Brown Bear, Brown Bear Coloring Sheet

Brown Bear Coloring Sheet

We love Eric Carle around here. In particular, Alexander loves Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? He has it memorized and reads it back to us most of the time.

During his nap today, I decided to make a coloring sheet that goes along with the book. I simply went to the last page and traced the different animals onto a single sheet of paper. I made several copies of it, using our printer/copier.

Brown Bear Coloring Sheet

I provided Alexander with the appropriate colors, to color the animals in like the book describes them. And then I let him at it. (To be honest, he just colored them all randomly, which is fine.)

A short enrichment style activity!

If you feel like I’m better at tracing than you are, you can save the image below and print it! Or just do what I did and trace them. Mine are a bit sloppy because I was in a rush!

Enjoy. ❤

Brown Bear Coloring Sheet

DIY Fishing Game

DIY fishing game

I have seen several tutorials for a DIY fishing game, but I wanted to create my own! After completing this project, I see where I could have saved a little time and where I messed up here and there. I’ll share that “inside info” and give you some tips on how to do this yourself. Additionally, unlike other tutorials I’ve seen, this can be used for more than just numbers.

I’m not super crafty; I always burn myself with my hot glue gun. I only have a tiny sewing kit, and my stitches are crooked. I don’t have a lot of tools that might have made this easier. But when I come up with a project idea, I like to use as much of my own stuff as possible, to keep the costs low. Finally, I apologize if I dumb this WAY down for some folks. I want to make it super clear so that it doesn’t seem overwhelming.

DIY fishing game

Here are the materials I used (minus the dowel I used as the fishing pole):

  • plastic bag (or any sort of thick plastic… not like plastic wrap, which is thin)
  • card stock to make a stencil
  • hot glue gun
  • scissors
  • metal washers
  • small ring-shaped super magnet
  • string (for fishing line)
  • Sharpie
  • sewing kit
  • 4 different colors of felt

DIY fishing gameDIY fishing game

I created two stencils: one for the fish and one for the pocket. I traced the fish 10 times per sheet of felt (to make 40 fish shapes, or 20 fish). MY FIRST MISTAKE: I freehanded the fish shape, so it wasn’t perfectly symmetrical. Because later, I used 2 fish sandwiched together to make one fish, they didn’t line up perfectly. I had to do a lot of cleaning up later, and most of them aren’t as pretty as they could have been. What I could have done instead was use my freehand fish stencil, trace it once, then flip it over and trace it again. That way, they would have been mirror images of each other. That would have helped tremendously later on!

I created the pocket stencil by placing part of the card stock onto one of the fish, to be sure it would fit nicely. Then I used that to create 20 pockets. I thought about making 40, but I like the way they turned out, with the gills on the other side.

Cut out all of the fish. I had to use 3 different pairs of scissors, meant for different things (like for hair, for fabric, and for paper). I know you’re not supposed to do that, but darn it, these things were a pain to cut out! I think if I’d had one great pair of super sharp scissors, it would have helped!

DON’T CUT OUT THE PLASTIC POCKETS! Cut around them so you’ve got a little edge. That will make it way easier to sew them on later! TIP! When you’re cutting the plastic, just get the cut started and then push the scissors forward. They glide right through. It’s much easier than actually cutting the whole time.

DIY fishing game

Here’s how I assembled each fish:

  • Cut out the fish.
  • Turn 5 of the fish over so you can’t see the Sharpie outline.
  • Place one pocket square onto the side of the 5 fish.
  • Sew it on, INSIDE the black line.

DIY fishing game

  • Trim the black line using super sharp scissors.
  • Cut some of the extra felt into small, curved pieces.
  • Take the other 5 fish. Hot glue (or sew) the gills onto the non-Sharpie side of the fish.
  • Be sure to mix up the colors!

DIY fishing game

  • Flip over the 5 fish that have the pockets.
  • Glue one washer onto that side. Make sure it’s not totally on the edge; otherwise you won’t be able to sew the fish closed.
  • Place a gilled half on top of the pocket half.
  • Glue them together. Then trim any ugly edges, if you want. (If you followed my tip above, you shouldn’t have as many ugly edges as I did!)

Repeat that for all 4 colors of the felt! You should have 5 fish of each color.

