Maybe the title is a little harsh, but if you live in Minnesota (or anywhere that gets more than five inches of snow during the winter) you know what it feels like to be stuck indoors while you wait for mother nature to get her act in gear and start the wonderful ascent into summer. It’s like snow is awesome until Christmas, maybe New Years if you’re being really generous, and then after that you’re just like, “Seriously, so over the powder/slush/ice chunks”.
This feeling of stuck-ness is only amplified when you’ve got little ones. I felt myself running out of tricks to keep them occupied. We do our fair share of playing out in the snow, but we’re still inside most of the time. And last week, after resorting to movies one too many times, I decided it was time to get my act in gear. Something had to be done.
So I googled (and did a Pinterest search) entitled “Stuff to do with Toddlers when you can’t go outside”. True Story. And lo and behold, a ton of homeschooling preschool activities popped up and I was introduced to the world of educational, toddler activities! I read about homeschooling moms teaching their just-turned-two children the states’ names! Like, they knew ALL OF THEM! Their kids were already counting past 30, and they were past learning the alphabet and onto the phonetic aspects of each letter. And that’s when I was like, “Dang girl, teach your kids something.”
It’s not that I haven’t been teaching my girls anything. It’s amazing how much they learn on a day to day basis just doing ordinary things like going to the grocery store, visiting the zoo, learning to share with their sibling. I think unstructured play is probably one of the greatest forms of learning you give your child because it encourages exploration and self-discovery. The list goes on and on but I thought that maybe it would be good to start introducing more structured learning like focusing specifically on the letters of the alphabet, not just singing the song (Sophie knows a handful of letters already, but we’ve never actually sat down and attempted to learn all of them), counting past 10 (we’ve been stuck at 10 for over a year) and incorporating concepts like geography and science deliberately. So I went all “Super Mom” and bought myself a lesson planner from the dollar spot at Target and planned my first week of what I call, “Freaking Teach Your Kid Something”, where we are focusing mainly on learning the letters of the alphabet. Monday through Thursday we are devoting each day to a letter, and then Friday is a review day which focuses on the four letters we looked at through out the week.
I’ll make sure to post some of the websites I’ve found helpful too. There are some really good ones out there. Feel free to follow my “School” board on Pinterest too. It’s where I keep a lot of my inspiration links so they’re easy access.
Monday, of course, was A Day, where we focused on learning the letter A. I found a great website called Mud Hut Mama about a mom raising her kids on a wildlife reserve in Africa (seriously? Who is supremely jealous? This girl.) and homeschooling them at the same time. She’s got a lot of fun ideas for hands on activities for young children. I actually got the letter-a-day idea from her, originally. I also searched some websites and came across this one which has a ton of free printouts that’s been my go-to for art-based activities ever since.
For our day, we used the bingo marker printout to help Sophie understand the shape of the letter A (because tracing is a little too fine-motor-skills for Sophie). The bingo marker I got for fifty cents at JoAnns with a coupon, and I picked up two (one for Sophie and for Charlotte for a grand total of $1. Then I just printed out a couple of sheets for Sophie to try out.
I know that parent’s are always talking about how their kids “surprise” them, but I was really impressed with how well Sophie did. Look at that concentration! I kind of expected her to just glob a bunch of dots on there and I would tell myself, it’s the exposure that counts, but no, she followed the dots perfectly. She even lasted through three sheets of these before getting antsy. So I would definitely recommend trying this. Sophie’s only two and she loved it!
Once we had finished the bingo marker activity, we looked at books that had alligators in it. A is for alligator after all.
Then things got crazy (not really). With this activity, I just drew the outline of an alligator (I used the books we were reading illustration’s as a guide) on white paper (one for Sophie and one for Charlotte) and then wrote “Aa is for Alligator” at the top. There are two ways we did this activity, one for Sophie and one for Charlotte. Charlotte got to use markers and color her picture. She was so excited to be able to use markers, not crayons. Half the fun is just taking the cap off the marker for her. Sophie got to use a glue stick and glue little green scraps of paper (cut from magazines and left over craft paper) onto her alligator. She especially loved the paper with glitter on it.
We had all kinds of paper with different textures and weights to make it a fun sensory project too. Plus, this was just a different kind of project than the normal paint/color stuff we do on a regular basis. It held her attention for a long time. She loved being able to use the glue stick. Elmer’s glue probably would have held better but I didn’t really want a big, globby mess. Just picking my battles.
Now we have some great “original” artwork on our fridge too.
So that was what we did with Sophie yesterday to teach her all about the letter A. Since then, she has been pointing “A”s out everywhere. So I call it a success. Plus it made the time go by much faster for me and I didn’t resort to movies once, which was a goal of mine. By the time the projects were all done it was time for Quite Time/Nap Time which was great.
After they woke up we did music time, and began the steps to counting to twenty. I filled a jar of twenty clothes pins and we dumped it out and refilled it while counting the number of clothespins several times (Charlotte helped). Then we sang the 1-20 song and used rhythm sticks to keep a steady beat. We then looked at our United States placemat and named all the A states on the map. Sophie was able to do all of them by the end of 10 minutes. We’ll see if she retains any of that information on Friday. At some point I would like to get a new placemat without all the pictures on it but for now, the pictures help give some facts to each of the states which, I think, makes it more fun for Sophie.
Tuesday is B Day and I’ll hopefully be able to share the projects we incorporated for B too.
What about you super parents out there? Any fool-proof projects that your kids love every time? Ever watched your kid and been like, “Dude, we have a genius”? Having trouble filling up the time while the winter persists? What other blogs do you all follow that have great ideas for activities?