Letter Hunt and Matching

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I got this original idea (the hunt) from Susie @busytoddler (blog and IG). I love her. 🙂

I added one element to it just because I know Alexander loves his letters.

The first thing I did was write the 26 uppercase print letters on card stock. Then I laminated them, added a piece of tape to the backs of each, and “hid” them around the kitchen and dining areas. As you can see above, they weren’t really hidden. They were just around, but for Alexander, that’s hidden enough! Some were a little harder than others, where he had to look on the side of something instead of the front of it.

The second thing I did was make a “board” that had the 26 letters, in lowercase print. I laminated that also and taped it to the wall. (Since he liked it so much, I’d like to make a more permanent version of this activity!)

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His job? Find the hidden uppercase letters and match them to their lower counterpart. He played this for a LONG time. After the first time, I helped him hide the letters. After that, he started removing the letters and hiding them himself. Of course, they were mostly on the same few cabinets; he just liked matching them. But the physical aspect (actually having to walk back and forth each time) is what I really liked. He likes matching letters, but this also got him moving. That changes it a lot, especially at his age!

This can easily be done for a younger baby/toddler. You could have 5 shapes printed (square, heart, star, circle, triangle) and have the same 5 shapes printed but cut out. Hide the cut-outs and have baby find them. Then match them to the original print-out. Much simpler but still matching + moving.

Activities for a 1-Year-Old

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I’m on a few social media platforms, and the most common question I get is “What activities can I do with my 1-year-old?” Many of the kids of my followers are younger than Alexander, so the activities I share aren’t necessarily suited for them.

My backstory with Alexander’s “education” is that we didn’t start, officially, until age 22 months. And shortly after, I realized that we were doing a Montessori style of learning. That’s when I started really getting into it. (At the time of this writing, he’s 32 months… I would normally just call that 2.5 years!)

Alexander is smart. And so are most kids his age! He may be great at numbers and letters and many things. Other kids may not be great at numbers and letters but are great at other things. So don’t get too caught up in comparing your child to mine or anyone else’s. Some toddlers really are geniuses, but they are few and far between. Kids are smart, definitely, and you can foster that natural curiosity in so many ways. Don’t worry about flash cards or structured activities or “the right” toys.

I can only speak to what I did with Alexander, so let me give you my personal not-necessarily-“Montessori” suggestions for your 1-year-old.

  1. Describe everything you see in a lot of detail (that will change based on baby’s age and current knowledge). And don’t shy away from REAL descriptive words. Like, if you see a cardinal in a pine tree, you can say “Look at that red bird in the pine tree! That’s called a cardinal!” Or if you are using a spatula to flip an omelet, say “Watch mommy/daddy flip the omelet with a spatula!” If you’re at the grocery store and you see a bag of rice, say “Look at tiny all this rice is. The rice is white.” Or if baby is older, “Look at this bag of white rice. This word is RICE.” Then point to the letters and say “R-I-C-E”. I didn’t spell words until Alexander was a little older, but I definitely used REAL words and not baby words, and I used colors and numbers constantly. If I saw an octagon, I called it an octagon. A crosswalk is a crosswalk. A bridge is a bridge. A cashier is a cashier and not just “a nice lady at the store”. I think being specific is super helpful in building a vocabulary. Alexander didn’t speak at all until he was 19 months, so for a long time, it was just me talking to him, and he never replied or validated what I was saying. Now, I can see that he was absorbing so much!
  2. Put small objects in a large object. This can be done in a hundred ways. Littler babies with chubby little fingers might be better at picking up balls and putting them into a bucket. With the development of fine motor skills, a baby could pick up beans and put them into a bowl. Or drop blocks down a paper towel tube. Or put utensils into the dishwasher. (<< This is a good age to start helping load the dishwasher or help with laundry.)
  3. Practical life! As I just mentioned, this is a great time to do some practical life activities. A 1-year-old can wipe off a surface with a rag (not well, necessarily, but the motion is there and the effort is important!). She can put clothes into the washer or, a little later, move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. She can put trash into a trash can. She can use a dull knife to cut a banana or other soft food.
  4. Let go of “Good job!” I was 100% guilty of this for a long long time. And “good job” isn’t BAD. But it’s certainly overused. Your toddler does something simple, like getting off the couch by himself, and you say “Good job!” Then 10 minutes later, he does something complex, and you also say “Good job!”, there’s no distinction between them. It’s also a good idea to keep quiet and just observe. What you don’t want is to build an environment in which your child doesn’t feel validated unless they hear your approval. It’s good to have some internal validation, like… “I finally solved this puzzle! That was exciting!” Even if mom isn’t standing there to say anything, he would be excited that he finally solved the puzzle. What I’ve started saying is “Wow!” and “Look at how you stacked those books!” and “I love the way you write your numbers!” It’s validation without really judging the final product.