DIY fishing game

I used a font on my computer to make the numbers 1-20 that I liked. Then I changed the settings so they were outlines only. I printed those, cut them out carefully (using an exacto knife), laminated them, then cut out the numbers into a shape that would fit inside the little pockets.

I inserted the numbers into each of the pockets.

DIY fishing game

The last thing I needed to do was make the fishing rod.

I got a wooden dowel at the hardware store, but you could just as easily use a stick from your hard! I tied the string to the ring-shaped magnet. For added strength, I put a dot of hot glue on the string before pulling it tight to the magnet. Then I tied the string to the dowel.

DIY fishing gameDIY fishing game

Here are some ideas for how to use this game:

  1. Have your child pick up each number, in order. You can just have 1-10, or 1-5, or 11-20, or even odds, evens, or multiples.
  2. Put certain letters in the pockets, like D, O, and G. Call the word DOG and have your child pick up the letters in order, to spell DOG. (This would work for lots of words. You can use all 20 fish or as many as you need.)
  3. In each pocket, put a picture of an animal. Call out a fact, or an animal sound, and have your child pick up the appropriate animal.
  4. Using numbers again, call out “What is 2+3?” and your child would have to pick up the “5”.

The ideas are countless, really. I wanted to use pockets so that I could this game setup for a LOT of things. It did take quite a bit of time, but it will hopefully last quite a while!

If you would rather just buy something like this, you can pick up a similar game from Melissa & Doug (affiliate). If you’re crafty, or like making things from scratch, then try mine!

Letter Hunt and Matching

IMG_6890

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!)

IMG_6898

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.

Indoor Obstacle Course

With chillier weather, and my pregnant belly getting larger and more uncomfortable, I prefer staying in stretchy pants and not having to get dressed to go outside. But my 2.5 year needs a physical outlet! So I came up with a couple of obstacle courses for him. This is one of them.

In order to make it up the stairs, Alexander had to complete 5 tasks:
(1) Stack books from largest to smallest.
(2) Connect a few pieces of train track.
(3) Place 3 bouncy balls in a bowl.
(4) Unzip one of my winter boots.
(5) Place 4 pieces of fruit in a large bowl.
(6) At the top of the stairs, he had to say “Wooo!” before he was finished.

By the end, he was able to set it all up for himself. He still needed me to say “Ready set go” and also encourage him along the way. But it was pretty self-guided after 2 run-throughs.

How do you wear your toddlers out when going out to play isn’t always an option?

No, No, No

Yes is More

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about toddlers and toddler personalities and the things I can do with and around Alexander. I want him to be thoughtful, empathetic, gentle, intuitive, patient. I want him to be willing to try new things. I want him to know it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to have opinions that are not the same as mine or his dad’s. I want him to take risks. I want him to learn to share, without forcing it.

I have read a lot over the past two years, but it seems that all those things are starting to come to a head in our house.

One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is that the best way to teach all of the things above is by modeling them. If I want a gentle son, I need to be gentle with him. If I would rather he not yell, I need to not yell. If I want a patient and empathetic little boy, I need to show patience and empathy — to him, to my husband, to strangers.

I’m totally awful at these things much of the time! But I catch myself. I apologize. I explain why I shouldn’t have done this or that, and we move on. I figure, as long as I am working towards being better, it will be good for our relationship. I catch myself, and I forgive myself. And I ask myself what I could do differently next time.

Alexander is nearly 2.5 years old. And just a few weeks ago, he started saying the word no more. He doesn’t say it all the time; it’s genuinely when he doesn’t want something or doesn’t want to do something. In fact, he says yes a lot more than no.

I came across an article yesterday. It said that toddlers hear the word no, on average, every 9 minutes! And since then, I have been noticing that I do, in fact, say no more than I would like. Just like with other things, I know that modeling is the most important way to teach a behavior.

I need to stop saying no so much.

This morning, after breakfast, we were working on a few sight words. I wrote the word mom on a sheet of paper. He sounded out each letter. Then I said Yes, mmmm – ahhh – mmmm. That spells mom. I asked him to tell me what the word was. And he said mmmm – ahhh – mmmm.

