Me and My "Guys"

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Over the River: A Turkey's Tale...

There are some books for each season that have become family favorites. We started checking them out at the library and we are developing quite a collection that we want to purchase so we can have them.

For Halloween, we love to read Big Pumpkin
This is just a fun book for us. We love the rhymes and the cute story.
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
It's a fun book that we have used props for and acted out time and time again. 

For Fall, we love Red Are the Apples.
It's so poetic in words and pictures. It reminds me of fall harvest and of hours spent canning foods that we will enjoy for several months. It reminds me of spending time with family and enjoying this wonderful fall season.

For Thanksgiving, we love Over the River: A Turkey's Tale
It's a fun book of pictures put to a familiar song. We read it nightly throughout the month of November, enjoying the story and anticipating going to grandma and grandpa's house for Thanksgiving. 

These books have become family favorites and seasonal traditions. They remind us of good times spent together during our favorite time of year. What are some of your family's favorite books?

Color Science

Again, I used this website as my reference:

We mixed colors using this handy dandy muffin tin I bought at DI.

We made predictions about what color each set would make. To add sight word practice into the whole thing, I wrote the names of the each color and put it next to the appropriate part of the tin. After we mixed and discussed colors, he got to paint with them.

What's more fun than baking soda and vinegar?

For our science activities this week, we played with baking soda and vinegar. This is the link I used.

Day 1: Experiment with baking soda and vinegar by playing with it and seeing what happens when you mix it together.
Day 2: Blow up a balloon using baking soda and vinegar.

This week we'll be making Irish Soda Bread with baking soda and vinegar!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Patterning and block play...

Blocks are great for developing math skills. Place a variety of objects in the block area: standard unit blocks, colored blocks (Ikea), plastic animals, empty spice bottles, empty diaper boxes, cars and trucks, leaves, bark, mesquite beans, etc., old keys. Anything you can think of. Put a couple of objects in and change them out periodically. Given the opportunity, kids will discover and explore in ways you would never dream of. They will learn math, spatial reasoning, act out things they see in the world. It's great for classifying and sorting. You will notice your kids classifying different kinds of cars and trucks, animals and objects. These are foundational concepts that will help them to be successful in math.

It's a great opportunity to notice what they are doing and learning and then to extend that learning with a variety of activities and projects.

The Art Wall...

How do you display your kids' art or other talents?

Sensory Trays...

Not every household has the option of having a nice sensory table like this:

And, although there are simpler, less expensive tables like this (which you can often find on Craigslist):

It's nice to have other options for a home. Something the children can access easily when they want some independent play time, that you can be confident, also teaches them.

We've discovered sensory trays. I took an old cookie sheet that I didn't use anymore and I put colored sand in it, along with some tools for playing in it.

Possibilities for the sensory tray:
colored sand
corn meal
rice and beans
dry noodles, with or without food coloring
glitter, mixed with the other things or not

*Of course, you have to be careful of choking hazards with little ones!*

Modify it for a baby:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Letter of the Week...

About each week, we learn a different letter. This week we are on D. I simply post the following in the kitchen and just as we are finishing up our breakfast, we sing the alphabet song and do the activities.

Letter D print out
Letter D Rhyme
4 labeled pictures that start with letter d. These are the pictures that I cut out and tape up to the pantry:

We sing the alphabet song.
We say, "Big D, Little D, what begins with D?" Then talk about the pictures.
We read the rhyme and the little printable book

This week we are making donuts using this recipe to go along with the letter d. It also meets our cooking goal, which is to cook with my kids once a week at least.

Ways to add math and science into daily play:

Today we did some math and science:

1. During free choice play, Andy got his blocks out and made patterns with them as part of his play. 
2. I put these butterflies up in the kitchen that I found at Andy noticed them during breakfast and it opened up an entire subtraction dialogue as he played with them while he ate, taking them away and putting them back. Vocabulary that came up: How many are left? I took one away and now there are _______. Now there's only one! etc.
 3. Physics: Rolling balls and other objects down a "ramp". Vocabulary: Make a prediction, go stand where you think this one will roll to. Do you think this one will roll farther or closer? Why did that one roll so far (or near). heavy, light, fast, slow.

Block Math

Magnet Math

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kid-Friendly Recipes

This website has done the work for us on some recipes to make them visual for kids!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Increasing Sight Word Recognition in your toddler and preschooler

There are so many things you can do. Here are some things we do around our home:

1. Label everything. Doors, refrigerator, table, etc.
2. Make the recipes that your kids help you with kid friendly with pictures and simple words.
3. Make signs for play time - If the child is pretending to go to the store, make a store sign, etc.
4. Cut out the pictures from the weekly grocery ads, tape or glue them to construction paper, and write the name of it on the paper. They can help you add to your shopping list weekly, learn sight words and be involved in the process of learning to create a shopping list.
5. And, of course, READ. Everyone knows that. Read the same books over and over again, pointing out words as you read.
6. If there are songs you sing regularly, post them on the wall, with simple pictures.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Today we were very busy putting out fires at Wal-Mart, the movie theater and the gas station.

