Toddler Tuesday: The counting bears.

What I had planned for our Tuesday lesson: The counting bears and some number matching with glue. Normally anything with glue is a winner, but we didn't even get to it today.

What I had planned for our Tuesday lesson: The counting bears and some number matching with glue. Normally anything with glue is a winner, but we didn’t even get to it today.

I have a horrible fascination with Amazon. It’s not horrible for Amazon, just horrible for my bank account. I love looking at things. I really do. I could spend hours just browsing through all Amazon’s stuff. If you type in “homeschool items” you come up with so many things. You just have to narrow it a bit. I was searching for “sensory bins” because I really don’t like having to make up my own. I really like it when things are done for me already – especially when I’m overbooked with other things.

I found these amazing 50 Counting Bears with 5 Cups.

What? Counting bears? Hum….they come with color cups so we can practice sorting…..and the idea of same and different…..and there are 50 of them so we can practice counting….in German too………okay, I guess I can get them.

That’s exactly how the conversation went in my head. Part of the problem with Amazon is that stuff is cheaper than it would be in a traditional store. I’ve seen these at other “learning stores” for over $15.00. That makes it easy to say no. $7 and change is simply one fewer books for me this month. That’s an easy one to do.

So what did we do with them? I put the bears in a pile, put the cups in a stack, and said to Abby, “Want to play?”

Here’s what she did – all on her own:

1. She counted the bears. She simply separated them into groups of 10 – because that’s all she wanted to count to. Then she said, “I have lots of groups of 10.” At which point Nicholas stepped in and informed her that 5 groups of 10 isn’t a lot because 5 times 10 is only 50. Nicholas defines a lot as “more than 100.” Thus, he has a lot of pennies, but

Abby and her bears and their cups. She was sorting, matching, counting, and naming colors. Simply because she had bears and cups.

Abby and her bears and their cups. She was sorting, matching, counting, and naming colors. Simply because she had bears and cups.

he doesn’t have a lot of dollars.

2. She put the colors all together – into different colored cups. The purple bears went into the blue cup, the yellow bears into the red cup, and so forth. Okay – so that’s not matching so much as it is sorting. But I’ll take the sorting.

3. She then dumped them all out, mixed them up, and made her dolls jump over them because the dolls were having a jumping party.

4. She sorted the colors into the matching colored cup – but did it in German because English is “too easy.” (Those are her words not mine).

Wait – did I mention she did all this without me having to do it for her, or lay out the “rule” or “parameters” or an exercise? I did? Isn’t it great when this happens?

Did I also mention that it took up most of the morning, because she decided to repeat the sorting process more than once? She used these bears for almost 3 hours – the same amount of time it took me to get Nicholas to finish his math and spelling (he didn’t want to do it – he wanted to not do it, but he had not done it last week  – so it was time to finish).

That was our very fun, totally Abby-driven, Tuesday.


Toddler Tuesdays: Number bin.

Tracing the numbers, then hiding them in the beans and letting her hunt for was a fun activity.

Tracing the numbers, then hiding them in the beans and letting her hunt for them……it was a fun activity.

We are back to working on numbers this week. I’ve decided to combine a bunch of her favorites: magnets, bins, number hunting. It’s all combined into one activity. Here’s how it went:

1. Empty tin casserole pan
2. Beans from the dollar store
3. Number magnets
4. Paper with the number magnets traced onto it

Set-up was really easy. I traced the numbers onto the paper (in fact, I made 3 different sheets with the numbers in different orders). Then I put the number magnets into the bin and dumped the beans over the magnets to hide them.

Abby was excited when she saw the bin come out again. She went to grab her tongs from the desk, but I let her do the first time with her hands. The second time she used a big horseshoe magnet we have to attract the magnets to her.

She had to find the numbers and put them in the correct spot on the paper. After she put it down, she had to say what number she had found.

We only worked with the numbers 0-9. Those were the number magnets I had, so those are the numbers we worked with.

