Toddler Tuesdays: Color matching.

I saw these great ideas for sensory bins over on Pintrest. I finally joined Pintrest (which is a HUGE time suck for me).

Our color sensory bin.

Our color sensory bin.

Now I find bunches of ideas there and can’t wait to do them all except…..well…..we don’t have time to do them all. I’ve decided I have to stay away from Pintrest unless I’m searching for something specific. At the end of the article, there will be links to several places to see what they use as sensory bins.

Abby is a little above the age for a strict sensory bin. So, instead, I made her one with a purpose.

Here’s what I used:

1. A tin casserole pan

2. Pompoms of various colors

3. Index cards and markers to write the color names

4. Tongs

Let’s talk about the tongs: Abby got to pick them out. Since I let them pick out their pencils, I decided to let her pick out her tongs because she’s going to have to use them. She picked out a super basic pair. She liked the shiny silver ones. So okay.

When we went to use them, she got frustrated easily. Tongs aren’t easy for kids to learn to use. It’s a new way to use their hands and focus on how to move their muscles. It’s weird, because she doesn’t get frustrated with scissors nearly as much. But the tongs frustrated her. So she used them for 5 minutes and then used her hand.

Here’s how it worked:

1. She had to get all the color cards out of the bin, say the name of the color as she pulled it out, and then we set them down on the floor next to her.

2. She used the tongs to pull out pompoms, and matched the pompom to the right card based on color.

3. Nicholas was a bit envious of her doing this, so he did it after her – but he did it in German and had to say not on the color, but whether it was a big, little, or medium pompom.

4. She wanted to do it again, but faster. So I started timing her. She wanted to beat her time each time she did it. Let’s just say, this took up a whole hour with her repeating the bin several times.

That’s how our hour went. It was a great hour for her because she got to do something fun, while learning, seeing how letters make words, and reviewing colors. She also got to use muscles she doesn’t normally use (with the tongs). It was a really good activity for her to do. It made me excited to make more bins. Plus, it was something just for her. it wasn’t something that Nicholas had done before, or that Nicholas was doing and she just got to do as well. Instead, it was focused just for her.

I put it away after two days of doing it. I figure two days is enough, and she can practice something else. Now to use all these wonderful links and make more sensory/learning bins.

Links to more articles on sensory bins

50 Sensory Bin Ideas

Play Create Explore Sensory Bins

7 Simple Sensory Bins

30 Sensory Bin Ideas



Random things we use……

There are a bunch of “random” books in our house that we use for “school time.”

You notice that “random” and “school time” are in quotes – and there’s a reason. Nothing is randomly gotten in this house. I pick things that the kids will like to do – or that I know we need. Other people think the books are random because they don’t seem to follow a theme. School time is also a variable concept. Dot to dots and mazes teach children important things – counting, problem solving, logic, fine motor skills, shapes….the list goes on and on. So while there might not be a lesson in sight, the kids are still learning. Even better is when they think they are playing.

Here’s a list of some of the things in our house I use to support learning, without the kids knowing they are learning. There’s probably a lot more than this, but these are the items we use a lot.

If I could find a link to it, I included the link:

Construction truck dot to dots

Anything art related – especially the dot art paints and books

Dinosaur coloring books

Everything dot to dot book



Princess books

Everything gross mazes

Legos (and lots of them!!!)


Logic Links

Play money they use in their play kitchen – mostly when they play restaurant

Dress up box




Mammals lesson.

We are headed to the Oakland Zoo on Friday with Grandma, so Thursday’s lesson is all about, “What is a Mammal?”

A mammal has a couple of characteristics – and I’m only listing the ones I expect my son to know.

  1. Mammals have hair.
  2. Mammals nourish their young with milk.
  3. Mammals are warm blooded.
  • Fastest mammal (also the fastest land animal): the cheetah (60-70 mph = 97-110 kph)
  • Slowest mammal – the sloth (less than 1 mph, or 2 kph)
  • Biggest mammal, biggest animal that ever lived on Earth – the blue whale
  • Biggest land mammal– the African Elephant
  • Tallest mammal – the giraffe
  • Smallest mammals – the pygmy shrew (weighing 1.2-2.7 gm) and the bumblebee bat (weighing about 2 gm)
  • Loudest mammal – the Blue Whale. The second loudest is the Howler Monkey.
  • Smallest newborns – marsupials (pouched mammals, like the kangaroo)
  • Smelliest mammal – the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

So now what to do with the information – I know, a test! So I wrote down the characteristics of a mammal on some Post-its (I love Post-its). I put the numbers 1, 2, and 3 up on our white board. Nicholas had to name off the characteristics and put it on the white board. He knew he got all three when there were Post-it’s next to each number.

