Sensory & Sounds Dinosaur Dig

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One of our most favorite activities in the Dinosaur unit is definitely the letter sound sensory  play activity! This activity will need a little extra prep (cutting, getting small sensory bin set up) but the reward is well worth it. Here's what you'll need if you want to play! 

  • small sensory bin- this can be anything from a plastic shoe box to a sheet pan, although you'll want the sides of the bin to be high enough to keep the sensory items inside while still being low enough for your little to reach in. We're using the container from a melissa and doug stamp set. :) 
  • small sensory material- dry rice (or rainbow rice) dry beans, or if you're super brave maybe sand? 
  • picture circles
  • dinosaur cards
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Macie Jane has been working on letters and their sounds for about a year now so she could probably do all 26 cards at one time but in an effort to protect her from frustration or from the activity extending longer than the novelty lasts I only had her find and match half the letters. 

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She would hunt through the tray of dry beans to find little picture circles. She would identify the picture and it's initial sound. Then she would search through the cards to find the letter for that initial sound. It helps to lay out all the cards to see all the possible letters (some can be tricky.)

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Sadie (young 3) had fun jumping in to play with the beans and look for pictures. This activity could easily be adapted for speech and language practice with different picture cards to support articulation skills of various sounds (phonemes.)

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Unit 11: Transportation Recap

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We began the first week as we always do with a little letter fun! This week we pulled out the paint and play cars and didn't waste any time! The girls painted the letter W with the Wheels of toy cars! Tire tracks make great decorations! :) 

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Donald Crews is an author we've read a lot of books from this year. Freight Train didn't disappoint. It was a perfect book to read/look through with all three of my children (ages 5, 3, and 1.) While Sadie (3) continued to explore the book and we talked about colors, Macie Jane used number train cars to practice ordering numbers. 

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This activity helped her review number order but was also a good practice in left to right progression. 

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When it was all finished I hung it up over our calendar area for a reference anchor. Isn't it adorable?

Next up was a sorting activity. Macie Jane and Sadie looked at several different forms of transportation and had to determine where they traveled- land, water, or sky. Macie Jane practiced scissor skills cutting out the forms of transportation and had fun gluing them where they belonged in the sorting chart. 

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The torn paper traffic light was a hit! For some strange reason preschoolers LOVE shredding up paper. I gave the girls 3 sheets of paper- red, yellow, and green. They happily tore the paper into tiny pieces and sorted them into three piles according to their color. Then using the printable as a guide they filled in the three traffic light circles with the correct colors. 

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There were several more activities in the unit including a great speech/pronoun practice activity. If you want to see more you can find the full unit along with a book and resource list by clicking the button below. 

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I helped Sadie review and practice using pronouns like he, she, and they. Sadie has a tendency to use the pronoun "them" when she should use "they" and doesn't use he/she pronouns frequently or correctly. Technically this is still developmentally appropriate and nothing to be concerned over, however, I don't believe it's a bad thing to practice correct pronoun use either. We had fun with the activity, I reinforce it in conversation, and we'll just watch her speech skills develop. :)

We wrapped up the unit with lots of giggles and fun! We got a wooden board and a few toy cars, made predictions on how fast those car would go at various heights, and tested out those predictions. Cars raced across the den and the girls had fun seeing how fast they could get the cars to go. :) 

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Great Picture Books About Transportation

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Typically when we start a unit I'll grab a Gail Gibbons book along the same lines of what we are studying? She's a great non-fiction storybook author. Her books are perfect for curious little eyes to explore pages full of information even before they are ready to read. This one is no exception covering every form of transportation from cars to cruise liners. 

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Freight Train by Donald Crews is a good one for younger preschoolers with few words but colorful pictures. It names the various cars on a train and uses fun imagery to show the speed of a train racing down different tracks. Short and sweet! 

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Red Light, Green Light by Anastasia Suen is another great preschool book! Full color pages with lots of action and describing words. Seeing play different forms of transportation zoom around different scenes is so much fun! From traffic to trolleys and choppers this adorable book is definitely a great one for the lover of everything that goes! 

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If your littles are like mine you know that it's not just the forms of transportation that captivates them its their sounds too! Zoom Zoom by Robert Burleigh is a perfect solution to meeting both those desires! His rhythmic and rhyming story tells of a city full of sound! From sun up to sun down and everything in between this cute book is a thrilling ride! 

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Y is for Yacht. The letter we are studying during this unit is the letter Y which inspired reading this book. It is one of those awesome, interactive preschool books. Your little will love reading all about the many different kinds of boats (there are SO many! ) This board book format has pages that open up into huge pages with giant illustrations of ferries, and sailboats, and tugboats and more! Great for the nautical loving little in your life! 

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The pigeon, need I say more? We love this silly, sometimes emotional, little fella! Mo Willems has a fantastic sense of you humor and littles pick up on the silliness right away! This one will have you in stitches. Bless that pigeon's heart, all he wants to do is DRIVE THAT BUS!!! (Also, the pigeon is part of a larger series of books all of which are adorably funny! Definite favorites around here.)

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To the typical family travel is not the most fun part of vacation, aparently that's not the story for these bunnies. They take 12 different modes of transportation to arrive at their destination- home. Your little is sure to love the adventurous traveling these bunnies do and the fun pictures accompanying them. 

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Last, but not least Delievery was a sweet book to read and comes perfect right after our valentine celebrations last week! "Aaron Meshon's playful, tender and almost wordless story, a grandmother sends love to the moon and back to get a very special delivery to a very special boy!" This book was written with so much love and you can certainly feel it! 

Transportation Play- numeracy & sorting skills

Today we read Donald Crew's picture book, Freight Train. It's a perfect book for preschoolers of different ages and stages. Sadie loved the bright colorful train cars and Macie Jane really liked learning about the different types of train cars. We used the book as inspiration for our numeracy play today.

