Winter Fun with Little Ones

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After the intense busy-ness of the holidays, we move into the quiet, boring days of January. And in the rains of Seattle, it can be easy to feel the cabin fever of being “trapped” at home with your toddler or preschool age child. I’ve written lots of posts over the past few years on “Cheap Dates with Toddlers” – easy, fun, and cheap activities. Here’s the best ideas for winter fun:

  • Go to the playground in the winter – just bundle up and bring a towel to dry everything off! (For reviews of several Kirkland area parks, click here.)
  • Try an indoor playground – lots of large motor play with new friends, out of the rain.
  • Hike in the woods and have a nature scavenger hunt to see what you can find.
  • Take a ride on a bus or train – or on a ferry – just for the fun of the journey. (Just because you don’t think riding on a bus is exciting doesn’t mean it’s not for your child!)
  • Find a construction site and watch the work.
  • Attend library story time – they’re free, happen at several locations each week, and are great for encouraging a love of reading.
  • Go to the store – a hardware store, a grocery store, whatever – focus on sharing the experience with your child instead of on what you need to buy.
  • Wander around a rock yard looking at big rocks, and collecting a few small pebbles to bring home.
  • Go to a pet store (or as we like to call them “small animal zoos with free admission).”
  • Watch the fish at the Seattle aquarium, or even just in the small aquarium at your local Chinese restaurant.
  • Go to a dog walk, watching very happy pups is a great mood lifter.
  • Check out a sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt – just watching the food go around is great entertainment!
  • If you can find your plastic Easter eggs, you can pull them out for a fun hunt any day.
  • For lots more ideas, for songs, books, games, and crafts you can do at home, check out my “Fun with Toddlers” series, which are all focused around a theme such as ducks, farm, winter, zoo, or moon and stars.
  • Also, check out Inventors of Tomorrow, which is my blog focused on hands-on STEM activities for teaching kids about science.

If you’d like someone else to do all the planning for enriching varied activities for your child (from music to art to big motor play), check out classes sponsored by the parent education programs at our local community colleges. Great play-based learning for kids from birth to age 7, and parent education and support for you!

If you still need more ideas, then we have a fabulous resource here in Seattle. Check out parentmap.com for a never-ending supply of ideas for things to do with kids in the Puget Sound area.

Fun with Toddlers: Duck Theme

duckEach spring in our classroom, we have a spring theme with rain, raindrops and flowers, and on week 3 of the theme, the ducks appear! There are tons of great picture books about ducks, so in this post, I include lots of book recommendations and ideas for activities to accompany those books.

Songs to Sing

Five Little Ducks Went Out One Day
http://tmas.kcls.org/five-little-ducks-went-out-one-day/

Five Little Ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away.
Mother Duck said, “Quack, Quack, Quack, Quack,” but only four little ducks came back.
Four little ducks went out one day… …but only three little ducks came back.
(Repeat counting down to “but no little ducks came back.”)
Sad mother duck went out one day, over the hills and far away
Mother Duck said, “Quack, Quack, Quack, Quack.” Five little ducks came running back.

Six Little Ducks that I Once Knew http://tmas.kcls.org/six-little-ducks/

Six little ducks that I once knew, Fat ones, skinny ones, fair ones too!
But the one little duck with the feather on her back,
She led the others with a quack quack quack.
Quack quack quack. Quack quack quack. She led the others with a quack quack quack.

Down to the river they would go, A wibble wobble, wibble wobble, to and fro.
But the one little duck with the feather on her back,
She led the others with a quack quack quack.
Quack quack quack. Quack quack quack. She led the others with a quack quack quack.

Duck Picture Books and Activities they Inspire

Five Little Ducks by Raffi. The words from the song (above) in a book with illustrations. And Ten Rubber Duckies by William Winburn. These are both countdown songs/stories, and they have a really great rhyme and rhythm – easy for kids to predict what will happen next and easy to memorize!

