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?

Classroom Setup #5 December 2015


I decided to redo all the shelves, late at night, and then take pictures late at night. So I apologize for the yucky pictures! You’ll get the point of everything anyway. ūüôā

This month I really wanted to focus on what Alexander has been enjoying recently. He has been into numbers, so I wanted to keep some numbers in there. I got him a recorder recently (the musical instrument), and he’s been obsessed with it. So I brought back out his musical instrument set. Finally, he has been into zippers and pouring and other practical life tasks. So I made a whole shelf for practical life.

Oh, and finally finally, he’s started to climb up on a chair, open the refrigerator, and ask for specific snacks! So I made him a snack shelf in the refrigerator! I’m most nervous about that because it’s not really easy to access each component. It will be a work in progress, for sure.

See pictures and more descriptions below!

1He likes these plastic blocks a lot, so I kept those out for this month. Additionally, I included some books he’s been enjoying, like a Montessori numbers book.

2This shelf has a few random things, but I’m going to break down each shelf for you.

3On top, there are some colored sheets of paper and a tiny spray bottle of water. I think he will enjoying using the spray bottle, and I’m¬†hoping that spraying water on paper will create darker spots. And he can see the effect of the water on the paper.

Next to the paper and water is a bowl of fake fruit. It’s odd, but he showed some interest in it the other day. I’ll leave it there to see if he does anything with it!

I want to try cutting paper… again. He has tried many times and has never been quite ready. I’m hoping this month is the month when he masters using scissors!

Finally, I’ve got a box of colored pencils plus a single white sheet of paper. (I may add coloring sheets to the tray.) I know Montessori setups are usually open containers, but he has been into opening containers recently. So actually opening the container will be fun for him, I think.

4On the left, there’s a bucket of buttons, 5 different colors. The other section of the tray has pipe cleaners that are the same 5 colors. He will likely match the buttons to the pipe cleaners and string them together.

In the small box in the middle are two nuts and two bolts. The box is held closed via a magnet, so he will like opening the box as well as twisting the bolts onto the nuts.

The wooden bowl has tracing cards (numbers 1-10) and a dry erase marker.

The yellow box at the bottom is shape matching eggs. Again, he’ll like figuring out how to open the box itself.

In the middle is a set of nesting dolls that he used to enjoy. I took it away for a month, so I think he’ll like seeing and playing with them again.

Finally in the blue bowl, I’ve got some PVC pipe scraps that are 4 different sizes. I’m wondering if he will do anything interesting with those. They may be put away in a week if he doesn’t show any interest in them.

5(Ignore that cord. I didn’t even notice it! I’ll move it before I go to bed!)¬†The low shelves stayed mostly the same. I moved the puzzles to the bottom shelf and the floor. On the top of this, I’ve got a bunch of musical instruments.

6This is the other low shelf. More puzzles are on the bottom shelf and floor. On the top left, it’s a water pouring station. He’s been really into water pouring recently! Top right is a PVC pipe + wooden dowel matching activity. I’ve got a blog post coming soon that explains that project.

7The other shelf is practical life stuff. You’ll see there’s still a small stool on the floor that allows him to turn his light on and off.

910On top, I’ve got two stuffed animals. On the bear, I have a cloth diaper that uses Velcro to close it. He’s also wearing a bow tie that has a different sort of closure. The rabbit is wearing a cloth diaper that uses snaps to close it. I figured he can practice using Velcro and snaps. He may even figure out how to put on a diaper! That’s a stretch… but wouldn’t that be nice if he could change the new baby’s diaper when he/she comes in January!

12This is an old wipes box. (That label is not a sticker! I can’t figure out how to remove it!) Anyway, I’ve got some cloth wipes stacked inside. He can open the box in two ways (the button on top and also by opening the whole lid). He can also leave it closed and pull wipes out of the top.

11I marked two cloth wipes: one of them is marked down the middle horizontally and the other diagonally. I want him to practice folding things in half!