The book: The Firefighters by Sue Whiting

The props: fire truck (present from Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas), two hoses (a swimming pool noodle and the green one was about 2 bucks at Michaels - I don't know what it's really called) and two fire fighting hats. We also added in signs, made on construction paper, for the names of the stores. Gas was 3 cents a pound today and movie tickets were 40 cents a pound, according to Andrew.

Today's vocabulary: flames, engineer

The song:
We adapted the wheels on the bus to fit, our version, the wheels on the fire truck.

The wheels on the fire truck go round and round.
The steering wheel on the fire truck goes drive, drive, drive.
The hose on the fire truck goes whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
The ladder on the fire truck goes up and down.
The horn on the fire truck goes beep, beep, beep.
The calls on the fire truck go ring, ring, ring.
The firefighters on the firetruck go, "hold on tight."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wildlife Habitat...

I found this as I was searching for information on a bird theme. I thought this was a fabulous learning experience for kids or adults of any age and something that could be fun to do as a family.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Our Behavior Plan

We are definitely a love and logic home.

We also have a behavior management plan that we use when we notice a behavior that needs work.

This is how it goes. Here are some examples.

1. Noticed Behavior: Andrew yells at mom and dad when he doesn't want to do something we ask him to do.

2. Target Behavior: Andrew will respond in a polite voice and use negotiation when we ask him to do something he doesn't want to do.

3. Steps: a. Praise Andrew every time he performs the desired behavior.
b. Time out and removal of toys (if they are part of the problem behavior) every time the problem behavior happens.
c. Every morning have a little lesson acting out and practicing the desired behavior.

This goes up on our kitchen wall where we see it all the time and can both be reminded of what Andrew is working on. Once the target behavior has been met, the paper comes down. It's not always to stop problem behavior. Sometimes I use it to help develop a skill I notice he needs work on.

It is very effective and he meets his goals almost every single time I use it within a matter of a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Once your toddler has a basic understanding of counting, they can move into number word recognition and number recognition, along with continuing to work on one to one correspondence. This is a fun activity they can do independently after being shown how.

If they don't yet recognize numbers and number words:
1. Write the number and the word.
2. Draw the appropriate amount of squares on the page.

If they do recognize numbers and number words:
1. Write the number and the word with no boxes to challenge them.

Snow in July...

The snow plow and dump truck have been BUSY in our home the last couple of days moving the snow so the cars have plenty of room to drive.

We made up a song to sing along with our snow in July theme:

Sung to London Bridges:
Snow is falling to the ground, to the ground, to the ground.
Snow if falling to the ground, white, cold and wet.

Snow is falling on our heads, on our heads, on our heads,
Snow is falling on our heads, white, cold and wet.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Text Connections

There are three connections we make when reading:
text to text
text to self
text to world

This is one example of Andrew connecting a book he has to the world around him:

The front loader tractor is plowing "snow" off the road so people have room to drive.

Styrofoam became snow. Dry pinto beans became rocks. Pennies became dirt.

When I see that Andrew is taking interest in a topic from a book he read, I do the following:
1. Check out other books from the library on the same topic.
2. Print out pictures found on the internet that relate to the topic and label them so they can develop recognition of those words.
3. Set up a play area like the one above so that he can engage in "pretend play".
4. If there is a place we can go that relates to the book, that is ideal.

Despain Cafe

This is a fun thing we do in our family. David is gone long hours often, so we make certain things celebrations so that it is a special time we spend with him. We also used to do this in the preschool I taught at to aid in language development.

1. Set up an a space where everyone will have enough space and be comfortable. We use a toddler size table on the patio.

2. Set it up with a tablecloth, flowers, dishes, anything you want. This is Andrew's favorite part (besides eating with dad!)

3. Make a menu with the items you will be serving.

4. At the appointed time, sit down to eat. Have one of the kids be a waiter/waitress. They will have a pad of paper that they take everybody's orders on. For kids who are younger and don't know how to write yet, you could make a list of the menu items. Draw a box next to each menu item so they can draw a dot or check mark on it so they remember what everyone wants. A picture next to the menu item helps them recognize what the menu items are. I am not elaborate on this. I draw a simple visual cue to help them remember what the item is.

