the Start

Talk, talk, talk--adult talk, not baby talk. Talk to her while you're walking in the park, while you're riding in the car, while you're fixing dinner. Tell her what you're doing while you're doing it...This sort of constant chatter lays a verbal foundation in your child's mind. She's learning that words are used to plan, to think, to explain; she's figuring out how the English language organizes words into phrases, clauses, and complete sentences.-- The Well Trained Mind p.27

So how do we do that specifically?

  • Tell your child what you're doing or about to do--"Mommy is putting on her coat, then I will put on your coat so we can go to the store."
  • Name things-- "here's the kitty" (point) "would you like the ball?" (hold the ball up)
  • Read Aloud--even if you read college textbooks aloud as you nurse your baby or as your toddler plays in the bathtub, it is language! More traditional books like The Snowy Day board book are great too :)
  • Sing--children often memorize songs naturally so songs are a fantastic tool for language introduction and show the beauty of words put to a tune. Tobias "sings" in the car along with me all the time. I can't understand a word he's saying but it's awfully cute and he's having fun!
  • Listen--when your baby or child babbles at you in nonsense toddler language simple smile, nod, and exclaim "oh really?" "isn't that interesting" "hmmm" in response. This encourages the use of verbal words to get Mom's attention and to communicate things.
  • Name and Describe Feelings--when your child is tired and cranky, say "you are tired because it's your nap time. Let's go in your room and read a book to settle down for sleep."
In The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems, Tracy Hogg suggests that rather than ignore your child's cries or placate them quickly with false words of reassurance ("the shot won't hurt at all", "the dark isn't scary") we should instead identify the emotion they are trying to convey. If your baby is crying from hunger, you would say something like "oh, you must be hungry, it's hard to wait for food sometimes". If your toddler is at the store with you and grumpy, say "I know you're grumpy and it's hard to behave when you're grumpy. We'll be home soon and then we can play a game or watch a video". Avoid an accusatory tone or trying to play down the emotion. Whether it is valid or not your child is feeling it. If you ignore it you miss a valuable opportunity to give your child the coping skills they need to manage the uncomfortable emotions that are bound to occur sometimes. Language is power. If they can name their feeling and why they feel that way they have the power to manage that feeling so it doesn't overwhelm them.

Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen
The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg

Friday, October 16, 2009

Matching and Sorting

I made Matching and Sorting cards for my 2 year old. You can change the words to fit your needs. When we did a unit on the ocean, I made pictures of things you can find in the ocean. Again, I "laminated" the cards with packing tape. Then we made an ocean scene using the cards and correctly placed the items (seaweed on the bottom, crabs on the bottom, boat at the top, fish swimming, etc).

For Young Toddlers (12-18 months)

  1. Have them find animals ("Can you find the dog?" "Where is the tiger?")

  2. Locate animals by sounds. (Which animal says meow? Which animal says moo?)

  3. Find fruit. (Where is the apple?)

  4. If your child knows colors, ask them to locate pictures by color. (Point to the red fruit.)

For 2+:

  1. Match pairs of items. Put in piles.

  2. Sort (Put all farm animals together, zoo animals, ocean animals, insects, etc)

  3. Match animals and their coverings (fur, feather,scales)

Older/more advanced:

  1. Play Memory.
  2. Use dry erase marker to write the beginning sound/letter, ending sound/letter, or try to spell the word. If you laminate with packing tape, it will wipe off. (You can use dry erase or Vis-a-vis markers).
  3. Discuss adjectives and verbs, and try and think of as many as they can for each picture. Again, a great way to use the 5 senses (what would it smell like? feel like? sound like?)
  4. Use the cards to make up a sentence. For example, ifthey have a bear and a fish: The fuzzy brown bear tries to capture the slippery fish for dinner.
  5. More difficult sorting (mammals, reptiles, categories of food like meat, grains, and dairy, herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores, etc).

Thursday, October 15, 2009


-3 small cups
-1 cereal bowl
-lentils, beans, rice, or cereal

-fill the small cups halfway with the lentils (or beans, rice, etc)

-place the bowl in front of your child and pour one cup of lentils into it to demonstrate. Explain verbally as you do so.
-hand your child a cup of lentils and help him pour it into the bowl
-give the 3rd cup and allow your child to try to pour it himself
-repeat as many times as you like
-repeat with water as well. You should start with a small amount of water at first so it's not too heavy. If your child is very young or uncoordinated you may want to only use 1/4th a cup of water. My son is 15 months and he managed to pour half cups of water fairly accurately with just a little accidental spilling.

1) discuss concepts of empty and full
2) use a smaller container to pour into or a larger container to pour out of (like a pitcher). You can even use a funnel.
3) children 18 months and older can pour a half cup of water from a pitcher into their own cup. As they get better at it fill the pitcher with more water than the cup can hold and they will have to learn to stop pouring before it spills over.

