Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tot School: Pinecones, Pine Trees, and Lumberjacks: OH MY!

The Pineywoods of East Texas.
That's what we call home.
Monday was the day after Christmas and it was a beautiful warm morning.  Time to get out and go exploring! We have some gorgeous trails and gardens not far from home called the
Mize Azalea Gardens which we have yet to explore!  It was the perfect place to talk about the the tall pines that tower over all the rest of the trees, pick up and inspect pine cones, and talk about lumberjacks who cut down the dead pines and other trees. Here's a quick clip of our morning:

Lately it's been so warm here! Our Winter in the Woods unit has been tons of fun but our weather has proved to be challenging in going along with all the wintery activities!  Last week we studied the Woodland. I combined Snowflake, Icicles, and Snowman to have a Snow Day in Texas even though we will most likely not see snow. I was planning on skipping the lessons over the Pine Tree and Pinecones since they are everywhere around here.
However, when I looked at the Winter Gear week (nothing we wear really here besides a coat sometimes) and the Winter Living week (nothing really around here except for Lumberjack *perfect* and quilts), I realized I should combine a few days to make a week long investigation!
Combining Pine Trees, Pinecones, and Lumberjacks would be our week!

After our excursion outdoors, we came home for some more investigation.  Pinecones are perfect bird feeders and our Mother Goose Time curriculum came with all the things to make one!  All we had to supply was the peanut butter, which we used to make lunch as well.

After making our pinecone bird feeder, we placed it outside on a hook where we could watch it from our dining room window as we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  A blue jay has been visiting the area, and I am hoping we can get a closer view of him with our luring bird feeder.  We shall see...

Update:  Check out what came to our bird feeder all week long! 
Make these with your kids! It's so worth it!  I guess the squirrel caught wind of what was going on and he even came by the window trying to get some bird seed! Lots of animal watching :) 

I usually read to Sweet Pea after lunch and then put her down for a nap, so we sat down to read our monthly book that was supplied by Mother Goose Time, called Timber! 
Mother Goose Time also sends a puzzle with one of the daily bags that goes with the monthly book and we worked on ours after reading the story.

Our monthly CD has a song on it that sings this story!  When I started reading it to Sweet Pea, she remembered the song and went and hit the play button on our CD player.  She doesn't forget a thing...unlike her momma!

We counted trees and looked for the matching animals in the story on our puzzle.  We talked about how the lumberjack was cutting down the animal's homes, and Sweet Pea looked really concerned.
I really love how the story shows the Lumberjack realizing what he has done and planting more trees to replace those he cut.

"Who's house did he chop down here in our story?  Can you find that animal in our puzzle?  What animal is that?  Can you make it's sound?" 

After reading the story, Sweet Pea took apart the puzzle and we did it together.  
We get one each month and they always reflect an image from the monthly book we receive.
In fact, this month's puzzle is my favorite of all the ones we have received so far.  I love how it goes with the story so well and can be used along with the book. 
The best part is the outside frame. 
When we work on these, I point to a little clue on the outside frame and ask Sweet Pea if can find something that matches.

"Look! What's this?  What color do you see?  Can you find a puzzle piece with a little red bird?"

"Oh look! An owl, but he is missing his belly! Can you find the owl's tummy?"
She studied hard looking for his tummy as you can see below.

Found it!

Pushing that last piece in and the look of achievement is so worth it!

Whew! Busy morning! 
And I forgot to mention... just a few days ago my neighbor had some lumberjacks come out and cut down a dead Pine tree in his yard.  Sweet Pea and I got to see some real live lumberjacks in action!
They took down this tall Pine and ground down the stump in less than 4 hours!


How perfect is that?! 
To have Lumberjacks as one of our days and to see real life lumberjacks taking down a tree?!
Yep.... pretty perfect.

Now to wind down and get ready for January's unit on Baby Animals!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tot School: Snow Day in Texas

I live in the Pineywoods of East Texas. It doesn't snow here.  In fact, I believe the last time we had snow (which was absolutely beautiful) it was 2009... let me see if I can find a picture....
Here we go.  These are colored pictures that are completely unfiltered.  That snow was like God had placed a beautiful fluffy blanket completely untouched across our town.  It was breathtaking.

That was 7 years ago, and it has not happened again since.  In fact, yesterday the temperature was about 78 degrees, but dropped about 50 degrees overnight. Get with the program, Texas.

Anyway.... my girl has never seen nor touched snow, and who knows when she will.  This whole week we focused on The Woodland in out Winter in the Woods unit.  I skipped the lessons on Pine trees and Pine cones since we live in the Pineywoods, and we focused on the 3 topics we never see around here:
Icicles, Snowmen, and Snowflakes.

The first thing Sweet Pea and I did during Snow Week was make SNOW using this recipe card provided by Mother Goose Time

I made a half batch which was plenty for me and my girl and she had a blast packing it into her 1/2 Tbsp to make half snow balls.  


It held it's shape well and even was cold to the touch!  It was a mess, but nothing 30 seconds with the vacuum cleaner couldn't handle.  Look at that cheesy grin!  Totally worth the mess for the memories.

