Tag Archives: Books and Resources

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 fun 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 about 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 a small empty glass jar (like a baby food jar or jelly jar) and lid and put it in the refrigerator till chilled. Then fill the cold jar about 1/3 of the way with cold whipping 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, the marble helps agitate (churn) the butter. Just don’t shake it 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 (or non-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 by 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 by 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! (Even though my son is 25 now, if I just ask “How goes the work?” he replies “QUACK!” just like Farmer Duck says!)

The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say MooAllen. Animals try out other animal’s sounds.

The Little Red HenThere 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 one 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.

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Fun with Toddlers: Fall Theme


fall
Here are a collection of fun toddler activities, crafts, and books related to autumn.

Songs to Sing / Rhymes to Say

Apple Tree
[Miming gestures here; video here]
Way up high in the apple tree.
Two little apples smiled  at me.
I shook that tree just as hard as I could.
Down came the apples
and mmm they were good.

5 Little Pumpkins
http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Five_Little_Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one says, “Oh, my.  It’s getting late!”
The second one says, “There are witches in the air!”
The third one says, “But I don’t care.”
The fourth one says, “Let’s run & run & run.”
The fifth one says, “We’re ready for some fun!”
Ooooooooooo went the wind, and OUT went the light,
and five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Pumpkin, Pumpkin (tune of Twinkle Twinkle)
Pumpkin, Pumpkin on the ground (crouch down)
How’d you get so big and round? (stretch arms to make a circle)
Once you were a seed so small (pretend to hold a seed)
Now you are a great big ball (make a big circle with hands)

Homemade Toys to Make:

Play-dough: There are LOTS of recipes for Play-dough available online. Here’s one I like: Mix 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup salt. Heat to almost boiling. Remove from the heat and add 2 TBS. vegetable oil, 2 TBS alum*, food coloring. Cool & knead in 2 – 3 cups of flour.

* You can find alum in the spices section of the grocery store. Or you can substitute cream of tartar.

Felt Tree: Cut a tree, leaves & apples from felt. Let your child stick them to a felt board.

Activities / Games to Play:

Sticky spider web. Use painter’s tape / masking tape to make a spider’s web across the doorway. Your child can throw things at the tape and see if they stick. Try cotton balls or wadded up newspaper or whatever small lightweight things you have handy. Source

Leaf Hunt. Go for a walk and collect fall leaves. Talk about the different colors and the different shapes, count how many points they have, compare small to large, and notice smooth edges versus serrated edges. Point out which tree each leaf fell from.

Pumpkins and golf tees: Get a pumpkin, golf tees, and a toy hammer. Kids ages 3 and up can hammer the tees into the pumpkin. For toddlers, you can hammer several golf tees in – they can take the tees out and put them back in – great small motor practice!

Crafts to Do:

Leaf Suncatchers. (See photo at top of page.) Take the prettiest leaves from your leaf hunt and sandwich them between two layers of clear Con-Tact paper. Frame (if desired) with a paper plate rim or construction paper, and hang in the window. Source

Sticky Apple Tree. Cut out a tree shape from brown contact paper for the trunk. Cut green paper leaves and red paper apples (or use green and red pompoms). Hang the contact paper on the wall, with the sticky side facing out.  Let your child stick “leaves” and “apples” to the tree, take them off the tree, and stick on again. Inspiration

Apple prints. Put some paint on a tray. Cut an apple in half. Show your child how to make prints by dipping the apple in the paint, then pressing it on to a paper. Source

Pumpkin finger puppets. Make finger puppets to go with the five little pumpkins rhyme. You could make them with playdough or felt or mini post-it-notes stuck to your fingers.

Books to Read:

  • Owl Babies by Martin Waddell. One of our favorites!! A sweet story about three baby owls who worry when mama goes hunting. But of course mama comes back!
  • Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino. An illustrated edition of the finger rhyme above.
  • Apples and Pumpkinsby Anne Rockwell. Simple book that features fall themes like apple picking, jack-o-lantern carving, and trick or treat.
  • Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington. For kids 4 and up. Talks about apple picking, counting, sorting, baking, and selling at a farmer’s market.
  • The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. Lots of farm animal noises & repetitive lines for kids to join in on.
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani. Builds on the classic and familiar song as the spider goes on further adventures around a house

Printable handout of these fall activities here.