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We used a printable in the transportation unit along with a sentence strip but a long piece of construction paper would suit just as well. I cut the train cars out for this activity because I wanted Macie Jane focus more counting than cutting (although it wouldn't be bad for her to do both- we were limited on time too.) I glued the engine car at the end of the sentence strip and reviewed left to right progression. (We count/write from left to right.) Then I let her independently order the cars. She got most of them in order but had a few mixed up. We reviewed number order together and she glued the cars on to the sentence strip. 

This activity serves as a great anchor. I put it up over our calendar area and I'll plan to use it as a reference for future activities as well as for daily review. 

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Our next activity was a sorting activity. These are so fun for both girls in their respective stages of development in preschool. 

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Macie Jane is getting really good at using scissors while Sadie still just has a great time cutting everything into bits- nothing wrong with that. :) After the various forms of transportation were cut out in one piece I let the girls sort them according to where they travel, land water, or in the sky. It was a hit and the gluing portion was equally engaging as the cutting part was! :)    

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Want to see more of our fun? Keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook! Stay tuned for more transportation fun this week and next! 

Unit 10: Valentines Recap

 February is one of my favorite times of year! We LOVE celebrating love day! It was a no brainer that we'd include the holiday in our learning! We read some real great valentine books and had a blast incorporating all our learning goals with valentine fun! 

February is one of my favorite times of year! We LOVE celebrating love day! It was a no brainer that we'd include the holiday in our learning! We read some real great valentine books and had a blast incorporating all our learning goals with valentine fun! 

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Here are a few of the titles we read. You can be sure to find a book by Gail Gibbons in almost every unit we've studied. She's one of our favorite non-fiction picture book authors! Are you a Gail Gibbons fan too? The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond was another favorite but I think our most favorite was Valentine Express by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (not pictured.) It's a precious story of an adorable duo creating and delivering the most thoughtful valentines. 

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At this point in the preschool school year we're working on identifying number words. Macie Jane isn't sounding them out to read them but rather memorizing what they look like and "reading" them that way. We used our number cards in the unit along this activity to reinforce this skill. 

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Our following directions activity really had me laughing. Oh my, what an adventure it is juggling both girls with two very different personalities and trying to complete this activity. Sadie, who is 3, had an entirely different outcome than Macie Jane (just turned 5.) It was a perfect example of those exposure type activities I talk about. Macie Jane followed every direction and Sadie.... well... Sadie had an adventure of her own. I will say she did try to follow some of the directions before scribbling over the front and back of the page. :) 

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Any activity involving a toss able cube is a win in our books. Both girls loved this activity although it was geared a bit more for Macie Jane's age range. Sadie used it to practice number recognition and Macie Jane used it to practice transferring, counting, and left to right progression. This is another one of those great activities that seems small but packs so many skills in! 

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Ok, now, y'all know there is NO question here. When preschool includes candy we are SOLD! This activity was perfect for both girls. Sorting and counting for Sadie and those skills along with comparing amounts for Macie Jane. We all had a great time and good sugar rush after this activity!

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One of our more messy activities was the Valentine invitation to play. I provided the girls with materials and invited them to make and create however their hearts desired. We went through several rolls of washing tape, lots of stamps (some on paper some on skin), and made many memorable valentines. Invitations to play typically capture the girls attention for a good amount of time and are great opportunities for them to develop creativity and imagination. There was no end product in mind just independent, open-ended play with age appropriate materials. 

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STEM activities are beginning to rival the girls love for crafts. The fizzy hearts activity had them mesmerized. I didn't shy away from talking technical with them. We talked about acids and bases and identified which vinegar and baking soda were. We made guesses about what would happen when the two combined and didn't waste anytime exploring the experiment. The classic fizzy explosion experiment never gets old. We had a great time and they thought it was just the most awesome experiment! (Can you see the heart in MJ's pan?)

Want to grab the valentine unit to use with our littles? Click the link below or join us for our newest unit available on my resource page! We'd love to play and learn with you! 

Olympic Fun for Your Preschooler

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O is for Olympics

I love this cute and super creative idea! Colorful fruit loops work perfect with this printable to make a colorful fun Olympic ring! 

 https://www.icanteachmychild.com/o-is-for-olympics-craft/#comment-241685

https://www.icanteachmychild.com/o-is-for-olympics-craft/#comment-241685

Natural Olympic Rings

How fun is this activity?! What a fun way to take our learning outside! This time of year might be difficult to find each of the colors but that won't stop us from trying! :) 

Torn Paper Torch

Simple and still so creative! My little paper tearing creatives would love this craft! All you need is a little construction paper and imagination! :) 

Olympic Ring Toss

Who doesn't love a toss game? Especially if you're a preschooler! :) This colorful and fun toss looks like a blast! I know my girls are going to flip over it! You'll just need a stapler, construction paper, and a couple colorful buttons. 

You know I couldn't write a post without including a picture book. :) I discovered an alphabet book perfect for different age ranges. Younger learners could enjoy the pictures and a short paragraph while older readers could enjoy reading more detailed information about the olympics.

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I saw these salt dough medals and thought they were too cute! Just your regular salt dough recipe, a little gold paint, and fun ribbon. How fun! 

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I hope these ideas inspire a little Olympic fun for you and your littles! Want this Trace and Color activity page? Click the link below for an instant download! Happy Olympic celebrating! 