13Here are two practical life activities. The left shoe requires pushing the shoe string through the holes. And the sandal has a Velcro closure with a twist. Basically you have to push the strap through a slot, THEN Velcro it closed.

14This is basic sock matching. There are 4 or 5 pairs (I forgot!) of socks that are different patterns. He will not be able to fold them, I’m sure, but he can match them. These socks are too small for him now, so it’s perfect for matching.

1516Finally it’s the snack station in the refrigerator.

There is a paper plate with two halves of bread and a dollop of peanut butter. He can make himself a little sandwich. He has never tried spreading before, so this will be fun for him!

In the back there are some blueberries that I already rinsed. There’s a small glass of milk, a banana, and a little bowl of organic animal crackers. I figure, that’s enough snack options for one day. He may not get the concept and want to eat them all at once. If that’s the case, we’ll try again the next day and I’ll just put 2 things in the fridge at a time (so at least he has some sort of snack option).

I’m pretty pumped for him to wake up in the morning and see all the new trays and setup!

12 Christmas Boxes

Christmas Boxes for Pinterest

This will be a photo-heavy post! We have not even completed all the boxes, but I’m going to show you what each box says, what is in each box, and what our plans are for each box. If we’ve done that box already, I’ll share a few pictures from it. Otherwise, I¬†may come back and add pictures, especially if I get a lot of feedback on this!

I got this idea from Katherine Marie’s blog (this is the blog post). Her kids are older, so while I was able to take a few ideas from her, most of mine were just from brainstorming! Most of what I came up with is appropriate for Alexander, who is about 2.5 years old. I included some items in each box that just reminded me of the theme, but I didn’t have any specific plans for those items.


The 12 boxes I went with (for this year!):

  1. Grinch Day
  2. St. Nicholas Day
  3. Snow Day
  4. Christmas Giving Day
  5. Reindeer Day
  6. Christmas Carols Day
  7. Nativity Day
  8. Fireplace Day
  9. Happy Birthday Jesus Day
  10. Christmas Tree Day
  11. Candy Cane Day
  12. Gingerbread Day

I think it’s important to celebrate¬†the reason for the season (aka Jesus), but there are so many things that make this a fun, special time of year. Christmas trees! Hot chocolate! Gift wrapping (and gift giving)! The music! So I want to instill some of that magic into Alexander as well.

Now I’m going to break down each box. If you can’t read the card inside the box, just check below, in the text. I’ve outline everything in more detail!


Grinch Day

Thanks to lots of my followers who gave me some great ideas for this box! There were way too many to include, so these are some I am going to use.

  • Who Hash – According to the Dr Seuss website, “who hash” is just any sort of hash you want to create. I plan to make a breakfast hash with potatoes and bacon or sausage.
  • Green Pancakes – To go along with our who hash, I’ll make some green pancakes. I’ll just make a traditional pancake mixture, minus the sugar, and add in some pur√©ed spinach or kale for the green color.
  • Fruit Skewers – I’m using this idea to make fruit skewers that resemble The Grinch! It involves strawberries, green grapes, and marshmallows.
  • Handprint Activity – Here is a link to one of many handprint ideas!
  • Green Face Paint – We will paint our faces green.
  • Green Paint – We’ll mix blue and yellow paint to make green paint. Then we will use a Q-tip to draw on some large white paper.
  • Heart Sorting – The Grinch’s heart grew and grew and grew. So I made this printable that has 10 hearts in growing sizes! HERE is the free printable. I printed it directly onto red construction paper, cut out the hearts, laminated them, then cut them again.
  • Watch¬†The Grinch – If we can find the old cartoon movie online (Hulu or Amazon Instant or whatever), we’ll watch that together.


  • Beard Masks – I cut¬†two¬†paper plates into a beard shape, cut holes for the mouth, and attached string to each side. We’ll use glue to attach some cotton balls and then wear the beard masks.
  • Santa Hats – I got two Santa hats (size small and size large!), and we will wear the hats and masks together.
  • Puzzle – I found a set of Christmas puzzles online (24 pieces each). We’ll put together the Santa one.
  • St Nicholas Book – This is a beautiful book about St Nicholas. I want to teach Alexander about the history/origins of “Santa” and this is a good place to start.


