Toddler Tuesdays – dusting.


It is Christmas season. Our schedule can be a bit off. We’ve been spending time doing art and cooking. Today lesson was all about special chores- dusting.

You think I’m kidding? What chores can a 4.5 and 2 year old do well? Dusting.

I invested in those Swiffer duster handles and rags. They work like a charm. The kids don’t even realize what they are doing. they rally enjoy dusting and this way it is super easy. There’s no problems with polish and rags. I simply give them the dusters and away they go.

We also practiced writing dust and spelled dust while we were working. It was fun, simple, and got a hire done.



Counting money.

Counting money is not something, like colors, that is simply acquired. It has to be worked on and developed – at least it does with my child. Part of what we are doing with counting money is learning to save money and earn money.

Here he is counting and sorting the money he has earned from chores.

First – counting money.

I had Nicholas take out his piggy bank – which is just a converted Ikea box. He had to sort all the coins by shape and size. Once that was done, I took 1 quarter, 2 dimes, 5 nickels, and 25 pennies and put them to the side.  I showed him the quarter and said it was worth 25 cents. Then I showed him the dime and said it was worth 10 cents and told him to get a quarter out of dimes he would need 2.5 dimes. Then we did nickels (5 cents). He was able to tell me that 2 nickels make a dime and 5 nickels make a quarter. With the pennies I told him each one was worth 1 cent. He then told me that 5 pennies make a nickel, 10 pennies make a dime, and 25 pennies make a quarter.

Lastly, I showed him a dollar bill from my wallet and told him that he needed 4 quarters or 10 dimes, or 20 nickels, or 100 pennies to make a dollar.

Then we counted what he had. We counted the quarters first, then the dimes, nickels, and pennies. I had him write down how many of each coin he had. Then I did the conversion into dollars and cents for him. He was devastated to learn he only had $3.27 – after all he had a lot of coins.

Second – saving and earning money.

He then told me he wanted to save him money for a Lightening McQueen toy. I told him that such toys normally cost $5.00. We figured out how much more money he needed – I wrote out the subtraction equation and he did the subtraction. He now knows he needs $1.73 to get his Lightening McQueen toy. So we made up way he can earn money and lose money.

We decided on certain extra chores he can do around the house. His chores are currently taking his laundry into the washer, dusting, cleaning toys each night, and cleaning his sink on Tuesdays. He decided that each square of tile he cleans should be worth a penny. I said that I would do 2 squares for a penny. He said okay (The tile squares are 18 inches by 18 inches). He also wants to be able to clean toilets – so he can have 2 pennies per toilet. He will get 5 cents for putting dishes away from the dishwasher. Those he can’t put away, he has to put on the kitchen counter so I can put them away. We made up a nice chart with each chores and the amount he can earn. Then we made a chart he doesn’t like – how to lose money.

Nicholas loses money for not following directions, not behaving during quiet time, hitting, calling people names, and fighting with his sister. He can also lose money for bad behavior. That chart is up right next to the “How to earn money,” chart.

Finally, we went around the house and talked about how much things cost. We did a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, the TV, shoes, computers, phones, and the car. I know the concept of hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars is hard for him to grasp, but it was important that he learn how much money things cost so he can be more careful with things in the future. This way he doesn’t ask for all kinds of stuff too.

I’m hoping that he will take this lesson and stop asking for everything because I want him to know that things cost money and sometimes we don’t have the money to buy more toys. So I’m hoping that we are beginning to learn about money and common sense with money.

Our cooking day.

Today was an off day for us.  It felt strange, and we totally failed at doing everything on my list. Why? Who knows. I figure everyone has to have one of those days sometime right?

Making cake pops as our family activity. It worked on everyone’s patience and cooking skills.

So what did we do? We did our physical activity – we went to the indoor playground near us, gardened, and took a walk. We did our math practice – although I did feel like hitting my head against the wall repeatedly. We practiced writing words – I used our Kumon book because I didn’t feel like struggling through with a full lesson. We did our music practice (scales only), worked on our German vocabulary, and spent time reading.

What didn’t we do: our lesson. I had a great lesson all planned out on Ancient Egypt and daily life. I had all the handouts ready to go, the coloring pages….everything was ready. But then my children didn’t cooperate. It was one thing after another after another until at about 7:30 am I decided our lesson wasn’t going to happen.

I figured we might need a family activity instead – so we baked. We made cake pops. Cake pops seem to be all the rage right now. Having done them I’m not sure I understand. It is a little bite of cake with some frosting mixed in and candy coated with sprinkles. I prefer a big slice of cake with lots of frosting and no sprinkles thanks. The frosting is really the important part. But I thought the kids would hav fun.