We then made a snowflake in our Invitation to Create.
Coffee filter, watered down blue finger paint, glue, glitter, and a pipette.  
I always attach her coffee filters to water color paper.  If you take the filter off before it dries completely, it leaves some of the most beutiful abstract images on the paper.  I didn't remove the coffee filter this time. 
If your child is able to handle scissors, I would first suggest cutting the snowflake and then proceed to paint.  We did not cut ours. 

She worked on her fine motor skills squeezing the pipette to get the paint on her snowflake.

After the paint, she added glue and glitter! 

She decided she wasn't done with the paint and added more... in fact towards the end, she just dumped all that was left over her work.

Beautiful! I love getting up close shots of Sweet Pea's artwork.

The last thing we did during our Snow Week was build a snowman!  Our Little Goose Guide had suggested an activity called "Dress the Snowman" which was a felt activity of changing out what the snowman would wear.
Instead, I set out a tray for Sweet Pea to dress her snowman permanently with glue.
Before Sweet Pea took her nap, I read the book Snowmen at Night...twice.  She really loved the book and hidden pictures.  There are paperback versions for less than $6.00.

While she napped, I put this Invitation to Create together and placed it on her table. In her tray, I placed sequins, jewels, googly eyes, pom poms, buttons, and ribbon cut so Sweet Pea could make scarves if she wanted.  I used my cricut to cut several 3 different sized circles.  I was hoping she would build lots of different snowmen, but she only built a few.  

See that snowman with the heart?  When I turned him around, he looked like this!

Isn't that amazing!  I don't know if she planned this or what, but the way he came together is absolutely perfect! 2 green eyes, a straight nose, a red circle mouth and a heart right where his heart would be in his chest!  I was floored when I turned her work around and saw this!

To top it all off, our public library talked about Snowmen on Wednesday at our story time and had a craft set up for us to make paper plate snowmen which Sweet Pea is pointing to below. 

Even though the temperatures here would never allow for snow this past week, we absolutely loved all our snow activities provided by Mother Goose Time!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Tot School: S.T.E.A.M. Stations and Hedgehogs

You may have heard of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) stations. This was a huge idea in the public education field in which I worked for 8 years.  One of the top questions for educators was:
 "How is what I am teaching incorporating a STEM concept? Can I use STEM in my lesson"  

STEAM is the same thing, but now ART  (letter A) is incorporated.  
Mother Goose Time incorporates 1 STEAM station per day.  
In the front of the Teacher Guide, there is a chart of the STEAM stations for the month. 
I don't do all of these, but one way I use this is by setting up what my girl is currently interested in.
  Right now, Sweet Pea is really into building with her blocks and play dough, so I really want to make sure I incorporate these stations on the days listed.  
This past week, we discovered an animal that she has not seen before... 

Below is a picture of the Teacher Guide explaining how to set up the STEAM Station for the day. It also lists the main skills the lesson is trying to accomplish.  
But you might be asking, "What does "Fine Motor 5.1 mean?" 

At the back of the Teacher Guide is a chart known as the Developmental Continuum. Fine Motor skills fall under the main skill of a child's Physical Development.
Fine Motor 5.1 is highlighted below.
Basically, this Prickly Hedgehog play dough station is all about how Sweet Pea handles objects and if she can follow simple safety rules like "Don't eat the play dough!" or "Be careful with the toothpick.  The pokey ends are sharp."

So what did it look like for us?
FUN and Scary!  
  I used some of the white baking soda dough I made for our Christmas ornaments. This stuff can dry over a period of a few days, and you have yourself a little sculpture ready to be painted! The toothpicks though... they had me a little on the heeby-jeeby side. Toothpicks stabbing into play dough... a 2 year old using toothpicks... I took a deep breath, put them on her tray, and pulled up a seat next to Sweet Pea.

I crafted a hedgehog along side Sweet Pea demonstrating different ways of using the tools presented.  She had never really used toothpicks before and I didn't want any injuries happening.
Do you too go into Mom-mode... "What if she decides to put that toothpick in her mouth? What if she bites on it and swallows the sharp end? What if...."
What-ifs can help keep us on our toes.
But what-ifs can be awful and keep us from exposing ourselves to new and important things.

She used a pine cone to add texture to her dough.

It's amazing how some googly eyes make play dough so much more fun!

Use all the toothpicks!!!

Using her pincer grasp to hold the toothpicks. #finemotorskill

Sweet Pea and I so enjoyed this activity!  
Was she successful according to the skills presented to be assessed?

She was careful with the toothpicks... she didn't break any nor stab herself (or me for that matter) with them. And she didn't eat the dough even with it's enticing peppermint smell. #win 
Health and Safety 6.3 = Success

She used her pincer grasp (index and thumb) to pick up singular toothpicks and stab them into the dough.  She rolled a pine cone in the dough to make textures, and she removed the toothpicks from the dough one by one.
Fine Motor Skill 5.1 = Success

You could simplify this activity with popsicle sticks, which I definitely considered.
But I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give her a tool I was apprehensive over, and she amazed me once again.  I should stop worrying about stuff, and just let her try.
I guess I am learning right alongside her. <3