Thursday, September 22, 2016

Making Paper: A Tot School Adventure

This post was originally posted on the SeeMamaTeach collaborative blog.

Hello, It's Michelle from Teaching Eternity.  If you follow me on Instagram you know that despite the fact that school has started up I am still attempting #TotSchool activities with my son (henceforth known as Small Fry).

One day I had finished cutting out large bulletin board letters with my Cricut and was left with a bunch of scraps of neon card stock.  Rather than throw it away I decided I would make a #TotSchool activity out of it, and Small Fry and I would try making paper.  This blog post is not about how to make paper, although if you don't know how you'll learn.  Rather this is about the adventure of making paper with a Tot.

September 14, 2016:  I tried using my dinky at home paper shredder to shred this card stock, but I ended up breaking the shredder.   So I ripped it instead.  At first I put only a little bit of water in, but that wasn't much fun so I added more, enough to make the paper float.  I put the paper and water in one of our shoe box sized containers, put that container and Small Fry in the under the bed Fun Bin, and let him play around.  At first he enjoyed squishing the papers around but soon we discover that they stuck to his arms and legs. I'd stick one on, he'd giggle and pull it off and ask for more!

September 16, 2016:  After letting the paper set for 2 nights I threw it in the blender.  It didn't take long for it to turn into this mush!  Again I put the mush in a small bin inside the big bin, and Small Fry sat in the big bin.  This really helps to cut down on messes.  We used measuring spoons to scoop and dump the mush.  I thought about hiding some magnetic letters or plastic animals inside, but Small Fry didn't seem to keen on touching it.  I thought it felt really nifty - soft almost.

September 17, 2016: The next day we scooped all of that paper mush out onto a screen.  I got THIS ONE off of Amazon.  I didn't plan it this way, but it fit perfectly in the large Fun Bin.  It sat right on the ledge on the inside.  I do not have any great pictures of this one since I was busy making sure our mush made it onto the screen instead of the carpet!
After getting all of the mush onto the screen we had to press some of the water out.  I used paper towels for this.  This took quite a few rounds of pressing then wringing out the paper towels.  In the end there was a lot of water in the bin underneath.
I set the screen up on the kitchen counter (out of Small Fry's reach) to dry.  I propped it up on some little bowls to hopefully help it dry faster.

September 21, 2016:  Our paper was finally dry.  Truthfully it finished drying out on Monday, and I put it under some boxes to flatten it, then forgot where it was!  This was not the best paper.  It was more like really bumpy cardboard.  I think that was because I'd used card stock rather than regular paper.  It was also very fragile.  About 10 minutes after this picture one of the corners had been ripped off and there was a quarter sized hole in the middle.  (Small Fry loved holding it up to peek through!)

So, would I do it again?  The ripped paper and the mush part - yes.  The rest I may do again when he's older and can appreciate how cool it is to actually make paper and then use the paper he made.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Favorite Fall Books

I'll be starting our Fall Unit in Kindergarten next week, so I took a moment to pull all of my fall books for our kindergarten book bin.  I was surprised at how few I had!  So I made a stop at the library on my way home and grabbed a few more.  I thought I'd share some of my favorites with you!

This book is fun to read-aloud! Since the words of the book follow the tune of the song I often find myself reading in a sing-song voice.  I like to stop every few pages and ask the kids "Why do you think she swallowed the ______?"  Or I'll ask "What do you think she could be making with the _____, ______, and _____?"  The kids think this Old Lady is hilarious.  When you're done you can do sequencing activities too.  

I picked this book up at the library, and it is adorable.  I'm not sure it would be the best as a read-aloud, but I definitely think it will be a favorite with the Kindergartners next week.  The pictures are combination of leaf rubbings and stampings, and construction paper illustrations.  I love that it shows different leaves from all different trees.  I plan to start collecting leaves as they fall in the coming weeks, and bring them in for the kids to try and figure out what leaves they have!

This book is great for a small-group, interactive read-aloud.  Almost every page has a question or activity for the class.  It talks about the many changes in fall, like the birds flying away and the sun setting earlier.  It talks about fall weather; getting cooler, rainy and windy.  It also talks about the things we do in fall, like harvest crops and go back to school.  In the back there are activity suggestions too! 

This was another library pick-up, and I've already ordered it, and many of the other Mouse books, from Amazon!  This would be another great read-aloud book.  The language in this book is simple, yet very rich.  The sentence structure is repetitive to appeal to a young reader, but it includes vocabulary for describing the leaves, and many different action words to describe what Mouse and Minka are doing outside on the cool fall day.  I think I may actually need to order a second set... one for home and one for school!

