Friday, August 31, 2012

Mommy and Me - Organizing and Prep

With a full grad school course load, inconvenient class times, and over an hour commute, I knew time management was going to be an important issue for me this semester.  Tot School was something that could easily get lost in the shuffle, but I really didn't want to let that happen.  I love that precious one on one time with my baby and he loves the stimulation (over stimulation has never been an issue for this kid, in fact, most of the time I can't keep up with him).  To keep myself on track and organized, this is the system I came up with.

First of all, I slowly gathered all of our alphabet materials into one big box.  I have been searching garage sales all summer and adding as I go.  A few things didn't fit, or had their own boxes, but for the most part, everything is in here.  It has things like cookie cutters, letter matching puzzles, mini letter books, stamps, foam letters, fabric letters, magnets, a memory game, etc.

Then I bought four containers from the dollar store to store on some shelves in the basement.  They don't look big in the picture, but they are actually a decent size.  I labeled them A-D with Post-It notes.  Then I went through the tedious task of sorting through everything in the big box above and pulling out everything for these four letters.  It took a good forty five minutes, but since I am planning on spending two weeks on each letter, I only have to change out the boxes every two months.

Since we are doing an animal for each letter, I also collected everything we have relating to that animal.  All the little figures, toys, and crafts went in the boxes, books and puzzles went below.  It is so nice to have each pile ready to go, but it also lets me easily see what letters we have plenty of books and activities for, and which ones are still lacking.

To take the organization to a slightly obsessive level, I also have this little box of note cards.  Since I would like to do at least six tray activities a week and two weeks per letter, 26 letters makes for an awful lot of activities for me to remember and organize.  I tried an Evernote list, but it just wasn't visual enough for me, so I ended up with these note cards.  One card has generic tot school activities that could be used for multiple letters/animals.  The rest of the cards are for individual letters.  They have the animal name at the top and 6 lines for different tray activities (2 activities per line = 12 activities).  At the bottom left, I have a place to tally the number of books we have for that particular letter/animal.  At the bottom right I recorded the number of puzzles, if any, we had that corresponded.  I don't have all of the cards done, and none is filled out all the way, but it does give me a place to jot down tray ideas as they come to me or I find a craft/activity at the store.  I can also go back and easily see what activities I have for a particular letter, without having to dig through the box!

In addition to all of these tools and activities, I have the printables for each letter.  I have been trying to print/laminate a few weeks ahead, so that no letter can sneak up on me.  I put them all into a pouch and store them with the letter box.  I am sure there will be some tweaks to this system as the year goes on, but I am hoping it will keep me organized enough to stay on top of our tot school lessons.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Letter A (Alligator) - Part 1

Xander is 21 Months

Hooray!  We have finally started our Mommy & Me ABC!  We are going to spend two weeks per letter and last week was our first week of Letter A and alligators.  Since my son is so young, my goal is more letter recognition and uppercase and lowercase correspondence than phonics or letter formation.  I hadn't realized how many activities we did until I looked through the pictures!  Sorry if it is picture overload!

This was his desk set up for the week.  Hi bulletin board had some alligator cut outs (in the printables), some magnets, and his fridge phonics set.

His shelf had a fabric A, the A from his floor tiles, an A minibook, an alligator book I made him (will post next week), the alligators from his toobs, sandpaper letters, his peg letter, and the alligator from his alphabet zoo.  Above I hung some bulletin board letters and some alligator cards from 1+1+1=1.  His book basket had  a bunch of books about Alligators and the letter A.  He particularly liked the two books Amy's Big Race and Akiko, Miss Alice, and the Dance Class, which are both Phonics Friends books.  He is always surprising me in what books he likes!

I put a tracing page in his activity center.  He still needs a lot of help tracing, but I wanted to make sure we do at least a little.  I hope one day it will just "click" for him (as matching, and other activities have).

 Play Dough Stamping
We did a LOT of play dough this week.  He LOVES his play dough stamper page and the stampers.  I have to say I was a little relieved.  Those stampers weren't exactly cheap.

Making alligator prints.

Color Lakes
Another box had some little alligators with colors shapes on them and a Color Lakes page.  The idea was for him to match up the color of the alligator's shape to the right lake.  He had a lot of fun with this, especially if I had the alligator "chop" its way up his arm after he pointed to the correct lake.  I am also so happy he could match all his colors without my help!

