Phoneme Week 9: AY

AY week

With Travis now in nursery school three days a week and lots of other projects on our agenda, I’ve greatly abbreviated our phoneme games; we seem to be doing phoneme months instead of phoneme weeks. But it’s still nice to have a guiding letter pair up on our wall, introducing Travis to the sounds that letter pairs make, and using that as a jumping-off point for play.

You’ll notice that this post is much simplified from previous phoneme weeks, but this pace suits us just right for now. Have your child practice tracing A and Y over the course of your week or month, and then enjoy the suggestions below!

Words of the Week:

  • Day: To focus on this word, we made a Days of the Week chart. This was a great visual guide for Travis, now that he can anticipate school three days a week, but not on others.Days of Week (5)
  • Clay: We love playing with our model clay kit, great for imagination and fine motor skills. In addition, we had fun with a few clay-based crafts like clay fortune cookies, clay charm necklaces, and silly moon craters made from clay asteroids.Clay Fortune (4)
  • Gray: Besides teaching the color and having fun with gray crayons or paint (what will you draw – elephants? rhinos? mice?)… AY week alt.JPG…we also took advantage of moments when the weather was cloudy to do activities best suited to grAY-sky dAYs: Rainy day window painting and a rainy day art picnic! These fun activities are sure to chase any rainy-day blues awAY.Rainy Window (3).JPG
  • Tray: You can use this word as the jumping off point for any number of sensory trays, or focus on the tray as a wAY to contain projects that are particularly messy. To wit: vinegar, baking soda, and balloons!VInegar Balloons (5)
  • Birthday: As luck would have it, this unit overlapped with birthdays for both mommy and daddy in our household. We celebrated with cupcakes, presents, and a read of birthday books. There are so many kids books to choose from with Birthday in the title. On his dad’s birthday, Travis cozied up to read the quirky Oscar’s Half Birthday Froggy’s Day with Dad.AY Week (10)
  • Lay: Make a cozy bed fort, then take turns laying down and make silly noises to “wake” each other up.AY week (5)
  • Play: A rather obvious one, which you’re no doubt doing with your child every day anywAY! But to put a fine point on the word, we played post office and cash register games – perfect opportunities also to pAY.AY Week (1)
  • Stay: We played a round of freeze dance (an old favorite in our house), but switched up the words as we started and stopped to the music this time – “go” and “stay”!
  • Pay: Thinking beyond the monetary definition of this word, we used it as the leaping off point to pay attention to things. This inspired us to put together a Kindness Wreath, which turned into the perfect fall adornment for our door.Kindness Wreath (8)
  • Hay: Definitely the word that inspired the most fun in this unit, first we went a field trip to a local farm sanctuary, where of course there was lots of hay to be seen, and a chance to feed the animals grassy hay.AY week (3) We took the fun home with a bale of hay from a craft store (easy to come by, here in the fall). Travis loved having his own little farm out back where his animals could play in the hay. AY week (6)Finally, we incorporated hay into a craft with our Q-tip Painting Indian Corn project.
  • Spray: The runner up for favorite word of the unit, you can’t go wrong with a preschooler, a spray bottle and water. Spray Fun (7).JPGI also decided to have Travis be my sous-chef for a recipe requiring cooking sprAY, and wanted it to be something novel. That meant we pulled out my old waffle maker for the first time in years, sprayed it with the cooking spray, and scooped in the batter for homemade pumpkin waffles!Pumpkin Waffles (4).JPG

Clay Fortune Cookies

Clay Fortune (15)

Last night was the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (or Mooncake Festival), celebrating the harvest. Traditionally, families celebrate with picnics and mooncakes eaten underneath the full moon. Making vegan mooncakes was too arduous an undertaking, but fortune cookies seemed like a nice cultural symbol to set the tone, and were easy to make with… clay! This was a fun way to introduce Travis to a new culture and new ideas.

Clay Fortune (1)

After a real fortune cookie snack, he loved watching the “cookie shop” we set up, as I demonstrated how to roll the clay flat into circles.

Clay Fortune (3)

Fold each circle in half, then pinch inwards into a fortune cookie shape.

Clay Fortune (2)

This was a bit tough for Travis, but he loved watching me pinch our cookies as he created other shapes.

Clay Fortune (5)

We let the clay air-dry overnight, and then painted with watercolors the following afternoon. Travis had fun selecting different shades for each cookie!

Clay Fortune (12)

To make the fortunes, simply cut paper into thin strips and decorate with pictures or words.

