Thursday, November 29, 2012

Week 12 Christmas: Advent

Theme: Christmas - Advent

Note: We are few letters behind in our real life toddler preschool, so for the month of December, I will be putting letter work on hold on this blog as we attempt to catch up here at home.  Letter work will pick back up on the blog in January. 
Objective: To develop your own Advent traditions in anticipation of Christmas.
Christmas Advent
What is Advent?
I am definitely not a guru on what Advent is nor how to do Advent in a traditional sense; however, I simply want to present a few ideas on how to celebrate the Advent season in your home.  Essentially, Advent is a season of anticipation and celebration primarily of Jesus’ first arrival and expectancy of his second coming one day.  While I won’t be going to great lengths this year to put together traditional Advent activities, I will be focusing on starting a couple traditions to bring focus to Jesus in our anticipation for Christmas. 
For more on the history of Advent, click here. 
Advent Calendars
An advent calendar could essentially be considered any calendar that counts down the days from the beginning of December to the 24th of December.  There are many ways you could do an Advent calendar from simple store-bought to extensively homemade.  This year, with my boys, we will simply be pulling off one chain from a paper chain each day from December 1st – December 24th.  We will talk about these chains as a “countdown to Christmas.”
Prophecies of Jesus
For my family, the tradition I want to begin to focus our attention on Jesus in the Christmas season is to each day from December 1st – December 24th to look at one prophecy about Jesus and how it was fulfilled.  While developmentally this will be above my boys’ understanding, I want to begin this tradition this year, so that as the years progress and as memories of Christmas are developed in their minds, they will never know a time where we didn’t talk about Christmas without an excitement over Jesus.  To see how to incorporate the prophecies of Jesus into your Advent season, click here.
Advent Ideas

For even more ideas on how your family could celebrate advent, click here. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Week 11: Thanksgiving

Theme: Thanksgiving

Note: I am posting this week’s theme early so that you can begin these activities now in preparation for next Thursday… and also so that I will be able to take next week off from the blog for my own Thanksgiving celebration.  Almost all of the activities I’ve included are from others’ websites and are fairly easy to do.  Happy Thanksgiving!
Objective: To have fun with Thanksgiving themed activities.
Letter of the Week: J
Note: At this stage (2-3 year olds), we will focus simply on capital letters only.  It is also important to understand that this introduction of letters is simply to familiarize our children with letters.  We are not expecting them to be proficient with these letters. 
Special Items Needed:
·         Paint

·         Construction paper

·         Sensory Tub Items

·         Feathers
Thanksgiving
Traditions
Family holiday traditions do not have to be extravagant or over-the-top to become traditions.  In fact traditions develop simply through repeating the same activities together consistently year after year.  As you consider your family and this window of developing your family traditions, please take some time to consider what activities, events, and habits you would like to develop into traditions, specifically for Thanksgiving.
For example, when I was a kid (and teenager…and in college…and as a grown adult), my family all sat together in our pajamas to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and eat some type of casual breakfast together. Watching the parade is a tradition I want to continue with my boys…not because I care so much about watching a parade on TV, but because I love the relaxed, together feeling it created on Thanksgiving morning. 
Handprint Turkey
To see how to make a handprint turkey, click here. 
Coloring Pages
Click here to access a website with many different Thanksgiving themed coloring pages.  I loved this site.  I printed out two different turkeys from this site, one for each of my boys.  I cut out each turkey, let the boys color them, and then had my 2 ½ year old help me glue the turkeys to black paper to make them look more “official.” 
Thankful Turkey
This is an activity I am aspiring to do this year; however, I still have not actually done it yet!  I am planning to cut out about 10-12 “feathers” and a main turkey “head.”  I want to talk with my son about things he is “happy to have” or “happy about” (incorporating the words “thankful for” as we talk about these “happy” things).  As he and I are talking, I want to write one thing on each feather, showing him that I am writing what he is saying.  My plan is to glue these around the turkey head…and maybe glue it onto a large piece of construction paper.  So sorry I don’t have any photos of this yet to share!
Thanksgiving Mini-Book
I love mini-books!  Click here to get your own printable Thanksgiving mini-book.  While it was fun to color and talk about, the content of this particular mini-book was definitely beyond my son’s understanding. 
Thanksgiving Sensory Tub
To see a Thanksgiving themed sensory tub, click here.  I am not sure that I will actually do this tub this year; however, it was a great idea and inspired me to at least take our regular sensory tub to the next level by incorporating holiday themed trinkets. 
Native American Head Dress
If I can grab some feathers before next week, I think I would have so much fun making these “head dresses” with my boys!  Click here to see how to make a simple “Native American headdress.” 
Letter Work
I continued our regular letter work with the Letter “J” by following the activities we’ve done with previous letters (see below for an explanation of each activity). 
Coloring the Letter “J”
To introduce the later “J,” simply draw an outline (or Google a template of the letter “J” to print).  We will talk about the letter “J” and will color it. 
Letter Search
We will continue our work on the letter “J” by trying to identify the “J” in words that start with the letter “J.”  It is important at this stage to choose words that start with the letter “J” and only have that “J” in them.  Write the words in all capital letters.  Make a game of searching for the “J.” 
Rainbow “J”
We will also practice tracing the letter “J.”  This may be a bit difficult for some children, so please pass on this activity if it is too stressful.  We will do a “Rainbow J,” by tracing the outline of a capital letter “J” in multiple colors.
For additional Letter “J” activities, click here. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Week 10: Imaginative Play