Unit 9 Winter Recap

Unit 9 Winter Recap

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We loved our big pile of winter and snow themed books! Especially because these last few weeks in South Carolina have truly felt like winter! So chilly and perfect for snuggling up with books! :) One of our first activities was to practice counting with marshmallows and a cocoa counting page. Unfortunately, I dropped the ball and completely forgot to grab mini marshmallows at ALDI and we improvised. All the marshmallows from the box of Lucky Charms suited just as well. I might say Macie Jane enjoyed the activity all the more for that reason. :) 

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That same day we also did a receptive listening activity. The was something new and I was excited to try it with both girls! The activity uses a set of cards with different images printed on them. Each card has a written direction that I read aloud and the girls would follow. Phrases like, "touch the mitten by the mug with a snowflake" or "before you touch the mug touch the pink mitten." Some were more tricky than others but I think they really enjoyed the activity. Both girls asked to play it again! 

Scissor skill actives always hit a warm spot in Macie Jane's heart. I'm not sure I've met a little person who loves to chop paper into itty bitty bits as much as she does. :) I let her go town chopping up the paper to her heart's content after practicing following the lines. It's great hand strengthening and she's having fun so, why not?! 

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The Snowman invitation activity was a little surprising to me as far as who really took to it. I supplied the girls with a ball of orange Play-doh, tiny sticks, beads, crayons, and snow man templates. It was Sadie who really stuck with the activity long after Macie Jane lost interest. She made a whole snowman family and decorated them to the nines with beads and scribbles. Invitation to play activities are completely open ended. I give the materials and offer no directions or suggestions. I let their imagination lead the way. Typically these activities captivate both girls. (They do usually end up creating a sizable mess but nothing a little teamwork to tidy up can't fix.)

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We jumped back into journaling. The girls both have Primary Composition notebooks. They have blank space at the top of the page for coloring and wide guidelines for writing. We glue projects into the notebooks (rightwards, letter of the week, etc) but mostly we use them to draw a picture of our Bible story, unit theme, or anything they imagine. We accompany they pictures with dictated sentences. I'll ask them about what they colored and write it down. In the next month or so I'll start letting Macie Jane title her picture. I'll dot out the title and she'll just trace the letters.

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We got good counting and number reading practice in too! Both snowman popsicle stick and the muffin tin counting activities required Macie Jane to read number words and comprehend their meaning. Bonus: The popsicle stick snowmen were just TOO cute!

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We wrapped the week up with a FAVORITE activity! Back from last year by popular demand, I recreated the hot cocoa sensory bin. A bag or two of pinto beans, cottonballs, toy mugs, and a ladle. Y'all, I can't tell you how long they played "Hot Cocoa Shop" (...also can't tell you how many pinto beans I keep finding everywhere- haha!) They LOVED this! They came back to it throughout the weekend before I put it up for my sanity sake, but I think I'll be pulling it out again this week for sure. They're just too cute playing together. 

It was a really sweet and super fun week learning about winter, playing and learning with the winter theme, reading number words, practicing fine/larger motor skills, speech, STEM, and more! Now we're excited to hop into all things Valentine's! We'd love to have you join us! Find our newest unit and a list of all you'll need to follow along on the resource page or click the link below! 

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Click to get your February Play & Learn Calendar! 

How I Organize

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I recently read Emily Ley's book Simplified Life. I loved it! She is like minded to me. Y'all, less really is MORE! 

A common question I get is about how to organize all the preschool things. First of all I want you to know you don't need lots of stuff to do preschool well! Household items work just as well as the tools you'd find in the school supply section or in a traditional classroom. Counting bears are GREAT! (I love them!) but rotelle noodles work just as well! ...and you can dye them too! ;)

Here's my basic break down of everything preschool related in our house:

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Binder: All lessons, printouts, artifacts (I have a post coming next week all about the artifacts we keep and the projects we toss)

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Baskets: one for paper materials (construction paper, sentence strips, cardstock) one for randoms (stickers, yarn, beads, buttons, popsicle sticks, extra glue) one for paint supplies (paints, paint cups, brushes, smocks) and one for Play-Doh and accessories. [For inquiring minds, the baskets are from IKEA and the piece of furniture, also from IKEA, is the Kallax.]

Books: We, admittedly, do have a lot of books around the house. We keep some on the same shelf with the supply baskets, some in a basket in the girls' room, and the books specific to the unit we're studying are on a shelf in our den. Pretty much all of the books we have are borrowed from the local library. I have a few classics from my classroom and we've gotten some books as gifts but for the most part we borrow lots and lots of books. I rotate them often and keep a steady flow of new material to read/look through. 

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Calendar: Simple $2 calendar from Target's One Spot and cute covers from my resource page

Pocket Chart: Anchors like alphabet cards, sight words, numbers, etc. 

Easel: Clips to display daily work (mostly so we remember to show Daddy when he gets home!)

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We keep some paper activities and art projects but not most. A lot of what we keep goes in the girls composition notebooks because they are (in my mind) the artifact that will last longest. :) My sentimental heart imagines going through them with my adolescent children and smiling at the beginning of their educational careers. :) 

As you sort through your school supplies and resources try to keep in mind, less is more! The beauty of using the Little Learner curriculum is that it's a digital file saved on your computer. Print as many pages as you desire and feel freedom as you toss activities as you complete them. Tuck a few into that composition notebook or frame an art project here or there but don't feel compelled to keep it all. Supply-wise, I'd keep a few staples on hand (construction paper, glue, yarn, play-doh, etc) but for the most part you don't need a lot of stuff. I'll continue to keep the curriculum simple and resources minimal! 