  • Sing the song, and act it out with rubber ducks or handmade puppets. These are great for learning to subtract and learning about zero.
  • You may also use foam numbers – put 5 numbers on the table (or on the wall of the tub). As each duck disappears, take away a number to see how many are left.

One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root. (Be sure to get the full version, not the board book – it’s abridged, and you miss some of the great language.) Fabulous rhyming, rhythmic words. And a counting book. And lots of fun marshland creatures.

  • Dramatic play: make masks or finger puppets of the animals in the book. One child pretends to be the duck and says “Help, Help, who Can Help.” Other kids (or the parent if you’re playing this one-on-one at home) come to the rescue.
  • Sensory play in muddy muck: give child a bag of dirt (or collect dirt from yard). Spend time exploring the dirt, describing it, looking at it through a magnifying glass. Add a little water. Explore some more. Then add more water till you’ve got gooey mud. Get a toy duck stuck.
  • Find photos of real ducks, real marshes, and real marsh-land creatures.

Ten Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle. Based on a real-life story of a shipping carton of rubber ducks that fell into the ocean. Ten ducks float off in separate directions and encounter a variety of sea life.

  • Art: Make 10 paper ducks. Label 1 – 10. Your child glues them to a blue paper ocean
  • Numbers: Collect 10 rubber ducks, or use paper ducks. Child rolls dice, counts the dots, puts that many ducks in the tub to show “how many fell into the ocean?”
  • Talk about ordinal numbers and directions: the first duck swam north, the second duck swam south, and so on. Play a game where your child goes in the direction you say: “the little duck swam left, the little duck swam right, the little duck went up the stairs.”

Have you Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri. A mother searches for her baby.

Little Quack by Lauren Thompson. A book about a duckling who overcomes his fear and learns to swim. It would be a great read in the weeks before starting swimming lessons!

Even more great picture books about ducks:
http://homeschool.rebeccareid.com/2014/08/26/duck-picture-books/

More ideas (and source citations) at: www.pinterest.com/bcparented

photo credit: shot_1305563005476 via photopin (license)

Fun with Toddlers: Transportation Theme

transportThis month’s theme was Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Always a favorite theme, especially with the boys! Here are some ideas for transportation activities that toddlers and preschoolers love.

Activities to Do at Home

Sorting Cars. Make cardboard garages (or colored “parking spaces”) for your child to sort cars into by color. Sorting into categories is a great foundational skill for later learning.

Train Car Sort. Make (or print) colored train cars, and have your child sort objects by color into the right car.

Draw a City. Use a big box your child can climb into, or flatten out a smaller box. Draw roads and buildings on it. You can also build cardboard tunnels to drive through and bridges to go over.

Ramps. Take a flat piece of cardboard. Tilt it by propping on a piece of furniture. Race cars down it. Even better, put a tower of blocks at the bottom to crash the cars into. You can play with angles – the steeper the inclined plane, the faster the car goes.

Magnet Car. Draw a road on a paper plate. Make a paper car with a magnet on it. Use a magnet wand under the paper plate to drive the car around.

An Activity for Outside the Home

Counting Cars. Any time you find yourself with time to kill, count the cars going by. (Great counting practice!) Label them: blue car, red truck, gray car, delivery truck, and so on. (Great for building vocabulary and the idea of categories!)

Songs to Sing

The Wheels on the Bus. http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Wheels_on_the_Bus
(Also, search on YouTube for lots of fun videos of this song!)
The wheels on the bus go round and round, Round and round, round and round,
The wheels on the bus go round and round, All through the town.

Down by the Station http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Down_By_the_Station
Down by the station early in the morning. See the little puffer bellies all in a row.
See the engine driver, pull his little lever. Puff puff! Toot toot! Off we go!

