A Week!

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I can hardly believe it, but we’ve reached the end (beginning) of our Letter of the Week journey, begun last September. Twenty-six letter weeks (plus a few holiday weeks) later, I can say I have loved every step of this project. Travis can identify every letter, and understands the concept that letters are connected to words, the very first step toward reading. In addition, these weeks have helped me to be creative and joyful as a parent, deciding what would fill our activities and games based on the current letter each week. So please, go back through all my letter posts and I hope you enjoy as much as we did!

But first, don’t forget to take a look at our A week…

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Animals: Pull out all your animal toys of course, whatever you have. You’re guaranteed to have some lying around, whether stuffed animals, plastic animals, puzzle animals, and more. In addition, we went back to old favorite games like an animal safari this week, and then acted out animals with a game of charades.

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Put your child’s toy animals in a bag or bin, and take turns selecting. Act out the animal you selected and let the others guess what you are.

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Apron: Pop a toddler-sized apron over your little one’s head and have them join you in the kitchen this week!

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For bonus points, make sure your main ingredient starts with an A, as in the stuffed baked apples we put together.

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Acorns: We used a little collection of acorn caps (gathered at last week’s bird sanctuary!) and turned them into acorn jewels. Acorns lend themselves to any number of arts & crafts, so if “jewels” aren’t your cup of tea, fashion them into whatever your child will like best.

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Aquarium: For our field trip of the week, we headed to a local aquarium! (Please note that I do not recommend facilities keeping dolphins and whales in captivity).

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Alphabet: How appropriate that A week could also be a sort of recap week, since alphabet begins with (of course) A. We put together an alphabet flower garden, played with alphabet tiles, and searched for alphabet beads in a big bin of colored rice.

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And some extras…

Fine art: The suggestion from Letter of the Week was to assemble paper bag animal puppets. I wanted to Travis to have full range of creativity, so rather than assign him a specific animal to make, I let him create and then built off his design to finish our puppets. He loved using glitter glue and stickers, and we wound up with an alligator and a tiger.

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Food: In addition to painting with apples, we ate them in the form of applesauce. Travis also enjoyed animal crackers, avocados, and alphabet soup

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Songs: Ants Go Marching is a big hit around here, and we also watched the clip of April Showers from Bambi (which brought back nostalgic memories!).

Books: Some favorites this week included apple books (Secrets of the Apple Tree and The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall), Let’s Be Animals by Ann Turner, Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert, and Alligator Wedding by Nancy Jewell. Check out your library’s non-fiction section for a cute intro to astronauts as well!

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Math: An abacus was the perfect tool to help Travis visualize his age. I started by showing him two beads for his own age, then showed my age, my husband’s, and the ages of his friends and cousins. He loved seeing two ages in comparison (i.e. himself versus his 6 year old cousin). For preschoolers, you can use your abacus for early addition lessons as well!

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All’s well that ends well… Thanks for reading along on this journey!

B Week!

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It’s hard to believe this is our second to last week of our Letter of the Week journey, begun last September. We had a (n appropriately lettered!) blizzard hit, and frigid temps, but that didn’t deter us from B week fun.

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Bird: My favorite moment of the week was a stop into a local bird sanctuary, where we spotted early spring birds, including a beautiful cardinal! A great way to get out into nature.

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Bubbles: Bubbles are always a childhood favorite, so to make them different this week, we used bubble bath and played bubble barber, piling on silly beards and hairdos. Travis loved giving me a beard and rubbing bubble “lotion” all over his and my arms. We also made a painting with bubbles (simply add food coloring to bubble solution, hold up to paper and blow!), for a neat way to visualize them.

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For more bubbly fun (but not the soap kind), we also painted with bubble wrap.

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Boats: Speaking of bath time, make an easy boat that will really float in the tub. Use an empty Styrofoam tray from the supermarket as the base; place a blob of playdough in the middle, and insert a straw with a paper sail taped to it for the mast. Travis loved it so much he didn’t wait until bathtime to play, and he loved that it really floated.

