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!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Crepe Paper Letters

This last week was Brayden's birthday. My Mom was over helping Brayden decorate for his party (he loves to put 2 foot sections of crepe paper all over the house). She put this giant letter "B" on the window. I thought that was fun, but didn't think much more of it.

I left it up, and started noticing how enthralled McKenna was with the giant letters on our window. It struck me that this is a great idea for something fun and different when teaching a specific letter! So if you do a letter of the day/week/month/whatever, you could put a large letter out of crepe paper up. 

It is fun and interesting because it is different. It is attention getting. I think this is especially effective for the two year old who is very interested in letters and just learning to identify them. McKenna talks about these large letters every time she sees them. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memorial Day Activities

Memorial Day is a holiday set aside to honor those who have died while in the service of our country. 

With that in mind, there are several activities you can do to help teach your child about the holiday and why we celebrate it. 

One is to do various flag activities. This is the time of year for flag activities! Memorial Day in May, Flag Day in June, and Independence Day in July. Here are a couple of our ideas:

While looking for ideas to do with my children this year, I found the idea to decorate dog tags:

Maybe you want something simple, like coloring pages. If you are going to be driving somewhere, this might be something fun to print off before you leave so the kids can color on the way.

Another good and simple activity is reading short stories or poems

You could do a quick history lesson by sharing some of the information on America's Wars.

The Poppy is a symbol of patriotism, so you could make a patriotic poppy. You could use paper, crepe paper, felt, etc.

I also found this idea and I thought it could be good to make now and use through the summer. It is a patriotic planter. Maybe you could plant some real poppies in it?

As you do any one of these activities, I would encourage you to talk to your child/children about the significance of why we celebrate the holiday. I think if you just casually talk about it while you do your fun craft project, they will be more interested in listening than if you sit and give a lecture on it.

Be sure to also share any personal stories you have of family members giving their life in the line of duty. You might even visit the grave of that ancestor if you have one (and it is close to you). And also share with them the names of the family members you have who have served our country.

Have a great holiday!

Monday, May 23, 2011


Scotch Thermal Laminator 15.5 Inches x 6.75 Inches x 3.75 Inches, 2 Roller System (TL901)

A couple of years ago, my husband said, "Maybe we should get you a laminator?" I replied, "Eh. I would probably use it a few times when I first got it, but then it would just sit."

Flash forward to me having been writing on this blog for a year and Christmas is approaching. I can't really think of anything I want. I see this laminator (above) for a great deal and decide to try it out. Why not. I don't enjoy using contact paper to laminate things, so I figured I would give it a try.


I am constantly laminating things. It is addictive. Whenever I make a learning game, like the "Feed the Penguin" game, I laminate it so it will last through three children.

I also started to laminate the items I put up on my Learning Poster each week. With just paper, the paper would curl on the edges. Laminated it does not. Plus I can re-use the items over and over again.

My husband laughs at me ("you wouldn't use a laminator huh?").

Sometimes I just love being wrong.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer Reading Programs

Image Source

This is my first summer as a mom of a child who has been in school. I have been thinking about ways to prevent "summer setback"--and yes, I wrote a post on it last summer: http://learningdevelopmentactivities.blogspot.com/2010/08/preventing-or-minimizing-summer-setback.html

It has great ideas. I am working on coming up with a specific plan so we don't slide into complacency and accepting the "summer slide." Or so August 1 doesn't roll around and I think "ack! Summer setback!"

One of the most successful things you can do to prevent summer setback is reading. We read a whole lot at our house. Even so, I wanted to do something motivating for reading in the summer. Goals help people perform to their best ability, so I thought a summer reading program would be fun.

Our library has a free summer reading program available for people of all ages. The goal is simple: 20 minutes a day. But prizes are awarded for most minutes read.

They also have some fun craft projects, a magician, and they have rented out the local pool for a swim party for those who complete the program! Lots of fun.

So check your local library and see if they provide some sort of reading program. If not, you can create your own with goals and a fun prize at the end--maybe a trip for ice cream, a fun outing, or a new book!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

3D Shapes

This is a fun way to talk about 3D shapes. All you need are toothpicks and miniatures marshmallows! Brayden did this in his Kindergarten class this year.

Give your child some toothpicks and marshmallows. I suggest you sit and do this activity with your child while he works on it. Then let your imaginations run while you build fun 3D creations! Talk about the names of the shapes you create (like a cube).

I would say this is for children 3 and up. Some more mature two year olds could do it, so long as they have the fine motor control to not poke themselves and to also create these items without getting frustrated in the process.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Playgroups are a great way to give your child some socializing opportunity before school starts. Social skills are very important skills to develop. "In the olden days," Kindergarten was a lot about social skills and a little about academics. These days, Kindergarten is a lot about academics and very little about social skills. Teachers just don't have time to teach the curriculum and social skills all in one school year.

