Letter Christmas tree activity

We love Christmas here in the Wunderlich house. Lots and lots of Christmas. From the day after Thanksgiving to the Epiphany, we do Christmas. So it is only fitting that we are making letter Christmas trees this morning. 

Here’s how it works – cut out a Christmas tree from green paper (or whatever paper if your child wants a different color Christmas tree). If your child is handy with scissors, they can cut their own tree.

Then I wrote letters on the tree and put circles around each letter (for today we were doing B, D, b, d). Then give each letter a color. We glued red circles over the B’s, blue over the D’s, yellow stars over the b’s, and purple stars over the d’s. Then we hung the tree up on the wall. It is one of what will be many Christmas trees hanging on our walls this month.

There are several variations of this:

1. Use stickers instead of gluing things over each letter.

2. Color the circles/shapes instead of gluing things over them.

3. Have kids cut out letters (or use letter stickers like from scrapbooking sets) and have them “hang” words on the tree (if they can make words form letters). You might need bigger trees for this depending on the size of the letters.

If you have a great variation on this activity, don’t hesitate to post it in the comments section. If you send me a picture I’ll put it up on the website here.

Sticker books

I am a huge fan of stickers and sticker book. First, they improve motor skills because the kids have to peel off stickers and put them onto the paper. Second, they explore imagination in ways crayons cannot. Sure, the pictures are already drawn, but when I watch my kid put a skateboarder sticker on a tree and tell me it’s because he’s in a tree house and wanted to skateboard down to the ground, it shows me he can link things together and use his imagination.

Currently, we are using the Sesame Street sticker books. He knows the characters and they are big stickers. Plus, they are themed. The “Big Sticker Book” which we are using now – click here for the link –Sesame Street Laugh and Learn (Super Sticker Book) – is about fun outside. It’s nice because we have done most of these activities over the summer. We have seen most of the animals and enjoyed everything. So he likes doing it.

Plus, it is a semi-independent activity. I’m involved in his learning and love it. But sometimes I need him to sit somewhere while I am cooking and dicing vegetables. This book lets him do it. I cut out the stickers for the page and talk to him about it while he’s doing it. Periodically I go check and talk about what he has done and praise his abilities; not falsely, I just find something good about what he has done. Then he keeps going and I keep cooking (or cleaning). It works out for all of us.

So that’s why I love sticker books. They aren’t something I would use exclusively, but they are fun to use.

Trucks and more trucks!

There was an event a few weeks ago, put on by the Arden Parks and Rec called “Meet a Truck.” We went and had a blast. It inspired this lesson.

Sitting in a real excavator and getting to see what all the controls are supposed to do, and how it works, was a great experience for Nicholas.

First of all, we love to color. There are some great coloring pages for all kinds of trucks here. As an added bonus, you can color them online to give your child some practice with a mouse and computer.

We are learning how to sound out words. It is something that is an ongoing project. Every time Nicholas wants to know what a word is, we identify the first sound and then the first letter. This is a great driving time game for us. Every time we pass a truck when we are driving I ask him what the name of the truck is, and then what the first letter of the truck is. I am sure, at some point, we will get past the first letter to other letters. But for now we are just doing first letters. This is a link to a worksheet about first letters of transportation trucks. It helps him learn to identify sounds with letters, and what those letters look like as well.

We did the worksheet and he then got to color the trucks on the worksheet too.

As an extension of this activity, we linked the names of the vehicles to their pictures. He was really good at this. Since we had just done the worksheet based on the first letters, he was able to identify words based on their first letters.

We then went to Kikki’s Workshop and clicked around. This website is dedicated to all things construction trucks. He really liked being able to click on the truck and have me read about the truck to him. On their game page, he was able to play all kind of game with the construction trucks. One of the games was “Catch

While we were looking at all the trucks, we got to compare the size of the tires to each other and to how big we are. It was a blast.

them with the dump.” This translated, after finishing on the Internet, to a game he and I play. We took all the soft balls we had in the house and tossed them into the dump truck. And then Nicholas took them all out and I got to throw them around and he zoomed the truck around to catch them. This was quite the intense session of catch for him and he really worked up a sweat. I was glad to see that he took something he had learned and made it into a game we could play.

After that, we took a break and watched some videos of trucks that we found here. We then spent time reading The Little Blue Truck, Help I’m Stuck, Emergency Vehicles, and, How They Work: Construction Trucks.

Lastly, we played a game. I had the letters A-G written on index cards and we flipped them over so you couldn’t see the letters. Then he had to flip one over, say the letter, and say a truck that began with that letter. He got extra credit (a sticker) if he made the same noise as the truck and could tell me something the truck did. He ended up covered in stickers.

It was a fun lesson and had enough activities that we took the whole morning to do it. Even my daughter liked it – she really liked the books and the dump truck game (she crawled around, chasing the dump truck and helped empty it).

Sacramento Children’s Museum

Welcome to the Sacramento Children's Museum. This is their monster logo.

We love the Sacramento Children’s Museum.

They just opened not so long ago, and we visited once with the preschool group and have gone back at least once a week on our own. They have great exhibits for kids, family restrooms (so there’s none of this “I don’t want to go into the girl’s bathroom”), a quiet place to eat, a contained area where kids cannot get out by themselves, nice workers, and great parking (and a lot of it).

When you first go in they even have a lite-bright outside where you pay so your children can be occupied while you find your membership card and ID or pay your entrance fee. As a side note, they don’t let people in without kids. If you show up to meet someone there and you don’t have kids, the staff comes to find the people you are meeting. How awesome is that?!