This was a moment when I had to catch myself. I could have said No, I asked what the word was, not what the letters sounded like. But he had a different mission. He wanted to sound out the letters again. He’s 2! Goodness. I bit my tongue for a split second and changed my response to this: Yes that is what the letters sound like! What is this word? and I used my finger to underline the word. Then he said mom.

The no was missing. And that’s really important to me.

Let me point out the other side of the issue. The word no is important. If he is running toward a street, I can’t shout out Yes I understand you want to run right now, but let’s run the other direction! I need to shout a firm no (or stop) and trust that he understands to stop immediately. So far, that’s one that works just fine thankfully!

But I do fear that using no too frequently will cause him to start blocking it out. It’s important to do it for some things, things where a natural consequence is just not an option. I think we can all figure out where that line is. If he burns his hand on a hot glass, he won’t be scarred for life. But pulling a pot of boiling water onto himself could be very damaging, permanently. One of those requires a firm no, while the other requires some redirection and explanation.

I’m dealing with a changing toddler. And I want to start understanding his motives and motivations. I want to start speaking his language since he isn’t perfectly speaking mine yet. I want to work with him instead of working against him, using the I’m big, you’re small mentality. Those are the sorts of thing that will pay off in the long run.

Conclusion – SAY YES MORE!

“Good job!”

Good Job!

If you have seen any recent videos of Alexander, you may notice that he says “good job” after nearly everything. And just the other day, I was playing Tetris on my computer. Every time I cleared a line, he said “good job”. It was cute.

As you may have heard before, using the phrase “good job” isn’t recommended. In fact, a lot of parents (especially in the Montessori world) are completely opposed and never use it. They even think it’s a bad thing. And that is fine! That’s their opinion, and we’re all entitled to ours. I can totally see that extreme and the rationale behind it.

For us, it’s a little too late to stop using it entirely.

Let me suppose for one second that you have no idea why “good job” isn’t so good. There are a couple of main reasons.

  1. It’s totally non-specific. Let’s say that Alexander finished his puzzle and put it back onto the shelf. If I say “good job”, am I applauding the fact that he finished his puzzle (one that he’s completed 50 times) or am I applauding the fact that he put the puzzle onto the shelf (something he’s expected to do and something he’s done dozens of times)? Or maybe I’m applauding the fact that he finished the puzzle faster than he ever has, with zero mistakes (not that I keep track of that!)?
  2. It means that I’m creating the standard for what a good job looks like. This one means more to me, as a former teacher. I understand #1, but this one is more important in my opinion. If it took him 5 full minutes to complete a puzzle, and he was actually bummed about taking so long, and I come along and offer an enthusiastic “good job!”, then he’s like, “Oh I guess 5 minutes is good enough” even if he could finish it in 4 minutes. And maybe next time, if he wanted to finish it in 4 minutes, he could, but he thinks that 5 minutes is good enough, so he doesn’t push himself. And what about the times when he doesn’t finish the puzzle at all. Is that a bad job? Is mommy not happy with him? Maybe he got tired… does that mean he’s done a bad thing?

Okay okay, he’s a 2 year old. And he probably isn’t thinking about it like that at all. But it’s a HABIT. It’s like, I don’t want to get used to saying “good job” every time he does anything.

For us, the remedy is fairly simple. He says “good job” to himself for doing X, Y, or Z. And I reply by saying, “Yea! You did X!” or “Wow, you finished Y all by yourself!”

Basically, he needs to be proud of himself on his own and not worry about whether he has my approval. If I always tell him “good job”, then the times I don’t tell him anything, will he not find any pride in his own work?

It may seem a little silly, but now that I’m living with a little person who says “good job” to every tiny task that someone completes, I see how silly it really sounds. I mean, if I finish my plate of food, I don’t need anyone to tell me I did a good job. If I finish folding the laundry, I don’t need to know that’s a good job. It’s just a job! I’m not proud of myself because it’s not a big deal. I don’t want him to find a false sense of accomplishment in small things, nor do I want him to seek out approval for everything he does well.

What’s the word… intrinsic? Something like that. 🙂

Anyway, there are a ton of resources and ideas out there that offer alternatives to “good job”. Here’s just one of them that I really liked. It’s 10 points. (You can find some that are 50+ ideas, and that’s too much for me. I get the picture after a shorter list. But if you need/want more, those resources are out there!)

An Alphabet Print

A B C D E F G H I J K LMNOP Q R S T U V W X Y & Z

Alphabet Print

I like this because it helps with the alphabet song. It’s not lowercase cursive, but I wanted equal character spacing, for aesthetics.

If you’d like to print this yourself, the PDF attached is a full poster size quality. But you can print it whatever size you’d like.

CLICK HERE for the downloadable PDF. If you just want the image, for whatever reason, feel free to save the one above.

Animal Footprints Printable and Salt Dough Prints (Printable)

Animals and Their Footprints

As you can see in the November curriculum (HERE), I wanted to focus on animals and numbers this month.

We’ve done a few things in the past, and I want to expand on animals this month. One thing I wanted to make is animal prints. I was hoping Alexander could help, but he mostly just made a mess. So I ended up making the salt dough prints myself. (Here is how you can make salt dough yourself.)

I made one batch of dough and picked a few footprints that were different enough from each other. Also, since I just used my fingers to make the prints, it was difficult making small indents (like for tiny fingernails). I also wanted them to be somewhat relative to each other in size. Like, a bear’s footprint is much larger than a squirrel’s. They aren’t perfect because I’m not entirely sure how large a bear’s paw is in real life! I just used my best judgment and made the ones you see below.

  • Squirrel
  • Deer
  • Bear
  • Mountain lion
  • Raccoon

Salt Dough Animal Prints

These prints sat on the kitchen counter for about a week before I came up with an idea for how to use them.

I decided to make a set of flash cards. One set would be the 5 animals, and the second set would be images of the actual prints in the wild. I considered making black and white prints (like a clip-art sort of thing) but decided it would be more interesting if they were actual, real-world footprints. That way, if we see deer, raccoon, or squirrel prints in our neighborhood, we can identify them. (I don’t expect to see mountain lion or bear prints any time soon! We could use the mountain lion print to look for cat footprints in our neighborhood, though.)

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Anyway, the document that’s below is two pages. The first page is the 5 animals. The second page is the 5 real-world footprints. The footprints are slightly smaller, so if you wanted, you could leave the first page intact and cut the second page into cards. And the footprint cards should fit on top of the animal sheet. Hopefully that makes sense.

Use them however you’d like!

You can use the printable without making the salt dough prints, which was my intention. I wanted to be sure I shared ideas here that can be used as is OR expanded a little.

HERE is the free printable of the animals + animal prints.

Montessori Activities for a Road Trip

montessori activities for a

I’ll be honest… If we are in the car for more than 15 minutes, I hand my 2-year-old the iPad. It used to be The Little Mermaid, but I’ve downloaded a handful of learning apps. So he plays those games in the car. Some of them teach 1+1+1=3 and other skills.

I don’t mind it for 20 minutes here and there. But I know that screen time should be limited, especially when it isn’t actively monitored.

In a few weeks, we are taking a weekend trip: it’s about 4 hours there and 4 hours back. (Old me would say “Great – That’s The Little Mermaid 2.5 times each way.”) It’s all about improvement, right? If it means watching a movie for part of the trip and doing activities for the other half, that’s improvement. If it turns into a full 4 hours of activities, that would be amazing! I just want to be realistic since he has gotten used to the iPad.

I’ve been searching and searching the web to find some ideas for car rides, particularly longer rides, like the one in a few weeks. And I’ve found a lot of great ideas. I want to share them with you!