  • Glitter Snowflakes – I got some glitter snowflakes at the craft store. We’ll hang those on the windows.
  • Homemade Snowflakes – We will cut snowflakes out of paper.
  • Pipe Cleaner Snowflakes – We’ll twist white pipe cleaners together to make more snowflakes.
  • Coloring Page – I simply printed snowflake shapes, and Alexander will color them.
  • Build a Snowman with Cotton Balls – Using glue and cotton balls, we’ll build a tiny snowman on red paper.
  • Build a Snowman with Marshmallows – We will pinch and pull apart the giant marshmallows to make 2 different sizes. We’ll use pretzel sticks to attach the “body” pieces and then use pretzels as arms.
  • Read¬†Snowmen at Night – I love this book!
  • Watch¬†Frosty – This movie is currently on Netflix, so I’d like to watch at least part of it.


  • Food Bank – We’ll collect some cans of food to take to a local food bank.
  • Salvation Army – We will take some coins and a few bills, and Alexander can put them into the red bucket.
  • Bible Verses – There are tons of verses in the Bible about giving to others and helping the poor. I’ll read some of the shorter verses to Alexander.
  • Wrap Gifts – Alexander will help me wrap some gifts and put them under the Christmas tree.
  • Read¬†Christmas Carol – This book is about a grumpy, greedy old man who has a change of heart. It’s all about giving, in the end.


  • Dress As Reindeer – I got some antlers and red face paint. We’ll wear antlers and paint our noses red!
  • Sing Rudolph Song – This is just for fun.
  • Reindeer Poop – It’s just chocolate-covered raisins. I made incorporate them into the next bullet point.
  • Make Fake Deer Tracks – Using a fake snow recipe I found online, we’ll create fake deer tracks around the house. (I may also do this before he wakes up one day.)
  • Learn Reindeer Names – I found some reindeer flash cards online. Each one has a picture of a reindeer with a reindeer name underneath.
  • Rudolph Puzzle – There was a reindeer puzzle in the set of puzzles I mentioned earlier! We’ll put together this 24-piecer.
  • Rudolph Book – I love this old movie. We’ll read the book, for sure.
  • Rudolph Movie – If we have time, and if I can find it, we’ll watch the movie that goes along with the book.



  • Sing Christmas Songs – I printed a few songs in a “song book”. I mostly wanted to introduce Alexander to music notes.
  • Play Joy To The World on the Recorder – I wanted to play a song on the recorder for Alexander. Instead, he played the same note over and over again. He has been playing it for a week!
  • Make Jingle Bell Bracelets – Using pipe cleaners and jingle bells, we create bracelets for ourselves. Then we listened to¬†Jingle Bells and shook our bracelets to the music.
  • Make a Paper and Felt Microphone – This was an activity that didn’t happen. I wanted to roll a piece of black paper to create the handle of the microphone, then add the green felt as the mouth part.


  • Read¬†The Christmas Story – This book tells a child-friendly version of the Biblical Christmas story.
  • Nativity Set – I found a ceramic, pint-sized nativity set online. And my husband got some hay. We will set up this nativity scene together. I’ll explain each component as we do so.
  • North Star – We will cut out a star shape from the yellow paper. We may hang it above the nativity scene.
  • Manger – Using popsicle sticks, thread, and glue, we’ll try to create a manger.


  • Roast Marshmallows – I would like to roast marshmallows, but we do not have a gas stove, so this may be wishful thinking!
  • Giant Cup of Hot Chocolate – I cut a paper plate into a smaller white circle. I cut a brown sheet of paper into a circle. And I cut a piece of white pipe cleaner to represent the handle. If we glue them together¬†just right, it might look like a cup of hot chocolate from above. There are 10 cotton balls in the box to represent giant marshmallows. Alexander likes to count, so I thought he might just enjoying placing the 10 cotton balls onto the brown circle!
  • Fake Fire – I cut out some fake flames in various colors. We will tape them onto our fireplace grate.
  • Real Hot Chocolate – Using chocolate chips and marshmallows, we will make real hot chocolate on the stove.
  • Hang Stockings – I got some plastic hooks that I’ll hang above the fireplace. Alexander can help hang our stockings.
  • The Night Before Christmas Book – This book mentions a lot of Christmas things. But I had a book in some of the other boxes already! So it fits in this box too.