Too bad there are a gazillion steps to making cake pops: You make the cake and let it cool, mix in the frosting with cake crumbs, make balls, stick in the sticks – after candy coating them a little first, let everything harden, dip in the candy coating and sprinkle and let them harden, then let them get to room temperature so they aren’t too hard when you bite in. It taught everyone a little bit about patience and how good things come if we wait.  The waiting was, at times, less than pleasant as my 23 month old daughter sat in front of the frige yelling “cake pop” and throwing a fit while they were hardening. But we all survived and had a great treat.

The recipe only called for 3 eggs, but we ended up using 5 because I let Nicholas crack them and 2 of them went all over. The kids had great fun cleaning that up. The dishes got done and dries, the kids go their sugar high, and I spend 3 hours of my day baking with the kids.

It was a lot of fun for an activity, just not what I had planned.

A 30-day challenge: No grocery stores.

Teaching out children about healthy eating, farming, raising food, and what good food is – not to mention cooking – are all very important. In CA, high school Freshmen have to take a health class that is supposed to teach them about this. At all ages, kids are supposed to learn about healthy eating. So why not start early and start young?

We are trying this challenge: 30 days without the grocery store.

We have a few rules:

1. I have $30 a month to spend on things I can’t find anywhere else. This is important for the family because we have gluten and nut allergies in the house. So I need to get bread and Sunbutter at a store.

2. All fruits and veggies have to be bought at a Farmer’s Market.

3. Nothing can be bought that is processed. We have to buy ingredients and change them into the food.

So why is this a teaching experience?

I made a board to track our $30. It’s a big sheet of paper. Nicholas is the one who has to write what we spend and help with the math. Math is a practical skill to have – this will help him learn subtraction.

It also teaches about food and health. We are working on cooking skills (something everyone should have before they leave the house). Buying raw ingredients helps teach about chemistry: the changes heat makes, how oxidation works, why we freeze things….the list continues on and on. While he doesn’t think he’s learning all these things, we use words like “oxidation” and “irreversible change” to describe what is happening while we are cooking. It’s not simply “we heat this up.” It is “We bring water to a boil. A boil is the temperature water needs to be at to change states from liquid to gas….” The learning doesn’t end. It is simply another way of speaking.

Not buying processed foods and making sure we do more cooking will allow us to learn more and do things together that we might not otherwise do. It’s going to be a good lesson. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Toddler Tuesdays: Getting dressed

For today’s Toddler Tuesday we are working on getting dressed. As adults, we take this skill for granted. As parents we are scared of what others might think of us if our kids dress themselves.

But making the choice of clothes, putting them on, brushing hair and teeth, and doing laundry are all important skill to learn.

To make this fun for my older son, he got to practice articles of clothing in German and load the washer with the right amount if soap. He also tried to talk Abby – my 18 month old toddler – into different clothes. He was trying to practice his persuasion skills. Too bad Abby is stubborn like a rock.

We went to Abby’s room and played there for a while before having her get out of her pajamas. Because her attention span is so small, I make sure to break up the tasks and give her one direction at a time.

Then she was asked to pick her clothes. She chose her shirt and shorts. We then practices spelling the works shirt and shorts. We also said them in German. Then I let her get dressed. She had a tough time, but when she got stuck I put my hands over hers and helped. I never did it for her.

Then we brushed hair and teeth. I had her brush her own hair and had Nicholas show her how to brush teeth. That way, Nicholas has his skills reinforced by teaching.

Then we did laundry. All my kids can take their clothes to the washer. Then I turn it on after the soap is in.

Abby got a “I dressed myself” sticker. I make them out I address labels on the computer. This way, everyone knows and no one states at me strangely.

It was a fun morning and I even got chores done!

Pretzel cooking activity

Making sure each pretzel gets covered in chocolate was an easy job for Nicholas. Not so easy was waiting to eat them until they cooled off.

Chocolate covered pretzels are yummy for everyone and can be a healthy alternative to regular chocolate.

What you need:

1. Pretzels

2. Chocolate to melt (we used the candy melts; if you are using regular chocolate you will need shortening to help it firm up)

3. Sprinkles

4. Wax paper

What you do:

Melt the chocolate in a bowl that is deep enough to dip the pretzels in. Then dip the pretzels in the chocolate and place them to harden on the wax paper. Sprinkle sprinkles over them before the chocolate hardens.

Then enjoy your snack!

Of course, part of cooking is cleaning, so we did the dishes from this project together.


Our Easter basket cooking project.


We like to cool in my house. If we are cooking sweets, then we like it even more.

I decided to do some Easter basket cookies. We made sugar cookies and put them into cupcake tins and molded them so they were “basket shaped” – approximately. Then once they were cooked we filled them with frosting and topped them with 4 jelly beans each.