This is really too bad; social skills are vitally important for success in life. Knowing this, we parents can and should do things to help our children learn social skills. There are a lot of good skills that are best learned in a group environment, and with peers who will stand up to you. A playgroup is a great way to accomplish this.

There are so many ways to make a playgroup work. I will share how we do things around here and you can take that and tweak it so you make it work for you.

A note before I go forward. Some of you probably have children who are past the age to really do a playgroup and might be now going into guilt-trip yourself mode. Know that Brayden (my oldest) never did a formal playgroup and he is just fine. Not the perfect social guy, but not lost forever either. There are lots of ways to work social skills into your day, and playgroup is just one of them. I will say, though, that I will be sure to do a playgroup with McKenna after doing one with Kaitlyn.

The first question you might ask is at what age do I do a playgroup? Of course this gets the response of "whenever you and those you are doing it with want to"--but I will naturally provide you with my own thoughts on it.

I do it the year before preschool, which I do the year before Kindergarten. So for us, playgroup is as a 3/4 year old.

There are major benefits to this age range. One is that most 3/4 year olds will be good for other people most of the time. That means that when it is your turn to host playgroup, you will have 5-6 children who listen relatively well. Imagine chasing 5-6 two year olds around....just close your eyes. Multiply your two year old by 5 and let your mind go with it....

See? 3/4 sounds nice, right?

Another benefit is that most 3/4 year olds are potty trained. Parents can have their child go potty before leaving the house and then again when they get home. Sure, some will need to use the potty while at playgroup, but it actually is rare. Plus, you won't be changing 5-6 dirty diapers...again, a nice perk to the 3/4 year old age group.

If you wanted to do a playgroup for two year olds, I would suggest you at least start the process with the moms all there the whole time--but that is more of a play date--which is a fabulous thing to do for children.

Another benefit of the 3/4 year old is that they are less selfish than a toddler and are capable of putting the "why" we do what we do into their brains. They are better prepared to go play without and adult watching and correcting every bad choice because they are able to make a lot of good choices on their own.

A personal reason I like 3/4 is that I like my kids to be home with me under my influence the vast majority of the time until they are 3. Once they hit three, I am more willing to let them play without me around because I know they are capable of some moral reasoning. Up until that point, I want to be that voice in their head teaching them right and wrong. Plus, they are little for only so long. Once they are gone, they start being gone more and more. I know I might sound crazy, but it is honest and I am always honest :)

Frequency is up to you. We do once a week. Again, I am taking baby steps on letting my kids be away from me. With once a week, the kids look forward to it. They don't get burnt out by leaving home too often.

We take turns which house it is at. We rotate through the children, so in a playgroup of five kids, you host it once every five weeks.

We do 1.5 hours--from 10-11:30. It is a perfect length for doing a short lesson, some fun learning activity, read a couple of stories, have free playtime, and a snack. They don't get bored, which is good. A group of bored children turns into a group of bored fighting and destructive children. I think you could reasonably do two hours and make it work, also. That might be nice for other moms because it would give them more time to get things done while the child is gone.

Another major question with playgroup is what do you do?

There are lots of options. We went through and did one letter a week, then when letters were done, we did colors. You could mix colors and shapes to cover more content, too.

So what I do is look at what the letter is and choose a theme to go with that letter. For example, my first week was "D" so I did Dinosaurs.

The format I do looks like this:

  1. Start by reading a book that goes along with the chosen theme
  2. Next, do a learning activity that goes along with the chosen theme. So for dinosaur week, I buried dinosaurs in the sandbox and we excavated them. 
  3. I also have a coloring page relevant to the theme on hand in case a child is super fast and needs something else to do. At the beginning of the year, attention spans were shorter so the coloring page helped give us another activity to do. By the end of the year, coloring pages were rarely needed.
  4. I might throw other activities in there. I like to try to cover a gross motor activity, fine motor, letter, etc.--but most people don't want to take things that far.
  5. Next is free play. 
  6. Then we do a snack. I try to make it coordinate with the theme if possible, but young children rarely appreciate the gesture, so you don't need to worry about doing this :)
  7. Then I read another story or two until it is time to go home. 
A note on letters, children don't need to learn the letters in alphabetical order--especially when you are doing it all a week apart. When creating your calendar, I suggest assigning letters to weeks that will work for themes going on at the time. For example, doing "L" in the fall for Leaves or "L" around Valentines for love. "P" for Pumpkins, "T" for turkey, "S" for snow, "R" for reindeer...

So who do you have in your playgroup? 

First, I suggest you have children who are all close to the same age. We have children ranging from November of 06 baby to July of 07 baby. Let me tell you, there is a HUGE difference at this age between the November and July child, in every way. The November child started playgroup knowing all of her colors, letters, shapes, etc. She had a great attention span. The July child started not identifying any, and to get him to sit still for five minutes was an accomplishment. 