This one was a little deeper and more theological than the others! I know that Alexander won’t really understand much of this box, and that’s okay. It was important for me to put together the ideas. Each year, I can add to it, and one day, hopefully he will understand a bit of the theology that is behind Christmas. I don’t want it to be just a holiday for him! You know, it’s more than just Santa and gifts and trees and treats.

  • Birthday Party Decor – In the box are some candles, balloons, and a cookie cutter.
  • Birthday Cookies – I’ve got the dry ingredients for cookie dough in a mason jar, ready to go. We’ll use a recipe to make some simple sugar cookies. We’ll stack them to make a “cake”.
  • Happy Birthday Song – We’ll sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, naturally.
  • Gold – I wanted Alexander to give Jesus 3 small gifts. With my dad’s help, I landed on gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But of course, I won’t wrap those things specifically. Gold represents His Royalty (birth). In the box is a long gold bead, which Alexander will drape on the Christmas tree.
  • Frankincense – Frankincense represents His priesthood (life). Basically, I connected it to His leadership and relationship with the 12 disciples. In the box is a string, 12 small beads (the disciples), and 1 larger and intricate bead (Jesus). We’ll string the beads together to make a chain. Alexander can hang the chain on the Christmas tree.
  • Myrrh – Myrrh was used for embalming, so it may have represented His sacrifice (death). In this box is just a round, smooth stone. It represents the stone that was rolled away from the tomb. Alexander will place the rock under the Christmas tree.


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  • Pick Out Tree – We went to a tree farm. Alexander helped us pick out our Christmas tree. He also helped my husband push the tree over and roll it up toward our car.
  • Decorate Tree – I included some ornaments in this box so that Alexander could hang them on the tree.
  • Small Paper Trees – We used popsicle sticks, brown paper, green papers, glue, and felt balls to create paper trees.
  • Pinecone Trees – I found some pinecones in the neighborhood. Then we shoved felt balls into the pinecones! We used ornament hooks to create ornaments from the pinecones.


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  • Candy Cane Ornaments – We used pipe cleaners and red yarn to make candy cane ornaments. This was difficult for Alexander, so I ended up making a few to hang on the tree. We also hung candy canes on the tree!
  • Striped Paper – I cut red paper into strips. Alexander glued them onto white paper.
  • Candy Cane Smoothies – I layered a banana smoothie and a strawberry smoothie, then we drank from candy cane straws!
  • Giant Candy Cane Coloring Page – I drew a simple candy cane onto a giant sheet of paper. Alexander colored it. He doesn’t like to color much, so only a tiny portion of the candy cane was colored.
  • Peppermint Pancakes – This was a failed project. I made plain pancakes then tried to swirl strawberry jam into them, to look like giant peppermints. They tasted fine, but they did not look like peppermints!



  • Gingerbread House – I found a kit at Michael’s craft store for a gingerbread house. My husband and I did the structure part of the house. Alexander helped with some of the decorations.
  • Gingerbread Man/Woman Cookie Cutters – We traced the gingerbread people onto brown paper using cookie cutters.
  • Gingerbread Man Rhyme – We read a poem about a gingerbread man. And every time I said the word “gingerbread”, Alexander was supposed to jump. Instead, he just ran around the table about 400 times.
  • Gingerbread Pancakes – I made some plain but delicious gingerbread pancakes.

That’s all, folks!

This took a ton of planning and brainstorming. And I know that next year, I’ll have an 11-month-old and a 3.5-year-old. Those boxes will look much different, but I hope I’m able to reuse many of these ideas.