Theme: Imaginative Play
Objective: To foster the development of imaginative play.
Letter of the Week: I
Note: At this stage (2-3 year olds), we will focus simply on capital letters only.  It is also important to understand that this introduction of letters is simply to familiarize our children with letters.  We are not expecting them to be proficient with these letters. 
Special Items Needed:
  • Books
  • Shows/Movies
  • Costumes/Dress-up
  • “Real Life” Toys

Imaginative Play
The Importance of Imaginative Play
As a former first grade teacher, I want to share a few of my personal insights (a.k.a. opinions) about the importance of imaginative play. 
·         Imaginative play is the beginning of reading comprehension.  When your toddler pretends to be something out of a book (even just the role or job of a book character), your child is actually displaying her story re-tell ability.  This is vital to all of reading comprehension. 

·         Imaginative play is also the beginning of writing.  I know, I know, it may not seem like it, but when your child is pretending to be something, he is actually telling a story.  This ability to create stories is what will someday allow your child to write stories on paper.  Without the ability to create and tell stories, your child will not be able to write stories.

·         Imaginative play is an excellent display of communication abilities.  Asking your child what she is “being” or pretending develops her ability to communicate ideas in her head.  She is displaying that she has an idea inside herself that she can now communicate.

·         Imaginative play is the beginning of abstract thinking.  It is moving our child’s thinking and knowledge from the actual, concrete world to an abstract, imagined world. 

Ways to Foster the Development of Imaginative Play
Now that I’ve emphasized the importance of imaginative play, I want to offer some suggestions for ways to foster imaginative play.  You cannot “make” your child understand pretend; however, most likely out of the blue one day, your child will begin to pretend something.  Then you will know that the world of imagination has begun.  For us the beginning was simply my son pretending to be the “mailman” after we daily checked the mail together since he was a baby and him repeatedly watching the same “mail truck” episode of The Backyardigans.  From there, his imaginative play has expanded continuously!  Let your child lead his desire for imaginative play, but definitely join the his imaginary world! 
The following are a few ways to facilitate the development and growth of imaginative play:
·         Read Books

o   I cannot emphasize enough the importance of reading to your child.  Read lots of books and often.  Try to read every day.  Click here to read my thoughts on early, early literacy.  Also read below (under the heading “Scholastic Book Clubs”) for ways to purchase cheap books.

·         Offer “Real Life” Toys

o   “Real Life” toys are toys that imitate real life: toy vacuums, toy food, baby dolls, kid-sized tables, etc.  These are toys that mimic adult life and allow your child to pretend to be like you.  They create a “real world” experience through play as they use these toys in their pretend world.  Even pretending to eat play food is a part of imaginative play.

·         Collect Costumes/Dress-up

o   You don’t have to spend a ton of money on this!  Just start collecting hats, sunglasses, dresses, jackets, wigs, etc.  This is not limited to little girls, either.  Boys are also meant to engage in costumes…it just will probably be a little different than the traditional ideas of girly “dress-up.”  My sons and I (and my husband) have had a ball with some clown wigs and an afro wig we found in my husband’s old “college days” box.  For one birthday, I asked relatives for hats for my son: construction hat, fireman hat, cowboy hat, etc.  These are so much fun and allow your child to take on various roles in her imaginative play.