There were problems she had. First, she got the 2 and 5 mixed up depending on which way she pulled it out from the beans. She also tried to make her 6 a nine all the time. Then she wondered why there were two 9’s and no 6’s. I had to explain to her that they might look the same, but one is upside down and one is right side up and that they are two different numbers. She said okay to that explanation, and proceeded to fix them the way she wanted. She also didn’t like that the three wouldn’t go “backwards.” She wanted it to turn the other way. It’s just one of those red-headed stubborn problems she has occasionally.

But here’s the result: She knows and can identify her numbers 0-9. It’s pretty awesome that she can do that. I’m excited. Now if only she had any interest in writing her numbers……but no. She’s content to know them and draw when she wants to draw.

Toddler Tuesdays: Counting.

Legos work great for learning numbers and counting. Especially because they come in so many different colors.

Legos work great for learning numbers and counting. Especially because they come in so many different colors.

Kids learn numbers a bunch of different ways. For a while, Abby has been counting correctly to 4, and then skipping around after that based on what number she likes saying. “Nine” comes in after four a lot – mostly because she likes pretending she’s saying no while counting (Nine is no in German).

I figured it’s about time to get her counting “correctly” – or at least being able to do it when she needs to. She likes to play and learn. So I thought this Lego activity would be great.

Here’s what we used:

1. Lego Duplos

2. Construction paper with squares/numbers written on it.

Set-up took me all of 3 minutes to write the numbers and boxes on the construction paper. The longest part of the set-up was finding a piece of non-blue, pink, or purple construction paper. The kids really like to use those colors, so I didn’t want to use them for “school.”

Anyways, I sat Abby down with the activity and gave her these directions, “Place the right amount of Legos in a tower on the right number.” We practiced the first time through, then she wanted to do it again, on her own. I made sure to break up the towers from the previous time, then she did it again.

As is a theme when I get an activity together that she likes, she did it A LOT. She really liked breaking up the towers too. She would count backwards from whatever number she had to zero, and then say, “Bye-bye tower, until later alligator.”

So that was our lesson for Abby today. It was a great lesson.

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


Toddler Tuesday: Matching letters.

I found a great new website – Hands on Moms. It’s fabulous and has tons of hands on activities to choose form and browse. Some are things we’ve done, and others give me great ideas.

So I chose this one: matching letters. I wanted to see how much Abby can really do – it’s hard to tell with her sometimes because she just decides she doesn’t want to do something, and getting her to do it is miserable. But if it’s hands on, and she gets to do it by herself, that’s even better.

Here’s the link to the post about the game, so you can do it if you want to.

I spent Monday night putting this activity together. I printed out letters and colored them. Then I made sure that we had the right alphabet magnets to make this work – since we’ve lost lots of letters over the years. I put them all in a bin, with the tongs, and put it up and away.

While I set Nicholas to work on his math, I brought the bin out to Abby. I told her she had to choose a paper letter, then grab the letter that matches with the tongs. She asked, “All by myself?” When I said yes, she got a big smile and went right to work.

She would pick a letter out and place it carefully next to her on the table. Then she would grab the tongs and pull out the letter magnet and place that on top. Then she would carefully get down out of her chair, grab both the letter and magnet, and place them on the floor. She got very particular about where they were placed.

When she was done she wanted to repeat the process – so we did. It was great fun for all of us.

We also made two books for her – she had to trace the letters and write her name. Here are the links to the free worksheets to make the books (orange and red).

Toddler Tuesday: Christmas theme.

We’ve already practiced the letter C, but since it is the week before Christmas, we are going to do it again.

Here’s the link to the “c” curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I love their activities and use their stuff a lot.

They have a bunch of activities. We do about two a day for the week, starting with the dot art and pre-writing practice. Then we move onto the counting a colorings pages too.

What else are we doing for the preschooler this week? We are painting and doing art. It’s her favorite activity of all. Luckily, Michael’s is into their 70% Christmas sale and we can get lots of foam Christmas shapes to trace, color, sticker, paint, collage, at more with. I love them.

So it’s not super intensive, but it is fun.

Toddler Tuesday: Letter practice.

Want some great letter practice for your child? I love Starfall’s sheets.