I also hope this is a lovely tradition that we continue over the years. This year, the materials and planning were a little expensive and overwhelming. But now, I’ve got the boxes, lots of books, and lots of ideas. I imagine it will be easier as the years go on!

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 Рahhh Рmmmm. That spells mom. I asked him to tell me what the word was. And he said mmmm Рahhh Рmmmm.

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 РSAY 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. ūüôā

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


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.

Pine Nuts in Play Doh (VIDEO)

This is a great sensory experience, and it’s good for counting practice as well!

You can see exactly what to do in the video above. But in case you don’t have time to watch:

  1. You need 10 pine nuts (or any number of smallish objects).
  2. You need a small amount of play doh. The amount will depend on the age of the child. I think that an older child, you could use more of the play doh (and more objects to hide). This was a good amount for Alexander because it didn’t take¬†much¬†effort to find the pine nuts. A younger child, I would use a smaller amount of the play doh and only 3-5 objects.
  3. I pressed the play doh fairly flat.
  4. Alexander would press the pine nuts into the dough, and we would count them as he did so.
  5. Once all 10 were pressed into the dough, I would roll up the play doh and roll it into a ball. Most of the pine nuts were visible from the outside, and the others were just under the surface.
  6. I handed him the doh ball, and he would dig through and pull out each of the 10 pine nuts, counting as he went.

Super simple!

NOTE: You don’t want to do this if your baby is allergic to nuts! Use rice or dry beans or plastic/wooden beads. I just happened to have pine nuts in the pantry. (Plus “pine nuts in play doh” sounds cuter than “dry beans in play doh,” am I right?)

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.)



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.

November 2015 Curriculum

November 2015 Curriculum

I’ve never written a curriculum for a 2-year-old, but I was a high school teacher for 7 years. Because of that, I am familiar with how to plan a month of lessons, activities, projects, assessments, and I know what a curriculum looks like (for high schoolers anyway).

I used my basic knowledge of scheduling and planning to put together some ideas for this month. I have some primary objectives for Alexander, but since I’ve never worked with a 2-year-old and can’t see the future, they are simply a loose guideline. I’ve also got no one to compare him to, which is a good thing at this age. No need to get all uptight about meeting certain standards. He’s learning, and he’s having fun, and that is the¬†main objective.

All that said, I use the word “curriculum” very casually. If you’re looking for a professional curriculum, you’ll want to look elsewhere! This is a general guide that we’ll be following, that may give you some ideas.

Animals, Numbers
Timeline: 4 weeks

Objectives: (Some of them have an asterisk. Those are the ones I think will be more challenging.)

  1. Identify at least 5 more animals.
  2. Learn terms for animal body parts and relate them to human body parts.
  3. Separate fruits and vegetables, meats, and nuts.*
  4. Identify which animals are carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores.*
  5. Learn about teeth.
  6. Count to 20.*
  7. Trace the numbers 1 through 10.
  8. Write the numbers 1 through 10.*
  9. Identify the quantities 1 through 10.

Objective 1: Identify at least 5 more animals by picture.

So far, Alexander can identify about 25 animals. I would like to expose him to a few more that he does not know. I’ve considered a lot, but I want to find 5-10 animals that are somehow related. Here are some that have come to mind:

  • flamingo
  • aardvark
  • platypus
  • shark
  • chipmunk
  • moose
  • skunk
  • walrus
  • jellyfish
  • ostrich

I want to consider animals that are pretty distinctive. For example, I would not show him an ostrich and an emu because they are too similar.

ACTIVITY (science): Once I pick the 5-10 animals that are related, I will create some animal flash cards to accompany them. It may be worth my while to find animals that would be in the same exhibit at a zoo.

ACTIVITY (practical life, science): Visit the Zoo Atlanta or a local farm. Practice animal sounds on the drive to the zoo so that he can interact and be a part of the experience. (In the past, trips to the zoo have been pretty boring for him, or at least he never seemed interested.)

Objective 2: Learn terms for animal body parts and relate them to human body parts.