Then we did a mammal word search.

And we drew an elephant.

And we went and played around on this wonderful page about mammals.

We also went through our animal stickers and made a collage of “mammals” and “non-mammals.” It was a simple piece of paper with a line down the middle and he had to put the pictures of mammals on one side and non-mammals on the other. Abby did this one too – although I let Nicholas tell her where each of the stickers went on her page.

Lastly, we did some matching. I wrote down the facts about mammals (from the bullet points above) and printed out pictures of each of those mammals. Then he had to match up the fact with the animal. We pasted those onto some construction paper so he could make a poster out of them.

Lastly, we went to the Oakland Zoo’s webpage and wrote down the names of all the mammals he wanted to visit. So that will be our guide while we are visiting the zoo.


Numbers and letters

I really like Starfall’s number and letter generator. They make these great worksheets that are good for preschool on up to first grade – depending on how you use them.

I use these as Nicholas’ chance to teach Abby. He really likes teaching her, and she LOVES to do the same thing he is doing. So we do one letter and one number a day (this week it is numbers 1-4 and letters A-D).

Number worksheets

I put the worksheets on the table and Nicholas shows her where the number is an helps her count the objects. Then I help her trace the number once, and she does the rest (with varying degrees of success). Nicholas blows through tracing the numbers, and moves onto writing the words. He shows Abby each of the letters in the words and points them out to her – after he’s finished writing the words.

Lastly, he tells Abby what the objects are and what color she should color them. Then they attempt to draw the objects in the blank square next to them. This works best with triangles and ovals, although I use the suns and leaves sometimes for a change.

Letter worksheets

The letter worksheets work a bit differently. He just sits next to her and explains everything. I even let him hold her hand and help her trace the letters. Nicholas is much better at helping her than he is when I ask him to write. But he tells her the names of all the objects and helps her write her letters. I supervise. I don’t let him make mistakes, but by teaching her, he is showing me he really knows what he’s doing.

And best of all is they love the time with each other and I get to watch them grow.

Nature #3 – Living and non-living.

Sometimes I find lessons that I like – I mean really like – online. I really like lessons that are complete where I don’t have to change a thing. I found this great lesson on living and non-living things. Here’s the link:

In addition to the lesson we did a living/non-living scavenger hunt in our house. The kids got a piece of white paper and one side was labeled “living” and the other “non-living.” They took their pencils with them and had to find one thing in each part of the house/yard to put on their lists. They got pretty creative: Nicholas put down that his toes were living, as were bacteria. I was informed that even after cleaning, bacteria can live everywhere.

It was a fun lessons and super easy to do.

Nature #2 – Rainbows.

It isn’t that this is the time of year for rainbows, it is just that this is a fun lesson for older and younger kids. It can be adapted for any age group. If there are younger kids, you can have them learn the colors. For older kids you can discuss and use prisms to show how light moves to make a rainbow. Best of all, you can pull out a hose and use a mist feature to create rainbows.

For the first time we made lap books. I know lots of people are fans of lap books, but after this experience I’ve decided I’d rather just make posters. Lap books can be a good way to corral all the “stuff” about the various things. But I’m teaching my kids to use iMovie and I’d rather have them make posters, hold up the posters, talk about the posters, and merge all that into a movie. Regardless – here’s how our lap booking went:

1. For the front I used a picture of a rainbow. I made Nicholas write the word “rainbow” under his. Abby just had to color the rainbow (which Nicholas did too). Here’s the link to the rainbow picture we used:

2. My kids love watching stuff on the computer. It makes them feel awesome. So we watched two clips on rainbows. Here’s clip 1, and here’s clip 2. Clip 1 is more fun while clip 2 is more scientific.

3. Next we did a rainbow counting puzzle. This puzzle was above Abby’s level, but below Nicholas’. To make it harder (for Nicholas) I not only cut the puzzle vertically, but horizontally too. The kids got to glue it together (this was the top inside page of the lap book.

4. For the last inside page of the lap book, Abby and Nicholas did two different things. Abby had to do this puzzle. I had cut everything out. She had to stack it all together. Then we stapled each set into the back part of the lap book. Nicholas had to do something else. We spent some time reading this page on rainbows. I wanted him to pay attention to how the white light hits the water, then refracts back to our eyes as a rainbow. He got a blank piece of paper and had to draw a diagram. That was an interesting thing to do. After that, he insisted on creating a movie about the rainbow, so we did.