Unit 8 Penguins Recap

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The last two weeks have been full of penguin fun! We started out 2018 with all kinds of arctic animal learning and playing! Macie Jane learned a new sight word, "it." I always love when the sight words are easy to sound out. I wonder if your little had as much fun sounding out the word "it" as we did? I hope so! That tell-tale I'm-so-proud smile is one of the best things! It thrilled my heart to see her beam with excitement reading a word! I know it did the same for yours! Sadie (3) isn't doing sight words yet but she had her moments beaming with pride this week too! I think the shape penguins were her most favorite! Feeling extra proud of her shape identification skills!  :) What were your little celebrations and victories in the penguin unit? Whether they're big, hard things you've been working through or tiny victories I think it's super important to really celebrate growth! Keep the learning positive and focus on the good! :) 

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As far as favorite activity goes the jury is still out. Both girls LOVED the letter snow tray and I loved that clean up was as simple as running the vacuum. :) I filled a shallow container with epsom salt and the girls used their fingers to draw letters (Macie Jane) or make shapes (Sadie) Aren't sensory activities so much fun!? The other favorite was easily the Roll-a-Shape activity! This one both girls really got in to. Sadie had fun recognizing shapes (and throwing the cube- haha!) while Macie Jane really enjoyed graphing out the information. They would take turns tossing the cube, recognize the shape on top, and then add a stamp the chart for each shape rolled. 

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The instinctively of a competitive nature is just so funny to me! Macie Jane exclaimed as we rolled and played which shapes were "winning" and which didn't have any stamps or had very few. :)  

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Shape penguins were a lot of fun too! I got a lot of really funny messages and emails from y'all about the directions on this one. :) I'm updating the unit with example pictures for all future uses. Drop me an email if you purchased the unit and want the updated version. :) hello@alittlelearner.com

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This afternoon we wrapped up the unit with a little shaving cream play and a really great STEM activity! We harvested ice from a bowl using salt and string! I'm not sure how much salt we have left in the house but the girls had so much fun trying to get the ice to stick to the string! 

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We read lots of both fiction and non-fiction stories in this unit and if the weather permits (it's been crazy cold here) we're planning to visit the zoo soon to see the penguins play! :) What was your favorite part of the unit? I always love hearing from you! I hope you'll join us next week as we jump into our next unit on Winter! Click the button below to see a preview of the unit and find a book list if you want to get some of the books on hold at your local library. :) 

Unit Nine: Winter
5.00

An interactive, fun-filled unit themed all about winter! Almost 30 full color pages focusing on skills such as literacy, numeracy, geometry, speech, rhyming, motor skills, STEM, and much more! Required resources are minimal. Accommodations for support or enrichment are included in the activity descriptions. This unit includes a BONUS activity to make your own- use it to review letters, numbers, shapes, colors or anything you can imagine! 

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Rhyme Time

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Rhyming skills help to build a good foundation for reading so we've been reading lots of rhyming stories and doing rhyming activities. In our Penguin unit we took our rhyming practice one step further. We used the image cards from an initial sound activity and paired them with this Rhyme Time activity. 

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To begin I set the image cards on the table. We identify each one together so I am sure she knows what word I'm looking for her to know.

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Then, I'll read the pretend word and real word. I'll pause and wait for her to add the rhyming word using the pictures to guide her response. Once she feels more comfortable we moved on to using other image cards to practice rhymes without the Rhyme Time activity page. For fun every now and then I'll call out some rhyming words and see if she can add one. Maybe while I'm fixing lunch I'll say "at, mat..." and wait to see if she can finish it with another -at rhyming word. Sometimes you do't even have to prepare for an activity just little tiny bits of practice throughout the day to slowly develop those foundational skills. :) 

Our previous 3 units (Fall, Christmas, and habitats have additional rhyme activities if you're looking for more! Click the button below to find them! 

Unit Eight: Penguins
5.00
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January Play & Learn Calendar

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Intentional time together- it's something I'm pretty passionate about. It's no secret that my love language is quality time and it thrills my soul that I get to spend my days with my little loves. Basically, my job is quality time, right?! :) My little girls and I make precious memories together around the table as we adventure through preschool. Rutledge, our baby, gets all the quality time he wants as he spends a fair share of the day in my arms-  I do NOT hate it. :) However, there are days that pass and I wonder, "was I intentional about my relationship with ____?" 

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To inspire us all to be a bit more intentional I created the Play & Learn calendar. Little activities that take five minutes or less but carry an impact that lasts much longer. There's no prep, nothing to shop for, or stress. Print the calendar and place it somewhere prominent- a refrigerator or door. Glance at the activity for the day and jump on it! There's no prize for completing every single day and no shame in doing only the days that suit your family most. 

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The calendar is perfect for including those little loves who aren't quite ready for a preschool program but you want to start them on the preschool track. Activities build skills in a variety of areas- literacy, math, motor skills, speech, problem solving, and more! 

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Why not kick off the new year with a new goal for intentional time together. Help your little build skills and have fun at the same time! Find the download below! Happy Learning & Playing! 

with love,

Carla 

12 Days of Christmas Memory Making

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There's no question at this time of year we all feel the crunch. Personally, I'm currently sitting beside a stack of 100 Christmas cards still needing to be stuffed, addressed, sealed, and mailed. We've decorated the tree but the first Christmas present has yet to be purchased! Well, actually I think we have one. :) All this to say we have A LOT still to do. 

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This is my favorite time of year. I love how LOVE filled this season is! So many fun things to do and memories to make. I created this 12 days of Christmas activity as a means to be intentional with family time. I'm certain I'm not alone when I say sometimes my littles just get caught in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. This morning all three bounced around our city from one stop to the next getting errands run. We got a lot accomplished and there were bits of intentional conversation from stop to stop and in the car but there wasn't any slow, one-on-one (or one-on-three) time. And that's ok. There will be days filled with all the fullness of Christmas stuff, but my heart was to give you a tool to help facilitate even just one small activity or memory together. Almost none of the activities require special preparation and there are a few extra activities sprinkled in so you can choose the 12 that suit your family best. 