 

Drive the Fire Truck. http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Hurry,_Hurry_Drive_the_Fire_Truck
Hurry, hurry! Drive the fire truck! Hurry, hurry! Drive the fire truck!
Hurry, hurry! Drive the fire truck! Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

Motorboat. http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Motorboat,_Motorboat
Motorboat, Motorboat go so slow (set your child in front of you, their feet against yours… hold their hands, and rock back and forth as you sing)
Motorboat, Motorboat go so fast (rock faster!)
Motorboat, Motorboat step on the gas! (go really fast!)
(Repeat, but this time, end it with “run out of gas” and putter to a stop.)

Games to Play

Red Light, Green Light. When you say green light, they can walk. When you say red light, they need to stop. (Advanced version: when you say yellow light, they can keep walking, but need to slow down.) This is a fun game, but also great safety training. When your child is headed out into the street, you say “red light” and they know to stop!

Sensory Activities

Tire Tracks. Drive toy cars on play-dough to make tire tracks. Or, squirt paint on a big piece of paper, and drive cars around. Or, drive them in a sensory bin full of dried rice, grains, or beans.

transport2

Books to Read

Freight Train by Donald Crews. Teaches colors and names of train cars.

Trucks, Planes, Boats, Machines at Work by Byron Barton.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. by Mo Willems. Very silly. Best for 3 years and up.

More ideas (and source citations) at: www.pinterest.com/bcparented and https://gooddayswithkids.com/songs-and-activities/fun-with-toddlers/

Fun with Toddlers: Pet Theme

This month’s theme was Pets, especially dogs and cats. Here are some fun pet-related things to do with your toddler:

Outings to Go On: Visit a pet store. Look at the fish, or the rodents, or the birds or reptiles. The pet store is just as educational as the zoo, and it’s free! It’s a great chance to talk to your child about animals, and to practice observation skills: “Can you find a yellow fish?” “Which is the biggest bird?” “These are all reptiles. What makes them different from the rodents we just looked at?” If you don’t have a pet at home, don’t feel like you have to buy anything. Most pet stores are used to parents coming in and hanging out with their children for a while. If you want, you could buy a bag of pet food to donate to the store’s pet food drive. (Look for a donation bin at the front of the store.)

Toys to make for your child

Balloon Puppies. Take a balloon. Blow it up. Draw animal features on, add a string and you have an instant pet for your child to take on a walk! If you want to be fancy, you could use a helium balloon and fasten on “legs” made of accordion-folder paper – the home made version of the toy pictured.

petsDoggy ears (or kitty ears). Make a circle of paper that fits around your child’s head and add ears, or turn a child’s headband into the base for ears.

Imagination Games to Play

The Dog House. Take a big cardboard box. Cut an arched doorway in it. Decorate it like a dog house. Add things to represent dog food dishes, dog bones, dog toys and more. Add stuffed puppies if you have them, and then let the play begin.

Pet Store. Set up a pet store with stuffed animals, and accessories for animals (food bowls, collars, treats, toys, and so on, and go shopping.

Songs to Sing

All the fish are swimming in the water
All the fish are swimming in the water. Swimming in the water, Swimming in the water
All the fish are swimming in the water (make swimming motions with hands)
Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble…SPLASH!
(make hands larger and larger. big clap to SPLASH)
[For more verses and hand motions, click here.]

How Much is that Doggie in the Window
How much is that doggie in the window? The one with the waggly tail?
How much is that doggie in the window? I do hope that doggie’s for sale.
[Search on YouTube for many videos of this song!]

Circle Time Ideas

Poor Kitty. There is a game that elementary school aged children love called “Poor Kitty”. One person pretends to be the kitty and goes around a circle, trying to make the other kids laugh (by purring rubbing against them, licking them…). The others are supposed to keep a straight face and just pet the “cat” and say “poor kitty” without laughing. You can adapt this for a one-on-one game with toddlers or preschoolers. (Though they probably won’t get the whole “you’re not supposed to laugh” idea.)

Puppy puppet. Bring a puppy puppet and some dog treats (or dog toys.) Give a treat to each child. Bring the puppy around the circle and have each child give the dog a treat. Have fun with pretending to be a happy puppy.