There are some children who are mature for their ages and children who are a little immature for their ages. Sometimes you can mix school years, but for the most part, things will go more smoothly the closer in age you can keep the children. It is hard to have activities stimulating enough for the older kids and not over the heads of the younger children. This is a challenge teachers, especially teachers of the young grades, are familiar with, so if there are moms with teaching experience, this will be old hat for them.

I also suggest you try to find moms who have the same vision of playgroup that you do. Some might be more relaxed and just want to let the group of kids get together and play for the whole time. Others might want it more structured like school--have it be a pre-pre-school situation. Make sure the parents all are on the same page and upfront about what playgroup will look like at their house so parents all know what they are agreeing to.

It might even be a good idea to find a group of 10 moms who want to do playgroup and splitting into two groups of five based on ages and playgroup preference--if you can do so without hurting feelings.

An extra activity we did at one playgroup--pin the nose on the pumpkin

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Zoo Picture

Something I have enjoyed about playgroup is seeing all of the fun ideas other moms have to do with kids. This is a picture Kaitlyn did during "Z" day at playgroup. The mom put the letter Z on the page (upper and lowercase...Kaitlyn covered hers with animals). She then wrote the child's name at the top to name their zoo--so Kaitlyn's was "Kaitlyn's Zoo."

She then got out animal stickers and stamps and let the kids put the animals they wanted in their zoo. It was simple, fun, and great for talking about animals. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chalk Shapes

The weather was beautiful. It was shape and color day. I had an activity planned, but it was for indoors and I didn't want to be inside and neither did the kids. So, I did an impromptu chalk shape game.

I drew large shapes on the ground in chalk. I did every basic shape I could think of. I then called out a shape and had my kids run to it. I didn't think my five year old would like the game at all (too easy) but he played along. It really worked well with my two year old. She doesn't have every shape down yet, and following big brother around helped her learn more about shapes. If you have a toddler and no older siblings, you can definitely run around with your toddler. 

You could also draw multiple shapes all over the driveway for multiple children if you need to make it more challenging.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's Day Books

There is absolutely no shortage in books about Moms out there. No shortage. I guess that is a testament to how important moms are, right? Here is a list of some books we have read and loved and books we own and love. I have let you know which ones I think are definitely worth owning.

Mother May I by Grace Maccarone
Mother, May I?

This is a fun rhyming book where the child asks for things, but in the end all the child wants is a hug from mom.

The Most Thankful Thing by Lisa Mccourt
The Most Thankful Thing

A story about a mom telling her daughter that she is her most thankful thing.

Clifford's Happy Mother's Day by Norman Birdwell
Clifford's Happy Mother's Day
Our kids always love Clifford books. This one is about Clifford and his mom.

My Mommy Hung the Moon by Jamie Lee Curtis
My Mommy Hung the Moon: A Love Story
This story is all about the love between a mother and daughter. The mother loves the daughter with unconditional love, and the daughter believes the mother is the best at everything there is to be best at. This is so the way Kaitlyn views me right now.

Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney
Llama Llama Mad at Mama
Don't let the title fool you. Llama gets mad at Mama, but Mama patiently helps him turn toward being cheerful and helpful. A great mom book. This is one we own and our kids love the Llam Llama books.

Where is Baby's Mommy?
Karen Katz is definitely one of my favorite authors for babies and toddlers. This is a fun lift-the-flap board book. This is another one we own and love.

Counting Kisses by Karen Katz
Counting Kisses 
Another one we own and love. This one isn't so much just a mom book--it works for Dads and grandparents, too. But this is definitely one I think is a must-own.

Mommy Hugs by Karen Katz
Mommy Hugs
See? I told you we love Karen Katz. I think that title and picture say it all.

No Matter What by Debi Gliori
No Matter What
In this book, the Mommy explains that she will always love her child, no matter what. This is another one we own and love.

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Love You Forever
I think this is another must-own. This story takes you from the child being a baby on up to being a grown man and taking care of his ailing mother. This is very sweet and leaves my Father-In-Law in tears every time.

Mom, Wake Up and Play by Brigitte Weniger
MIKO: Mom, Wake Up and Play!
This is a sweet story about a child trying to busy himself while mom sleeps in--only he doesn't want to do mom's favorite activities because he doesn't want her to miss out on the fun.

Bear of My Heart by Joanne Ryder
Bear of My Heart
This one could work for Mother's Day or Father's day because the author cleverly never discloses if this is mom or dad bear. It is all about the fun of parent and child together.

Keepsake Storybook Collection (I Love My Mommy)
This book actually has the first three books I listed on this list--so if you want all three in one pack, this is the one for you.

I Will Kiss You by Stoo Hample
I Will Kiss You: Lots & Lots & Lots
This is a fun read that taps into the silliness of toddlerhood. 

I Love My Mom by Anna Walker
I Love My Mom
This is cute and simple--great for the younger crowd (toddlers and younger).


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