We do a letter a day, so I’ll give you our steps to letter practice.

1. My preparation

To begin, I print the pages from Starfall for the whole week. Then I go and find pictures (thank you Clipart) of things that begin with that letter. I load all the pictures into one document and print them out on one sheet. If I can, I change the color settings to “outline” so that Abby can color them at the end. I put each day’s worth of letter activities into a folder and label them so I know which say is which.

2. First activity: Paint in the bag

First thing we do is trace the letter in the paint bag. I put some water and some paint and some flour into a Ziploc bag and tape it to the back door. She gets to trace the letter in the bag. It’s pretty cool. Sometimes she gets distracted by the way the light shines through the paint. I’m okay with that. She’s my crafty child, and as long as she does it five times, I’m okay.

3: Second activity: Cut out the pictures

Next she gets to cut out the pictures. Remember the pictures I put into a Word document earlier in the week? Those are the ones she cuts out. Nicholas is generally doing his online math at this point. So it is a good activity to do when the older one is engaged online and my younger one needs supervision.

4: Third activity: Trace the letters

Next we do the first page of the Starfall sheet – tracing the letters. She gets to pick her color (she likes to use crayons). I help her with the first 3 and she does the 4th (or more) on her own. Sometimes it is a weird shape. But she always tries.

5: Fourth activity: Glue the pictures

Next she gets to glue the pictures she cut out onto the second page. Sometimes Starfall has pictures, and sometimes they don’t. We name each picture (in German and English – which is why I have to do these beforehand so I can learn the German). She gets to glue. With a glue stick. I once let her use white glue and that was horrible. So now we stick to glue sticks. No glitter glue for this project.

6: Fifth activity: Color

Lastly, she colors. Why is this last? Because Abby really likes to color. If I let her do it first, then she wouldn’t do the rest. It took about 2 weeks to get her used to coloring last. But now she knows the routine. If she doesn’t do the first part, she doesn’t get to color.

That’s how we practice our letters.

Toddler Tuesdays: Workbooks we use.

Abby is different from Nicholas. She likes workbooks. I think she likes being able to turn the pages and finish something. Every time she finishes something and turns the page she says, “I finished my schoolwork!” It’s really cute.

Because she likes workbooks and worksheets, I have re-discovered the Kumon books. I used the numbers and mazes ones with Nicholas. But Abby doesn’t like mazes, she likes to draw and color.

Costco had a set of three on sale: Coloring, Tracing, First Mazes. The links are to the books on Amazon, because not every Costco has the same things.

I take one page out of each book in the morning and give it to Abby to do while I’m doing Nicholas’ math lesson. These are the only three workbooks I use with her. Otherwise we use handouts from Starfall for her numbers and letters. I use coloring pages of whatever we are learning for her to color while I teach Nicholas.

Here’s the main reason why these three workbooks made it into our school room and others didn’t: She can do these workbooks on her own – the pages are self explanatory.

The coloring workbook has a spot in the middle of the picture that she has to color the same color as the picture around it. So the grapes have a white dot in the middle – a little bigger than a quarter – that she has to color purple – like the grapes around it.

The tracing workbook has white and light areas for her to trace from one circle to the star. The maze workbook does the same thing – go from the circle to the star. She finishes in about 20 minutes – the same amount of time it takes me to do the “mommy” portion of the Saxon math lessons.  Nicholas then finishes he math lesson – doing his part – while I help Abby trace her numbers and letter of the day.

After this separate work, we do most of our lessons together – even if Abby is just coloring while Nicholas does his lesson. It won’t hurt her to learn about the history of the world, dinosaurs, rocks, or whatever we are learning about. It will only help her by exposing her to a wide variety of ideas early on.

Toddler Tuesday: Letter A.

Yes, I know I’ve already done letter A last year with my little one – but nothing hones skills like repetition. I love the letter printables form Confessions of a Homeschooler.  I use a lot of her handouts for my little one to do. We also do some of our own projects, but we use a lot of her printables. After all – no reason to reinvent the wheel. Her activities have a lot of positives and hands-on options to them – and that’s what we do best here.