Purple cat, what do you see. Make a felt board collection of pets – brown dog, black cat, yellow bird, gold fish, etc. Give one animal to each child. Do the rhyme, similar in style to Eric Carle’s Brown Bear. Go around the circle to each child in turn, having them place their animal on the felt board. So, if you started with brown dog, and the first child has a black cat, you’d say “Brown Dog, Brown Dog, what do you see? I see a black cat looking at me.”

Books to Read

Roly-Poly Puppies by Elaine Moore. A counting book with a nice rhyming structure.

Pete the Cat by James Dean. There are lots of fun Pete books, but the best is I Love My White Shoes. (Check out our Pinterest page for lots of activities to go with Pete books!)

Aggie and Ben by Lori Ries. Ben’s dad takes him to the pet store to pick out a pet.

More ideas (and source citations) at: www.pinterest.com/bcparented

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

Fun with Toddlers: Winter Theme

Bring the snow inside!You may be several days into a winter break from your school and work routine now, with several days left to go, and looking for new ideas for fun activities for your toddler or pre-schooler. Here’s a collection of winter-themed fun.

Sensory Activities to Do:

Snow in the Shower. If it snows, you may excitedly bundle your child up, take them out to play, and then watch them just sit and shiver. Try bringing the snow inside! Make sure your bathroom is nice and warm, then bring a big bucket of snow and dump it on the floor of your shower and put your child next to it with shovels and toys. As the snow melts, it disappears down the drain, so no clean-up required! When your child is done playing, run a warm bath or shower to warm him back up.

Ice Play

  • Excavation: Use a loaf pan or bowls to make blocks of ice. Freeze items inside (e.g. plastic penguins or Legos) – give your child a toy hammer and other tools to excavate the toys. (You can have them sit on the shower floor or in an empty bath tub if you want clean up to be easy.)
  • Hockey rink: freeze a cake pan of water. Make mini “hockey sticks” and use a checker as the puck. Hit the puck back and forth to score.
  • Melting experiments: Give your child ice, water with pipets or eye droppers, salt to sprinkle. Let them explore how to get the ice to melt. Add food coloring or liquid watercolors to make it prettier.

Dry Ice Experiments: Check out my post for lots of ideas.

Games to Play:

Indoor Snowball Fight. Make or buy big white pompoms, or soft white balls. Or just wad up a bunch of paper into balls. Fill a basket with them. Then spontaneously start snowball battles anytime you want to! Not only is this tons of fun, I like playing games where I throw (soft) things at my kids. It helps them be a little bolder about ball games later in life – a little more willing to “head” the ball in a soccer game.

Rhymes to Say

Up the Mountain rhyme
Sit child on your lap
Up the mountain (run your fingers up one of their arms)
Down the other side (then run fingers down their other arm)
Brr it’s cold out… (hug them tight)
Let’s climb inside! (tickle their neck as you reach your fingers under their collar)

Chubby Little Snowman rhyme
See gestures at http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Chubby_Little_Snowman
A chubby little snowman had a carrot nose.
Along came a bunny, and what do you suppose?
That hungry little bunny, looking for his lunch,
Ate that snowman’s carrot nose,
Nibble, nibble, crunch!

Songs to Sing

Little Snowflake Swirling Round or Snowflake Fancy Free. Give your child a paper snowflake and have them put it on their head, their knee, etc.

Sing the My Mittens song in those inevitable moments when you’re searching for your child’s missing mittens.

Crafts to Do:

http://www.howwelearnathome.com/2013/01/build-shape-snowman.html

howwelearnathome.cm

Mittens: Cut out 10 paper mittens. Have your child decorate them. (Or for younger kids, have them scribble / finger paint all over a piece of paper, THEN cut out mitten shapes.) Then do the 10 little mittens rhyme together.

Tracks in the Snow. Make white play-dough. Play with toy animals in it, and point out the tracks they make. (Source, with pictures.)