While we have feet, some animals have paws, claws, and hoofs. We have noses, but some animals have snouts or a trunk. I want to learn some of that terminology and teach those words to Alexander.

ACTIVITY (science):¬†We’ll start with a piece of paper that shows the face and body of an animal. I’ll see if Alexander can point to the animal’s NOSE, for example. He’ll most likely be able to. Then I’ll say, “This is a pig. His nose is called a SNOUT. Can you say SNOUT?” He’ll give it a shot. And we’ll keep going for a few different animals.

ACTIVITY (science):¬†We will play a game. I will say, “Pretend that mommy is a pig. Where is mommy’s SNOUT?” And he would have to touch my nose. This may be a challenge because I’m not sure if he knows how to play pretend just yet. If that idea is successful, then we can play a similar game where Alexander is the animal, and I’ll ask him to point to a particular animal body part.

Objective 3: Separate fruits and vegetables, meats, and nuts.

Alexander is definitely capable of identifying some fruits and vegetables that we eat regularly. He would probably be able to identify nuts and some meats. For the meats, I would use an image of a cow and state that a cow is where beef comes from (instead of a picture of ground beef). I think it’s important that he understands that some things that we eat are parts of animals. (If you are vegan/vegetarian, I apologize if this makes you uncomfortable!)

ACTIVITY (sensorial): We’ll do a pantry and refrigerator raid. We’ll go through the foods we have in our house. He can identify specific fruits and vegetables, but I want to see if he can say “fruit” or “vegetable” or “meat” and so on. Nuts and grains are lumped together for this activity.

ACTIVITY:¬†Grocery store advertisements are filled with pictures of foods. Each week, we get at least one flyer/coupon book from a grocery store. I will start to stockpile them for this activity. I will cut out the various fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains/nuts. (I will also tape them to a sheet of white paper and laminate them.) I’ll have Alexander separate them by fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains.

Objective 4: Identify which animals are carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores.

I imagine this will be fun if he picks up on the idea quickly. Once I feel like he has a good grasp of objective 3, I want to talk with him about carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores. He will learn that we (our family) are omnivores because we eat fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains/nuts. Some animals (and people) only eat grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, and those animals are called herbivores. And some animals only eat meats: they are called carnivores.

Since we have a good selection of printed animal cards – and I plan to purchase another set of animal figurines this month – I will be able to teach Alexander which animals have which types of diets. If he understands the distinction, then we will do an activity.

ACTIVITY (science):¬†I will use the food flash cards (from objective 3). I’ll put a few food items in front of Alexander and ask him which animal might eat those foods. If that is completely too advanced, I will guide him. For example, I will say, “Which foods do you see here?¬†Yes, ____ and ____ are fruits. And ____ is meat. We know that omnivores eat fruit and meat. Which animal is an omnivore?” And he may be able to identify that.

Objective 5: Learn about teeth.

It’s possible that Alexander will get his last 4 teeth this month. If that happens, he will have 20 teeth, which is perfect for the¬†next objective. If not, we can still learn about teeth.

One thing I want to point out is that some teeth are flat (molars) and some are sharp (canines). Some of them help to cut off a bite, and others help to chew the food. I want to talk about how different animals have certain types of teeth. (And a shark has a lot more than we do!) If he understood the carnivore, herbivore, omnivore terms, then I may link types of teeth back to certain types of diets.

ACTIVITY (sensorial, science, math): We will stand in front of a mirror and count our teeth.

ACTIVITY (sensorial, science): We will have a snack. When we take a bite, we will look at the marks that our teeth made on the food. Depending on the food, we will be able to count the teeth marks.

Objective 6: Count to 20. (math)

Alexander can count to 13 consistently. But after 13, they all sound the same, and he usually gives up around 17.

I want to see if he can practice making it to 20!

Objective 7: Trace the numbers 1 through 10. 

We have started this objective already (see here).

ACTIVITY (math, fine motor skills):¬†We will continue to practice tracing the numbers 1 through 10. I saw a set of tracing cards online that were better than the ones we have. They’ve got arrows helping to direct your pen strokes. I will continue to demonstrate this skill and have Alexander copy me. Since he enjoys it, I imagine we’ll do this activity most days.