I love how this book starts with the end of summer, and ends with the start of winter.  It is like a little snapshot of the sequence of fall within a book.  The focus of this fall book is fall leaves, and all the things you can do with them.  The kids catch leaves in a net, jump on leaves, compare leaf sizes and shapes, rake leaves etc.  They also make a picture with the leaves and collect and label leaves.  My Fall Vocabulary Unit has two writing prompts that correspond to this book.

Looking for more fun fall books?  Check out these sites:

Do yo have any suggestions?  What other fall books should I be adding to my collection?

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Friday, September 9, 2016

My TotSchool Summer - Organization and Storage

Today's post is going to be short and sweet!  It will also be picture heavy.  However I wanted to take a quick second to show you how I store and organize our Tot School stuff.  My system may not work for everyone depending on how much space you have or don't have, but I hope you can at least get some ideas!

It was important for me to have our TotSchool supplies up where Small Fry couldn't reach them.  When we were just getting started the stuff was on the dining room table, but I knew that wouldn't work for long.  My dog's kennels are in the same room we use as a playroom, so my dad built this little 'tabletop' for them.  I bought the 3 drawer organizer from Target and moved everything in!  You can see that I still do have some dog supplies on the side there, but this is the perfect place to keep a lot of our Tot School stuff! (Note:  I was being cheap budget conscious and bought the target brand drawers.  If I had to do it over I'd pay the extra for the name brand (Sterilite) drawers.  These ones feel flimsy to me.)

In the bottom drawer I have all of Small Fry's craft supplies.  He has alphabet stamps, alphabet sponges, modeling clay, paint, chalk, crayons, markers, colored pencils, and more.  I put this drawer on the bottom, since it it the heaviest!

Next up (literally) we have the materials for Small Fry's Sensory bins.  I store the rice, beans, cloud dough and pom-poms in Ziploc baggies.  I also have the shaving foam and hair gel in here, as well as the cups we use for scoops.

Everyone's got a Junk Drawer right?  This is some of the random TotSchool stuff.  I've got extra Ziploc bags, empty containers, duct tape, whiteboard supplies, and the foam alphabet stamps which Small Fry just likes to chew on, and they don't fit in the bottom craft supply drawer!

I keep our Dollar Store baking sheet and Tot School Tarp (AKA - shower curtain liner) on top of drawers.  Technically they would fit in the drawers but I'd have to take everything out of the drawer to get to them on the bottom, so it just works better to have them on top!  I have our smaller fun bins up here too.  That weird looking thing - we use it for fine motor practice by putting beads on the sticks - that doesn't fit in a drawer!

I put our Fun Bin behind the drawers.  There is nothing inside of it, so I don't have to take anything out to use it.  Honestly it's only here maybe 4 days out of 7.  It is usually either in use, drying after whatever activity we did the day before, or on the floor with whatever activity we did yesterday!

So that's my TotSchool Storage and Organization!  I hope some of my system either works for you, or helps you to figure out what would work for you!

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Monday, September 5, 2016

My #TotSchool Summer - Activity Inspiration

One of the biggest questions I get asked when I started posting my son's #TotSchool activities on Instagram was "Where do you come up with this stuff?!" ... Followed directly by "Where do you find the time?!"  So I thought I'd address those two questions!

As you can probably guess Pinterest is a big source of Tot School ideas.... but most of my ideas come from Instagram!  

Before I start with those I'd like to give a quick shout-out to my friend Heidi from Mac-N-Taters though.  She got me interested in doing Tot School with my son and has many, many amazing ideas!  She is my Tot School idol! 

When I go to Pinterest for Tot School ideas I usually just type "tot school".  If I'm looking for a specific topic I'll add that at the end.  Recently I've been searching "Tot School Fall".  I may also add in my son's age so I don't get a lot of activities either too old or too young for him.  However every once in a while I come across a pinner I decide I want to follow! (pictures linked)

 I love how these boards are organized.  My favorite is the sensory board since my son loves all of our sensory activities the most.  She also has lots of boards for different holidays!

I love this account because she has Tot School ideas arranged by age groups further down on her page!  This was a great way for me to get ideas specific to my son's age group.  She also has Kindergarten and Primary pins that I like as a teacher.

I love all of the Montessori ideas from this pinner.  She has Montessori boards for EVERYTHING!

If you'd like, you can follow my own Tot School board HERE!

Most of my ideas I get from various accounts on Instagram. (Pictures Linked)

Instagram user (@sensorybabyj is a great account for me because this little guy is just 2 months younger than my son.  That means the activities posted on this account are going to be appropriate for my little guy! This account also has a lot of Montessori type activities which I am loving these days.