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Balloon/Bounce: Balloons are another constant favorite, so we needed to make them special for B week. What could be better than balloons that bounce? Buy large balloons, and smaller rubber bouncy balls. Slide a ball up inside each balloon before inflating, then inflate and watch them bounce – they’ll be off balance and wonky and super fun. The bouncy balls turned out to be a huge hit on their own. Travis used them in musical play, to bounce backwards off the wall, and more.

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Backwards: Be silly this week and do whatever you can backwards. Bounce a ball backwards, wear a shirt backwards, or even eat a backwards meal (dessert first of course, or breakfast for dinner and vice versa).

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Baseball: Read a cute intro to baseball like Little Baseball from Sleeping Bear Press, listen to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, and then take a few practice swings with a soft bat and ball!

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Beanbags: Beanbags have nearly endless possibilities; race with them on your back, squeezed between your knees, on your head – the sillier the better!

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Beanbags also make great musical props or color-learning tools.

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Buttons: With the help of some sticks we collected, Travis made a button tree. Or just play with buttons! Travis loves sorting them by color, or piling them into and out of containers.

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Butterfly: This word was the prompt for three fantastic art projects, one messy and fun (footprints), another a touch more scientific (balancing), and one just beautiful (zipline butterflies). It was nice to think about spring butterflies flitting about, here in our late winter weather! Of course you can also flutter like a butterfly using scarves as wings.

Our weekly extras…

Fine art: Travis helped construct an entire block city for our 3-D art project this week. Admittedly, I did most of the crafting, but he loved building stacks and towers in the final creation.

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Food: Some favorites this week were baby bananas, blueberries, and bagels… And of course we had to take a field trip to a bakery for a brownie.

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Books: Your child will get gales of laughter for The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems. You might also check out any of the Angelina Ballerina books, The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, or The Lamb and the Butterfly by Arnold Sundgaard. Our favorite reading moment this week was with our Usborne Young Beginners Bugs, matching them up to Travis’s bug kit.

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Songs: Make sure you listen to Baby Beluga this week!

Math: We talked about the concept of before, as in 1 comes before 2, 2 comes before 3, etc. Floor puzzles or number mats are nice ways to visualize this idea.

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I’ll be posting our final installment – letter A – next week, so stay tuned!

C Week!

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Wow, just three weeks to go on our Letter of the Week journey – so let’s c what we did in C week!

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Car: Believe it or not, we haven’t taken the time just to play with Travis’s car toys in a while, so this week was a nice reminder! We pulled out our town car mat and garages, set up a race course made from duct tape, drove cars down ramps and through tubes, and more. Want something more crafty? Make a car out of a box!

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Clean: Getting children in the habit of cleaning up should be on your list every week, but this week in particular we made a game of it. Try simple ideas like setting a timer to see who can clean up the fastest, giving clear instructions (“Let’s put all the Duplo away first!”), or – for toys that are especially hard to part with at night – tucking them in to a cozy place to “sleep.” A tot-sized set of cleaning tools makes clean-up even more fun.

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Cardboard: Cardboard is everywhere and it lends itself so easily to the imagination. Check out the two crafts we made this week, with cardboard tubes as the base!

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Camping: Pitch a tent (or a blanket over a stool) and camp in your living room; your child will think they’re in heaven! We added a few cozy blankets, a campfire made of straw logs and felt flames, and then cozied up for books by flashlight. Check out Flashlight by Lizi Boyd or the Shine-a-Light series from Usborne.

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Castle: We headed to the non-fiction section of the library and got out a few neat castle books to help Travis understand more about what they are this week. From there, of course, we had to build our own from blocks at home! Fast Forward Castle and Look Inside a Castle are both neat options.

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Captions: For several art projects this week, we added captions, so that by the end of the week, we had a mini art gallery! I loved this idea so much that I hope to continue it beyond C week. After your child finishes a project, simply ask him or her what is happening in the picture. Write down their words on a little index card. It’s a neat way to get them excited about art and reading.

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Construction: In addition to cars, play with any construction vehicles you have. Better yet, make a construction site sensory bin.

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Cloud: We made a shaving cream cloud on a rainy day, then went cloud watching the next afternoon when the sun came out!

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Caterpillar: Very Hungry Caterpillar delights everyone from babies on up. This week we made a color match caterpillar, and also played with Travis’s other caterpillar toy, which happens to be appropriately named the code-a-pillar, his first foray into computer coding.