More ideas (and source citations) for this topic 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.

photo at top of page from: http://artfulparent.com/2011/09/fall-nature-suncatchers.html

Fun with Toddlers: Babies & Families Theme

learning-about-emotions-diy-toyAt my toddler classes, we organize the kids’ activities and room decor around a series of themes. Each theme runs for 3 – 5 weeks. This year, I will be writing a series call “Fun with Toddlers” with ideas for activities parents can do at home: songs, games, crafts, and books. Our first theme of the year is Families and Babies, and lots of my activity ideas tie into learning about the parts of the body.

Songs to Sing

One Two (I have two eyes, so do you…)
Find lyrics, sheet music and an mp3 at: http://nancymusic.com/SOM/2008/one-two.htm

Two Little Eyes (tune: Twinkle Twinkle)

Two Little Eyes to Look Around
Two Little Ears to Hear Each Sound
One Little Nose to Smell What’s Sweet
One Little Mouth that Likes to Eat
Eyes and Ears and Nose and Mouth
Eyes and Ears and Nose and Mouth

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Homemade Toys to Make:

Happy/Sad Face: Use cardboard and paper fasteners to make the face shown in the picture at the top of this post. Spin the features to make happy faces, sad faces, and more. Directions at www.mrprintables.com/learning-about-emotions.html

Family Magnets. Take photos of family members. Glue onto magnets. Let your child play with them on the fridge. You could draw a family tree with pictures on it and have your child match magnets up to names and photos on the tree.

Sensory Activities to Do:

Baby Doll Bath Time. Put a doll and washcloth in a sink full of soapy water. As your child bathes the doll, name each body part.

Games to Play:

Body Part Flash Cards. Find photos of eyes, hands, and so on. Glue to index cards, and write labels. Your child could explore these on their own. Or you can call out a body part and ask your child to find the matching card. Or you can put tape on the back of each one and have your child label your body – sticking each card to the right part of you.

Put Your Finger On… Ask your child to “Put your finger on your nose. Put your finger on your toes” and so on.

Books to Read:

Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?(or others by Karen Katz)

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toesby Mem Fox

I Can (or other books by Helen Oxenbury)

[This section contains Amazon Associate links.]

More ideas (and source citations):

www.pinterest.com/bcparented/family-and-babies-theme/

10 Types of Toys

letters

In other posts, I have talked about reasons why it might be OK to own fewer toys, and how to choose the best toys, and shared a link to my handout on choosing toys and activities which build a variety of skills and multiple intelligences. I’ll share here some examples of how this plays out in our home with our three-year-old.

(Note: I’ve included Amazon Affiliate links in case you want to buy any of these items, but truly, I’m advocating for NOT buying much stuff!)

Word Play (Linguistic / Verbal Intelligence)

We only own about 20 kids’ books – filtered down over 20 years of parenting to the ones that we love the best and want to have in the house at all times. But we go to the library a lot! (Multiple times a week, picking up a big stack of books every time. And we end up reading them all multiple times. My boy loves to be read to, and loves to read to himself.) And we go to story-time at the library every week.

We also have magnetic letters for the refrigerator (which we use all over the house) and duplo letters. Lately, my son has been using the letters and a big drawing of a coconut tree  to re-enact one of his favorite books (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom) over and over again. You can see the picture above…. the drawing is nothing “fancy” – I think his grandparents just pulled some packing paper out of the recycle bin and drew on it with crayons – but it’s kept him entertained for hours, and when he’s done, it’s back to the bin.

We have a Kindle Fire tablet with Kindle FreeTime installed, so he plays lots of ABC games, and watches educational videos (and not so educational videos) about the alphabet.

Our best language tools? His abuela (grandmother) who speaks to him in Spanish. And his Belo (grandpa) who reads to him for hours on end. And they both spend a lot of time practicing writing numbers and letters with him and other hands-on learning games.

Doing the Numbers (Logical – Mathematical Intelligence)

Everything we have more than one of is a math toy! We can count how many blocks we have, figure out whether we have more trains than balls, and so on.