They have an exhibit called “Raceways” which has golf balls that go down race tracks. There are signs all around to help parents teach their kids about the scientific principles involved. This way, if you don’t

Abby liked reaching into the box of golf balls at the bottom of the Raceways exhibit and then taking them out and putting them back in. Even better was if they came down the roller coaster into the box from someone else.

know why gravity works or roller coasters work, you don’t have to study before you go. You can just read it right there! It is awesome. They even have an air-suction-powered thing that you can put handkerchiefs and fluffy balls into and it will spit them back out. This was a favorite of my 11 month old daughter as she loved chasing the things as they came out; others had to put them into the machine. I have decided, when I have a spare wall and tons of spare money, this would

You can paint on one side of the glass wall while someone watches you from the other side!

be nice to have to send things from downstairs to upstairs.

They have a huge art area where you can paint on a glass wall, do collages, and basically make a mess. The best part is everything is right there and I don’t have to clean it up.

Nicholas really liked painting on the glass wall. I would stand on one side of it and he would paint over me. Then I would move around. I got painted on quite a bit.

The staff was really nice and didn’t mind that he mixed all the colors together. In fact, when they realized he wanted orange (as they found out when there was a pile of yellow and red paint on the wall) they even got some out for him so he didn’t have to make his own. I kind of liked watching him make his own colors – it means he was learning his lessons about the primary colors.

There is also a water area. This is where we spent a lot of time. The smart planners that they are, the museum has the floor of the water area covered in those mats, so there are no big puddles. They also have a hand dryer (that doubles as a really good t-shirt dryer) on the side wall. There are aprons to cover your

The water play area was fun for all.

kids if you – and they – want to. Mine decided against it. There are great stools that let the shorter kids reach all the way into the water play. But the tables are low enough that my 3.5 year old didn’t need them – he could make quite the wet mess all on his own.

They have this great little area for the smallest guests. There are som seats that you can put the kids into that reach right into the water. Abby loved this.

There is also, among our favorites, a shopping center and a “Baby Bloomers” area (for kids 3 and under).

We really like it here and hope they are going to be open for a long time.

Making spiders

 

A foam circle with the "legs" of the spider - pipe cleaners are wonderful things!

So Halloween was last week. We did a great lesson on spiders! And there were 2 crafts that went along with it to keep us in the Halloween mood. The crafts also provided the decorations for our house.

I browsed this link from Kennesaw State University to learn more about spiders before teaching this to the kids. Here’s another wonderful link to Kids Konnect about spiders as well.

The first thing we did was watch the video at National Geographic on spiders. It’s kind of gross, but the boys loved it.

We borrowed a lot of printables from this site. They had a great selection of activities for things to do with the “S is for spider” theme.

We also sang the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” song…a lot. I don’t know how much experience anyone else has with preschoolers, but the more they can sing a song, the better. It is even better if you let them do it faster, then slower, then louder, then softly, then while they are jumping, while they are spinning, while they are doing anything. if you change it up each time, they will really get the hang of the song and enjoy it.

And then we moved on to making our spiders. This whole idea started when I realized I didn’t have any Halloween decorations, and that I didn’t want to buy them. I am willing, however, to spend money in the $1 bins at Target and get craft supplies. So, a bunch of foam circles, pipe cleaners, and puffy things later, we are making spiders.

You start with a foam circle and put 4 legs on each side. The circles are easily punched through with the pipe cleaners. This forces the kids to actually do some fine motor skill work to put them together. Then you put out the glue and puffy balls and dip the balls into the glue and then glue them onto the circle. This really takes a lot more glue than you would think. Or maybe it’s just that the kids don’t do so well with glue yet. I put the eyes on after everyone was done. And there are the spiders!

We made 6 of these spiders before Nicholas lost interest in making them. They were placed all around the front entry way as out decorations for Halloween. Nicholas really liked them and thought it was fun to make them.

We also learned way more about spiders than I ever wanted to know. I don’t like them, and I really don’t like them after this.

Wonderful Fall printables pack.

While I was strolling around on the Internet, trying to find something to do with my preschoolers that involved numbers, letters, and pumpkins (or ghosts or something; it was Halloween), I came across this pack of printable activities:

Fall Learning Pack Printables

These printables come from the Homeschool Creations website and they are great. In addition to the Fall pack, they have a bunch of other packs for preschool.

One of the great things about these printables is that there is also a link to a blog about lessons they did with these printables. I think that is invaluable. Sometimes you are just short on time or ideas and want someone else’s opinion of what works. It is why blogs are great! The Homeschool Creations blog has tons of these ideas and is always good about sharing them and showing pictures of what they used. I am less good about that, but I am trying to get better.

The printables they have are all geared towards kids who are in preschool and pre-K. But a lot of them require, in order to do the worksheets by themselves, that the kids be able to trace, know their numbers, and match. Some of the printables require the children to know their letters.

However, my advice is to hang out while your child does these printables. If you want an activity to put your child at a table and let them go, try giving them a plain notebook and some crayons. Don’t give them “school work” or “learning work” or “worksheets” and let them go. That doesn’t let them have access to help – you – and doesn’t help them engage with you during the learning process. It also take you out of the learning process so you won’t know how much your child is learning or where their skills are. And if your child is anything like mine, he takes advantage of my turned back to do whatever he wants with the worksheets – which is not what the directions tell him to do. Then he smiles like a Cheshire cat and says, ‘i’m done!”

Links:

Themed preschool printable packs

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