Books Books and more Books!!!

I have a deep and intense LOVE for children's books! I love my job as a preschool teacher because I get to read books everyday! I love my job as a Mommy even more because I get to come home and share my love of books with my son!

I read my son his first book at a week old and we read at least one book everyday but usually its about two or three. :D

I like to think of myself of some what of an expert when it comes to children's books...I have read 100's and 100's of children's books over my 7 years working with children and still I always go back to a absolute favorites! If someone were to ask me for a handful of must have children's books...I would say these...

There are of course sooo many more that I LOVE but these are a few that stand out in my mind because they are great for the toddler age and are also great for children as they get older because the concepts can be talked about more in depth.

Brown Bear Brown Bear: Great for learning colors and animals!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Great for learning about fruits, colors and life cycle
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: Great for learning letters!
Fright Train: Great for learning colors and the concept of movement
Mouse Paint: Great for learning colors and as they get older, learning what happens when you mix colors.
Polar Bear Polar Bear: great for learning animals and animals sounds
Goodnight Moon: Great for identify objects.
The Snowy Day: Just a great book all around! First of all the concept of snow which living in Southern California, our children don't have much first hand experience. I also love this book because the little boy lives in an's important for children to see that not everyone lives in houses and for children like my son who lives in an apartment, it's important for him to be able to identify with a character that lives how he does! The Snowy Day was also The very first full-color picture book to feature a small black child!

Now that I have given just a few book suggestions, how do you store your books?
I am a firm believer that books should be accessible to children at all times! We have two book baskets in the living room and one large book basket in my sons room. All of the books in these baskets are board books, board books are so much more durable and I am not afraid my son will ripe them. I also rotate the books in and out of the baskets so we always have something new and fresh to look at and read.

Making books a part of your bed time routine! My son and I have two books that are a part of our bed time routine almost every night.

I can simply say to my son, "Go get your bed time books" and he will pull these two books out on his own! When he was younger I would somewhat speed read through them to hold his attention. Overtime he became interested in turning the pages and would hear the pause in my voice and he would know on his own it was time to turn the page. Now that he is almost two he knows a few of the words before I say them! We can now pause and talk about the different pictures, colors and words and it is amazing to see how much he has learned from these two books alone!

If your family is bi-lingual I strongly suggest incorporating books from your native language! My husbands side of the family is Latin and speaks Spanish so although I am embarrassed to attempt reading my son the Spanish books while my Husband is in the room it is still very important! It also gives my husband a special thing he can do with our son.

Your probably must be nice to have so many books...but they are too expensive! I agree books can get pricey! You don't have to go to an expensive book store to get great children's books! Bargain stores such as Ross or Marshall's have a great selection of inexpensive children's books, Office Depot even has a bargain bin...and many teachers are apart of Scholastic book Clubs that allow parents to buy books very inexpensively! Don't forget, there is always the local Library!!! What an amazing way for children to learn about the responsibility of borrowing a book, taking care of it and returning it!!!

I am always looking for new and exciting ways to bring literacy into my sons life and I found something I am very excited to share with you all!

I found a children's magazine/book through the National Wildlife Federation that comes in the mail once a month! Who doesn't love getting stuff in the mail...especially kids!!! The magazine/book come in 3 different age groups. My son gets the Animal Baby and it's perfect for the toddler age group!

Here are a few pictures of the magazine/book and the website! CHECK IT OUT!

One last thing that I love to do is have pictures of our families in an accessible way for my easy way I have done this is I took an old photo album and simply put pictures of us in it! He LOVES to get this 'book' and sit down and flip the pages naming everybody...Mommy, baby, Daddy, Sara, PAPA...ect.

I hope you always take time in your day to sit down with a book and your kiddos and enjoy the teachable moments! And Remember if your child wants to hear the same book, over and over and over again...that means your doing a GREAT job!!!! If I had a $1 for every book I have fully memorized I would be a rich woman!



Matching fun!

Matching is a great way to learn new words.

I took a few flashcards out of the pile that I knew we had the same 'objects' for.

I placed the cards on the floor and the objects in a pile and showed my son how to match them using words like 'same' 'matching' 'different'

I let my son give it a try and he did GREAT! We named each object as he matched them!

LETTERS LETTERS LETTERS...A few fun ways to learn your ABC's

The other night my husband and I were out to dinner, while we were waiting for our food to come we entertaining our hungry little one by writing Uppercase Letters on his coloring sheet. My husband wrote an A and my son said A! He wrote a K and my son say K! and so on...A women sitting at the table next to us had 3 kids and she turned to us and said..."How old is he?" I replied he will be 2 in a month! She looked at her husband and at her daughter and turned back to me and said, "My daughter is almost 4 and she couldn't name half of the letters your son just knew!" She said "How did you do it?"

Well this is how!

(I want to just say...I know that there is no need for my almost 2year old to know his letters and I have NEVER pushed him to learn them but I have been a pre-school teacher for 5 years and I see the developmental differences in the children that are at least aware of the letters in the alphabet and the children who have never seen an A. I also understand that learning your letters, numbers, colors and shapes is exactly what pre-school is for. So please don't panic if your 2 year old doesn't know his or her Letters...they will not be behind just know that if you introduce the alphabet in a fun way they will begin to pick up on it and they will enjoy it and will have a few more tools when entering preschool or kindergarten!)

The first thing I recommend to all my pre-school parents and friends is Leap Frog Letter Factory! I LOVE this DVD and here's why! First of all it's an animated video and all of the letters that they show are uppercase! This is important because when teaching young children about letters educators almost always prefer for them to learn to write uppercase first. Secondly each letter makes a sound...our children will eventually learn to sound out letters to form words and this video does a great job of putting an action with the sound. For example...the M says the video the M is eating yummy muffins and cakes and says mmmmmm. It's a great visual for kids to remember what letter sound each letter makes. It also has a cute song for each letter which we I have used in all my years of teaching...The M says mmmmm, the M says mmmmm, every letter makes a sound the M says mmmmmm.

Another great 'Leap Frog' toy is the magnetic letters...when you put each letter into the base it sings the same song as above! It's also great for color recognition because the letters are different colors and for hand-eye coordination, to be able to get the letter into the base. This toy also sings the ABC's

Learning your letters is all about repetition, the more your child see's the letters the more they will start to identify them. I used sticky letters and stuck them on a paper in order and had it out for my son to explore.

The foam letters gave it a 3D feel and added texture.

I also found window cling-on's at our local dollar tree. I stuck them onto the whiteboard side of our easel so that at any given time in our day we can look at them and talk about our letters. The great thing about cling-ons is that they never lose their stickyness so they can go on and off over and over and still will attach! You can also use these on slider doors, mirrors, and windows.

I also found colors, shapes and number cling-ons and bought them for later on.

A friend of mine gave me this great idea...Thanks Lisa! She had flash cards in her diaper bag so whenever they were out somewhere like waiting for dinner or at the doctors office she could pull them out and they could play. You could do object flash cards, letter, or animal flash cards, regardless of the subject matter it's a great way to make learning fun!

I hope you enjoy these ideas!

Stacking Blocks...Old School or a Classic development toy?

Now in days with all of the electronic noisy toys...(I'm not putting them down...we own a ton!)are stacking blocks for toddlers considered to be old school and out of style? With such a simplistic toy AMAZING developmental strides are made! So call me old fashion but I love wooden toys and wooden blocks!

Even more demanding than placing blocks or beads in a container is the task of stacking blocks. The number of blocks that a child can stack is correlated with their level of motor development. A 15 month old can stack about 2 blocks while an 18 month old can probably stack around 4 blocks. A toddler may be able to stack 5 blocks or more!

Wooden blocks are great for
spatial skills
social skills
motor skills and hand-eye coordination
language skills
creative problem-solving skills

Shape Crowns...making learning fun!!!

Toddlerhood is the most amazing time...I love being able to teach my little man something new and see him process the information and repeat it and later re-call that same information!

Did you know that within the first 3 years of life, 75% of a your child's brain will develop!!! This is the most critical time of brain growth!

When introducing new concepts try to remember to make it fun!

This activity is a great fun way to introduce shapes!

First I drew a few shapes and colored them in, I would point to a shape and say the name and see if the kids could repeat it. I would ask them, "Can you point to the circle?"

Next I drew a circle on a paper so that they could color in the shape, I would repeat the word circle many times.

Next I took a sheet of paper and cut it in half making a wiggly line. I drew on a few shapes, colored them in and wrote each child's name.

I taped the 2 papers together and made a shapes crown, we continued to point to the different shapes and I would say the name of the shape and we talked about the colors too!

I hope your little ones enjoy walking around with their new shape crowns on their heads as much as my little man did!!!

Music and Movement

Do you ever feel like your day is dragging by? Is it a rainy day and the TV has been on for a few hours too many? Do you feel like their is nothing to do with your little one?

You don't have to have fancy 'crayola' stuff, or some store bought game to make up a fun activity! Especially with toddlers!

For this activity you will need things that you most likely have in your house.
-tissue paper
-brown luch bag

Let your child color the brown paper bag.

Cut strips of tissue paper

Attach the strips and stuff the bag with 1 or 2 sheets of tissue paper.

Tape the top of the bag closed and turn on some fun music and let your child dance around holding the bag while the streamers on the bag fly around!

Pudding Painting!

Painting with pudding is so much fun!!! The best part is that if your child gets curious and puts it in their's 100% edible!!!

Now if your thinking...that sounds messy...well it is! but that's the fun in it! I do recommend that if your child still sits in a highchair, put them in their high chair and place a piece of paper on their tray. This will keep the mess to a minimum. Another fun activity is to paint in the bath tub! Just plop your child in an empty tub and give them some pudding, let them finger paint on the shower walls and all over themselves!! When it's time for clean up just simply turn on the water and rinse them and the tub off :)

This is a GREAT manipulative to improve and strengthen fine motor skills...I found this article and attached part of it to share with everyone how important it is to strengthen child's fine motor muscles!

The Secret To Making Fine Motor Skills
Activities For Children Fun

Fine motor skills activities for children are the best way to ensure proper development and practice of fine motor skills to promote the most functional use of a child's hands.

You see, normal development DEMANDS that children are able to accurately and effectively use the small muscles (intrinsic muscles) in their hands. These intrinsic muscles will be used for the rest of their lives and for essential functional activities.

Childhood is the critical time to properly develop these muscles, and I think you might be shocked at how many children Occupational Therapists see in the schools and clinics every single day who have significant delays in fine motor skills.

The building of fine motor skills in children will enable them to perform a variety of important functional tasks. These include:
# tying shoes
# zipping and unzipping
# buckling and unbuckling
# writing legibly and without significant muscle fatigue
# playing games that require precise hand and finger control
# drawing, painting, and coloring
# manipulating buttons and snaps
# putting small objects together
# doing puzzles
# making crafts
# using scissors
# manipulating small objects such as coins
# opening and closing objects
# picking up and holding onto small objects
# developing and maintaining an effective and proper pencil grip
# pinching objects between fingers
# using locks and keys
# being able to isolate finger movements (i.e., using one finger at a time, such as in playing the piano or typing)
# turning things over or turning pages of a book
# holding and using utensils properly and effectively
# screwing and unscrewing
# doing ANYTHING that requires small precise hand and finger movements

Milk Carton Bird Feeder

Animals in nature are so exciting to watch for little ones but often my little one gets excited and scream or run towards squirrels or birds, scaring them away. So I decided that we should make a bird feeder and put it right outside our slider door so that Cruz can watch the squirrels and birds through the window but wouldn't scare them away.
This was a last minute idea so I used what we had in our recycle bin. We used an old milk carton.

First we rinsed it out and cut an opening.

We painted it...

We paint a lot so I have an old shirt that we use when painting...after each project I let the paint dry that got on it and stick it back in our art closet to be used the next time. I think it's fun to see the shirt gain character over time :)

We let the carton dry and filled it with I said, this was a last minute idea so we didn't have any bird seed on hand.

We tied it down and played while we waited for the squirrels and birds :)