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The activities range from things like looking at pictures of Christmas's past (thank you camera roll) to things like celebrating Jesus with a birthday party (hello, leftover birthday plates from someone's birthday this year!) These activities aren't meant to be elaborate, Pinterest worthy, or even something you'd post on social media. These activities are meant for you and your children. They're meant for memory making and quality time together. Maybe it's 5 minutes of intentional, heart cultivating time on the couch together or a morning of child-led decorating and preparation for a birthday party with pretend food or play-doh! Don't let this weigh you down or feel like one more thing. If your holidays are full than walk in freedom to say this isn't for you, BUT if you're looking for something simple, small, [and free] I would love to share this download with you! 

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The download includes 15 hand designed watercolor ornaments with 15 corresponding activities to give you flexibility in choosing what 12 activities your family will want to pursue. It's set up for easy double sided printing to save you another step too! (We're all about saving time in December, right?!) All you'll need to do is cut them out, add a little string, and enjoy! 

Merry Christmas with Love,

Carla 

Unit Seven: Christmas
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Celebrate the season and holiday with preschool fun! Enjoy 20+ pages of activities, instructions, and resources for preschool learning fun! This unit's literacy focus is rhyming and the math focus is measurement and measurement tools. A new sight word is introduced in this unit with corresponding activity pages. Activities include hands on fun, a STEM experiment, process art, phonemic awareness practice and more! 

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Great Gifts for Christmas - Four Year Olds

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Happy Thanksgiving! My last post on great gifts is here in time for all the BIG sales tomorrow! Today I'm sharing some of my favorite gifts for four year olds. Some of these are on major sale tomorrow so I made sure to share links to the best sales! 

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A self contained, completely mess free coloring book- it doesn't get much better than Melissa & Doug's Water Wow books. The brush marker fills and easily refills with water for continued use. The coloring pages come to life in full color with the brush marker and the best part is after the water evaporates the coloring book is ready to be used again and again. We have loved these for waiting in restaurants, doctor offices, or in church. They're small enough to toss into a purse or backpack and a great for keeping little ones entertained and mess free. They're also inexpensive enough to make great stocking stuffers! :)  Cost: Under $5

Water Wow

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I love this one because it gets littles up and moving! We love activities that help get energy out and get little feet moving! [read: daily dance parties] The Musical Jump 'N Toss beetle spins to music at various speeds as your little hops over the poles. Alternatively this toy converts into a spinning ring toss. Both activities support developing large motor skills. The structure is sturdy and durable for long lasting play. Cost: $25

Musical Jump 'n Toss

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We first discovered these at our local library. Picasso tiles are so much fun and perfect for open ended fun. The possibilities are endless! These brightly colored, magnetic tiles attract to each other to build and design anything your little can dream up. This set is a good size making it great for sharing if you have more than one little builder. This is also another one of those great toys that grows with your child. He/She will enjoying building with them as they get older.  Cost: $40

PicassoTiles

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Who remembers this treasure from our childhood? Who didn't have a Magna Doodle? These toys are classic and so much fun for littles who love to draw and are beginning to write. Even better than a whiteboard, the Doodle Pro is perfect for little ones learning to write letters, their name, etc. The magnet stamps just add to the fun. Personally, I love that the pen is attached so it doesn't get lost and it's slim structure make it a perfect toy for longer car rides too. Save yourself a little sanity in the car ride home from the holidays with the Fisher Prices Doodle Pro! You can't beat the price too! Cost: $10

Doodle Pro

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Take the next step up from the classic peg puzzles and challenge the mind of your little with a larger puzzle. These wooden jigsaw puzzles are the best and need little explanation. Puzzles help develop problem solving skills and logical and spacial reasoning. This set is colorful, fun, and durable for long lasting fun! I found a bundled set of 2 puzzles for under $15 and linked it up below! Cost: $15

Melissa & Doug Puzzles

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This is a gift I'm most excited about. Macie Jane (4) is just old enough to start playing and really enjoying board games. These are perfect for spending good, quality one on one time together while the little two nap. Classic games like Candy Land and Hi Ho Cherry-O are timeless and so much fun! Giggle Wiggle is a newer game and I personally guarantee you can not play this game with your little love with a straight face. You and your littles will be rolling with laughter trying to race marbles to the top! Cost: $13- $15

Candy Land

Hi Ho Cherry-O

Giggle Wiggle

Happy Christmas shopping! I hope these ideas help! I'd love to hear about your holiday finds! What great educational or creativity inspiring treasures have you found? Is there something on your little's list that I missed? I'd love getting feedback from YOU! 

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Great Gifts for Christmas - Three Year Olds

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Black Friday is just a little over a week away! How crazy is that?! Whether you've begun Christmas shopping or not there's no denying the holidays are upon us! Isn't it wonderful?! I love this time of year. I'm not sure the world could ever have enough twinkle lights. :)  If you're feeling bogged down with to-do lists or wish lists I'm here to help make your life a little bit easier. Today I'm sharing our favorite gifts for 3 year olds. 6 different ideas to inspire your littles to be creative, imagine new things, exercise skills, and grow their minds. 