5. For the back page of the lap book I took a plain rainbow coloring page, that had the colors in German, and had them recite the colors and then color in the rainbow, or der Regenbogen.

After this was all done, we went outside and played with the prisms to make rainbows. We also stuck the mister on the hose and made rainbows. Then we came inside and ate fruit loops because they are rainbow colors.

For reading/writing practice Nicholas wrote all the rainbow colors.  We also did more addition – we are working on having the 3’s as memorized as the 1’s and 2’s. We also had to read books today, and my kids chose all the Dr. Seuss books in the house. So I made Nicholas share reading time with me. He will read if he thinks we are reading for fun. But when he things we are reading for “school” he refuses to read. Silly child of mine.


Anatomy lesson #1.

MP900438746Today starts our anatomy lessons. I do call it anatomy. I have no problems calling it anatomy.

I wrote “anatomy” in big letters on a piece of butcher paper and stuck it on our wall. As we learn about the different parts of the body, we will put up different images on the butcher paper. Since this is our first lesson, it’s just a blank sheet of paper at the moment.

To review the basics, I downloaded this worksheet and had my children fill it out. For Abby, I printed the names of the different body parts on stickers (the kind you get for return addresses at Staples). Then I peel them off, give them to her and tell her what they say. She’s responsible for putting them in the right spot. Nicholas has to read his own words and put them in the right spot. I’m not above helping if he needs it, but he has shown me he can read when he wants to – so now he has to learn to read on demand.


Here’s a great website to help plan your lessons on bones:

This is the skeleton we used for our "Name that Bone" game.

This is the skeleton we used for our “Name that Bone” game.

Then we moved onto the skeletal system. First we covered what our bones do. Our bones do many things:

1. They give our body structure.

2. They help us move.

3. They protect organs.

I printed these three things out on a sheet of paper and the kids got to cut them out and paste them onto a picture of a bone. While they were cutting and pasting, we talked about what bones are made of (calcium and bone marrow were as deep into the topic as we got) and how you can get strong bones (fruits, vegetables, milk).

Then we got to play “Name that Bone.” I printed out an image of a skeleton and cut apart the bones and laminated them. Then the kids go to pick them up and name them – I helped the first two rounds, but then Nicholas had them down. After we named them, he had to tape them in order onto our Anatomy poster. This took a bit longer, but he eventually got it.

In addition to the labeled bones, I added the phalanges, carpals, and metacarpals.

What else did we do for our lesson? We continued our math book and practiced some more subtraction and addition. He’s not paying attention to the operational signs in math, and just assumes he can do what he wants with the numbers, so I’m making worksheets that mix up the operations. When he gets 100% on the worksheet he gets a penny. I leave him alone to do it and make his own mistakes. Sometimes he does 3 or 4 math worksheets in a day trying to get his penny. I’m wondering when he’ll learn it is simply easier to pay attention the first time around.

We did our reading an phonics books too. I have the Spectrum books for reading and phonics for 1st grade and we work our way through, one page at a time. Reading time was spent reading the new Transformers book Nicholas got on sale at Barnes and Noble and the Sophia the Princess book.

We also did our word wall with -et, -at, -ob, -ot, -it, -id, and -ee words. Abby like this because she gets the extra words and a magnet board and gets to play too.

Lastly, we finished our German sticker book today. Once we finished it, we went through and had to read each page of German words.

Ocean animals: Review and wrap up.

Nicholas likes crawling through a sea turtle's shell.

Nicholas likes crawling through a sea turtle’s shell.

We are finishing sea animals with a quick review today and moving on. I made a crossword with one of those random crossword generators. The great thing about crosswords is that they can test knowledge, teach spelling, and work on handwriting all at the same time.

Here are the clues I used for the crossword:

Octopus: Has 8 arms
Coral: Groups of small organisms that make a reef
Water: What the ocean is made of
Jellyfish: Has long tentacles and no bones
Waves: Movement of ocean water
Ocra: Black and white whale
Kelp: Anchored in rocka and grows in forests
Dolphin: A smart mammal that swims in pods
Walrus: Likes cold water and has lots of fat to keep it warm
Fish: Swims in schools
Sand: Found on the bottom of the ocean


Our next set of lessons is going to be on the 5 senses and finishing our orchestra lessons. At any given time, we have two themes going on so I get to choose between the various themes to make things fun. Also, I get to find various worksheets. I like making my own worksheets, but I also don’t like reinventing the wheel.