·         Watch (developmentally appropriate) shows and movies

o   I know that not all will agree with me on this point; however, as a parent, I have found that many of the imaginative things my son plays are from some of his favorite episodes of Dora the Explorer and The Backyardigans.  He loves to role play what he just watched on these shows.  Previously as a teacher, I probably would have discouraged shows/movies as a way to develop imaginative play; however, my experience as a parent has “expanded” my opinions.  Talk with your child about what he watches.  Have him retell you what happened in an episode of his favorite show.  Watch him begin to be the characters he sees. 
Scholastic Book Clubs
First, let me clarify that I am getting absolutely no kickback for recommending this book club.  I honestly just love it and think it’s an excellent resource.  Plus, I recently discovered that Scholastic Book Clubs has a book club for 2-4 year olds, called “Honeybee.”  Each Scholastic Book Club flyer offers developmentally appropriate books at reasonable prices.  Often there are $1 and $2 books offered in each flyer.  You can combine flyers into one order, plus you’re never committed to spending any money.  If you are interested in looking into this, click here, to access the Scholastic Book Clubs website.  You can register yourself as a “home school” preschool or you can get a group of moms together and register under one of you as the leader of a “home school” preschool co-op.  Take a look to see what might work for you.
Letter Work
I continued our regular letter work with the Letter “I” by following the activities we’ve done with previous letters (see below for an explanation of each activity). 
Coloring the Letter “I”
To introduce the later “I,” simply draw an outline (or Google a template of the letter “I” to print).  We will talk about the letter “I” and will color it. 
Letter Search
We will continue our work on the letter “I” by trying to identify the “I” in words that start with the letter “I.”  It is important at this stage to choose words that start with the letter “I” and only have that “I” in them.  Write the words in all capital letters.  Make a game of searching for the “I.” 
Rainbow “I”
We will also practice tracing the letter “I.”  This may be a bit difficult for some children, so please pass on this activity if it is too stressful.  We will do a “Rainbow I,” by tracing the outline of a capital letter “I” in multiple colors.
For additional Letter “I” activities, click here. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Week 9 Life Skills


Theme: Life Skills
Objective: To introduce or further learn developmentally recommended basic life skills.
Letter of the Week: H
Note: At this stage (2-3 year olds), we will focus simply on capital letters only.  It is also important to understand that this introduction of letters is simply to familiarize our children with letters.  We are not expecting them to be proficient with these letters. 
Special Items Needed:
  • Clothes
  • Toothbrush
Life Skills
Introduction
Every few months or so, I take time to look up on www.babycenter.com the developmental milestone charts for my boys.  I print off the ones nearest their ages, and then I highlight all the developmental milestones they have already accomplished.  I then read over the ones we are currently missing for their respective ages, and I look ahead to milestones we should be working towards.  Before you read any further, let me emphasize how important it is to understand that all children have their own strengths.  When looking at these milestone charts, look at them with your own child in mind.  Do not pressure your child to have everything accomplished on the chart.  Rather, look at where your child is strong and be excited about those accomplishments.  Then look at just a couple of growth areas for your child and guide your child towards those.   I emphasize the word “guide” because that is exactly what it needs to feel like for your child as you introduce and help her learn those growth areas.  Give opportunities and help your child grow into those milestones.  Do not make those milestones “pass/fail” experiences but  supported learning and growing experiences.  Click here and click here to see the two milestone charts around which I developed this week’s theme.
Choosing Clothes
For a while now, my son has been interested in choosing his own clothes (often the same blue shirt with just about any pair of shorts).  I have encouraged his choosing his own clothes; however, I have guided him towards clothing appropriate for the weather outside.  For instance, today was much colder than it has been here lately, so I told him he could pick any long sleeved shirt and any pair of pants.  I do hang up all of his pants and shirts, mostly because I like to see the choices; however, now, it allows him also to see his choices. 
Getting Dressed
We are just beginning to work on getting dressed.  How I wish we had done more of this during the summer with shorts and t-shirts, as I am finding that pants and long-sleeved shirts are a bit more complicated.  For now, though, I am helping my son put his clothes on and am hoping to work towards him being able to independently put on his clothes. 
Brushing Teeth
At this stage, when your child brushes his teeth, you will still need to follow up with a thorough brushing yourself; however, it is a key time to engage him in the habit of brushing his teeth.  We often brush teeth during bath time; however, in an effort to make this a more consistent daily habit, we have started brushing teeth also in the morning.  You may or may not want to include toddler toothpaste in your brushing routine.  You may or may not also want to attempt flossing your child’s teeth.  For us, we are simply brushing teeth without toothpaste or floss yet.  We will work toward those two; however, for now we are focusing on brushing teeth as a desirable and semi-independent habit.
Washing Hands
I have to admit that so often, it is way easier to use hand sanitizer than lift my toddler to the sink and help him scrub his hands.  My biggest deterrence from washing hands has simply been that once we turn the water on, my son will want to continue to play in the water for many, many minutes.  I realize, though, that washing hands in a necessary life skill, especially as we move towards potty training.  My goal right now is simply to make this a more regular and semi-independent habit.  We have a step-stool that has been added to the bathroom sink area where our eventual potty training will take place.  This is where we will practice our hand washing skills.
Playing Independently and  Alone
We recently moved into a two story house that is quite a bit larger than the condo we had been living for the past three years.  Since moving into the house (and since my one year old has become extremely mobile), I have noticed that my toddler has had a difficult time knowing how or where to play by himself.  While formerly he loved playing by himself and getting “alone time,” since moving into the house, he has not really been able to do this nor wanted to be that far from where I am. 
After talking with a friend who has a son of a similar age and a house similar to ours (with the kids’ rooms upstairs and the living space downstairs), I have begun working towards making my son’s room upstairs more of a desirable place for him to play.  I have purposefully placed some of his favorite (and “older”) toys in his room.  I have also engaged him in the toys, told him I would be downstairs, and let him play.  His time playing alone in his room started out small but has slowly increased.  Gaining the confidence to play alone in our bigger house has been such a good thing for him. 
While a big house may not be the drawback to getting your toddler to play alone, if he or she is not finding a way to do that, you may began considering what is the limiting factor.  Then begin to work around this, building in little bits of independent play time. 
Letter Work
I continued our regular letter work with the Letter “H” by following the activities we’ve done with previous letters (see below for an explanation of each activity). 
Coloring the Letter “H”
To introduce the later “H,” simply draw an outline (or Google a template of the letter “H” to print).  We will talk about the letter “H” and will color it. 
Letter Search
We will continue our work on the letter “H” by trying to identify the “H” in words that start with the letter “H.”  It is important at this stage to choose words that start with the letter “H” and only have that “H” in them.  Write the words in all capital letters.  Make a game of searching for the “H.” 
Rainbow “H”