Simple Puzzles
This box had a bunch of two part puzzles, some printed and some purchased.

This box had a bunch of lacing supplies.  The alligators are in the printables (as are some letters to use for lacing), but I used some bulletin board letters I found on clearance from Oriental Trading.  The laces are also oriental trading.  I like them because they are thinner than shoe laces, and were pretty inexpensive.  Sorry I took the picture with the little a upside down. Xander surprised me in how much he wanted to do this activity this week.  He needs a lot of help, but he really tries.

Animal Matching
This box had an animal bingo game that I found at a garage sale.  We used it as a matching activity.

I told him camels sometimes stick there tongues out... so of course he had to do it.

Dot Magnet Page - Uppercase
Some gem magnets and a magnet/dot page.  He will put the magnets in the dots for a little while, then enjoys throwing them around the room, collecting them, and throwing them again.

Number Card Matching
Number cards and the corresponding number tiles.  (I also uploaded some number tiles here you could just print and laminate).  We are just starting out with number/numeral correspondence, so we are starting slowly.  Eventually I will probably give him the cards 0-10, but for now he is getting 0-5 and a LOT of modeling from Mommy.  He can really only do zero on his own, but one is a start!  We will just keep adding!

Playing with his lowercase alphabet peg set and doing an animal pattern matching puzzle.

We used our uppercase and lowercase stamps to make some As (I like that you can see through the stamps.  It should be helpful later) and his washable stamp pads.  He also used his alligator stamp.  He hasn't had much experience with stamping, so it was a learning experience, but he liked it.

Sensory Bin
I made him an alphabet sensory bin with dyed alphabet pasta and included a bunch of different As that I made and collected from puzzles and magnet and craft sets.  We also grabbed the alligators from his shelf.

We ended up playing this game where I buried the alligators and he found them.
One the left he is saying "ALLIGATOR" while looking.  On the right he is proudly displaying that he found it.

An alligator on each shoulder.

We also did an alligator craft.

For more Alligator ideas you can check out my Alligator Pinterest Board.

Tot School

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bottle Cap Letters

As I was collecting materials for Xander's alphabet themes, I considered buying the generic plastic letter tiles.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with them, I decided I wanted something a little bit more fun.  I also saw some neat wooden alphabet disks at The Princess and the Tot.  While I did end up making some similar to hers, I wanted to be able to make multiples of each letter for letter matching sheets.  The wooden discs are nice, but add up when you start buying a lot of them.  Instead, I ended up with the bottle cap letters pictured below.  I bought 100 of these bottle caps, but I have also seen them at craft stores.  With a regular Sharpie I was able to create multiples of each letter within minutes!  I started out with two capital and two lowercase of each letter, but have some left over bottle caps to add letters as I need.  I already created pages to go with these and I am really excited to use them!  The only thing I would change is possibly writing the lowercase letters with a blue Sharpie for some distinction between the cases.

Xander loves to dig through the box of letters!  I found him throwing them at the wall the other day...

Be sure to watch for the bottle cap matching cards in my Mommy & Me ABC printables!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Clothing Theme

Last week was our final week of mini themes before we start the alphabet (and I go back to grad school, sigh).  I chose clothing for the theme and he seemed to have a good time with it.  However, we didn't do as many school activities this week since we were busy prepping for the upcoming semester.

I was able to find a ton of books to go with the theme.  I brought I Love My White Shoes out, and when Xander saw it we had to read it 4 times in a row (until Mommy hid it).

One box had our dressing frames ($2 garage sale find).  He really liked trying, but they were just a little too advanced for him.

I bought him this Joey Dress Up Magnets a long time ago when I had a 50% Michaels coupon.  He hadn't seen it before, but it was definitely love at first sight.  He had it out every day, and tried putting the clothes on himself.

 I made some clothing flash cards that we used for a matching game.  Since we have flashed him the clothing category from Little Reader, he knows a surprising amount of words!  You can download the flash cards here or from the Printables Page

Every time he got to the word "hat" he would put it on his head.

This box had a baking sheet sorter and some wash cloths.  The idea was to get him to hang them.  

I got out Xander's little bear dress up set (the single version of this one).  Apparently it couldn't hold a candle to the Joey dress up because he barely touched it.

The puzzle had nothing to do with clothing.  It was just a chunky insect puzzle that he hadn't played with in a while (went with our bug hunt).

Tot School
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