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Clock: Toy clocks are great because you can gently introduce the notion of time as your child absorbs a little here and there while playing! Travis loves spinning the hands on his talking clock, and we read clock books like Tick and Tock’s Clock Book and Telling the Time.

For our weekly extras…

Fine art: Colors are the name of the game this week! First, try color mixing with paint. I gave Travis a little each of red, yellow, and blue… Soon enough we had a big goopy mess, but it was a great way to get talking about how colors combine to make different ones.

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Read about colors with My Very First Book of Colors by Eric Carle or A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni, then continue the play by color mixing with ice cubes!

Food: Fun foods this week included carrot-raisin salad, homemade cornbread, crackers, cantaloupe, clementines, and a decadent bite of vegan cheezecake.

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Books: We covered cats and cows in books this week. Some fun titles are The Cow Who Clucked by Denise Fleming, Click Clack Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, and They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. Travis also enjoyed Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.

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Songs: Travis was in hysterics laughing over Never Smile At a Crocodile (from Peter Pan), and also enjoyed the changing pace of Little Red Caboose.

Math: You can try teaching your child to classify this week, or better yet – classify by color! We used our color match caterpillar for this, but there are toys you can purchase such as a color sorting pie as well. It’s also a great week for calendars; daily magnetic calendars are a nice tool to teach about the year/months/weeks/days.

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Be back soon for B week!

 

D Week!

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Only three weeks remain in our Letter of the Week journey! Travis has come to love discovering which letter I’ve posted to our wall, and asks all week if a song, food, or game is “special for ___ week.” I love the way this curriculum has built his understanding of the connection between letters and words. Without any further ado, here was our D week.

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Dinosaur: What didn’t we do with dinosaurs this week? I pulled out all our dinosaur toys, which meant magnets, punch-out paper dinosaurs, miniature dinosaurs, dinosaur puzzles, dinosaur stickers, dinosaur coloring books, and dinosaurs stories to cuddle up with like That’s Not my Dinosaur (while wearing dino pj’s of course!)

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Dino crafts included a rather awesome Dinosaur Egg which merited its own blog post, and then we dug for “dinosaur bones” (i.e. popsicle sticks) in a mixture of flour and salt that looked a lot like desert sand.

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After digging, glue your “bones” together into a dino skeleton!

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Dominos: Children will delight in the chain reaction of dominos if you set them up, and manipulating the tiles is great practice for little fingers. You can also help tots line up dominos with pips that are alike for an early math lesson.

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Dogs: Travis played with the stuffed animal dog toys we have, but then I decided we should visit real dogs at a local animal shelter for our field trip of the week. Even though we can’t currently adopt, it’s nice to spend time with animals who may have been caged for quite some time. Ask if there are older, gentler dogs who might like a little playtime in a room with a family. Your child will love the interaction, and get an early lesson in compassion!

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Doctor/Doll: I’m combining these two words, because if a doll comes out in our house, it’s probably going to get a doctor’s checkup. To keep things novel this week, we made a doctor’s hat for Travis! Fold two pieces of white paper into thirds lengthwise, then glue them together so you have one long band. Cover a circle of cardboard with foil, and glue this to the center of the hat.

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Dr. Travis was so proud to wear it!

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Duck: There are so many darling duck books to choose from (starting with Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, and Little Ducks Go by Emily Arnold McCully). We read those stories and followed up with a little white duck craft.

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Dance: We dance a lot in this house, but we played two games this week to make things different. First, I gave Travis a stuffed animal and showed him how to dance with a partner – he loved it! You can also play a game of dancing statues, freezing the music on occasion and seeing who can hold still until the music starts again.

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Disappear: Here’s a sleight-of-hand trick that might not fool older kids, but tricks a toddler! Press a piece of foil over a coin so you leave the coin’s imprint; carefully remove the coin. Place the foil in your hand and say you’ll make it disappear. Hold a piece of paper over your palm with a magic chant or two, but then “fail” to make the coin disappear. Repeat again. On the third try, get frustrated and crumple up the paper; the foil gets crumpled too and voila – your coin has disappeared! “Again!” Travis requested.