It was fun to cook with my son. I think it is important that he learns to cook and cook healthy. So sugar cookies (apple sauce instead of butter) are a great treat to make. Having him cook also makes him realize that work goes into the food he eats and helps develop all his motor skills ( cracking eggs, mixing, pouring, measuring, molding, and frosting are all great tasks for little fingers).

Cooking also teaches math. I only cook – with him – with the 1/4, 1/2, and 1/3 cup measuring cups. It is making him learn math. Also when he has to figure out how many jelly beans we need for 15 baskets if there are 4 beans apiece- well that is all math.

Lastly, I require him to clean up. Chores and cleaning are part of being in a family and living, so the earlier he learns the better. He did most of the clean up from the activity ( it went into the dishwasher).

Cooking with kids has a great many purposes and helps teach many things. It also provides some time for parents to bond with kids and talk with them.



We made some January goals.

The key to making goals with young kids is to make the goals easy to understand and to find a way to keep track of them on a daily basis so they are constantly reminded.

Our two goals are:

1. Write all our letters every day.
2. Make good choices.

To keep track of good choices I draw a star on his hand each time he makes a good choice. Bad choices end in time outs. At the end of the day we try to remember all the reasons for the stars.

To make sure we do our letters every day we have a letter worksheet. I printed out one for each day an we do it before breakfast. Then he gets to cut them up and we put the scraps in a bag and watch the bag get full. The bag has all the days of the month on the front and we cross off each date as we do it.

So those are our January goals. Hopefully we make them.

And we are back.

More of the finger painting mess. By the time they were done, there were 14 squares of our floor covered in finger paint.

I took a break from blogging about our homeschooling adventures while we were setting up our preschool group and getting it running. Also, we have been doing some major fall cleaning and family support over the past few weeks. All this has left little to no time to blog with.

But now we are back.

Our preschool group is going well. It is amazing how much Nicholas loves it.

It isn’t that the group is covering anything – academically – that he doesn’t already know. It is simply a way to get out of the house and play with friends. The moms involved rotate teaching and hosting the group. We have a schedule and everyone sticks to it. The group is a ton of fun and I am glad we are doing it.


The beginning of the finger painting mess. Good thing floors - and kids - are washable.

Homeschooling continues. We work on stuff everyday. Yesterday our trip to the grocery store took an hour to get ready because Nicholas wanted to write out his grocery list himself. It is a good thing I made my own list too. But he took the time to write down the words (all 2 of them – bananas and waffles) and sound out what letter comes next (waffle was spelled “wafel”). But he did it. And then we went to the store. It was a great moment for me when he made all the letters correctly and was trying to sound out the words. I couldn’t ask for anything better.

Then we did some finger painting. I love art. It is fun to do. Not so much fun to clean up though. Good thing that learning about chores and being part of a house if part of what I am aiming to teach Nicholas. He works hard at creating a mess and then works hard at cleaning it up.


Our finger painting adventure was cleaned up using vinegar and water and paper towels. Nicholas was responsible for spraying the water/vinegar all over the paint. Then we laid down paper towels and mopped it all up with them – with our feet! He thought it was great fun and I got to have my floor cleaned and the mess cleaned without any fuss.

Well, on with our week and I will get back to blogging.

Making a schedule.

Everyone needs a schedule. We all have one. If our schedule is simply when we go to bed and when we wake up, we still have a schedule. Kids do better with a schedule, and so do adults.

Now, by schedule, I don’t mean a serious plan. “From 1pm to 1:15pm we break for a snack of apples and cheese,” can be a type of schedule, but that requires serious planning. That type of schedule is also strict.

For us, a schedule is a list of activities we are accomplishing that day and the general time period when we are going to accomplish them (morning, after lunch, after dinner, after Abby (the little sister) goes to bed). We have certain tasks we have to accomplish everyday, and Nicholas gets to help schedule them. This teaches him a few things:

1. That everyday we have things to do.

2. How to plan his day.

3. General time frames.

This also give him some control over his day, which tends to make the day eaiser.

Our morning starts with breakfast and schedule planning. I take a blank sheet of paper and write our four time frames in four boxes (fold the paper in half, then in half again to get the boxes). Then we put our activities in the boxes. He gets to choose a chore (today he wants to sweep and dust, and do it after lunch). He gets to choose when he wants to do math (in the morning), art (after Abby goes to sleep), and a special activity. He wants to play with his small Legos today (we keep them away generally so that Abby doesn’t eat them). He chose to do this after lunch, when Abby is napping. Then we put in some other things. We have playgroup this morning, the gym after lunch, and a walk to do (after dinner).

Then we put the schedule out on the counter and cross things off as we do them. It gives Nicholas some control and organization. It also helps me organize our day a little bit.

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