First up is a classic game- Memory! There isn't anything specifically special about this one it's just the one we have and my littles have enjoyed. Memory is an early introduction for your little to logic, deduction, and memorization. This particular game boasts a more sturdy construction with cards made from heavier cardboard. The images are bright, colorful, and engaging. Cost: $9 [but I have seen it for less at TJ Maxx and Home Goods too]

Memory Game

Imaginations are really starting to spark for 3 year olds and dress ups are a great way to play pretend. Dress ups aren't just for girls. One of my favorite children's product lines is Melissa and Doug. They have awesome dress ups for little girls and little boys alike- everything from airline pilot to princess to veterinarian and construction worker. Dress ups are pretty easy to find right now too. After Halloween most consignment shops drop prices on dress ups and you'll see more coming in. Not to mention you can always find a slew of dress ups on Amazon. Cost: $18-$25

Dress Up Clothes

If you've followed along with our preschool fun this year you already know how much we love a good set of Do - A - Dot markers. :)  They're bright and fun and most importantly washable! They're a marker and a paint all in one. They're great for developing hand-eye coordination and color recognition skills. As a mama I love how quickly the ink/paint dries.  [Shameless plug: We have weekly Do - A - Dot letter activities in my newsletter.] 

Do - A - Dot Markers

So the catch with this one is that it's from IKEA (read: not available on PRIME) but it's worth the deal if you live near one. It's less than half the cost of other art easels, reasonably close in quality of construction, and perfect for little creative minds. It's double sided with a chalkboard and whiteboard. It folds flat for easy storage and has a helpful shelf to hold markers, chalk or other accessories. This one is a steal at $20.

MALA Easel

This is easily one of my favorite toys. It's just so cool! The take apart truck completely disassembles, comes with oversized parts and fasteners, and comes with a battery operated drill to fit all the pieces back together again. The Take Apart Truck is sure to be a hit for the little builder/problem solver in your family. This toy is great for developing hand-eye coordination, visualization, matching skills, and logical thinking. The price tag isn't too bad either at around $20. Added bonus, the maker guarantees your little one will love it or it's free! 

Take Apart Truck

I know Play-Doh isn't for everyone so this one may be a hit or miss for different families. If you can tolerate the mess and mixing of colors this set will definitely keep your littles happy, engaged, and creative for a good period of time. I'm a big fan of Play-Doh for it's endless possibilities, it's open ended nature, and it's encouragement of fine motor skills. Almost all of our Play-Doh is mixed together but that doesn't seem to matter to the girls. Every now and then I'll swap out the old mixed up doh for a new container because they're less that $1 at Walmart. This whole set; six containers of Play-Doh, various tools and a press cost around $10.

Play-Doh

Hopefully these ideas have inspired and encouraged you. I'd love to hear your favorite gifts for 3 year olds! Any ideas you'd love to share? Comment below with what your 3 year old is loving lately! Merry Christmas, friends! 

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Unit Six: Fall & Thanksgiving
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Celebrate the season and holiday with preschool fun! Enjoy 20+ pages of activities, instructions, and resources for preschool learning fun! This unit's literacy focus is rhyming and the math focus is measurement and measurement tools. A new sight word is introduced in this unit with corresponding activity pages. Activities include hands on fun, a STEM experiment, process art, phonemic awareness practice and more! 

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How to Dye Pasta Noodles

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I've written about dying rice (y'all know I love rainbow rice!) but I wanted to share about noodles too! Back in the Fall we made noodle necklaces to practice patterns and it was so much fun. Just as simple as dying rice and maybe even a little easier. Here's what you'll need

  • noodles (the bigger the better- rotelle, rigatoni, & elbow are our favorite)
  • vinegar
  • food coloring
  • ziplock bags

Divide the noodles into ziplock bags, add a few drops of food color (the more you use the darker the color), and 1 teaspoon of vinegar. If the color isn't spreading as much as you'd prefer add more vinegar 1 teaspoon at a time- less is more so smoosh your bag of noodles around before adding more food color or vinegar to see if that helps first.)

Pour your noodles out on wax paper to dry (I usually leave mine over night but they don't really need that much time to dry) and voila! You have colorful fun noodles that work great as manipulatives, crafts, or anything your imagination desires! :) 

Sight Word Work
5.00

An introduction to to sight word work for older preschoolers/kindergarteners. 25 weeks of activity pages (one word per week.) Each week a new word is introduced along with an interactive work page. Littles will color, find, cut, and paste the sight word of the week. 

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Great Gifts for Christmas - Two Year Olds

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Last week I started a series of post on gifts for our little loves. It's the most wonderful time of year again and to help make this holiday season just a little easier for you I've collected ideas on great gifts for babies up through preschool age. So many of the gifts I shared last week would suit well for a younger two year old as well. In this post I'm sharing just 6 ideas for toys that help develop creativity, spark imagination, and are just plain fun for the terrific two year old in your life! 

 

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First up is the Fisher Price Medical Kit. Pretend and Role play begins around 2 years old. This adorable set is perfect to take real life experience and pair it with fun. Everyone visits the doctor for their well check ups. Sometimes those visits come with a negative stigma. Why not help encourage the heart of your little with a medical bag of fun? Our Sadie had a number of doctor/specialist visits early in her life and continues to today. One way we helped alleviate her fears was to play check up at home. From checking her sister's temperature to listening to little brother's heartbeat the doctor kit was a big hit. (We even brought it with us on a check up once to help ease her nervousness!) In addition it, "helps little ones develop healthy habits and sharing skills while giving imagination a big boost." Whether your little loves the doctors office or not this 7 piece set is sure to be a whole lot of fun! Cost: a little over $12

Fisher Price Medical Kit

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This one needs little explanation. What two year old doesn't love a little messy fun!? Paint that you can do with your hands- why not? This kit comes with three tubes of washable color (red, yellow, and blue) and 10 sheets of large sized paper specifically designed to work with finger paint. Read: paint doesn't seep through! :) Washability is always a big factor when I choose paint for the children to play with here as I imagine it is for you. I'm happy to report we have never had a problem washing out any of Crayola's washable paints. It's easily removed from fingers, nail beds, clothes, workspaces, etc. Cost: $9

In addition to this set, I highly recommend IKEA's roll of white paper if you happen to live near one you can hop over to. 