Some extras…

Fine art: Our art this week was simple: I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like dot markers, so we made lots of dots. You can have your child dot at random, or draw outlines for them to fill in, like flowers, shapes… or the letter D!

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Food: Travis dined on dates and dill pickles, and then we made a special excursion for a vegan donut at a local bakery.

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Books: In addition to dinosaur and duck books, we read I Love My Daddy by Sebastian Braun, My Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann, James the Dancing Dog by Linda Maybarduk, and Give That a Dog a Bone by Steven Kellogg

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Songs: Little Baby Bum has cute dino songs, like Ten Little Dinosaurs, and Travis loves stomping to Laurie Berkner’s We are the Dinosaurs. Hey Diddle Diddle features lots of great Ds, beyond the title; don’t forget the dog laughing and the dish running away.

Math: Ambitious: I taught Travis that one dozen equals twelve. He still gets a little muddled counting objects higher than eight, but when I ask him how many are in a dozen now, he knows the answer is twelve!

We will “C” you next week…

V Week!

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During our Letter of the Week journey, I put V week on hold long ago so that it could overlap with Valentine’s Day. We sure fit in a lot of Valentine’s crafts, but that’s not all! Here’s what else filled our week.

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Volcano: Easily the biggest hit of the week, I started off Monday morning with a bang. To help Travis understand the experiment, we first watched YouTube clips of volcanoes exploding, and I asked if he wanted to make our own at home. Check out the full details in my separate blog post!

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We also made a simpler volcano from brown construction paper with tissue paper for the lava.

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Vroom: A great action word for the week, you can vroom toy cars, let your child vroom across the room on tot-sized trikes, or pretend your whole body is the car with a round of red light/green light; hold a ball as your steering wheel and vroom when the green sign is up, and freeze when it turns red. Travis liked being the one to hold the signs, too.

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Vacuum: Travis is obsessed with my vacuum, so his Valentine’s Day gift was – believe it or not – his very own vacuum to play with! Kids seem to universally love popper vacuums, or if you don’t have an actual vacuum toy, just engage the imagination! Around here, a wiffle ball bat, excavator truck, and hose have all been Travis’s “vacuums” in pretend play.

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Vest: For nice practice with zippers or other closures, take out all your child’s vests and try them on your stuffed animal friends!

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Volume: It was a fun week to play with dynamics in music. Whatever instrument we chose – drums, sticks, bells – we would first do “volume up!” for loud and then “volume down” for very quiet. And of course, you can apply this game to your singing voices.

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Van: The suggestion on Letter of the Week was to take a ride in a van, to which I had to laugh. Without access to a van, we played a game of “find the van for v week!” every time we got in the car. Travis got the giggles out of our search, and it was a great way to talk about colors, too, as in: “I spy a gray van!”

And now our extras…

Fine arts: What didn’t we craft this Valentine’s Day? Check out my blog posts for Handprint and Footprint Hearts, Send a Hug, I Heart You Stickers, “Be Mine” Fro-Yo Bark, and a Valentine’s Garland.

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Food: Eat your vegetables this week folks! Travis had vegetable soup, veggie chips, and of course fresh veggies.

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Books: Look for Valentine’s Day titles at your local library. Travis’s favorite was Little Bear’s Valentine by Else Holmelund Minarik.

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Songs: I couldn’t think of any children’s songs with a V in the title, but we did listen to clips online of the violin. If you think your child won’t be interested, just search for D Sharp playing any song on his blue violin.

Math: I gave Travis a very brief into to the word “vertical” and showed him the difference between vertical and horizontal lines. He scribbled a few tries of his own before losing interest.

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Needless to say, we were very busy. I’ll be back next time returning to where we were in alphabet order – E week!

F Week!

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For an F week full of fun in your Letter of the Week curriculum, try out these ideas.

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Firefighter/firetruck: Hands down the biggest hit of the week, start by pulling out any firetruck toys you have at home. Even better, I gave Travis a chance to play Firefighter with an imaginative put-out-the-flames chalk game, which merited a full blog post.

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Flag: This word was the surprise hit of the week! We checked out a library book on state flags, and Travis couldn’t get enough of going through it and deciding which ones he liked best.

