I’m embarking on a project, following letter-themed weeks that I’ve adapted somewhat from the thorough website Letter of the Week. My intention is to use each week to spark ideas and introduce new concepts through play, rather than to follow the “curriculum,” which is really geared for kids ages 3 and older.
I decided to work my way backwards, because the front of the alphabet always gets all the love! I’m glad I did, because having Z as a guiding theme gave fantastic novelty to our play all week. I can’t wait to see what comes next for Y!
So to begin the week, I hung a big poster of the letter Z. Travis noticed it right away. “What’s the letter of the week?” I asked him, pointing. “Z!” he read. Below is a sample of how we played along with our theme. Whenever a game or toy started with “Z” I’d direct Travis’s attention back to the poster and he was always thrilled to find out we were exploring a new Z word.
Zipper: Pull out anything you have that makes for fun practice; zippers are great for fine motor skill development. Travis loves zippering and unzipping my suitcase, as well as the vests he wore last fall. Make a game of it by trying on favorite jackets, or letting teddy bears and dolls model the clothes.
Zig zag: This vocab word lends itself perfectly to games that develop gross motor skills. Set up an obstacle course and have your toddler run through it in a zig zag order. Travis loved the word; later on as we colored he told me he was making “a zig and a zag” with a crayon by changing the direction he drew.
Zoom: The possibilities here are almost endless! Get out those toy cars, of course. We had gales of laughter zooming his cars through a tube, especially watching battery-operated cars zoom through at twice the speed.
Later in the week, we made a rocketship from a cardboard box, perfect for “zooming” through the air.
Zest: This was unexpectedly one of my favorites! Not only was it a new vocab word and a mini cooking lesson, but Travis was very intrigued by the zester (use close supervision, as the holes of a zester are sharp). He loved seeing what happened when I ran a lemon and orange over the grater, and wanted to play with the zest I left out on paper plates.
“I can eat it?” he asked. I warned him it would be bitter, but he very impishly took not one but three taste tests before declaring it “salty” and asking for milk!
Zoo/Zebra: No doubt you have animal or safari-themed toys that fit this category at home. Because I never plan to take Travis to the real zoo, I like introducing him to these magnificent animals through toys like our zoo Playmobil set. Make sure you pull out all your animal puzzles, too… bonus points for any featuring zebras!
Those Z words provided a nice guiding theme to our games all week, but we didn’t stop there.
Fine art: Practice with a glue stick by letting your toddler glue black stripes onto white paper. We did this free form (because I can’t draw zebras!), but Travis loved that we were making a “zebra.”
Food: Make sure to dine on zucchini one day this week. Even better, prepare zoodles! Our Z theme finally motivated me to try my spiralizer, which Travis loved watching, in order to make zucchini noodles (aka zoodles). Toss with a little marinara and you have an easy veggie hit for the 3-and-under set.
Books: Pick a few books with Z in the title. We selected the following four from the local library: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, Zoom Zoom Zoom! I’m Off to the Moon by Dan Yaccarino, Zorro Gets an Outfit by Carter Goodrich, and Zoom! by Diane Adams. Dear Zoo was the clear favorite, so we continued to read it each night this week.
Song: Listen to Zip a Dee Doo Dah! The video of the original feels outdated to me, but Travis was grinning for the cartoon animals and the silliness of the words. Make it your theme song for the week, to sing on repeat during car trips or diaper changes.
Math: Inroduce the concept of zero, of course! See my blog post for a thorough breakdown of the fun games we played.
We’ll see you next week for week Y!