@playideas is primarily a reposting account, meaning they repost ideas from other accounts.  This is how I have found many of the Tot School inspiration accounts that I follow.

My favorite IG account though is @busytoddler.  I have used so many of these ideas.  In fact, the first week or so of Tot School featured ideas I'd gotten from this account exclusively.  She has two kids, a son who's a good bit older than my guy and a daughter who's a little bit younger.  So scrolling through I can usually find something to occupy our time!

I post my son's Tot School activities on my Instagram account HERE!

To quickly address the question of "How do you find the time for it?!"  ... I don't have some ground-breaking answer.  My biggest tip is to find an idea that requires things you already have on hand, then assemble the activity together.  Small fry loved helping me dump the flour and salt together for our salt dough.  When I shredded paper to use in a bin he liked the shredder best. He gets so excited when I start filling bins with water.  Another tip is to save your sensory bin materials and Tot School stuff all in one place, and don't be afraid to repeat.  We've used the pom-poms, beans and rice multiple times this summer!

Want to read about our top 3 activities from this past summer.  Check out my last post here:

And be on the lookout for a post about how I store and organize my Tot School materials!

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

My #TotSchool Summer - Our Favorite Activities

These past few weeks I've called myself a Summer-at-Home-Mom.  I spent the months of July and August with my son who is just over a year old.  We had a blast.  I remember last summer being ready to go back to work.  He was really little then, and as much as I loved snuggling with him all day, we weren't very active and spent a lot of time on the couch.  This summer it was much different. We went swimming, visited the zoo, played on playgrounds and almost everyday we had #TotSchool.

Almost every day this summer after my son's nap (roughly 3:30ish) we would do a TotSchool activity.  I needed a way to entertain him until it was time for snack and dinner.  I featured a lot of these activities on my Instagram Account (@TeachingEternity).  If you want to easily find just my #TotSchool posts they are on THIS Pinterest board!

However, I thought I take a minute on my blog today to highlight three of my son's favorites from this past summer!

This activity required a blender, water, dishsoap and food coloring.  I put about a cup of water in the blender, a big squirt of dishsoap, and a few drops (3ish) of food coloring. Then I turned the blender on and let it whip the water and dishsoap until it was pretty foamy.  I dumped the foam from each color into the 4 corners of our fun bin (under the bed storage container).  My son had so much fun with this.  He was a little timid at first but soon there was soapy foam all over him.  At one point he actually got in the fun bin!

What he's learning: This was a sensory activity.  I talked about the different colors of the soaps, but mostly he was just experiencing the soap and water.  He loved seeing the foam go flying when he clapped his hands together!

Tips: Put a cheap shower curtain liner underneath this activity... or do it outside.  Also, have a few towels nearby.

What I'll do differently: Next time I'm going to try some of his bath soap instead of dishsoap.  I won't have to worry so much about it getting in his eyes that way. (Update: I tried this again with bath soap and found that the foam turned back to water very quickly!  Maybe less water is needed?)

This activity was clean, easy and fun for the whole family!  I simply taped (I used packing tape) some bubble wrap (I save all of mine) of varying sizes to our hallway and let my son walk all over it!  He kept going back and forth.  I showed him how to jump and he tried doing that.  He tried driving some of his toy cars over it.  He got down and poked at it with his fingers!  I enjoyed walking on it too!  I left it down for the evening and my husband got a laugh out of it when he had to go over it to get in the house! 

What he's learning:  This was a gross and fine motor activity.  The walking back and forth and poking at the bubbles was excellent muscle work for my munchkin.  He also practiced bending his knees for jumping, even though his feet never left the ground!

Tips:  For my son the best bubble wrap for popping was the wrap with bubbles about the size of quarters.

This one was so simple, and we've done it over and over!  I had some old straws my mom had given me from cleaning out her craft room.  I put them all in one container and gave my son a second empty container.  Then let him go to town moving the straws from point A to point B.  Around our house we like to say that my son loves to put things in thing.  This activity fed right off of that!

What he's learning:  This is a great activity for hand eye coordination.  Especially when the second container has a smaller opening!

What I'll do differently: I'd like to make a container with dime sized openings in the top so it is a little bit harder for my son to get the straws inside.  Also I'll use fewer straws next time.  He started taking handfuls out and tossing them about!

Be on the lookout in the next week or so for two more #TotSchool posts... In one post I'll share where I get my activity ideas, and another post about how I store and organize all of my #TotSchool supplies!

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