Crayola My First Finger Paints

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Mega Bloks are probably one of the very best ways to support developing creativity and make for perfect open ended play. Dream up, build, or take apart any creation you can think of! Little developing fingers and hands get great practice with hand-eye coordination using Mega Bloks. This is another toy to grow with your child. He/she will enjoy it for years to come as their maturity and creativity grows. For less than $15 you get 80 large sized, easily to build with blocks. The packaging is durable for reusability too! Hello after Christmas organization! Mega bloks are all interchangeable within the brand so should you decide to get more they will all work together! Cost: $14.92

Classic Mega Bloks

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Board books are really perfect for any age but I especially love them for two year olds because they can survive the crib. :) Around 2 we start leaving a board book or two in bed with our children to look through and enjoy should they wake early or as they are preparing to nap. Board books stand up to the test of little fingers tearing, toss, or banging on them. They also play a role in developing that love for reading and learning we all desire for in our children.  [I have, however, lost a few to the washing machine R.I.P. so you definitely want to grab them out of the crib sheet before tossing it into the machine and save yourself the disappointment.] Cost: $7-$15

Little Blue Truck Board Book

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This one I have to say has been a HUGE hit in our house! Even for Rutledge (1) and Macie Jane (4) but especially  Sadie (2). There are plenty of times where she pretends the pot is for coffee and she enjoys her morning "coffee" (AKA an empty cup) with me. The cake comes in 4 pieces for practicing stacking. The teapot has three different levels of play and sings 7 different songs. But most importantly for Mom and Dad- it has an off switch and volume control. One of the kids' favorite feature is it's real pouring sounds when they tilt the teapot! A great gift for the tea party animal in your life. Cost: $20

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn

Smart Stages Tea Set

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I saved my very most favorite for last! You really can't go wrong with anything from Melissa & Doug, but this one takes the cake in our family this year! It's 6 pieces of pretend play- from sweeping to dusting or moping your little is sure to have fun while "helping" around the house. Again, role/pretend play begins at this stage of development and how many times do we hear our little loves ask, "I help?" Wouldn't it be great to say "Yes!" I also love how this toy is made of durable wood and comes with it's own storage rack for easy access and clean up. :) The price really isn't too bad either considering the type of sturdy construction this toy is made with. Cost: $25

Melissa & Doug Let's Play House

There you have it! My favorite toys for two year olds! What does your two year old love? Anything I missed? Sharing is caring- let me know your thoughts! :) 

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Great Gifts for Christmas - One Year Olds

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It's the most wonderful time of the year! It's hard to believe Christmas is right around the corner already. I honestly feel like I blink in October and, POOF! it's January. This year I'm determined not to get behind so I'm starting early and in case you are too, I'm sharing a few gift ideas over the next week or so to help shop for those little loves in your life- whether it's your child, niece, nephew, neighbor, or best friend's family these toy are sure to be a hit! I'm starting with the youngest first. These are 1 year old approved, tried, and tested true. I included (non-affiliate) links for your convenience. :) 

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Bath toys have always been a hit in our house. Our little ones take A LOT of baths. (Anyone else's children love to run sticky fingers through their hair?!) These foam letters/numbers were all three of our crew's favorite. They stick to the tub/shower walls when wet AND they stick to little tummy too- lots of laughs there! :) They wipe off and are easy to keep clean. Additionally they come a a great price! 36 pieces for less than $6. These would also make a great stocking stuffer. 

Munchkin Letters and Numbers Bath Toys

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This one my aunt and uncle actually have and my cute crew go crazy over it! This adorable and hilarious dino bounces balls from it's wiggly belly and back. All three laugh so much trying to catch the bouncing balls and put them back in the dino before they bounce right out again. This toy is so great for one year olds as they continue to develop grasping skills, hand-eye coordination, and problem solving. It's durable and battery operated. 

Double Poppin' Dino

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Baby's first Dolly! Plush baby dolls are great gifts for one year olds! They help encourage that nurturing spirit with in your little one and a great for mimicking or role playing if your family happens to be expanding in the future. Added bonus, plush dolls are machine washable! So when your little love is so attached to her baby that she can't imagine going to lunch without it and subsequently gets covered in Chick Fil A sauce, you can easily toss the dolly into the washing machine and she comes out good as gold! #momwin

Snuggle Up Doll

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This one is a gender neutral hit! Boy or girl the little love in your life will have a ball pressing and chasing this colorful bug! What a fun way to learn cause and effect too! Your little love learns when you press him he goes and goes and goes! If you have a newer one year old in your life the press and go worm encourages crawling and walking as your little tries to catch/find the worm! It works by spring action so no batteries are needed. [Macie Jane got this as a one year old and now Rutledge enjoys it 4 years later!]

Press N Go Inchworm

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What is it about cars that kids just love them so much?! Both girls liked cars but my Rutledge especially loves them! Maybe there's something in the DNA of a boy that a love of cars is ingrained? Either way, little ones are sure to love this classic toy! There are over 400 reviews of this toy on Amazon and the biggest stand out was durability. Someone even used the word "indestructible." If you have a busy boy you know what value an indestructible toy has. It's great for little hands to grasp and roll along the floor or an outdoor area. 

Kid O Go Car Early Learning Push and Pull Toy

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This one, unquestionably, is my most favorite- probably mostly because of nostalgia. How many of us had a shape sorter toy as a child. You don't need a whole lot of explanation on how educational this toy is and how much your little will enjoy it. This is another toy that makes for great practice problem solving. Additionally, this toy will grow with your child providing opportunity for conversations on color and shape recognition. Also, this toy is it's own container! Play with and store the components all in one place! Added Bonus: This toy is great on the Christmas budget at less than $8! 

