Friday, December 30, 2011

Play Dough

For some extra sensory play, I made Xander some home made play dough.  I had no idea what he would think of it, but I figured it was worth a shot.  The first batch I made in red to go with our color themes.  I used a salt dough recipe from the internet and used regular food coloring.  Unfortunately, it ended up pretty pink (what you see in the pictures).  The next day I was able to pick up some of the gel food coloring I love and got a much richer color.

To start with, I put the dough in front of him and showed him how to cut it with a plastic knife.  Eventually I rolled it into little snakes, which were much easier for him to cut.  I also showed him how to roll the dough into little balls.  Apparently, they too closely resembled food, because he tried eating the balls.

For the second week of our Color Themes, I made some green dough using a recipe that used alum (from here).  This recipe stayed softer and felt better, so I will probably be using it in the future.  The recipe is as

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon powdered alum
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons vanilla
food coloring

Mix all dry ingredients. Add oil and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until reaching the consistency of mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and food coloring. Divide into balls and work in color by kneading the play dough.

Being a bit more experienced with play dough, Xander had much more fun with it during our green week.

He really enjoyed putting little pieces of dough in the container and shaking them out.

Squishing it in his fingers.

Tasting it again, just to be sure it is still yucky.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tot Trays - Christmas Edition (13.5 Months)

For last week's tot trays I tried to have a Christmasy theme.

One tray had a green snowman silicone mold with jingle bells.  I showed him how to put a bell in each snow man.  However, he much preferred taking the bells out and putting them back in the red cup.  Shaking the cup  til the bells flew out was also a lot of fun.

One tray was replaced with our green bin from our green week.

Our puzzle was this great wooden Christmas puzzle I got from Oriental Trading Co back when they were having free shipping.  They were way too hard for him to get in, but he liked pulling them out.  It was a new skill for him since most of his puzzles have pegs instead of finger holes.

Of course, he had to try the puzzle pieces.

For the last tray, I got his felt Christmas tree and ornaments back out.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures this time around, so these are from last time.

Tot School

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Color Themes - Green

In honor of Christmas, I decided this past week's color should be green.  We learned a lot from our red week and made some changes this week.  Unfortunately, we didn't spend as much time on green activities as I would have liked.  Xander was sick one day, I was sick another, and we had various holiday festivities going on.  Anyway, here is what we did do...

Once again, we replaced one of his tot trays with a bin of random green objects.  We have green balls from his ball pit, stacking cups, spools, play food, bristle blocks, dado squares, blocks, little maracas, and counting bears.  This was a big hit.  He would pull it out multiple times a day and scatter the contents across the room.

To keep myself more organized this week, I added a little bin to hold our color theme activities.  I moved his wash and go magnetic set to here rather than a tot tray.  He still couldn't get the green train pieces in himself, but he is getting better.  He enjoyed listening to the song it plays.  The bin also has color related books, like our Your Baby Can Discover Colors book, Brown Bear Brown Bear, Color Crunch, Baby Colors, and A Color of His Own.  There are foam cards with their color names written on them, the Christmas Light Game, and little book I made of the colors and their names.  My goal is to read these periodically while we do our color weeks.  

In addition to the books we own, we have been watching a YouTube video with a reading of "I Love My White Shoes" by Eric Litwin.  Xander LOVES it and will get really upset if when it is over.  The book doesn't actually use the color green, but still introduces other colors.  
Our local library also lets us log in to their subscription to Tumble Books from home.  It is a great resource for watching kids ebooks.  Xander seemed interested in Red is a Dragon by Roseanne Thong when we watched it.  I am sure we will find others he will enjoy to watch.

I also added My Green Book, a little laminated book I made for him.  I made a copy of each page in both English and Spanish.  He seems to enjoy "helping" me color the pages as I read them to him.  I added it to my downloads page, or you can get it here.

Erasing with style.

We played with green play dough...

...put stickers on green paper...

Tot School

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Light Game

I found a great Christmas Light print out from Tons of Fun.  I printed it out on card stock and laminated it.  I lay out all of the lights and Xander picks one for me.  I tell him the color and say things like "let's find the one that matches," or "I am looking for the other blue light."  When I find it, I show him both and tell them "these lights match, they are both green."  He is not at all ready to match them on his own, but he loves playing with me anyway.  In fact, he sometimes gets really upset when I put them away, even after a couple of rounds.  My goal is to introduce him to the concept and vocabulary of matching.  As a bonus, it reinforces our work on colors.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Color Themes - Red

As I am trying to figure out how we are going to do Tot School, I decided I wanted to try introducing concepts one at a time as a theme.  This week was kind of our trial run with the color red.