We have 12 rubber ducks that have appeared in our lives over 20 years of parenting (I don’t think I bought a single one). These are great for bath time math time. We sang “Five Little Ducks went out one day” lots of times – it’s a good way to learn the basics of subtraction – one duck doesn’t come back – now there’s four little ducks…

The only special math tools we have are:

    • a set of Duplo numbers, which we’ve used for counting, number recognition, and a number line – we had a library book called Hopping on the Number Line which led to the game of having toys hop back and forth on the number line as we did the math problems out loud (if froggy starts on 2, and hops 3 spaces, where will he land?),
    • Unifix Cubes, which are a fabulous math teaching tool, though so far all he does with them is sort them into 10 stacks of 10 matching cubes, then lines those up in spectrographic order red-yellow-orange, etc. (My boy is a big fan of order and repetition.)
    • Some numbers we shaped out of pipe cleaners
    • Some old birthday candles – you know the candles shaped like the #1 and the #2 and so on that when you put them on the birthday cake and blow them out 20 seconds later, barely any wax has melted so you keep them instead of throwing them away? My son found those and loves them!
    • A great app called Bedtime Math. Every night at bedtime, we read a story problem and solve some math puzzles related to that story.

Putting the Pieces Together (Spatial Intelligence)

We have a couple of kids’ wooden puzzles and a couple of jigsaw puzzles. We have a big bin of duplos (notice how our letters and numbers listed above do dual duty as part of the Duplo collection?), and wooden train tracksto assemble (and a big collection of wooden trains – half are used and abused – purchased at a consignment store and the others shiny and new purchased by Grandpa). At many of our local libraries, they have puzzles that he works with when we visit, and at his BC classes, they have lots of shape sorters, puzzles, and small manipulables to practice with.

We also “find” lots of things for him to learn spatial skills with: mixing bowls, measuring cups, plastic dishes for practice nesting things; sticks and rocks to stack into tall towers, an empty bottle from the recycling bin and some dry beans to drop in….

Moving & Grooving (Bodily – Kinesthetic Intelligence)

We own 5 balls of varying sizes, a kids’ baseball bat, a Strider bike, and a climber built of QUADROthat was a hand-me-down from a friend (Quadro is a fabulous combination of building toy and playground equipment! We’ve had ours for 20 years now, in near constant use.) We also go swimming at least once a week, and go on one or two one-mile hikes a week and go to the playground a lot. When we’re out in the woods, he happily balances on logs and climbs trees and scales rocks.

Playing Well With Others (Interpersonal Intelligence)

Imaginary play and telling stories with characters is one way to build interpersonal intelligence. So we’ve got a few stuffed animals, but he doesn’t play with them a lot. We have a collection of finger puppets that we tell stories with and that he also uses at naptime to tell stories to himself. We have a toy picnic basket with fake food, but we don’t use it a lot, so I think it will soon go to our Buy Nothing group. He’s just as happy to say that a rock is a chocolate cupcake and a handful of bark is french fries.We also make things… one of this week’s library books was Trouble at the Dinosaur Cafe, and we made Model Magic dinosaurs to go with it – he mixes the colors and I do the sculpting.dino

We also make sure he gets lots of interaction with other kids – we spend lots of time at the playground, in free play with new kids, and meet friends for a weekly play-date which is all kid-guided, non-facilitated free play. (Kids learn a lot more about getting along with others and about conflict resolution when parents back off!)

Learning about Myself and How I Feel (Intrapersonal Intelligence)

As I say in the handout, this category of intelligence isn’t about tangible stuff. It’s more about interaction and emotion coaching, and also making sure your child has time for quiet contemplation and down time. When we go on hikes in the woods, there’s a lot of quiet reflective time as well as song-singing, story-telling, nature-teaching time. He also has “nap time” every day. He stopped sleeping at nap time a few months ago, but still will play quietly in his room for 90 minutes every day. OK, not necessarily quietly – he plays his piano, and reads his books out loud with LOTS of feeling and dramatic interpretation! But it’s a good solo time for him (and for me).

Song and Dance Routines (Musical Intelligence)music

We have a box of miscellaneous musical instruments he can pull out anytime he wants. A few were purchased for him, but most are just items that have entered our lives over the years, like the plastic Yamaha recorder I had as a child, and the plastic Yamaha recorder I had to buy for my daughter’s class when I couldn’t find my old one… We also have a very old electric piano that’s in his room and he spends part of many “nap times” exploring the piano.

We listen to a lot of music together (one older sibling loves Broadway show tunes, one loves vintage jazz, Abuela loves classical and Spanish music) and sing songs A LOT, and enjoy circle-time songs at BC classes and library story times and hymns at church.