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After that, we had to design our own family flag of course. Travis wanted me to do the drawing, but told me what symbols to include, and which colors to use. If you have craft items at home that begin with an F (feathers, felt), consider gluing those to your child’s flag creation.

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Frisbee: For our exercise this week, we got out to the park and Travis enjoyed a basic intro to the Frisbee, giving a few nice tosses! You could also toss a soft football, if that interests your child more.

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Finger: Use fingers only to make sketches in a shallow tray of cornmeal. You can encourage your child to draw letters or shapes, although Travis mostly just loved running his fingers deep through the tray.

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Fan/feather: Fans are a favorite around here, because it’s always fun to see how objects blow in the wind (see my post from W week for more on this idea). This week, we let feathers go over the fan and watched them flutter.

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Fort: What better excuse than the letter F to take out all your pillows and blankets and build a big fort?

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Fish: As our field trip of the week, we visited the fish at a local aquarium. Travis couldn’t get enough of a catfish nearly as big as he was. Libraries and rec centers in your area may also have large tanks of fish for children to enjoy.

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Foot: Here’s a word I thought would be fun, but which turned out to be a flop. I tried to get Travis interested in tracing his foot and mine, to show their relative sizes, and then thought he’d enjoy painting with his feet instead of a paintbrush on a large sheet of butcher paper… But he couldn’t be bothered! Instead, we read The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss, which always produces giggles.

Our weekly extras…

Fine art: As our art project, we folded paper fans. I showed Travis how to make them with very tight folds, and he loved flapping them to create a breeze. Although he wasn’t able to replicate the exact structure, he enjoyed folding sheets of paper in imitation.

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Food: It was a week to dine on French fries and fruit salad… and then we had to make French toast!

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Books: Our favorites of the week were: Little Rabbits’ First Farm Book by Alan Baker, Firefighter PiggyWiggy by Christyan and Diane Fox, Friends by Michael Foreman, and Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Songs: Although not a children’s song, a rousing rendition of Finiculi Fincula got huge laughter and clapping along. And of course there’s the children’s classic the Farmer in the Dell.

Math: Introduced fractions! A sandwich (or any food that can be sliced into portions) is the perfect opportunity to visualize fractions. Show your child the whole sandwich before cutting it in half, thirds, or quarters. Travis liked the demonstration so much that wanted his own piece of bread to practice on. As a perfect coincidence, he wound up “half” dressed in his pajamas that evening (bottoms on, top off) which he decided was hilarious.

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Be on the lookout for an out-of-order V Week post in the coming weeks – I saved it on purpose so we could learn all about V with Valentine’s crafts.

G Week!

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I had a bunch of activities planned for G in our Letter of the Week exploration, and anticipated good fun… Little did I know there would be some great favorites that I didn’t even expect. So without any further ado…

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Garden/Greenhouse: As luck would have it, a local greenhouse was having a midwinter festival, so we kicked off the week with a garden tour! We strolled among the lush flowers in the greenhouse gardens – and got to hear a steel drum performance too.

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For a cute gardening story, we followed up at home by reading the Curious Garden by Peter Brown. See below for our indoor gardening project, which was our fine art activity of the week.

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Guitar: Travis loves guitars, so I had to make sure the instrument was extra special this week. It felt meant to be that the aforementioned garden festival also featured… a guitar show for children! Travis was thrilled to watch the musicians strum the strings. Check your local listings for guitar shows; or, if you can’t find a local performance, share clips of guitar music online.

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Giraffe: For no discernible reason, we own three puzzles that feature giraffes. Needless to say, I pulled them all out this week, and we read Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreaea to further explore the quirky anatomy of these tall giants.

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Golf: This word was the prompt for our fantastic “field trip” of the week, to a local museum that has – go figure! – six holes of mini golf on the top floor. Travis took right to the game; I would hit the balls near-ish to the hole, and then he loved sinking them. For an easier take on the activity, you can set up shoebox golf at home.

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Garbage: Travis has a toy garbage truck which he’s never paid much attention to… until I showed him a few YouTube clips of garbage trucks in action this week, and boy oh boy was he hooked. Garbage collectors are an oft-neglected category of “community helper,” so it was great to teach Travis about their work, and discuss the value of recycling. Then it was time to set up our town playmat; he drove his toy garbage truck around to collect the bits of “trash” we put down on the mat.

