Tot School - Outdoor Music and More!

There is something powerful about the sounds of children making music.  I don't remember where I first read about creating a natural playscape and using music, but I do remember from the first moment I read about it,  that I wanted to have a place for my children to make music outside.  For the price of a bag of bells and some yarn, we now have a bell bush, that my 5 year old has named "The Fairy Bush."  We have had the Fairy Bush in our yard for almost a year now and I am surprised at how often it is rung!  My 22 month old is now a big fan and makes a point of shaking the branches and pulling the bells every morning.  Even our dog joins in the fun and shakes it. 
Here is a quick mini-tour of this area if you wanted to see more!
As these next two weeks are big gardening weeks, we have spent much of our learning time outdoors.  Nichols is now an expert planter. He grabs a handful of seeds and flings them, then throws some dirt around (sometimes close to the seeds), fill a bucket of water and splashes in it!  Ok, so he is not the greatest of gardeners, but sure has a blast doing it!
 We were able to visit a local butterfly farm for their first annual Monarch Festival this week.  Nicholas uses the Russian word, "babichka" for them and it is SO cute!  We also have caterpillars in our yard that he loves to watch.
 We are still reading our farm books, doing puzzles, and singing the classic farm songs this week.  I didn't post pictures, but you are welcome to stop back here.  He has really been working on jumping off of and trying to balance on our outdoor logs - so his gross motor and balance has improved a lot this week.  I would have to say that the three vocabulary words he has solidified in his speaking vocabulary and understanding of is 1. Dump 2. Fill and 3. Clean 
Tot School

Bird Finger Puppet Tutorial and Kids on the Computer Rant

I have a particular fondness for butterflies and birds and think that kids should learn about them at an early age.  The popularity of games such as “Angry Birds” with young children is disheartening.  I will admit, I think these birds are pretty darn cute.  But what are NOT cute is parents who hand their toddlers and pre-schoolers an iphone or ipad to play these types of games. 
For less than the price of the download ($0.99), why not engage in a language rich learning activity that encourages children to use their imagination and PLAY!  If you are addicted to “Angry Birds” use them as inspiration to create your own set of finger puppet birds.  Experiment with colors, shapes, and personalities.  Do you want to extend your child’s learning even more???  After you make them and play with them, have your kids write a story with “your bird” as the star character! But whatever you do PLEASE, do NOT hand you children the ipad to play when you are done making your own little tweets!
Here is my attempt at a video tutorial!  Please keep in mind that I do have 2 helpers (which you will see in action at the end!)

PPS - If you use fabric paint for their eyes - don't let your 1 year old give the birdy a bath in the dog water until after the paint has dried... the birds eyes will bleed (see above pictures for clarity on this matter!)

Little Hands that Cook with Books: Teddy Bear Biscuits

 Our Teddy Bears joined us for cooking class today to make a Teddy Bear Biscuit and learn all about the Food Groups. We sang songs about teddy bears. The first one was Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear Turn Around and the other was this song.
We read the Story Where’s My Teddy by Jez Alborough.  We decided we were going to make something from the Bread group. 
Make your own Teddy Bear Biscuits Recipe
1 tube (7-1/2 ounces) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10 biscuits)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
9 miniature semisweet chocolate chips  
1. For each bear, shape one biscuit into an oval for the body and place on a greased    baking sheet.
2. Cut one biscuit into four pieces; shape into balls for arms and legs. Place next to body.
3. Cut one biscuit into two small pieces and one large piece; shape into head and ears and place above body.
4. Brush with egg.
5. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over bears.
6. Bake at 425° for 8-10 minutes (the one remaining biscuit can be baked with the bears) or until golden brown.
7. Place chocolate chips on head for eyes and nose while the biscuits are still warm. 
Yield: 3 bears.

The goal of our lesson today was to follow steps in a recipe and to see how properties change when you bake an item.  We also focused on learning food groups.  By the end of cooking class we’re going to have a food item we can cook from each food group. 
While our Teddy Bears were cooking we talked about Food Groups.  We wrote on a list what our Teddy Bears could eat by listing all 5 food groups (Fruit, Vegetables, Grains, Dairy, Meat and Beans).  Then we listed a few from each group on the chart.  We looked through Magazines and recycled Grocery store flyers for pictures from each food group. Then we glued our pictures into our Teddy Bear Books using the words below. 

To create your own Teddy Bear Food Group book we wrote this text.
They worked on fruits and vegetables this week.  We will add the other food groups as we cook those items to allow enough time to find the photos and associate with the foods. 

Here are some other books by Jez Alborough that we'll read this week too! 

