Prep School – Abby’s new work!!!!

Since she’s getting older I’m changing “Toddler Tuesdays” to “Prep School.” Prep for what? Well, for other things. She’s “preparing” to do more math and drawing. She’s “preparing” to discover he own interests and not always be involved in her brother’s. As a side note, I’m going to hate the day when they both won’t do the same lessons anymore. Right now she loves to mimic her brother, so we can do lessons all at the same time. But later, I’m sure that’s not going to work out so well.

Therefore, we needed to change the name. She decided on “Prep School.” She actually wanted it to be called “Princess Prep School,” but I declined on the princess thing. We’ve got enough princess stuff in the house as it is.

This week we’ve been working on the letter F for her.

I decided that we would make “books” for her, since she likes to make sets of things. The “Letter F” book contains the following:

1. A sheet of paper with all the words that being with F that she can think of.

2. A dot-to-dot marker F page.

3. A fairy ballerina, a flower fairy, and a flying unicorn to color.

4. The number five to put stickers on.

5. Pentagons (five sides) to put groups of five stickers in.

Here’s how it went:

We started on Monday by making a list of “F” words – she came up with the following:

Food, fairy, frankfurter (yes, we learn German), foot, feet, fine, flute, flying, fancy, four, ,float, and fin. So those are the words we wrote down on the paper.

Next, we did a dot-to-dot F. She got the dot-to-dot markers out and she colored in her F.

For the next few “lessons” she got to color in things that begin with F. She didn’t have much trouble deciding what she wanted to start with – the Ballerina Fairy! She also has a Flying Unicorn and a Flower Fairy to color for her book.

Lastly, there’s the number five – that starts with F too. So I wrote the number five on a sheet of construction paper and gave her stickers. She placed the stickers over the lines of the number five. For her second five activity I drew pentagons – because those have five sides – on a paper. Abby had to put five stickers into each pentagon.

Then she got to staple her book together and show it to her father – who was properly excited. Next we are mailing it to her grandmother, because Abby wants to send a book to her grandmother.


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.

Motivating your preschooler.

Motivation is a hard thing to get a grip on. We want kids to respond to positive motivators (praise, rewards, etc) because it is more fun to be positive than negative. However, a lot of kids respond to negative consequences (time outs, punishments, etc) better – or at least more rapidly – than they do to positive rewards.

So how do you motivate your preschooler/pre-K student to do their work without associating school work and practice with negative things?

Part of it is finding the right time to do schoolwork. At our house, if we don’t get writing practice and practice math in the morning, then it won’t get done. He also has to have had breakfast. While we might get other work done during the day – like learning words, reading, science, and stuff – he won’t sit and do letter practices late in the day.

It’s also important to realize what kind of rewards motivate a child. My son likes small positive rewards with each effort. I’ve found that the best way to get him to do his work is to (1) let him pick out what pencil he wants to use and (2) give him stars for each thing well done, on the paper.

There are still times when I have to be an enforcer (i.e. – do your work or go on time out). But by remembering to use the things he likes and doing work , it makes doing school work and practice writing a lot more fun for both of us.

Finished our first letter book!

This morning marks a big milestone for us – we finished our first book of letters!

We used the Spectrum “Learning Letters” Preschool edition. It has all the letters (big and small) along with a quick exercise for each letter. Some of the exercises are coloring, some are cutting and pasting. It was a fun book and got Nicholas really interested in writing his letters.

My goal was to finish it by the end of January – doing one letter a day. We finished a few days early.

It gave him practice to do his letters, and a book to complete so he felt accomplished when he was done. He kept asking me when we were going to finish so we could move onto the next book.

So today it is! Click on the link below if you want to use the book too.

Spectrum Learning Letters

Our “Old MacDonald” lesson.

A favorite song of every parent is “Old MacDonald.” When I say favorite I mean annoying favorite. When Nicholas was little we sang this song to teach him the noises animals make. I remember one car ride when we sang this song for 45 minutes. By the time we were done the farm had, in addition to traditional farm animals: a dinosaur, a hippo, a giraffe, an elephant, a mommy (which Nicholas decided had to say “yes yes yes”), a rhino, a car, a cricket, a fly, a bee, and many other things. Nicholas decided, this morning, that his lesson was going to be on farm animals because he wanted to sing the “Old MacDonald” song.

First things first, we made a list of all the animals we wanted. I let him pick 5 animals to focus on. He chose: horse, cow, duck, pig, and bull. I tried convincing him that cows and bulls were the same thing, but he told me that “Cows are girls and bulls are boys. And, silly mommy, you can ride a bull but not a cow.” (He has been seeing a little bit of rodeo on TV that I have been using to inspire some fiction writing.)

First I wrote the words, then he traced over them. I write in a sharpie marker, and he traces with a pencil. Then we spell the words, pointing out each letter as we spell. That’s our fun language arts time for the day.

Then we pull out the computer and pull up pictures of the animals, movies of the animals, and information about the animals. Nicholas learned the difference between an Angus cow/bull and a White-face cow/bull. Seems like random information to absorb, but he’s proud of himself.

Next, we drew the pictures of the animals. This was a big step and we both needed the picture on the internet to help us draw. But we drew and colored. While we were drawing and coloring we talked about the animals, what parts we were drawing, what colors they were, how many feet each animal had (and much more). This was a lot of fun, even if our drawings were more abstract than practical.

Finally, we sang our “Old MacDonald” song. Abby really liked this portion too and danced. But Nicholas sung the song a few (maybe more than a few time).

So in about an hour and a half we did all this. We had so much fun. He’s very proud of his drawings and his new knowledge.

The game of “Memory.”

All the supplies you need to make your own memory game - index cards, a marker, and scissors. You can get more complex if you want to.

Everyone has played Memory. It’s the game where you have matching cards and you flip them over (so the pictures don’t show) and mix them up. Then you take turns picking two cards, hoping they will match, until all the matches are made.

We have an iPod app like that that my son likes, so I decided to make a set of those cards for us to use in our lesson this week on words, letters, and sounds.

I decided to focus on the letters A-I. I thought that 18 cards would be enough for a fun Memory game. It wouldn’t be so easy he would do it quickly, and it wouldn’t be so challenging he wouldn’t want to play again (Remember, he’s almost 3, so it has to be a smaller game).

All I did was cut the index cards in half. I wrote the letters A – I on 9 of the cards. Then on the other 9 I drew a picture for an object that starts with the same letter and wrote the name of the object below the picture. I’m no artist (see the picture of the finished game below), but it turns out I didn’t have to be to draw the cards.

You then simply put them out on the floor. Tell the child to flip one over. They are trying to match the letter they flip over to the picture that starts with the same letter. Then keep going until the game is done.

I didn’t expect this to be a great hit the first time. I was very wrong. We played 10 times before I drew an end to the game. We also played 5 times after dinner, and had to play again the next morning before he would eat breakfast. The whole thing took about 10 minutes to do (including pictures), and gave us a lot of fun. Every time he made a match he would dance and cheer for himself. So it was worth while. I figure we will do the next set of letters as soon as I make the next set of cards.

Here's the completed Memory game. I am no artist, but it was fun to make and fun to play.

Supplies needed: index cards, scissors (to cut the index cards in half), a marker. If you want to make more elaborate cards, go with colors or printed pictures of things.

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