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Goat: You could simply play with your farm toys that feature goat figures, but since we just did that with horses for H week, I also read recommend reading Billy Goats Gruff. After a cozy read, we acted out the tale with toy goats. Travis loved making them “trip trop trip trop” over a bridge.

And our weekly extras…

Fine art: We planted a grass-haired man (with a green face of course), for a delightful stint at indoor gardening. We have yet to see the grass sprout, but check back for updates on the separate blog I posted.

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Food: Grapefruit got a firm nope as too sour, but Travis enjoyed green grapes, granola bars, and green beans… and then we whipped up homemade graham crackers!

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Songs: Share a clip of The Green Grass Grew with your child.

Books: We enjoyed almost too many wonderful titles to list this week! Check out: Giant Vehicles by Rod Green, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, Goodnight, Godnight Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, When a Grandpa Says I Love You by Douglas Wood, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, and Duck and Goose by Tad Hills.

Math: Make a “greater than gator”! Technically, we used our A is for Alligator from another project, but I realized that it was easy to call him a “gator” instead and his open jaws looked just like a greater sign! I taught Travis that the gator could only eat green grapes from the plate that had a greater quantity, making for a a nice lesson on how 3 is greater than 2 and so on.

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H Week!

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Here we are in H week, still loving the novelty that comes from focusing on a particular letter each week. Without any further ado, here is what we enjoyed:

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Hammers: I kicked off H week by pulling out all of Travis’s toys that involve a hammer, including some he hasn’t used in months. Some, meant for younger toddlers (including what I fondly call toddler whack-a-mole), he never paid much attention to before, but loved this week. It’s always a nice idea to bring out old toys and look at them with fresh eyes.

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House: H is a great prompt to talk about the words “house” and “home,” including who lives in a house, and what makes a house a home. Dollhouse sets are a great way to learn the different room names or types of furniture, as well as a great prompt for the imagination. We have a neat one that assembles in different configurations and stores flat, but if you don’t have a dollhouse at home, check your local library’s play area.

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Horse: Pull out any barn toys you have, with emphasis on the horses this week. Our nice variety includes a latch barn (great for fine motor skills), as well as a Playmobil set that had Travis pretending to care for and clean up after his horses. If the weather is right and there is one in your area, you might consider visiting horses at a farm or sanctuary!

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Hibernation: I snuck in a little science with this word, teaching Travis that some animals hibernate (take a long nap) during the cold winter months. We had a berry snack to fortify us, then “slept” in a cozy den of blankets and pillows. When it was “spring,” we woke up, we stretched, and dined on more berries. Invite your stuffed animals to join in for cozy hibernation fun.

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Hula hoops/hula dance:  Hula hoops make for great play – jumping into, using in an obstacle course, or rolling around the room. Travis looped his over his shoulders and spun in a circle, an adorable first foray into using one around his waist. You can also toss bean bags inside a hula hoop for a color-matching game.

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Following up on the word, I made Travis a rather silly hula skirt, simply attaching green crepe paper to a child’s belt. He loved the hula dance party that ensued!

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Hats: Play a game of guess-that-hat; show your child pictures of different hats – policeman, firefighter, construction worker – and see if they can identify which profession each one belongs to. To do this, we used the hats on our Joey magnetic doll, but you could also cut pictures from magazines. Try reading the sweet book Which Hat is That by Anna Grossnickle Hines before you play the game.

And our weekly extras…

Fine art: Make handprints of course! This painting project was easily Travis’s favorite moment of the week, impishly getting his hands goopy and slapping them down to make prints.

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He liked seeing how the paints mixed together, and turned his hands different colors.

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Food: Not exactly the healthiest fare, but Travis dined on Hawaiian pizza (pineapple and Tofurky ham on pizza), and hot dogs (well, tofu pups). In a healthier vein, serve honeydew melon.

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Books: Some great picks from the library included: Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell, Hello! Goodbye! by Aliki, and Hide & Seek by Il Sung Na.

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Songs: Two songs with H in the title are perfect for interactive and silly fun. First, teach your child the Hokey Pokey. Travis got a kick out of seeing me do the silly dance before joining in. You can also watch online, sure to elicit smiles. Then we acted out the classic If You’re Happy and You Know It.