So the worksheets I chose from her site to do with the letter A are:

Dot-to-dot letter A, Sorting A and a, Apple coloring, and apple cutting.

I printed two of the dot-to-dot letter A sheets because Abby really likes doing dot art. I figure she can do both of them and enjoy the letter A a bit while I work with Nicholas on his story prompts.

So the lesson goes like this:

We do the Starfall letter A worksheet – with Nicholas teaching Abby.

Then Abby gets to do dot-art on her two letter A’s while Nicholas works on his story prompts at the same art table. This way I have both of them together, but they are doing their own work.

Then Abby gets to sort the Big A and little A’s onto the correct tree. I printed this worksheet onto cardstock and she can sort them to her hearts content. I get to spread all the apples out (I cut them out the night before), and she sorts them. Then I check it, and she wants to do it again. To get her moving, I put the apples on one side of the room and the trees to sort onto on her desk. She loves the activity and the sorting. So it works for her to do while I work with Nicholas on math review.

Now we move onto the cutting. She gets to cut out along the lines. I printed two of these, so Nicholas cuts them out too. It’s always good to work on scissor skills together – that way I only have to have the scissors out when they are together. We move to the art table for this and for a change of scenery.

Choose a few more letter A's, print them out, and make your own A collage.

Choose a few more letter A’s, print them out, and make your own A collage.


We have an “A” snack – apples and ants (chocolate chips).

Next, we do the “A” collage. The A collage is awesome. I downloaded a bunch of pictures of the letter A and put in a bunch of A’s in different fonts.  Then Abby gets to cut them out and paste them onto construction paper (she chose purple) and then color it and decorate it. This project took her almost an hour to be happy with. It allowed me to work with Nicholas on his spelling and word ladders without too many interruptions.

This was our letter A day. After we finished the letter A, we went onto the number worksheets – with they both did together for the number 1. Lastly, we spent some time reading. I let the kids choose their own books, and today I ended up having to read Morris the Moose four times. Oh well, at least it was reading.

Toddler Tuesday: Ornaments and the letter A

These are what the Target ornaments looked like. Ours were a little smaller, but more fun to make.

These are what the Target ornaments looked like. Ours were a little smaller, but more fun to make.

I’m always looking for fun and different art projects to do with my kids. I decided that today’s lesson would be introducing Abby to scissors. Halfway through, I did consider that I might have lost my mind. But at the time I was planning it seemed like a good idea.

In order to make these ornaments you need tinsel or ribbon of some sort and empty plastic ornaments. I had the empty plastic ornaments form Oriental Trading company. They are durable and split in half.  So I pulled the ornaments out and we started on our project.

Abby and Nicholas had to cut off pieces of tinsel that they wanted in each ornament. Then they put the tinsel in the ornament and I helped them close it. They were responsible for getting the hook through the top and putting it on the tree. I did have to help Abby with the hook, but Nicholas did all his on his own.

This art project served a few purposed. First, it introduced scissors to Abby. She hasn’t really used them before, so this was her way to see that they cut. Second, it involved making choices of how much and what color tinsel went into the ornaments. We named colors and estimated lengths as we went through the project.

To make it more fun for Nicholas he measured each piece of tinsel he cut. This is one of the adaptations I made to the project so he gets a better sense of how long a foot is.

It was a great project for us. Our tree is bigger this year and the bottom lacks decorations because only breakable ornaments can go on the bottom. This way my tree got more decorations and the kids got to make something for the tree. It was a lot of fun to watch them finish an ornament and run into the room with the tree to put them on.

In addition to the art project we are starting to really work on our letters. I printed off the Starfall letter A sheet. We colored the letter A and named all the words we could think of that started with A.

Just as a side note – I do spend over 45 minutes a day reading with my kids outside of lessons. Reading is one of the best things parents can do to help their children with school and learning. Whether you are reading a book for fun or a book for learning, reading together should be a fun and pleasurable experience. We read together all the time. It is one of our favorite activities. I can’t wait to see it pay off for both of my children.



%d bloggers like this: