Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Magical Morning Bug Hunt

If you want a magical morning, go for a walk in the woods. Seriously.

I love Tot School because it encourages us to do activities we may not otherwise think of or may have forgotten we love.

This week we're talking about bugs, so this morning we decided to trek through our favorite path at Panther Creek State Park. This path was a favorite pastime when Brian and I were dating, but has been severely neglected since we've had kiddos.

Beckett broke out his favorite boots and we took our critter catcher and magnifying glass so we could search out some critters. Both kids had a total blast exploring their surroundings. I think Beckett could have stayed in there all day. He was all boy! Climbing rocks and jumping off and over things. I LOVED watching him! I probably would have been able to stay longer than the hour we did if I weren't carrying a hefty baby!

Here's the situation though. We went looking for bugs and BOY DID WE FIND SOME. I thought I was more prepared for this. Guys. Bugs are gross and I'm not afraid to admit it. I thought I would be able to suck it up and show Beckett how to make use of that critter thingy, but alas. I failed miserably.

If those little stinkers would have just jumped into the critter case when we asked them to, we would have brought home this bad boy. Maybe when Dad is back in town, we can try again.

The ants were much better behaved. Beckett just sat his bowl down (because we take snacks everywhere, obviously) and they just helped themselves right in! Perfect opportunity to make use of our cool new magnifying glass

I loved this morning. And the kids and I desperately needed a magical adventure like this after a very exhausting week. 

We'll definitely continue heading out to our new favorite adventure spot. Lucky for us, we have a couple more months of summer weather and then a beautiful Tennessee fall to look forward to!

When we got home from our trek, we broke out our Scavenger Hunt! We decided not to take it into the woods with us because it was one more thing to carry, but it ended up being a great tool for discussing our adventure and recalling our findings!

Beckett loves these scavenger hunts! We did one last week at the zoo and he was so proud to take charge of this activity and show me what animals he'd seen. This page has been our main avenue for new vocabulary this week as well! I brought it out yesterday and we chatted about the insects and compared them to our toy critters. Grab your FREEBIE download here!

It was such a fun & memorable day!

To see what else we're doing during bug week, check back for another post at the end of the week and take a look at my Pinterest board.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Zoo Tot School

For the last couple of months, we've been on a break from Tot Schooling, but we are VERY excited to get back in the swing! I like that using Tot School themes adds variety & creativity to our day to day activities, and also is an effective way to strengthen Beckett's vocabulary.

This week, we chose our theme based on our summer schedule! Since we were headed to the zoo, we filled the week before with zoo themed activities. The goal this week was to have activities with MINIMAL prep work, and lots of hands on fun!


As usual, I started by digging out all of our appropriately themed books. Of course I also took the opportunity to grab a few new ones too! 

Below is a hyperlinked list of our favorites, all available in board book if that's important to you (like it is to us!). Just click!


Put Me in the Zoo

I found this activity on Pinterest, of course. After reading Put Me in the Zoo together, I sketched out this cute guy on yellow construction paper and gave Beckett (2 and a half) some Q-Tips and paint. He's SUPPOSED to be doing polka dots, but of course he got tired of that nonsense after a few minutes. This was Charlie Grace's first time at the table and she was so thrilled!

After we finished our picture, I wrote the first part of the title across the top and Beckett finished by writing out "Zoo." He's just started understanding that letters strung together equal words, and he's getting a big kick out of being able to write them down!

Play Doh

We have this really neat Play Doh set. It comes with awesome little rollers that allow you to imprint animal prints into your play-doh. How fun! Beckett was completely entertained, which is funny because we play with play-doh A LOT. Does it ever get old, though? While we played, we talked about what colors would be most appropriate, we examined the prints on our animal creations, and talked about the animal names of the play-doh shapes we made. We also used play doh to imprint some of our animals & make little molds! During this time, Charlie mostly just got in the way until I enticed her to play with our play doh bin. Can we call that a sensory activity!? You can find this play doh set by clicking here.

Sticker Fun

Stickers are great for fine motor practice, plus provide another opportunity for chatting about your animal friends. In this activity, we also got to incorporate conversation about the word ZOO and its letters! Charlie (10 months) made the bottom masterpiece. We found our zoo stickers at Walmart, but you can also find a great variety on Amazon

Counting Cards

When we started Tot School, I created these freebie counting cards. Nearly a year later, Beckett still enjoys counting items into the boxes. Of course, we counted our animal figurines. I got our animals at Walmart, but you can find similar ones here.

