Friday, February 28, 2014

Ideas for Week 2

For our first week with a theme I want to try "Zoo Animals"
(this is all subject to change)

What we have:
Wooden Zoo Puzzle, Little People Zoo Train, 2 Animal Books, Giraffe Elephant and Monkey Stuffed Animals, Rocks

To Make:
Printable animals to cut in half for "Heads and Tails" Game (from Ironic Adventures), Printable for "Feed the Bear" game (idea from The Eyes of a Boy).

To Buy:
Stickers, maybe some stuff for the sensory bin

Bin 1: Zoo Puzzle
Bin 2: "Heads and Tails"
Bin 3: Stickers
Bin 4: "Feed the Bear"
Bin 5: Sensory Bin

If I Ran the Zoo, Curious George at the Zoo, ...

Week 1: Thursday and Friday (...and a Wrap Up)


Playing With Others:

I had a check-up Thursday morning. My sister babysat Scout for me, and we ended up spending the rest of the day over at her house. So we didn't do any of our bins or "official" school. She did enjoy some socializing with her cousin and interaction with new toys/environment.

Putting together a shape puzzle.
  • Cousin
  • Aunt
  • Play Nice
  • No Pushing
  • sharing
  • taking turns speaking


Flash Cards, Pom Poms, and Colored Pencils:

She went right over to her bins to check everything out this morning. After an incident on Wednesday afternoon where she thought it was hilarious to put the rocks and pompoms in her mouth so I would tell her "No" and chase her, we ended up hiding those for a while. Without her favorites in sight she went for the flash cards. I shouldn't have been surprised that all she wanted to do was crinkle them up, since that's what she does with most pieces of paper, but it made me a little sad.

I tried showing her different things she could do with them, like matching or counting, but she just wanted to scatter them all around the table. So I decided to try a limited amount of pompoms again, but I did warn her any funny business would result in them being taken away again.

This is what I showed her and what I hoped would happen.
Scout didn't like the pompoms sitting on the cards. She got upset and put them in the bowl. So I had another idea. I had washed one of our ice cube trays earlier and I brought it down to our little table. Then I demonstrated putting one pom in each cube (pocket? slot? whatever they're called). She took to this idea right away.

I didn't emphasize matching or sorting this time. We will work our way up to that. This was just the first exposure for her, and she seemed to like it. I gave her a high-five and a little cheer after she completed it.

After three times though she was bored and ready to move on to something else.

The colored pencils, (my "I need one more bin and have no idea what to put in it so I just throw these in" item), have also been popular. She liked carrying them around. Sometimes she got out the paper too and drew random lines. Sometimes she handed me a pencil and wanted me to draw or write something, then took it back and handed me another color.

  • numbers 1, 2, and 3
  • colors
  • same/different
  • draw
  • write
  • separating
  • transferring
  • comparing
  • fine-motor skills
  • drawing only on paper, not furniture or walls

A good start. I definitely need to implement a clean-up time/strategy. I didn't expect her to bounce around quite so much. I love the theme week ideas and suggestions. I think we may start that next week. I also plan on going to the library after her nap today to pick up books for our theme next week (Zoo Animals), and I might make that a weekly outing, to prep for the week ahead. I also want to make a post or a page with my theme ideas so I can remember them. I started a list in a notebook, but I am sure that will get lost. I should also start a schedule and list of things we have and things we'll need. The zoo one should be simple, she loves zoo animals and we have a lot of stuff for it already.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Week 1: Wednesday (or What I Like To Call, Our 1st Official Day)

***I am linking up to 1+1+1=1 Tot School Gathering Place today. My hope is that someone will read this and offer some advice, or stop me now if I am doing it all wrong. ***

So that brings us up to now. This morning after breakfast I allowed Scout to watch a Leap Frog episode while I got everything out of my car from the night before and assembled our Tot Bins. She immediately gravitated to the pompoms and I let her just explore it so I could finish making the flash cards.