*If/when your child spills have him help you clean up. When Tobias spilled the water I handed him a dry washcloth and we mopped up the spill together, he thinks this is tons of fun and it teaches him to be responsible for his own activities and messes.

fine motor skills
practical life skills

Resources Used
Tot School Blog
Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fall: Nature Walk

At preschool this week, Brayden's theme is Fall. He came home with this fun bracelet, so I thought I would share it.

Probably one and up. I would think a one year old could find interest in putting this bracelet on and collecting things.

  • Science
  • Exercise
  • Masking tape
  • Baggie or basket (or something to put things in)
  • Place to walk


  • Dress child appropriately for the weather


  • Put masking tape around your child's wrist. You want the tape "backwards" so that the sticky side is facing up. You don't want the tape to stick to your child.
  • Go for a walk and find things in nature. For the lighter and smaller things, have your child stick them to his nature bracelet. For the heavier and larger items, have your child put them in the baggie or basket or whatever you brought along.
  • Take them home and talk about the items found. For the older child, you could look up the items he found and read about them.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Being Thankful:Fall and Winter Fun

I saw this activity in the Disney's Family Fun magazine (November 2008). (Great investment, by the way!) I'm going to give credit where credit is due, so thank you Zeppo Family from St. Charles, Missouri!

This family decided to keep a Thankful Box out all year. Throughout the year, they write down things they are grateful for and drop them into the box. On Thanksgiving Day, they open the container and read the blessings out loud. Then they use the strips of paper to make a paper chain to hang on the Christmas Tree.

*If you start now and each family member does one a day, you'll have plenty for a paper chain for the tree! We are starting this week!

Materials Needed:

  • Oatmeal canister, shoe box, or some container to put the strips of paper in

  • Pen/pencil

  • strips of paper

  1. Decorate your container.

  2. Cut a slot in the top to put the paper in once written on.

  3. Keep a stack of paper handy.

  4. Write one thing per family member each night. We chose after dinner, so we can sit and chat as a family. I'm sure we can come up with one blessing a night!

For my 2 year old, I'll let her draw what she's thankful for during the day and she can share it with the family at night. Then I'll "translate" on the bottom of the paper. :) I'll write new things that the baby can do too, since I'm sure she's thankful for things like new teeth and mobility.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pompom Fun

This is by far one of my children's favorite activities to do. I often have them do this activity at the kitchen table while I make dinner.

12 months and up. This is for toddlers and older. You child just needs to be able to tell two different colors apart and be able to sort them. She doesn't need to be able to say the name of the colors, just recognize that they are different.

  • Sorting
  • Colors


  • Pompoms in various colors. For the young toddler, use no more than three.
  • Containers to put the pom poms in (one for each color and one to hold them all). I just use tupperwear.


  1. Gather your pompoms.
  2. Gather your containers.
  3. Gather your children.


  1. Put the pompoms for your child to sort into a container, all mixed together.
  2. For younger toddlers, put one pompom into each container. For examle, if you were doing red, blue, and yellow, you would put on red into one container, one blue into another, and one yellow into another. For older children, you can let them start it out of you want.
  3. Have your child sort the remaining pompoms into the containers.


  • Use pompoms the same color and have your child sort by size.
  • Once your child is good at colors, use shades of the same color (light purple and dark purple).


Here are the pompoms ready to be sorted for Brayden and Kaitlyn.

Brayden working on his sorting

Kaitlyn working on her sorting

I used to store the pompoms in a bag. This wsa good for storage, but it took a long time to sort everything out in the beginning.

Now I keep them in little bags inside the big bag. At the end of the activity, everything is sorted, so it is easy to keep the pompoms stored this way.
  • Don't use too many pompoms. When you first start this activity, use just a few of each color. Add more as your child's attention span increases. What I show here for Brayden and Kaitlyn would be too many to start out with at first.


I got this idea from The Toddler's Busy Book (see Book Review: The Toddler's Busy Book for more on this book).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fall: Texture Sort

Now is the time you'll find lots of gourds at the grocery store for really low prices. We purchased a bunch of them for around 50 cents a piece.

Age Ranges: 1 (with a lot of assistance), 2+ year olds more independently

  • Gather materials
  • Decide on the specific skill(s) to teach
  • Make picture/word cards with a specific attribute (bumpy, orange,etc)--optional

Materials Needed: Gourds, picture/word cards (optional)


  1. Gather a large group of gourds and pumpkins together. We went to the store and I let my daughter choose them.
  2. Talk about how they feel (bumpy, smooth, rough, have ridges, indention), shape (round, oval, flat), colors (brown, orange, yellow, green), size (large, small) , how heavy they feel, etc.
  3. Show them the picture/word card, or give them a category. "Let's find all the solid colored gourds. Let's find the striped gourds. Let's put all the striped gourds in one pile, and solid colored ones in another."
  4. Use words like "sort," "category," "attributes," "similar" as this is a great way to build vocabulary. It also helps for future test preparation. When taking benchmark tests and SOLs, the testing language is very specific, so it's imperative that children know the terms used in the Standards.
  5. After they have sorted, have them count the number of gourds in each pile.
  6. Identify which group has greater, fewer, or equal amounts of gourds. (Again, using "greater" and "more" interchangeably so both terms are understood.)

This activity helps practice with specific standards here in Virginia:

Virginia Standards of Learning for Kindergarten:
Math: K.15 The student will sort and classify objects according to attributes.
K.2 Students will investigate and understand that humans have senses that allow one to seek, find, take in, and react or respond to information in order to learn about one’s surroundings. Key concepts include
five senses and corresponding sensing organs (taste – tongue, touch – skin, smell – nose, hearing – ears, and sight – eyes); and
sensory descriptors (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, rough/smooth, hard/soft, cold, warm, hot, loud/soft, high/low, bright/dull).

K.4 The student will investigate and understand that the position, motion, and physical properties of an object can be described. Key concepts include
colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, and black);
shapes (circle, triangle, square, and rectangle) and forms (flexible/stiff, straight/curved);
textures (rough/smooth) and feel (hard/soft);
relative size and weight (big/little, large/small, heavy/light, wide/thin, long/short); and
position (over/under, in/out, above/below, left/right) and speed (fast/slow).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Shape and Colors Soup

Sometimes I think the best learning experiences happen naturally as we play with our children. Of course, a little guidance is needed to make sure these experiences happen fairly regularly :) The other day I was playing with the 3 year old I nanny for and came up with the idea to make "Color Soup". We then repeated the activity with shapes instead of colors.

-different colored blocks (or different shapes)

-Write up a recipe for your soup, listing the ingredients and then the steps for preparing it
-include pictures with the instructions and use different colored crayons if your child cannot recognize the color words.


-Show your child the recipe and tell them you are going to make pretend Color (or Shape) Soup together.
-Read aloud the recipe or have your child help read it
-Have your child find the correct color/shape of blocks to put the correct "ingredients" in the bowl.
-Stir the ingredients.
-Pretend to eat.

Skills Practiced
-recognize shapes
-recognize colors
-follow directions
-sort objects

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Countdown Chain

If your preschooler is like mine, he just can't wait until XYZ happens. You might find yourself avoiding telling him about something exciting that is coming up because you know you will hear, "How many more days until XYZ?...But that's a long time!" over and over each day. Your preschooler is starting to understand time, which isn't always a good thing :)

If your toddler is like mine, she has no idea XYZ is going to happen. You want her to be able to enjoy the anticipation of something fun coming up. Anticipation is half the fun! (unless you have a preschooler asking you how much longer over and over).

The countdown chain is your answer to both issues. It gives the preschooler something tangible to look at. It also helps him more concretely understand time. It gives the toddler a reminder that there is something to be excited about.

You can use the countdown chain for anything: birthdays, holidays, start of school, the next visit to grandma's...whatever you want to countdown to.

Last fall, my mother-in-law made a countdown chain with Brayden (then 3) for Halloween. She made it in black and orange. On the orange strips, she wrote things like "Hug your mom" and "tell your dad you love him." Over the weekend, Brayden and I made a countdown chain for Halloween, and I decided to take that concept one step further.

My guess is that your child needs to be at least 18 months old to enjoy this. Kaitlyn was 18 months old last year for Halloween and just didn't care. Even now at 2.5, she isn't terribly excited over it, so don't feel bad if your child isn't as excited as you envisioned. At 3, Brayden liked it and at 4, he absolutely loves it.

  • Colors
  • Sorting
  • Chores
  • Fine motor skills (if you let your child create the chains--you could also let your child cut out the strips of paper)
  • Time concept
  • Paper (whatever colors you want)
  • Pen
  • Scissors (or some other tool for cutting)
  • Stapler (or glue)
  • Cut pieces of paper one inch wide by about 6 inches long. Cut one strip of paper for each day there is until your main event (what you are counting down to).
  • Gather supplies
  1. Sort your paper into colors (I had Brayden sort them).
  2. Decide on a category for each color of paper for an activity. We did "fun chores" for Red, "Halloween activities" for Yellow, "loving acts" for Brown, and we left Green blank so we could decide something fun that day. Since we keep Sundays for worship in our family, I put green on each Sunday.
  3. Have your child help you decide things to do for each piece of paper. Write the activity on the piece of paper.
  4. Arrange your papers in the order you want them in.
  5. Staple or glue your first piece of paper into a circle.
  6. Hook your second piece of paper through your first circle and staple or glue it closed.
  7. Continue making this chain until you are done.
  8. Each day, have your child remove one chain. Perform the activity listed on the paper. This is a great way for your child to count down to an activity. You can channel the excited energy into chores :)
Papers sorted into color categories
Daily activities written out

Up close of daily activities

First link done

Completed chain


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