Clay Fortune (10)

I gave Travis a few prompts, asking what he most hoped for or would wish for somebody else, and wrote his words on some of our fortunes.

Clay Fortune (11)

Then it was time for the “festival”! This really just entailed heading out after dark as a family to see the moon (so bright my camera couldn’t handle it).

Clay Fortune (7)

We enjoyed the Chinese tradition of telling riddles as we snacked on real fortune cookies. Two fun ones for kids that earned big giggles:

What’s full of holes but still holds water? – A sponge!

What’s black and white and re(a)d all over? – The newspaper!

Clay Fortune (8)

Overall, a really fun activity whether you tie the clay cookies into a larger festival or not.

Clay Fortune (16)

Days of the Week Chart

Days of Week (4)

Travis is in nursery school three days a week now (!), a transition that has gone remarkably well, but which sometimes leaves him confused as to whether it’s a school day or a weekend – a term used loosely since his “weekend” is now four days long.

This easy chart helps him visualize the week, and is great both for pre-readers and for kids who can read the days of the week.

To make the chart, cut a piece of poster board into a strip, and divide into 7 spaces (decorative washi tape makes a nice border between days). Write the names of the days across the top.

Days of Week (2)

We filled in each space with a visual of the main activity for each day.

Days of Week (3)

You can draw simple pictures on index cards, and write the words of the activity as well. In addition, we added photos for some of the activities that repeat weekly, like school:

Days of Week (1)

You can print out photos, or use a handy instant camera for the pics.

Days of Week (8)

As the final touch, we added a large paperclip along the top, which Travis can slide along as the week progresses. He loves matching up which day it is with which activity we’re headed off to enjoy!

Days of Week (7)

Apricot Sunshine Bites

Apricot Sunshine Bites (3)

These after-school snacks are bursting with energy and with natural sweetness from the coconut and dates. They’re the perfect boost to get through a busy afternoon!


  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup + 1/4 cup walnuts, divided
  • 1/2 cup almonds, divided
  1. Combine the apricots and dates in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Add the coconut, flax, water, and salt; pulse to blend.
  3. Add 1/3 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup almonds to the mixture, and process until it forms a ball – the mixture will be quite sticky.
  4. Finely chop the remaining 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup almonds, and transfer to a shallow bowl.
  5. Using wet hands, divide the apricot mixture into tablespoon-size balls, rolling between your hands, and then rolling in the chopped nuts.
  6. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes before serving.

Apricot Sunshine Bites (2)

Bacon-Asparagus Hash

Bacon Asparagus.JPG

My son loves asparagus – so much so that I don’t tell him I’m making it ahead of time, or he’ll throw a tantrum while it cooks #veganproblems. I delighted him the other day with not one but two of his favorite foods, adding vegan bacon slices into this easy side dish. My favorite brand for little kids is Lightlife, which has a mild flavor. For a smokier, more intense bacon dish, try this with Tofurky’s maple bacon tempeh.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 Lightlife bacon slices, finely chopped
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Halfway through cooking, add the bacon, stirring frequently until the asparagus is tender and the bacon is crisp.

Fancy Toast

Fancy Toast 2

Just the name of this quick snack makes it sound exotic and exciting – enough so to get a picky preschooler to try out food combinations he or she might not otherwise attempt. You can serve any of the following combinations on toasted baguette slices, but we like to use crispbread crackers from Ryvita. Double up portions and you’ll move any of these combos from a snack to a meal.

Tomato and Cheddar Fancy Toast

  • 2 crispbread crackers or baguette slices
  • 1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of black pepper
  • 2 ounces sliced Daiya cheddar
  • 1 tomato
  1. Spread the mayonnaise evenly over the cracker slices, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and black pepper.
  2. Thinly slice the cheddar, and arrange the slices on the crispbread. Thinly slice the tomato and divide the slices evenly over the cheddar.

Fancy Toast 3

Pumpkin Butter Fancy Toast

  • 2 crispbread crackers or baguette slices
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin butter
  • 6 thin apple slices
  • Dash of cinnamon
  1. Spread the pumpkin butter in a thin layer over the crackers.
  2. Top evenly with the apple slices, and sprinkle evenly with a dash of cinnamon.

Banana-Nut Fancy Toast

  • 2 crispbread crackers or rye bread slices
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (or other nut butter)
  • 1/4 cup banana slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds
  1. Spread the nut butter evenly over the cracker slices.
  2. Top evenly with the banana slices and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Fancy Toast (3).JPG