Brilliant Basics Baby's First Blocks

What are your favorite toys for one year olds? Anything on your list that I missed?! We're always on the hunt for great gifts too! Check back in a few days for a new post on Great Gifts for Christmas- Two Year Olds!  Merry Merry! 

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Building Relationships: Room Sharing

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Last week I began a series on helping build sibling relationships in our children. First and probably foremost we have to be examples to our littles. They watch everything we do and make connections between the relationships we have with the relationships they are developing. Read more about being an example in my last post

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Another way to build cooperative skills is to create opportunities for skill building. This idea might be met with initial hesitation but trust me it's not as difficult a process as it seems. A great way for little ones to spend time together is through room sharing. There's no question, small children have no concept of personal space which suits great when you want to put them together in a bedroom. They'll likely take a few days to adjust and then from there you may be surprised how well they do sleeping together without waking each other up. Our girls began sharing a room when Sadie was 9 months old. Macie Jane was just over 2 1/2. I think I held my breath for the first two weeks but I'm telling you, honestly, it really wasn't bad. Now they have the sweetest little conversations at night after we put them to bed. Our rule is they must stay on their own beds but we leave a small lamp on for them to read or talk until they fall asleep. (After falling asleep we go in an turn the light off.) I firmly believe this is a sacred place of childhood memories. There are times when they have conflict but room sharing provides the perfect opportunity for them work through it. Sometimes they need a little support from us but for the most part they can work through things on their own even at 2 and 4. 

What are your thoughts on room sharing? I'd love to hear your successes or adventures in teaching your littles to share! :) 

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Introducing Scissors

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Fine motor skills and tiny fingers can easily cause frustration. Giving our littles plenty of opportunity to use and move their hands in projects is a good thing! Play-doh, using writing utensils, sensory bins, etc. I've held off on scissor skills for Sadie so far because she's just two and I'm not sure she's ready. However, she lets me know just how much she wants a chance to try using them every time she sees Macie Jane using them. It really depends on the child when you want to start letting him/her use scissors and there are lots of great scissor options out there for novice cutters. For today's activity I had Sadie use a pair of zig-zag scissors. I wanted her to be able to learn the correct grip and practice opening and closing her hand, however, how much she actually cut wasn't of importance today. (Although, she did find a way to cut.)

Teaching Proper Technique

Cutting with scissors requires the skill of hand separation, which is the ability to use the thumb, index, and middle finger separately from the little and ring finger. The wrist should be vertical. It's the vertical wrist that gives little ones a tough time. To help the girls remember I draw a small smiley face on their thumb nail to remind them to keep the smiley looking up. It really works ...except now they keep asking for smileys on all their fingers all the time. :) 

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Here are a few of my favorite training scissors:

These are great because the wide hand opening encourages tiny hands to give them a try. No tears crying, "mommy, my hand doesn't fit!" They also have a spring to help the safety blades pop back open for little ones still learning about the open/close motion. These boast the added benefit of cutting only paper so you can rest a little easy knowing no one is going to be giving themselves and unwanted hair cut or that the furniture is safe. :) 

These are the pair of scissors that Macie Jane used. They're safety scissors as well. The blunt tip makes me feel better about letting my 4 year old use them. They do not have the spring to open the blades back up so these would be for a little one with more developed fine motor skills. 

Here's my shameless IKEA plug (you'd think I'd get a kick back from them. haha!) We love this set from IKEA. Those zig zag scissors are the ones Sadie used today. They are simple, safe to cut only paper, and the set is only $4 for both. 

Building Relationships: Being the Example

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Having three very small children in our home requires us to slow down a good bit. One thing we slow down for lately has been to take time and talk through relationship struggles- the girls sharing, understanding their baby brother, working through differences in opinion, etc. It's not always convenient but we want to help them cultivate relationships with one another. The majority of children aren't innately inclined to share, speak kindly, and help one another. If we want to cultivate these traits in our children we can help them by being strategic, making a plan, and teaching them. I wouldn't say these ideas are foolproof nor that they'll absolutely work in every family, but they are ideas to think about. 

The first and arguably most important step might be the most challenging. We have to be an example. Even when we're tired, frustrated, and at times selfish (speaking to myself here) we have to lay our desires down and choose to be kind, to share, or offer help. We've all heard it a zillion times, "more is caught than taught." They watch us and mimic us so much more than we realize. If I speak sharply I shouldn't be the least bit surprised to hear my 2 year old snap at her sister. When I refuse to share that snack I'm hiding in the pantry to eat they notice and observe that although Mommy says to share, sharing only applies in certain situations. You get the idea.

Obviously there's a balance between adult and child behavior/privileges but one thing that continues to come to mind is that a lot of what we are working on with the children, I personally am working on too. Maybe Macie Jane struggles with self control when she's feeling tired- I am the exact same way. If I'm 31 still struggling how much more difficult must it be for a 4 year old? This is where grace brings such freedom to the mama's heart! When I mess up and I'm not the example I want to be for our children I can admit it. We sit down and talk about it and what a great reminder it is that we need the gospel so very much. Jesus would never have needed to come if people could be perfect. Jesus came because we are not perfect and we need Him so deeply. 

Reflect:

Consider the character traits you desire to see in your children and evaluate yourself. Do you exemplify the same things you're calling them to do?  I'm not insinuating that mama has to be perfect to get it together. I am saying holding yourself to a similar standard you hold your children to is important. You'll gain respect and the love of your children more than you realize in this one seemingly small act. Pray and ask the Lord to help you see ways to encourage the great things your littles are already doing and areas y'all can work on together. 

Next week's post in the Building Relationships series: Room Sharing.