The Pompoms

I had them set up where all the pompoms were in the larger pink bowl, and she started out by taking the spoon in one hand and the tongs in the other and kinda stirring/mixing the pompoms around with them. She put down her tools and picked up a little blue pompom and said "Boo" (which if you didn't already guess means Blue). This is the only color she can say so far, though if I ask her something like "which one is purple/red/green/et. al.?" she'll point to the correct one....most of the time, (pink and green confuse her sometimes).

I congratulated her and went over to play with her. I showed her how to use the tongs to pick up the little poms instead of just stirring. Scout tried but I think it might just be too big for her hands still. She transferred the poms with her fingers from one bowl to the other and back. Then I got out two sheets of paper to show her how she could put one color on one and a different color on another. I was introducing sorting. She didn't care much for it and continued playing her own way. Which is fine. I also counted out loud for her how many she could grab. She was rubbing them across her face too so I used the opportunity to discuss "Soft" and "Fluffy".

Scout played with it for about 15-20 minutes. Then she wanted to check out the rock bin. She did come back to this a couple more times. One thing she loved was holding the spoon up to her eyes and looking at everything in pink. She kept trying to get me to laugh at her doing it too.

  • soft
  • fluffy
  • blue, green, yellow, purple, pink, orange
  • tongs 
  • pinching/tweezers/scooping
  • transferring
  • mixing/stirring
  • color recognition
  • counting 

The Rock Bin

At first I took the bin of rocks over to our coffee table, but I soon realized that was a bad idea since she liked to drop them onto the glass portion. So I set up a blanket on the floor that would be our designated area for it.

Instant love. I knew Scout would like this because her favorite outdoor activity last summer was playing with the pebbles of our flower beds. She loves moving her hands and fingers around in all the rocks and picking them up and dropping them.

I used two little bags of decorative rocks from Dollar Tree. She liked holding them, pushing them to one side, lining them up in a row (which she also does with her bath toys on the side of the tub, and her stuffed animals at the bottom of the stairs), clicking them together to make noise, and even sitting in the bin and playing with them. I didn't add any toys this time. I think in the future I will pull out her sand shovel and pail or maybe buy her a little truck or bulldozer to push around in them. I described them a smooth or bumpy, and showed her small, medium, and large.

At the table she lost interest quickly but on the blanket she played with this for at least half an hour and she kept coming back to sit in it after doing something else for a while. Scout occasionally picked a favorite rock for me to hold for her, then would come back with another.

  • hard
  • smooth
  • bumpy
  • cold
  • small/medium/large
  • flat
  • light/dark (in color)
  • making a row (though not in any pattern or order yet)
  • making noise
  • sensory
  • comparing 
After a while she kept going back and forth between the rocks and pompoms and even got the bottle caps from yesterday out and played with all three bins.

Thoughts and Ideas:

When and how to end Tot School for the day? I know its child led, and mostly constructive play, but by lunch time I had bottle caps, rocks, and pompom spread all over the family room. Should I try to focus her more on one activity at a time? Maybe she was just excited because it was so much "new" all at once. I'll think more over the course of the week about whether we should store everything somewhere else after naps, or make this an open all day thing. Or have one or two bins in the morning, put those away after lunch and set out one or two different ones in the afternoon? All-in-all, we both had a good time. There are so many neat ideas online to try its hard to contain myself to just these for now. Its great to have so many options and references available.



Okay, so obviously I have no training in Montessori Education, but I have read a bit about it and it basically seems like letting the child lead education in simple real life skills. Learning tools are at child level, and the child chooses which activity to do, and the duration, which could be 2-30 minutes. This is both liberating and slightly discouraging for me. "Yay I don't have to force her to do something" and "Boo that was a lot of prep work for half a minute of interest". I will probably deviate from some of this here and there, I'm not a purist in anything I do (e.g. sometimes we have organic salad and Spaghetti-O's in the same meal).

So how to give her options without my house becoming a disaster zone? I saw other people had Tot Trays or Tot Bins for each activity, and on shelves so their kids can pull one out and take it to a designated area to play. Then back away it goes until they want it again. Cool. I can do that.