Shape snowmen. Check out original idea here.

Books to Read:
Amy Loves the Snow by Hoban. Sweet simple story for little ones.

The Snowman Story Book or The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. These are the same story, but the Snowman is wordless – you tell the story in your own words. Beautiful illustrations. Story of a snowman who comes to life. Note: sad ending.

The Red Sled or The Red Hat by Judge or The Mitten by Jan Brett. All three are stories of woodland creatures getting into mischief with children’s belongings.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Keats. A little boy in the city enjoys a snowy day. This book, published in 1963, was noteworthy for being one of the first picture books to feature an African-American child.

More ideas (and source citations) at: http://www.pinterest.com/bcparented

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

Fun with Toddlers: Stars and Moon Theme

holiday-kids-crafts.com

holiday-kids-crafts.com

This week is winter solstice. The longest night of the year. If the weather is clear, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to go out after dark but before bedtime to check out the night sky and winter constellations (look for Orion!). Here are some other fun moon and star activities.

Planetarium trip

Many planetariums offer shows especially for young children. At Pacific Science Center in Seattle, they have Preschool Trip to the Moon for kids under 4. At Bellevue College, they have shows for kids 5 and up.

Sensory Activities

Mirror Painting. Let your child finger-paint on a mirror. Use blue paint (or blue and black), silver glitter paint, or shake-on glitter. The swirls of color and sparkle look like a starry night. When the mirror is covered with paint, you can use a clean finger to “write” on it.

Star Play-Dough. Make dark blue & purple playdough with glitter and star confetti mixed in.

Songs to Sing / Rhymes to Say

At Night I see the Twinkling Stars – rhyme
(see gestures here)
At night I see the twinkling stars
And a great big yellow moon!
My Mommy tucks me in at night
And sings a good-night tune.
Good night!  ZZZZZZZ. . .
WAKE UP!

We’re Flying to the Moon – rhyme
We’re flying to the moon. We’re flying to the moon.
Oh, what an adventure! We’re flying to the moon.
10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – BLAST OFF!
(lift baby into the air)

Four Little Stars – rhyme
(Use your fingers to count down)
Four little stars winking at me,
One shot off, then there were three.
Three little stars with nothing to do,
One shot off and then there were two.
Two little stars afraid of the sun,
One shot off, then there was one.
One little star, alone is no fun.
It shot off, then there was none.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star – song

Crafts to Do

Star Stickers. At any office supply or drug store, get a pack of star stickers, like a teacher would put on homework. You can let your child stick them all over black paper to make a starry sky, or make a holiday card by drawing a Christmas tree, and encouraging them to decorate it with the stars.sticker

Tip: It’s often hard for little ones to pry up stickers. Make it easier by pulling all the background paper up from around the stickers, leaving just the stickers on the paper.

Popsicle Stick Stars. Give your child 5 popsicle sticks to decorate with glitter glue. Assemble them into a star.

Books to Read

How to Catch a Star. Jeffers.

Good Night Moon, Brown.

Twinkle books. There are LOTS of books with the words from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and variants on that theme. Check some out!

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

If you have a child age 3 – 7, learn about lots of hands-on activities for teaching them about the science of stars and constellations at https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2017/02/28/stars-2/

Fun with Toddlers: Farm Theme

IMG_20140905_145903210Here’s a collection of fun farm-themed activities for toddlers and preschoolers.

Outings to Go On

Take your child to a farm park or petting zoo to see and interact with animals up close and in person. Click here for options in the Seattle/Bellevue area. In the fall, go to the fair! (state fair, county fair, etc.)

Take your child to u-pick farms. (Look here for listings of farms in the U.S., Canada, and more.) In Washington state, we pick berries June through September, apples in September and October, pumpkins in October, and more. Or join a CSA: Community Supported Agriculture farm that allows you to visit the farm.