I have several bloggers I like, and a lot of them have younger babies. Search them out. Find a few groups on Facebook or people to follow on Instagram. If you see an activity that’s clearly for an older baby, MAKE IT YOURS! Nearly everything can be scaffolded up or down to meet your child’s abilities. If you aren’t sure how to do that, just ask – I’d be happy to help!

6 New Activities: February 2016

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It’s been a while since I have done any formal “teaching” (exploring is more like it) because baby 2 was born January 30. I was tired the weeks leading up to that and I’ve been tired since then!

Either way I decided to put together a few activities for Alexander, mostly based on the scope and sequence of Montessori. I picked some objectives that could be translated to easy, DIY activities. Because Alexander is younger, and because I am happy with making things myself, I created these activities with objects we already had in the house. I have a lot of trays and baskets, which I repurpose as needed.

I’ll quickly run through the 6 activities I plan to introduce to Alexander this week and next. I’m not an expert at this, so my “technique” is probably not the best. Basically, I briefly introduce all of the new items to Alexander. I literally mean, “Hey Alexander, look at this! And look at this over here! And check out this one!” I don’t really explain too much. I let him pick the one that seems most interesting, and then I show him how to work with it. He is almost always drawn to one or two things and ignores the rest. That’s fine by me. I leave the others out and revisit them on a different day.

Here are the 6 things I’ve got set up right now:

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1. Walk the Line

The objective is to just walk along a marked line on the floor. I used some yarn and tape to create a closed loop that started in his school room, went out and about, then came back into the room.

So far, he has walked along the line a few times but got distracted and hung out in the school room after that. I may try to make it more interesting by adding some obstacles (like things he needs to jump over or do along the way).

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2. Sweeping Rice

The objective is to sweep small objects into a designated area. I think the point is to practice a sweeping motion so he can help with actual sweeping soon. Right now, if he tries to help me clean, he uses the broom and just pushes it forward, shoving all the food particles and dirt underneath the table or cabinets. Not super helpful! Ha! I demonstrate it for him, but it doesn’t quite stick. I keep meaning to get him a small broom, but I don’t know if it would help.

In this case, he used the same pushing motion to “sweep” the rice forward. He didn’t get the rice into the square hardly at all. Again, I did a demonstration but he just couldn’t get the sweeping motion down. I’ll give it another shot in a few days. He may have just been distracted.

For the materials, I had the wooden tray/box from another toy. The brush is from my husband’s head shaving kit. And the pink is a piece of Post-It tape that I cut into 4 sections.

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3. Tracing Numbers

Alexander has been really into 11-20 (finally!) so I’m embracing it. He counts to 20, except for 16 usually. And he recognizes them all. He can write a handful of numbers without tracing, but for the rest, we trace.

First we have these tracing cards (aff).

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And second, I write the numbers on his chalkboard for him to trace.

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4. Word + Picture Puzzles

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I saw this idea on Instagram, so I made a few of them. This one spells Alexander once his face is put together.

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5. Pin Punching

The basic idea is to use some sort of pin — push pin, safety pin, paper clip — to punch out a pre-drawn shape. If you make enough tiny dots, the shape should pop right out.

We aren’t there yet! Alexander has enjoyed making holes in the paper, but he isn’t so concerned with creating a shape.

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6. Water Transfer with a Baster

Simple: Just transfer water using a baster/eye dropper! Alexander loves water transfer. This is a bit of a challenge for him, but he’s sorting it out!