We had an empty bookshelf that I wanted my husband to get rid of weeks ago, (thankfully he procrastinated). I bought five dish tubs for the bins. I was hoping to find some cute colors but this is fine for now.

Then I had to decide what to fill them with. Since I want to start with the basics, Letters, Numbers, Colors, Shapes, I bought some cheap things we can use for various activities: colored pompoms, label stickers, cotton balls, decorative rocks, colorful pipe cleaners. The type of stuff actual crafty people probably already had around the house.

The pink bowls I already had and have used at baby showers and birthday parties. I think I got those from Party City. The same with the giant spoon and small tongs. I had some blank index cards I used for recipes and stuck the stickers on those to make flash cards. They have the number written on the back. There is one-ten and I made two sets so we can eventually do some matching. Right now I will focus on just introducing them to her. I also wanted to incorporate some art stuff so I just threw the colored pencils in one too. I figure even if she doesn't want to draw we can work on recognizing colors and counting and such with them too.

The last one isn't pictured because she was playing with it. Its full of rocks. No toys or anything yet just the rocks. I think its her favorite so far too.

In total I spent $11 on some new things and tried to re-purpose a lot we already had. In the future I want to use ice cube trays for sorting, find some beads I'm confidant she wont choke on, get magnets and a cookie sheet, and clothes pins. I've also seen some cool stuff with shaving cream, which she would love because she loves getting dirty, but she hates being cleaned up afterwards so I think I'll wait for summer so I can just dip her in the pool or something.

Next I'll talk about the Rocks and Pompom bins.

Week 1: Monday and Tuesday, (or How We Got Started)

The end of February seems a weird time to start "school", but since my daughter, Scout (that's a nick name, I don't want to share her real name), hasn't any sort of experience with it she will never know. And honestly if I had thought of it and tried to start it in January, I probably would've have fizzled out by now. As it is, I am in such a hurry for Spring to begin (which wont happen here until April, if we're lucky), that now is the perfect time to make some changes.


We didn't do anything. I didn't come across the idea and decide to really implement it until yesterday.


I started with an idea I saw on Pinterest called a "Name Puzzle". You write their name on bottle caps, one letter per a cap, and then they can spell it out like unscrambling a puzzle. Scout is way to young to spell, but she can identify letters. Not which letter is which, just that these symbols are letters and that they make sounds. Usually if she sees any letter she'll call it "A".

Well it just so happened that I found some milk bottle caps sitting on top of our fridge the day before, left over from when I collected our milk jugs to make a Halloween craft (...that I never actually got around to doing). The jugs have since been recycled but the caps were forgotten about all winter until I randomly decided to dust off the top of the fridge, (lol, no I was just standing on a chair to see the top shelve of another cabinet and saw them over there, I haven't dusted the top of the fridge in ages).

So I scooped them up and got out my scrap booking supplies and glued cute little circles with her name letters on them. Then I let her look them over; she seemed unimpressed. So another idea came to mind that I remembered seeing on Pinterest somewhere. I ran up stairs and dug out an old baby wipe container. The caps fit in perfectly. And she spent at least 5-10mins dropping them in through the slot and taking them out. She needed help getting the container open to get them back out.

I blacked out the letters of her name.

  • the letters of her name
  • in 
  • out
  • upside down
  • right side up
  • face down
  • face up
  • putting a round object through a thin slot on its side
  • opening and closing
  • spelling...sorta
  • letter recognition
So she liked dropping the caps in, and even flipping them over so all the letters were face up. It may have been a coincidence but she got all the letters (except one) right side up too, as if she knew how they were supposed to look. She did not get them in the right order but she consistently had the first letter of her name at one end and the last letter at the other end of her line.

This seemed like a good start. Later that night (because it was the only time I had to run an errand without taking her with me), I stopped by Dollar Tree and picked up some more supplies.

I'll go into some more details about that next post.