Game to Play

Animal Sounds. Show your child pictures of animals, and teach your child animal sounds. Then ask your child “what noise does a cow make?” Praise them when they say moo. And so on. Children can often make recognizable animal sounds before they have much language, so it’s a good way to see how much your child really understands. If you want your child to speak multiple languages, ask the question in other languages (like “Que dice la vaca?”). They will learn the answer is also moo. This helps them start making connections between meaning in the different languages.

Video of real farm animal sounds: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuiwA4Ne_pU;
Fun animal sounds song: www.youtube.com/watch?v=t99ULJjCsaM

Snack to Make

Bread. Make yeast bread (here’s a super simple sounding option) or a quick bread (banana, pumpkin, zucchini…. ) from scratch with your child helping to measure, pour and mix. (Note: cooking with kids takes a long time and makes a big mess – remember this is more about doing a fun activity with your child than efficiently preparing food.) Or, choose the easy route and make refrigerator biscuits where all you do is pop the tube, put them on a pan and bake.

Butter. Buy whipping cream. Take an empty baby food jar and lid and put in the refrigerator till chilled. Then fill the cold jar about 1/3 of the way with cold cream. Have your child shake it vigorously for about 15 minutes. (Little ones need your help to shake it enough.) When solid lumps of butter begin to form, pour off the liquid (buttermilk) and keep on shaking until it’s solid. Enjoy!  (See more details here.)

Options:

  • If you want it to turn to butter more quickly: refrigerate a glass marble along with the jar, and when you pour in the cream, add the marble. When you shake, it helps agitate (churn) the butter. Just don’t shake so hard the marble breaks the jar!
  • If you like salted butter, just mix in a little salt at the end.(Or honey… or cinnamon…)
  • If you plan to keep the butter for a few days (we always eat ours right away), follow these directions and thoroughly drain and rinse the butter before refrigerating.

Songs to Sing

Old McDonald.
Video www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oYKonYBujg
Lyrics and Mp3: http://singwithourkids.com/songs/old-macdonald.htm.

Old McDonald had a farm. E I E I O
And on that farm there was a cow. E I E I O
With a moo moo here and a moo moo there.
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo.
Old McDonald had a farm. E I E I O
Repeat, replacing the animal names and sounds.

BINGO
Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mmF8zOlh_g
There was a farmer had a dog, and BINGO was its name, oh.
B – I – N – G – O, B – I – N – G – O, B – I – N – G – O,
And Bingo was its name, oh!
Repeat. On first repeat, instead of saying the B when spelling it out, clap. On the second repeat, replace B and I with claps, and so on.

 Activities to Do

animal match

Match the animal. If you have small plastic animals, then find pictures of those animals (in magazines or online) and make “flash cards.” Have your child match plastic animal to its picture. Source

milking-a-cow2Egg Hunts. Hunt for eggs anytime! It’s a fun, easy learning activity.

Milk a cow. Take a latex glove. Fill with water (like a water balloon) and tie it closed. Then use a pin to prick holes in the tips of the fingers. Show your child how to “milk” the water out of the “udder.” (Sources: see Pinterest)

Books to Read

Big Red Barn, Margaret Wise Brown. Sweet bedtime book about a day on the farm, that winds down to bedtime. There are lots of details in the illustrations to talk about.

Farmer Duck, Martin Waddell. A story about a duck who does all the work till the animals rebel against a lazy farmer. Great rhythm. Just a fun story!

The Little Rabbit who Liked to Say Moo, Allen. Animals try out other animal’s sounds.

Little Red Hen. There are several book versions of this classic tale. Galdone‘s is nice. If you’re making bread, this is a nice tie-in to that activity.

Poke a Dot: Old MacDonald’s Farm. This is a counting book. Each page has plastic dots you can “pop”. I’m normally not a fan of “gimmicky” books, but I think this is great for learning one-to-one correspondence, an essential math skill.

More fun on the farm ideas at: www.pinterest.com/bcparented

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.