Raising Billingual Children - BOOKS

If you are a faithful follower or new to the blog, both Kim and I are in LOVE with children's books.  I can't get my hands on enough of them and read them with my kids all the time.  Research shows that these interactions with literature benefit children in SO many ways that I could keep writing for the rest of my life (that will be future posts!)  So if you are raising your children bilingual, you cannot neglect the importance of books in the language you are teaching.  Unfortunately, books in Russian are VERY hard to come by.  In fact, I cannot find any online much less in stores.  When we had our first daughter, I took all the hard baby books and had my husband translate them with a permanent marker. It's not pretty, but it does the trick.  I practiced reading these books until I sounded like a halfway fluent reader of Russian (for those books).  We tried to put it as close to the English writing as possible.  These translations are also not word for word translations that you may get using an online translator, rather a grammatically correct translation that considers the meaning of the author as well.  Then, I read them every day for many, many days with my baby and still re-visit them now that she is 5 and with my 1 year old.  
I started asking my in-laws or friends who came to visit to bring books instead of souvenirs and when my husband or I traveled abroad, we always brought back books. Now I am not talking about Disney stories poorly translated, but truly good literature in Russian! I am just starting to feel good about my collection of Russian books that has now taken almost 6 years to collect. 

Just as I rotate my books in English, I try to rotate my books in Russian. At some point, I tried putting all the Russian books in one collection, but the kids grew tired of this and became less interested in reading and listening to literature in Russian.  Adding them to my rotating theme collection has worked the best for all of us!

Afterschool Express: Our Starry Night

I’m always trying to find ways to expose my children to various mediums of art and famous artists and pieces of art.  This week we did a quick lesson using this adorable called Touch  the Art: Make Van Gogh’s Bed by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo

I think this is such a great series to teach children about art and incorperate reading! Since it’s a tactile series it is perfect for this age of exploration. 
The piece we selected to recreate was Van Gogh’s Starry Night. We’ve been learning about apples this week, an easy tie in was to find the star in the middle of the apple core.  We cut the core into half and had two stars to use for stamping with yellow paint.  My daughter decided to use blue paper since it matched the background in Van Gogh’s painting.  Then she took yellow paint and stamped stars all over the blue background. 
 To create the village below she used black paper and cut out squares and triangles all by herself.  I cut the paper into smaller strips for her to manage.  Then once she glued them down she used a pencil eraser tip to stamp windows onto the homes. 
Here's her finished project!  I can’t wait to have her create more pieces of art from famous artist in this book and from the other books by the authors.  For more Starry Night Activities visit Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational for a Printable Book and Van Gogh Study  

For more about the Touch the Art Series by Julie Apple  and  Amy Guglielmo check out the author visit with Amy Guglielmo. They have several books that they have published in the Touch The Art Series.  I can't wait to do more of them with my daughter! 

If you are making learning fun for your afterschooler,
 we'd love you have you visit and join a new afterschool bloghop
Feel free to add any posts for lessons an activities that can be done with grade-school age kids!!!

Who gives a hoot about saving seeds?

 We do! 
There is just something extra special about teaching children to grow something from their own seed.  How powerful can one seed truly be?  Well, in our case, one seed grew this GIANT sunflower which we all enjoyed. 
Then it turned brown, but we didn't dig it up.  Over time, the seeds formed and when they were complete, we took the whole plant and hung it upside down in the garage to dry.  This week, we brought it inside and the kids took all the seeds off the plant. 

They decided to split the pot 50-50.  Half for the bird feeder and half to save for planting next summer. 
Can you believe it?  With only one seed, we were able to feed our birds AND have tons to plant for more flowers next year.  Seeds are pretty powerful!

Watch the video to see my kids in action!

Learning About the Farm (Tot School 22 Months)

Real Life Experiences:
We're on our way to the farm... well, at least we will be when the weather is not in the upper 90's or raining.  Maybe next week we will be able to have our culminating unit (I am remaining positive that someday it will feel like the "real" fall here).  I love starting the fall with apples then transitioning to the farm.  I usually connect the two with a lesson on how apples get from the orchard to our kitchens.  This adds the farmer component and then we can begin a unit on farms!  The bookshelf below is how my book nook looked at the beginning of the month.  We made a library stop and it is now overflowing with at least twice as many.  I know it is too much, but I really do love farm books.

Literacy Connections:
"Baa Baa Black Sheep" has a wonderful spin on the song that is great for teaching children about sharing with others.  I really like it because the focus is not just sharing, or giving to others, rather that it is important to share what you have or can make for others.   
I also have a couple different versions of the "Little Red Hen". We read these daily as repeated exposure to literature develops a familiarity with the text and allows children to read for different purposes.  One day we may look at how the pictures in 2 books are similar and on another day just read the "refrain" together on another day.  For example, my 22 month old will point to the chicken in both pictures when we talk about the characters.

The Scarecrow was really cute for my 5 year old, but my 22 month old didn't really understand the personification of the scarecrow.  We did talk about the purpose of scarecrows and how people make them.  In the next couple weeks, we will make our traditional straw scarecrows for the garden, so I wanted to start exposing him to the concept!