While we're playing, we stomp our animals around, make up sounds, and compare their sizes. Charlie uses this time to destroy everything we try to do. :)

Build a Zoo

We LOVE our Melissa & Doug blocks! This cute idea actually came from Buck & Chuck's Grandma. I was out of town for work and randomly received this picture! Grandma knew we were in the middle of a zoo theme, and so got creative with our blocks and animal figurines. Such a cute activity, inspiring imagination and practicing sorting skills all at the same time. Go, Grandma!

I'm Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor

Have you heard the song, "I'm Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor" by Shel Silverstein? TOO CUTE. Grandma brought a CD and this cute little DIY snake from her own preschool days and we were all completely entertained. Plus it practices body parts. Here's a really cute version using stuffed snakes, which are probably easier to come by than our version!

Zoo Parade

Because washi is useful for so many fun things, I decided to pull out a roll and create a "track" for our Zoo Parade! Becket got a total kick out of watching me tape these letters. We had worked on how to spell, "zoo" so he narrated the letters while I taped away. Then we had fun making animal noises and marching them in this fun "zoo" pattern. Charlie played the role of King Kong for this one, coming through and scattering our animals all over the place. Ha. I guess it adds adventure. ;)

Zoo Trip & Scavenger Hunt

We finished out our week at the Knoxville Zoo with friends and family. Most of the time we just enjoyed the animals (and Knoxville's awesome splash pad!), but we also made sure to pull out this adorable (and FREE!) Scavenger Hunt by A Dab of Glue will Do!

Beckett did great with this activity! He was able to identify most of the animals in the zoo on his own, then did a great job finding them on his scavenger hunt page and marking them off. This was the first time we tried something list this but we will definitely do it again! (I'm thinking nature walk during our camping unit it September!).

And that's a wrap! I hope you got a few new ideas for a Zoo Unit with your littles! I'd love to hear what you come up with. Please comment below!

To see other ideas for a Zoo Themed Tot School or Pre-K unit, visit my Pinterest Board!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Christmas Pajama Play Date

This morning I had one of the MOST FUN play dates ever! Seeing as the holidays are not busy at all and I have NOTHING else I should be doing with my time (are you hearing the sarcasm?), I decided this week was a PERFECT time to organize a community wide play date for our littles! The idea came to me last Tuesday, I shot out a few text messages, and VOILA! Super fun Christmas Pajama play date!

I wanted to have SOME structure to the morning to avoid chaos or boredom, so I came up with a simple schedule. We broke the morning into 4 parts:

For the first 45 minutes, the kiddos had a “free play.” A sweet friend brought one of those cute felt trees that are all the rage on Pinterest right now, I put together some sensory bins from materials we mostly had on hand, & we pulled out all of our Christmas board books.

The sensory bins, by the way, were a HIT. Who would have thought cotton balls could be so entertaining?

I was also intentional about providing activities that would be entertaining to a variety of ages. We invited preschool and under, so I chose activities that were flexible.

I knew our friends would just trickle in during this time (9am is EARLY, friends!) so it was the perfect time for the kiddos to just play and burn some energy.

Throughout this first 45 minutes, we had fun & energetic Christmas music playing! We also used this time to make sure all of the kiddos got name tags so we could learn our new friends names easier!

At 9:45, we rounded the kids up for a snack and story. I chose a healthy, yet festive option of red and green fruits as well as a sweeter, less healthy option of our Christmas Crunch.

During story time, I prepped for crafts. I had all of the tables prepared and off to the side so that all I had to do was pull out craft goodies. After snack, the kiddos were free to play again, or participate in as many crafts as they’d like! Again, I tried to chose crafts that would be versatile for the age group.

Other than fun & versatile, my other goal was to have crafts that were as hands off as possible for mommies. Lots of crafts are incredibly cute but require 100% attention by mommies (hand print paint crafts, for example). I did not want moms to be responsible for painting hands, printing hands, washing hands, and then turning said hand into a reindeer/Santa/Mona Lisa. Nothing against those crafts (they’re on my wish list!) but this time was intended for mommies to socialize too! So! With these, moms were encouraged to be close by and guide their littles, but would allow for freedom for both mommies and littles. :)

For the last 30 minutes of our play date, we had lunch & movie! We chose a 30 minute short film. This worked out great because the kiddos were ready to rest and I needed time to clean up! Plus, with this timeline, all of the kids were home in time for nap (a non-negotiable in our world).

This whole event was so much fun! I hope that I get to do more! What about you? Do you host themed play dates? I’d love to hear! Comment below or contact me through Facebook!