ACTIVITIES

  • Miniature white board with colorful dry erase markers. Alexander loves drawing on the little white board that we have. I’ll pack some colorful markers. It will be a nice surprise!
  • Throw-away camera. This is a big fat maybe. A disposable camera is always fun at every age. I’m just not sure he’ll be able to wind it up after taking a picture, which means we’ll have to help him after every picture! Maybe I can find one that keeps taking pictures. Then again, he will end up taking all 28 pictures in about 30 seconds!
  • Toy catalog. We get catalogs in the mail a lot, and I can also pick one up from Toys R Us (or something similar). He may like flipping through the pages and looking at all the pictures.
  • Pipe cleaners with buttons. He likes pushing pipe cleaners through buttons, and we have large buttons that would work well. I need to consider how to keep this activity from being messy.
  • Salt shaker with toothpicks. I have seen toothpicks that have a blunt end, and there is some sort of salt shaker where the toothpicks will fit perfectly. He might love that. Again, I need to find a way to corral the toothpicks without them falling all over the floor.
  • Crayons for windows. I don’t know if these even exist, but if they do, I think Alexander might like drawing on the car window (if it comes off easily). I should also test this out on a very short trip to see if (a) he can easily reach and (b) the color comes off easily. This is one of those things I should think through before just going for it!
  • Feathers. He might like putting feathers through the holes of the salt shaker as well. There may be another way to play with feathers. It will be something soft and flowy and pretty that he hasn’t played with before.
  • Sewing cards with yarn. I’ll laminate a few cards in different shapes. Then I’ll punch holes around the edges of the cards and include a piece of yarn with one end taped. He can use the yarn to sew through the holes in the card.
  • Felt board with cut-out shapes. I have a black felt board that I’ve already made. I will cut out a square, triangle, and so on. I may use a piece of white chalk to draw shape outlines on the board, and he can match the shapes to the outlines.
  • Wooly Willy. That’s the game where you use a magnetic wand to draw on the man’s face.
  • Metal pan with magnetic letters. We have a set of magnetic alphabet letters. He might enjoy arranging the letters on the metal pan.
  • Magnetic matching game. I’ll create a new matching game. I will tape the “board” part to a cookie sheet. Then I’ll magnetize the backs of the game pieces. And he’ll simply put the pieces onto the board.
  • Velcro fun. Grab a Velcro strip and stick little pieces of Velcro to the back of objects. He will love putting objects onto the Velcro strip and pulling them back off.
  • Books.

SNACKS

  • Small boxes of raisins
  • String cheese, cut in half lengthwise
  • Cheerios and Goldfish crackers (in a portable snack container)
  • Chocolate chips, as a treat
  • A sippy cup, just for the road (less mess)
  • Mini crustless PB&J sandwich bites (I’ll share a recipe post on this later!)
  • Blueberries

OTHER STUFF

  • Ziploc bags for trash, toothpicks, dropped food, baby wipes, and so on
  • Animal sounds mixed CD. Make a CD that’s got some fun songs Alexander will like, plus a whole series of animal sounds. He might enjoy copying them and identifying the animal. (Plus, it will be the first time we’ve used the CD player in our car.)
  • Book on tape. Rent a few stories on CD that we can play in the car.

DIY Color Gradient Tiles

DIY Color Gradient Tiles

This project turned out better than I expected! I’m so grateful my husband was able to help with cutting and sanding the wooden pieces for me. This project cost me about $2.50 because I only needed to buy the wood.

I found a wooden yard stick (it wasn’t a yard stick, but it was 3 feet long and about as wide as a yard stick) at Home Depot that I purchased. I also picked up two each of 5 color gradient paint chips.

The materials and tools were as follows:

  • 1 piece of wood (3 feet x 1.25 inches)
  • ruler or tape measurer
  • hand saw or jig saw
  • sandpaper
  • 2 sets of color gradient paint chips (or individual chips that form a gradient)
  • exacto knife, or similar
  • wood (or other strong) glue

Step One: I marked the paint chips to figure out how wide and long each strip of color should be. I wanted to make sure to cut off the text that was on the paint chips. That left me with a strip 5/8 inches wide. I knew that I wanted to leave some of the wood expose, so I figured 1-inch wooden chips would be sufficient.

Step Two: I marked the wooden stick at 1-inch intervals. My husband then sawed and sanded (by hand) the pieces for me.

DIY Color Gradient Tiles

Step Three: I marked and carefully cut the paint chips into strips.

DIY Color Gradient TilesDIY Color Gradient Tiles

Step Four: I used the wood glue that we had to carefully wrap the color strips around each piece of wood. Here’s a little video I made as a demo:

Step Five: Once completed, I placed the pieces in front of Alexander with the extra paint chips as playing cards.

DIY Color Gradient TilesDIY Color Gradient Tiles

The Game: For now, how we are using them is to match the colors. Here is a short video of Alexander matching colors:

The Goal: I want Alexander to create a gradient without the need for the paint chips. I may need to make some more wooden chips to fill in some of the gradient! For now, I think they are lovely and simple and a perfect way to introduce lights and darks.