Fun with Flora and Fauna (Naturalistic Intelligence)

As you can guess if you’ve read other posts on my blog, we spend a lot of time outdoors. Camping, hikes, zoo trips, farmer’s markets, walks to the library and the pool. The only “tools” we use outdoors are a bucket and a shovel. (But, when we forget them, a stick and a rock can fill in as digging tools, and an empty Starbucks cup from the car makes a fine bucket.) Some day we’ll find our binoculars again, and pick up a new magnifying glass.

Expanding Horizons (Magic / Imagination / Religion / Cultures)

We have a big box of miscellaneous dress up – old Halloween costumes from his sisters, sunglasses, silly hats, etc. In all of our books and the videos we watch together, we aim for showing lots of diverse cultures and experiences, and we go to a church that talks a lot about diverse beliefs and appreciation of the sacred in all forms.

All the Pretty Colors (Artistic Skills and Appreciation)

This is the one area we have an abundance of STUFF.

One cabinet in the kitchen is over-flowing with art supplies: Model Magic clay, no-spill watercolors, pom poms, pipe cleaners, paint, paper, glitter glue, stickers, markers, crayons, beads, scissors, and so on. When he and I are in a relaxed, mellow mood, we pull these out and get to work.

I try not to do much art when I’m in a cranky mood, or when I won’t have time to deal with any mess that arises. I have to confess that I can have a hard time when he’s being really messy or “wasting” art supplies, or “messing up” art supplies – like when he dips the red-paint-covered paintbrush into the yellow paint. Because I know that about myself, I make sure that he has plenty of opportunity to do art in spaces that are designed for kids’ art and where it’s OK to make a mess. So, this year, he’s enrolled in Creative Development Lab, which is all about exploring and experimenting with art.

Do we have it right?

I feel like we have found a good balance… we have enough stuff at home that he is very capable of entertaining himself for a long time. And we make things a lot and find thins in nature, which gives him new toys and also shows ingenuity. Plus, we get out in the world a lot to explore the things we don’t have at home. I try to avoid owning “stupid” toys that I don’t like… they do enter our home sometimes if my kids go to a birthday party and come home with goody bags, or have lunch at McDonald’s with dad. But most of the toys we own I think are worthwhile.

William Morris once said “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” It’s a rule I try to live by for myself, and I think it also applies to my child’s things… but maybe there it’s something more like “Have nothing in your toy box that you do not know to be creativity-inspiring or believe to be a joy to play with.”

Games and Activities that Build Literacy Skills

[This is my fourth post on early literacy. Check out my other posts on how to get your child excited about reading, and  info on developmental literacy and what types of books are best at each age, and how to read to a toddler.)

Other ways to help kids learn about reading and writing

  • Make books together – make photo albums, or cut pictures out of magazines. For older kids, they can dictate a story – they tell it, you write it out, then they can illustrate the pages.
  • Look at photo albums together and tell stories about the people and activities shown.
  • Talk about symbols – you could make a calendar and come up with symbols to remind them of what happens each day. Or a weather chart. Or a chores chart.
  • Practice writing, drawing, painting, writing with a stick in the sand or the mud. Make letters with play dough or pipe cleaners. Have them work with puzzles made of letter shapes. Play with alphabet refrigerator magnets. Look for apps for your touch screen device (tablet or phone) that let them practice tracing letters. Draw letters on paper and have your child trace them (see picture at bottom of the post for what this looks like when my 3.5 year old does it… )
  • Act out stories that you have read, or do puppet shows. Tell the story as written, or imagine what would come next, or what other adventure characters could have.
  • Sing songs and play rhyming games – these slow language down so it’s easier to understand, and are easy to memorize. Later, try memorizing a story and telling it over and over.
  • When they ask you a question, show how you would look up the answer.
  • Visit the library often. Make it a special time in your week’s schedule.
  • Take them to story time at the library or bookstores. It’s typically free, weekly or monthly, and lasts 30 – 45 minutes. Expect to sit on the floor with your child and help him stay focused on the stories. This is great for literacy and language development – seeing other kids and parents excited about books, listening to the librarian’s voice (kids learn language better when they hear a variety of people speak it), and singing songs together. It’s also great practice for school – having to sit still and pay attention to an adult other than your own parent is important. Before going, let your child know what to expect, and what behavior you expect of her (sitting down, being quiet) to increase your chances of a good experience. Learn more here: http://www.peps.org/ParentResources/by-topic/early-learning/why-story-time-rocks

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