What else are we doing?

We are working on math out  of the 2nd grade textbook and practicing place values.

For writing and reading we are working off these worksheets on He likes these sentence worksheets because they give a topic, and help you draw the animal at the bottom. I also print one off for Abby and she writes all over the page, tries to draw the animal, and tries to trace the letters.

All of our art projects this week will be Valentine’s Day themed. We will be writing valentines to our family and friends, and making wonderful pictures to decorate with.

New flash cards.

I’m excited to start doing sight words with Nicholas, although I’m not really focusing on sight words so much as I am using the sight words to help him learn phonics better. He can read, when he wants to, but sometimes doesn’t like to work on reading. He’d rather cuddle up with me and have me read than read himself – I can’t blame him. So we are working with some flashcards.

I printed off the sight words in fun colors and laminated them individually. The great thing about the sight words is that they are easy and familiar. Some of the harder ones (because) still need to be learned. So we pull out the flash

Laminating our flashcards for various word games.

Laminating our flashcards for various word games.

cards and play various games. The current favorite is “Teacher.”

Teacher works like this: Nicholas gets to be the teacher. He deals out 6 of the flash cards. He then calls out a word on one of the flash cards and I have to pick it up before he does. Then he gets to deal out another flash card. Every card is a point – and each point is a jelly bean. He loses points – and jelly beans – when he calls out a word that isn’t on the card, or when he chooses a card that’s not the right word. I think he really likes this because he gets to direct the words and be in charge. I’m just playing with him.

We do more traditional things too – I point to a card and he has to tell me what it is. Or I get to be the teacher in the “Teacher” game. He also has to make sentences out of the flash cards. I make sure we spend 15 minutes a day doing work with words. Normally it is with our flash cards because he likes them. But sometimes we read – and I make him read. I have a selection of special books on my Nook that he can read for reading time with me. I haven’t taught him how to use the “read to me” function on my Nook, so he has to read it out loud.

He also has a Tag reader system. He really likes that system because it has games built into the books. Not only does the Tag reader read to him, it has him play games based on the books. We recently got the Solar System set of books to go with the Tag reader. Now he reads those non-stop.

I think the new flashcard system is working out well to help him practice reading. I hope it continues to work too.

Tongue twisters: Moses supposes his toeses are roses.

Moses supposes his toeses are roses!

Moses supposes his toeses are roses!

Today’s lesson was on tongue twisters. My kids memorize things very fast when they repeat them. I decided we would work on tongue twisters because they have great literacy concepts in them. We not only can work on learning fun things to say (because who doesn’t like to sell sea shells by the sea shore), but they also learn rhyme, alliteration, meter, pace, and annunciation.

Our first lesson is: Moses supposes his toeses are roses. Here’s the link to the worksheets we used.

Once again, the worksheets are free. I would love it if you leave feedback on the worksheets, but they are free to download. I haven’t found a good file sharing program that lets me upload things to the blog to share, so for now we use the website. It is free to join, and there are tons of great ideas on the website for all kinds of lessons.

My kids had no problem reciting the tongue twister. After I read it the first time, we had to read it again and again. It was a lot of fun to watch them learn the tongue twister. We had Abby riding her new pony in the house and trying to say it. Nicholas preferred to jump from tile to tile while reciting it. Then we settled down and did the work sheet.

I handed them red markers and said we needed to circle all the “t” sounds. We used a blue marker for the “r” sounds and a green markers for the “m” sounds. We then had to find rhyming words. Nicholas looked at his piece of paper with the tongue twister printed on it and said, “Nothing looks the same at the end.” So we recited it again, and put circles around words that ended with the same sounds. It was easier for him to do while looking at the paper and saying the words.

My kids made some interesting illustrations to go with the tongue twister. Mostly because they don’t draw very well right now. But they tried. I like to write the stories they tell me about their drawings on the back, and then keep them. But for this project, I’m starting a binder with their drawings. I put the tongue twister and drawing back to back into a sheet protector and then into a binder. I’ll keep the binder as we study various rhymes, poetry, and tongue twisters this year and they can see it at the end 🙂 It will be a great keepsake.

We reviewed out +1, +2, and -1, -2 math  facts. I want to make sure we have these basics down before we move forward.

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