5. With mom's help (or dad's) the child serves everyone their food.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Language Development

To help kids develop language, try these ideas:

1. Mystery Box: You can do this as often as you want, but once or twice a week is reasonable. This is adapted from Wings on Words preschool in Tucson, AZ. You can view their website. They are a fabulous preschool for any kid, but especially those who struggle with speech and language development.

This is how you do it:
a. Decorate a shoe-sized box.
b. The children take turns putting something of their choice into the box.
c. Write clues for what is inside the box. If they are too young to write, they tell you what to write. If they are old enough, they can do it themselves.
d. Sometime when your family is gathered all together, bring out the mystery box and let the child read his/her clues (with your help, if needed). We haven't done this in our family yet, but we are going to be setting it up for the evenings once a week just after our family scripture study time and before bed time stories.
e. The other children and family members take turns guessing what is in the box.
f. The next person takes the mystery box and brings it to the family gathering at the appointed time.

Mystery Folder:
This is another adaptation of the Mystery Box. It works the same way only you use a folder - any kind of folder.

1. Cut out a picture from a magazine and tape it on the inside of the folder.
2. Cut a small hole on the top cover of the folder so that everyone can see a small part of the picture.
3. Write three clues to help family members or class members guess what the picture is.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Superstition Farm

We took a little trip to Superstition Farm and we loved it. June just happens to be National Dairy Month, so they have a few 5 dollar days at this farm. They have a petting zoo with goats, a horse, a donkey, chickens and a cow. They do a hayride to tour the farm. We got to see a calf being born also. They also sell cheese, butter and milk that they make and they sell eggs from chickens and ducks on their farm.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Experience Books

Here are two little books Andrew and I did together. The first one is about an experience we had at the zoo recently. He was sitting at the table eating a piece of cheese and a duck came and took it right out of his hands. Unfortunately, I did not have any pictures of this experience, but it still worked. On this one, I had to give him sentence starters on some of the pages and he finished the sentences. Then he drew on the pages. (The pictures are out of order.)

The second one is about the tractors he was watching one day a couple of weeks ago. I was so glad I thought to bring the camera and take pictures of the process. I had him help me tape the pictures to some paper we had, I wrote down what he said, verbatim, and we put it in a report cover. I didn't have to help him with any of the sentences on this book, like I did the duck story. I just asked him what happened on each of the pictures and wrote down what he said. (These pictures are in order.)

Now they're going on our book shelf and he can pull them out and read them any time he wants to.

This is one of the best ways to help toddlers and preschoolers 1) Learn language, 2) Learn that print has meaning, and 3) It helps connect literature and their world around them.

color and texture

Andrew started experimenting with texture and color yesterday. I gave him an old picture frame to paint up. He used paint and sand and had fun seeing how it created a different texture when he scraped it and mixed it together.

The finished product:

He gets to put a picture of his choice in it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Zebra Habitat revisited...

We revisited the zebra habitat.

We made some terrain out of clay and painted it brown.

We gathered twigs, rocks, grass and leaves and added it to the shoe box.

This is what we did last time. We got a little more high tech this time...

Monday, June 14, 2010

We discovered sand art

Now we have a bird feeder, too...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fire Truck painting

We needed something to paint besides paper. This was on clearance at Michael's. Andrew worked on it for almost an hour and a half one afternoon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Solar Ovens

The other day our friends Katie and Jolene came over and we made solar ovens. So easy and simple. Cut an oatmeal container in half. Cover it with aluminum foil, shiny side up, put the hot dog in it. Leave it sitting in the sun until the hot dog is cooked. We didn't leave it for very long because attention spans were short. We heated them the rest of the way in the microwave. Then we cut the hot dogs up in small pieces and threw them into some homemade mac and cheese.

This is where I got the idea:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dancing Raisins

My friend, Jolene, did a science experiment with our kids from this website.
The club soda is supposed to make the raisins dance. We also extended it to a sink/float activity where the kids made a prediction about whether or not various objects would sink or float. Then she had them glue the objects on a T-Chart with one side being for objects that sunk and one side being for objects that float. The kids had a good time and they REALLY enjoyed snacking on the raisins during the project.

To make this activity accessible to toddlers, for the chart, use pictures, not words, to show sink float. You can see that Jolene drew a picture with an arrow for the top of the jar and the bottom of the jar and she would say, "Do you think it's going to stay at the top or go to the bottom?"

To make this activity accessible to preschoolers, you can use a picture, along with writing the word so they are exposed to the print. I think we all like to expose our kids to print as young as possible, so you could do that with the toddlers, too, BUT, when they are preschool age, some of them can actually start copying the words, too.