Thursday, August 27, 2009


I once heard a story about a father who had his child/children go out in a big field to pick up every stone they could find.  I wish I could remember the details, but the story went something along the lines of another adult pointing out to the father that they weren't even going to use that specific field but the father replying something to the effect that he wasn't preparing a field, he was preparing children to work.

Gosh, I wish I could remember that story better -- does it sound familiar to any of you?

Well, whatever the details are, it made a deep impression on me.  I really believe we need to teach our children to work.  Whether it is a specific chore or just giving them something to do and making them stick to it until they are finished.

Well, one day I did just that.  I gave 3 year old Max the chore of taking every book off of our bookshelves.  He already enjoyed doing that anyway, might as well make it a chore right?  So, he unshelved every last book and stacked them all on the couch (with my help).

Putting them back on the shelves we color coded them, which is great for teaching colors and also, it looks really cool.  He worked on this for a while but was side tracked when he found out the stacked books looked like stairs and a big mountain for his cars.

In the background of this picture you can see the final product:
Cost: FREE
Variations:  Have them clean out the fridge with you.  They LOVE this.  Have them take everything out of the fridge, you wipe it and clean it and they put everything back again.  They can put the laundry in the machine, take the laundry out of the dryer.  Have them sharpen all of the pencils in the house, make sure all of the lights in the house work, count the tiles in the bathroom floor, make sure there is a star sticker on every shoe/chair/window/blue thing in the house .  You know, silly things that give them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I am thinking of an animal

I suppose it's your typical guessing game but I never thought about playing it with my 3 year old until I heard my good friend, Serena, playing with her 4 year old the other day.

Mommy:"I am thinking of an animal that is black and white and lives where it is cold"
Child: Zebra!
Mommy: No, remember it is so cold and this animal eats fish and walks funny.
Child: A penguin!
Mommy: Yep! Your turn!

Child: I am thinking of an animal that lives in the jungle with stripes
Mommy: A tiger?
Child: Yep! Your turn!

You will be amazed at how quickly a car ride goes by. And I think it teaches great deduction skills. Great pre-reading skills as well. Visualizing things, putting things together in your mind. It is simple, but so great. You will be surprised at how well this works. Since our friend was over visiting we have played it in every car ride -- no fail. It is now a family favorite.

Cost: FREE

With younger ones say the sound of the animal and have them guess it. You could do different categories as well. I am thinking of a food, I am thinking of a person, I am thinking of a toy, I am thinking of a color, I am thinking of something in the room....(I guess that is kind of like I spy, but oh well, that is fun too). For the older kids you can make it harder -- I am thinking of an animal that begins with the letter R and ends with the letter S and it is not plural. Or I am thinking of an animal that would live in Brazil, or florida or Asia.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Little Shortcake and the Rockers

Vintage fisher price meets pottery barn outlet emergency station meets Mickey Mouse
Wooden railroad meets remote control car meets blue tablecloth ocean with pirate ship meets dump truck meets hot wheels
meets teething toy giraffe.

I love the way Andy plays with his toys in the beginning of the first Toy Story. Everyone is involved - Potato Head, Bo Peep, Sheriff Woody, army men, a barrel of monkeys, dinosaurs, etc.

When I was young I would spend hours creating towns for my toys -- Barbie and friends had a mansion in my bookcase, My Little Ponies had a grassy meadow on my bedspread, and Strawberry Shortcake and the gang had their hangout. Stacked books became stairs, washcloths became bedspreads, socks became sleeping bags, shoes became cars (Barbies can sit in them so nicely-- no, I didn't have the convertible) and those white plastic pizza thingamajigs that held the pizza lid up in the pizza box to not smash the pizza made the most perfect little tables. Oh, tell me you did that too, with the pizza things.

I remember playing a little bit with my "land" after it was set up but I must admit that the setting it up was by far the funnest part. I'd have everything just so and my entire room would be a big land of My Little Shortcake and the Rockers.

And then someone would let in the crazy giant land wrecking madwoman/man and all would be lost. Wasn't that the worst? Isn't it the worst? I just feel for my older one when my younger one ruins something he made.

It was either that or it was time to go to bed. I couldn't sleep while the ponies were chomping on the grassy meadow.

Have your children use their imaginations and create a land incorporating all of their toys. Make it work. Create a story to act out. Create scenarios. Get neighborhood kids to come over and help.

Cost: Free (just use the toys you have!)

Variations: a million.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grocery ads

Sometimes I don't post my ideas because I don't have a picture of it. I decided I need to just get these ideas out and not wait for the perfect picture every time. Here is an idea I have adjusted from the days in the classroom.

When I sort through the newspaper or mail I like to save the grocery ads. Max and I will go through them and do different activities. Sometimes we go through each item in the ad -- if he likes the item to eat, he circles it. If he doesn't, he puts and X through it. Teaches great fine motor skill (pre-writing) and teaches critical thinking.

Sometimes it becomes a look and find.

Mommy: I am looking for something to drink that is yummy for breakfast with pancakes.
Max: ORANGE JUICE (and then circles it or puts a star sticker on it)
Mommy: What would be something you can put on your bread to make a sandwich?
Max: Peanut Butter! (or jam or lunchmeat....)

COST: free
Variations: Younger ones can just do labeling. Can you find the apples? Can you find the milk? What's that? (point to something and have them tell you). Older kids could be given four or five different colors and be told to circle all the things in a certain food group i.e. fruits and vegs with a certain color, each group being a different color. An older child could be given a certain amount of money and be told to "shop" in the ads for what they would like to buy for that week if they could. Have them find the best deal. You can tell them to circle all the foods they think are good for them and X out all the bad ones (then look over it together and discuss). Find all the foods that start with the letter B. Different colors for different meals - blue for breakfast, red for lunch, green for dinner, yellow for snacks.... what else????