Make: a paper scarecrow or even stuff a pair of old clothes with hay to make a "real" scarecrow.

Name Recognition and Fine Motor Development
I was such a proud mama on Wed. when he pointed to his name and said, "My name!"  YES!!!  I think this is the first time when he has verbally identified a purpose for letters =)  We went to a tot-school on Friday with friends and she organized this craft.  The kids sprinkled rice on their glue names and cut up pre-made letter cards to arrange below for 2 name exposures.  He then took his name tag off and put it at the top and again said, "My name!"  I was so happy =)  Now I am hoping that someday my silly song for the letters in his name will click too!

Number Sense, Counting, and 1:1 Correspondance
 We have these UGLY fake flowers that we have played with in our house for over 4 years.  I have no idea why the kids like them and I just can't bring myself to get rid of them.  As we are working on numbers 1-5, My tot worked on putting 1 flower in each of 5 vases.

Texture Exploration
 We also brought out different clays and playdoughs for different texture experiences this week.  I hide pony beads in them and he has to search for them.  This helps strengthen those fine motor skills that he will need for writing later on.  He just LOVES these beads.  *** This MUST be grown up supervised as small beads are not for kids under 3 to use alone!

Hope you are all having a great learning week!!!
Tot School

Afterschool Express - Keeping a journal, pretend play and blog hop!

Writing and reading have such a strong connection that is essential for our children to develop both areas simultaneously. An after -school journal is a great way for our kids to write down their thoughts, ideas, and maybe even what they did at school!  I had Elly write a list of the things she wanted to buy seeds for and plant after a trip to the Feed-and-Seed store.
 Here is a free choice write of animals.  We made a zebra costume for the little man, but they both are able to wear it and have been pretending to be wild animals all week!
 There goes a wild one...

I am trying to make after-school relaxing, but fun.  The two most favorite activities this month have been tea parties and play dough.  Crafting has snuck in there a few days too.  I am finding it hard to manage the project, a camera, a one year old and a 5 year old while sewing - so no action shots today!!!

If you are making learning fun for your afterschooler, we'd love you have you visit and join a new afterschool bloghop with
Week of Sep 4  Natalie (Mouse Grows Mouse Learns)
Week of Sep 11- MaryAnne (MamaSmiles)
Week of Sep 18 - Julie (Just Playing Around)
Week of Sep 25 - Kelly (Little Wonders' Days)
Week of Oct 2 - Amanda and Kim (The Educators' Spin on It)
Week of Oct 9 - Christy (Superheroes and Princesses)
Feel free to add any posts for lessons an activities that can be done with grade-school age kids!!!

Apple Pie: Little Hands that Cook with Books

 Apple Pie Cooking Lesson

We had our first Kids Cooking Class this afternoon and we learned all about Apples!  In my cooking class I try my best to incorporate literature and print as much as I can.  Reading is a part of everyday life and it’s so easy to make it real with cooking.  I also teach science and math and art during cooking too!  That’s what makes cooking one of the best things you can do with your child! 

We read the book  The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall.  One of my favorite books to discuss apples, seasons, changes and life cycles just by the life around a simple apple tree in the backyard.  

Once we read the book I had a large sheet of paper for the chefs to decide what they thought would taste best in an apple pie.  With a little guidance, we got all of our ingredients listed. 
Then we discussed what types of cooking tools we would need to find to prepare our apple pie.  We found a bowl, spoon, child safe knife, tablespoon, teaspoon, rolling pin, pie plate and measuring cup.  I created an assorted pile of cooking terms for the girls to search through to label our items with. 
Once we established our ingredients we found the recipe with all of those terms on it and read over it together as we gathered and identified our ingredients.  Each chef was in charge of cutting their apple into small slices using a butter knife.  We talked about how to keep our fingers out of the way for knife safety.  (The riper they are the easier they are to cut for little hands.)  Then they added their ingredients based on the recipe to their diced apples and placed it into a miniature pie plate.  We baked the pies for 30 minutes. 

While we were waiting we sang a few apple songs and read another non-fiction apple book.  We discussed the different kinds of apples and we taste tested yellow, green and red apples and discussed how some are sweet and some are tart. 

We created an apple art project by creating legs and arms by folding them accordian style and then attaching them with glue.  Then they personalized their apple with a face.   

Then it was time to enjoy our finished product!  This week we will incorporate some Apple Literacy projects to inforce what we learned using the songs we learned and a child created book with sight words!  
Check out more of The Educators' Spin On It Apple Activities here: 
Look for more Little Hands that Cook with Books Activities coming soon! 
Teacher Tip:
If you're looking for more ways to enrich your child's apple learning check out these sites!   
Fall Pinterest Board
Apple Unit by 2 Teaching Mommies

This lesson was invited to join a Linky Party with Living Life Intentionally.  Please take a moment to check out all the great link ups there! 

 Kid, Homeschoolin, Craft, and Family Friendly Linky Party


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