Math: I introduced the notion of hours, thanks to a new teaching clock toy that Travis received over the holidays. Since he’s only 2 and 1/2, I stuck to hours for now and didn’t bother with the various minute positions of a clock, but Travis took right to it. Then we made a big floor clock with the numbers, and Travis was the “hands” of the clock, pointing to the hour I asked for.

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You can also talk about halves: draw the top half of a person and enlist your child to draw the bottom half – legs, feet etc. If this seems too complicated, simply draw shapes and draw a line dividing them in half, or color the halves different colors.

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Goodbye until G week…

I Week!

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I was so happy with the items on our agenda this week, continuing our Letter of the Week journey. The letter I happens to lend itself to games that were right up Travis’s alley. So we started with…

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Ice/Igloo: The perfect words for games in the middle of winter, we kicked off the week with icy cold fun, building an “igloo” from ice cubes. When he tired of that, Travis loved watching the ice cubes melt. He would scrape them over a baking sheet, pour the melted water onto a towel, and then return to the task over and over. Endless entertainment!

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After we discussed what real igloos are, we made a life-size one from couch cushions and white blankets that he could wriggle inside of.

Our ice games didn’t stop there. We’ve painted with frozen paint before, but this time we turned ice cubes themselves into the paint brushes. Simply freeze Popsicle sticks into the cubes of an ice cube tray, and sprinkle powdered paint on paper.

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Let your ice “brushes” thaw just a little before applying over the powdered paint; Travis loved watching the colors swirl and mix together.

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In addition, we released toys that had been frozen in ice during bath time…

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…and made ice luminaries and ice towers, projects so fun that they merited their own blog posts.

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Imagine: This word well applies to every week in the life of a two-year-old, but this week I stressed the point whenever we imagined during play. One game that hones imagination is to pull out any hats around the house. As your child dons each hat, have him or her imagine who they are. Travis liked being a “soldier” in a fedora, and also pretended to be the Snowman from the classic video of the same name. We also enjoyed playing with a king’s crown.

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Insects: Travis adores bugs, but this week I taught him that insect is a “fancy” word for bug. We played with the bug kit he has at home, but also took a field trip to the local children’s museum, where he could see cockroaches, stick bugs, and more.

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Indoor: I week was the perfect chance to stress the difference between indoor and outdoor voices. Travis latched right on to the concept, and loved waiting just until we were outside of the library to switch from a whisper to a yell.

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Focusing on the words inside/indoor was also a great way to make indoor winter fun feel special… We set up an indoor beach on a yucky rainy day! We went all out, with palm trees on the wall (use brown construction paper for trunks and green crepe paper for fronds), beach towels, and even bathing shorts worn over pants. I pulled out beach toys and added Hawaiian music in the background as the finishing touch. And of course this was another great game for the imagination.

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Instruments: I made a big pile of our all instruments, and we got in exercise marching around. We also enjoyed the instruments in the sound room of the children’s museum while there on our insect visit.

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Ink: Travis loves stamps and ink pads, so this theme word made for messy enjoyable play. We also talked about how ink can be found in lots of useful things, such as pens and printers.

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Iguana: We paid a visit to the resident iguana at a local wildlife rehabilitation facility. Of course, if there are no iguanas near you, it’s the perfect week to read a book about one.

I Spy: A fantastic game for honing observation skills, I suggest starting out with the book I Spy by Edward Gibbs to teach your child the basics of the game. The book features a hole on the last page, through which Travis said “I spy” about all the objects in our living room. Continue the game on car rides all week, for a great way to keep backseat passengers entertained.

As if that wasn’t enough, here were some extras…

Fine art: My intended project was to make a homemade rhythm instrument from an empty Earth Balance butter tub and rice. Travis helped pour the rice in, after which I glued on the top and let it sit overnight. But when it was time to shake, he just wanted the rice, and peeled apart the glued-on top. So much for that project!

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Instead, we put icing on sugar cookies, fitting in our fine motor skills that way.

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Food: Ice cream was the obvious choice. We headed out for vegan ice cream at a local restaurant for a super special treat. For healthier fare, try making a recipe from Italian or Indian cuisine.