We will also practice tracing the letter “H.”  This may be a bit difficult for some children, so please pass on this activity if it is too stressful.  We will do a “Rainbow H,” by tracing the outline of a capital letter “H” in multiple colors.
For additional Letter “H” activities, click here. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Christmas Prep


This blog post will be a little different as I want to share with you ahead of time what our focus will be for the month of December.  I share this with you ahead of time, as it will require some prep on your part.  (Oh and a quick note to all you unsuspecting readers, this post is all about Jesus.)
Once upon a time, I was pregnant with my first baby when I stopped by a friend’s house on a visit back home.  She showed me a fancy box her sister had sent her and inside were twenty four flat cards, each with two verses on it: one verse was a prophecy about Jesus and the other verse was where the prophecy was fulfilled.  Ever since then, I’ve been waiting for the day when I could compile just such a box for my kids!
This is the year I have decided to start this “Prophecies about Jesus” tradition.  While my sons are still very young and will not grasp the entirety of this tradition, I want to begin it now so that there is not a time that they remember where we didn’t talk about Jesus in regards to Christmas. 
Feel free to take my ideas in this post and adjust and recreate them to work for you. 
For my family, I purchased a fancy box that looks like a book (see photo).  I then compiled the twenty-four prophecy/fulfillment verses that I most wanted my boys to know about.  From that list, I created twenty-five 3 ½ x 5 ½ cards (see photo) by printing these verses on colored cardstock and cutting them down to the right size to fit in my box. 
My plan is to use these each day in December leading up to Christmas.  I must share that I also plan on purchasing chocolate advent calendars for my boys, too.  Often, Christians find themselves creating “mutually exclusive” realities for their kids where there is no need to be mutually exclusive.  For example, just because we will be doing a “Prophecies about Jesus” advent project does not mean that my boys cannot also have chocolate advent calendars, too.  Verse and chocolate are not mutually exclusive.
While I did create a Word document of my cards, I am still learning how to turn my document into a link so that you all can have access to that.  If anyone knows of a simple way to do this, please do let me know.  Until then, I would be more than happy to email you my Word document with the preformatted cards!  You can email me katie.may.tramonte@gmail.com
Click here to see the website where I found a list of 44 prophecies and their fulfillment regarding Jesus.