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! 

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! 

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
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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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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
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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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Freedom for the Preschooler's Mama

Freedom for the Preschooler's Mama

These first years at home together are for enjoying- whether you stay home or work or work from home- enjoy this season. If doing educational activities or crafts is enjoyable then do it! I've got lots of ideas I'd love to share with you ;) ...but if it's not then let yourself off the hook. You are teaching more than you realize. When you read a book to your child, talk with your child, color with sidewalk chalk together you are making little investments. All those activities and zillions more come together to create a schema from which your little will put together ideas throughout her/his educational career. 

The big idea I want to get across is FREEDOM. I'll plan out the year, give you directions, suggestions, and materials and you enjoy investing in your little. Don't stress about curriculums and assessments- have fun and let me lead the way for you! 

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Ten Red Apples: Apple Counting Book

This morning we reread our story Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchinson. Reading research shows that reading and rereading texts helps improve a child's development as a reader. During this week we will read and reread our theme story each day. 

Today we made an apple shaped counting book to correspond with our story. I made a printable for this activity for you to use if you want to too! Supplies you will need are: apple shapes cut out and stapled with 10 blank pages inside, red paint, clothes pin, and pom pom. You'll pinch the pom pom between the clothes pin to make an apple dot stamp. 

We started with one apple dot on the first page and each page we stamped one more apple dot counting up to ten on the last page. (I helped a little more as we got closer to 10. It's hard for those little hands to stamp that many dots on small pages)

As the stamping progresses it does get a little more difficult to differentiate the apples from one another so adding a few little details does help. After her book was made and dried we went through it counting the apples. Each page I would have her touch each stamped apple dot as she counted. She loved the book and was so proud of her creation!

The skills we practiced today were: concepts of print, literacy, numeracy, one-to-one correspondence.