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Books: Travis loved three picks from the library: The Indoor Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown, The Little Island, by Golden McDonald, and Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni.

Songs: Check out an online clip of Ice Cream from Anne of Green Gables, or – of course – Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Math: Travis loves playing with the ruler on his toy tool bench, pretending to measure things, so this week I introduced the vocab word “inches.” We got out different pieces of Duplo and had fun marking off how many inches each piece was.

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That’s all for this time, we’ll see you in Week H.

J Week!

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Travis and I had just enough time between Christmas and New Years to fit in J-themed games and learning, as we continue our Letter of the Week journey. We found lots of joy in letter J words!

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Jungle: A jungle Duplo set from Santa was a timely gift to kick off our week, including elephant and tiger figures. We constructed a big jungle from all the pieces, and included green paper clip “vines” for the monkeys to swing on. Play with any other toys you have that feature jungle animals, whether stickers or puzzles…

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Or just dance around like jungle creatures! We like to shake maracas and pretend to be monkeys.

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Jump: We certainly got in exercise with jumping this week! You could set up bean bags or other jumping points along the floor as an obstacle course, or set up several books and jump from story to story before beginning storytime!

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Or just have a good old-fashioned jumping party.

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Jack-in-the-Box: A perennial favorite, but every time I pull out our jack rabbit in a box, Travis is further able to use the toy himself. He now winds through the whole song, and stuffs the rabbit back in to begin all over again without needing my help.

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Juggle: When we were done jumping on all those bean bags, we picked them up and juggled them. Tho Travis tried perhaps a few more than he could handle…

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Jeep: Pull out any toy vehicles you have that fit the definition of a jeep. We also have a neat jeep track, so of course that had to be set up this week. If you don’t have jeep toys, see if you can spot real jeeps driving around town!

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Jewels: We attempted to make homemade jewels with a salt and glue recipe I found in 365 Toddler Activities that Inspire Creativity. I made the mistake of purchasing kosher salt, however, not rock salt, which meant our jewels didn’t set enough for play! Hopefully you make the recipe correctly and can use the jewels once they dry, whether your child pretends to be royalty or a pirate. Nonetheless, it was good messy fun to make our jewels. To make your jewels, combine

2 cups rock salt

1/2 cup glue

Drops of food coloring

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Jars: Lids and jars never fail to amuse toddlers. We set up a few jars with quiet objects (ribbon, cotton balls), and some with loud (marbles, buttons), and shook them to decide which was which. As always, jar lids are great practice for fine motor skills.

And here are some weekly extras…

Fine art: A jellyfish craft was good jiggly fun. Travis’s favorite part was coloring in the body on a paper plate, after which we added string as the tentacles.

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Poke holes in the top of the plate and thread a final string through, so your toddler can jiggle the jellyfish around.

Food: Travis dined on jam on toast, and ate a few nut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Although normally not available in our house, juice was a special treat for J week, and Travis was delighted!

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Books: Our picks from the library this week tended to be interactive ones – Jump by Scott M. Fischer makes for great jumping play, and Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban is the perfect book to read over a jam snack. You might also want to act out any version you can find of Jack and the Beanstalk.

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Songs: As with our books, songs this week were very interactive! Jingle Bells was still timely, here only a few days after Christmas, so we played the song and shook jingle bells along to it. Another interactive song to try is Jack and Jill; using a xylophone, move up the scale as you sing each note of the following:

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.

Then descend the scale of the xylophone as you sing the following:

Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.

As you play, your child rises up on the first line, from a little ball until standing tall with arms up high. In the second line, he or she shrinks back down into a ball.

After that lesson on the octave, sing John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt for an easy introduction to dynamics – start out loud, and finish off with the verses in a whisper.

Finally, Travis fell in love with the song Hey Jude this week, completely by coincidence!

Math: My intention was to count jellybeans, but I didn’t have time to buy vegan ones before J week sneaked up on us. Instead, I dubbed a bag of Surf Sweets gummy bears as “jelly bears.” Travis started with a plate of 20 and got a kick out of counting down as he ate. “How many are left?” he’d ask, hiding one behind his back, before moving on to the next bite.

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In sum, a week of joyful fun. What other J games can you think of? Please share in the comments!