It started with our Tot Trays.  I set out a bin of random red items from around the house.  It included our red counting bears with cups, red blocks, red cookie cutters, red dominoes, red balls from the ball pit, red toy fruit, red spools, red Dado squares, a red spoon, etc.  I also included the laminated cards from our English and Spanish Color Cards (click to download).  Throughout the week I would show him the cards while playing with the red items to reinforce the idea of "red" and "rojo."

His favorite red item ended up being a balloon I filled with flour.  He would frequently put it in the red cup and shake it out.  I will definitely have to make him a few others.

Another tot tray had his Leap Frog Wash and Go Magnet Set, with only the red fire engine pieces.  I started leaving the pieces next to the base on the tray.  He struggled getting them oriented correctly, so I ended up just leaving them in.  He would periodically walk over and push the button to hear it say "Red Fire Engine" and listen to the song.  While I liked this activity, I haven't decided if I will leave it in place of a tot tray, or just have it out during out color weeks.

We practiced coloring with red crayons and put stickers on red paper.

I also printed and laminated a red color book from here.  Xander and I used a red Expo marker to trace and color the pages.  Well, really, he sat in my lap while I did it for him.  I liked the idea behind the book, but decided to make some changes for next week.  I wanted to have a matching Spanish copy of each book, so I decided to make my own.  I will try to post them on my downloads page as we do them.  Also, the colored Expo markers I have are too big for Xander's little hands.  I need to find an alternative.

We also played with red play dough.

This week at Xander's daycare (a wonderful home daycare that I am thankful for each and every day), they made Christmas wreaths.  All of the wreaths were supposed to be green with red berries, however, our day care provider said Xander INSISTED on red paper, so he has a more creative wreath.  I wonder if his desire for red paper came from working on the color red all week.

Tot School

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


One of my goals for our tot trays is to help Xander develop fine motor control.  Curious to see what he would think, I got him some stickers.

We started with regular stickers.  He understands the concept, and seems to enjoy the activity.  Execution, however, still needs some work.

Sometimes the stickers got stuck on his fingers and he would get very frustrated trying to get them off.

We also tried some foam stickers.  On the one hand, they are bigger and thicker, so it is easier for him to grab them.  On the other, they are stickier, so he has trouble getting them off his finger.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tot Trays - 13.5 Months

Now that Xander is walking constantly, and officially a toddler, I figured I should probably switch to calling them Tot Trays, instead of Baby Trays.

This week we tried a couple of new things.  First, for one of the trays we had a big bin of red items to go with this week's color theme.  Xander really seemed to enjoy it, particularly scattering little red objects all over the room...

One tray had his Leap Frog Wash & Go Magnet Set, with only the pieces for the fire truck.  He isn't ready to have all the pieces out yet.

 On another tray I had a tall container with pieces of pipe cleaner.  He understood what he was supposed to do, and could get the pipe cleaners in some of the time.  However, if he grabbed the pipe cleaner in the middle, it was really hard for him to get it in since it would bend.  Now I realize he needed something much more rigid than pip cleaners.  We will try a similar activity again soon.

One of his favorite things about this tray was trying to put the lid on the container.

And, as always, one tray contained a peg puzzle.  Sorry, I didn't get a picture of it this week.  We also worked on activities like drawing, erasing, and our Christmas Light Puzzle.

Tot School

Saturday, December 17, 2011

So Long Flashcards

As you can probably tell from my blog posts, we have definitely been struggling with our flashcards.  With me working all day right now, and going to school full time starting in January (not to mention the 3 hours of commute time every day), flashcards are just not working.  Now don't get me wrong, I still fully believe that flashcards can be effective for teaching babies, if implemented properly.  Hopefully, when I have a baby in the future, I will have time to do a full blown flashcard program.  However, being a single mother in school, we need something more flexible.  I will probably stick with educational toys, worksheets, and other fun activities.

I haven't completely ironed out what our new "curriculum" will include.  I know my goals include working on fine motor skills, pre-writing skills, and basic life skills.  I hope to work on some of the early education basics, like colors, shapes, numbers, letters, etc.  I have a feeling it will be an evolving process.  I can't wait to see what types of activities Xander really enjoys.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Xander's Desk... Long Overdue

A couple of weeks ago I finally picked up one of those little lap desks for Xander.  I have been meaning to for a while now, but somehow it kept getting put off.  I am so happy I finally did, though!  It has been so nice to have a work space at his level.  I think it will really improve his ability to color or do fine motor activities since he won't have to lean way over the ground to reach anymore.  I see many hours of use in our future.


Playing with his felt Christmas tree

He also really likes putting things down in the sides.

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