Objective 8: Write the numbers 1 through 10. (math, writing)

I don’t want to set lofty goals, but I want to assume that it is¬†possible that Alexander will get confident with tracing his numbers. If that happens, we will practice writing them on plain paper. (This skill may not develop for another year. I have no idea!)

Objective 9: Identify the quantities 1 through 10.

For whatever reason, Alexander is not very interested in quantity. If I display 4 objects and ask him “how many?”, he will just ignore me. If I ask him to count the objects, though, he will count 1-2-3-4. I know he understands that there are 4 objects, but actually stating that there are 4 of them (without counting) is proving difficult, or maybe just boring. Also, past 5, he gets distracted and sloppy with the counting.

I feel like looking at a quantity and seeing the quantity (as opposed to counting up to it) is a skill in itself. I would like to continue practicing this with him this month. If he shows no interest, we will move on, as we always do.

ACTIVITY (math, fine motor skills):¬†I have a set of lollipop sticks and a set of number cards. I’ll display a number card and ask Alexander to place that many sticks on the card.

ACTIVITY (math): I will place a certain number of sticks on his table. Then I will ask Alexander to place the correct number card next to the sticks. If that instruction does not make sense, I will simply ask him to tell him how many sticks are on the table.


In addition to the activities above, I know that we will continue with pouring, color matching, puzzles, letter matching, and more. There are a lot of things he enjoys, so I don’t want to take those away.

The activities above are just plans and ideas.

At the end of the month, I anticipate that I will go back through this post then create a new post with links to specific videos, printables, and activities that we actually did!

Classroom Setup #4 November 2015

Classroom Setup #4

We are busy around here, so the past few weeks have been slow in the school area. Alexander has been practicing letters and numbers, putting together puzzles, and playing with his new animal figurines most days. We’ve been reading more as well.

But I was feeling the urge to change things up, especially since I’ve been thinking about the curriculum ideas I’ve had rolling around in my brain. So I moved forward with that, and it made sense that the shelves would change up too.

Here’s a tour of our shelves for November! We still have two tall shelves and two short shelves, a bin for train tracks and trains, and a table with two chairs.

Classroom Setup #4

The Shelf on the Left

Classroom Setup #4

Shelf One

On the top I still have lowercase cursive letters (split into A-M and N-Z) along with matching uppercase print letters. One set is magnetized, and he seems to like that one better. I just haven’t gotten around to magnetizing the other set yet. (It could also be that he is more confident with A-M.)

Shelf Two

This shelf is still a few puzzles he likes. The first is just stacking rings (The Tower of Hanoi). Sometimes he puts them large to small, sometimes dark separate from light, and sometimes it’s seemingly random. In the middle is the Melissa & Doug owl puzzle that he really likes. And I added a small mirror with a small flashlight that he is able to turn on and off.

Classroom Setup #4

Shelf Three

This shelf is some animal stuff. I have his animal figurines in the basket. And in the 3-compartment bin, it’s silhouettes, animal skin/fur, and the animals themselves.

Classroom Setup #4

Classroom Setup #4

Shelf Four

Down here, it used to be a few trucks and cars, plus a book about things that go. But he lost interest in that. Now, it is number stuff. The little jar has 10 lollipop sticks and a dry-erase marker. In the middle is a set of wipe-off cards for tracing the numbers 1-10. And on the right are some more cards for tracing; they are random lines, some curved, some straight. The lollipop sticks are for quantity. I’m going to see if he can use the cards in the middle and then match up the proper number of sticks to each card.

Classroom Setup #4

The Shelf on the Right

Classroom Setup #4

Shelf One

The top of this shelf is more animal stuff. It’s the salt dough animal tracks I made, plus a set of matching cards. One set is images of animal tracks in real life. The second is images of the actual animals. That blog post is forthcoming.

Classroom Setup #4Classroom Setup #4

Shelf Two

Here, it’s the gradient tiles with matching cards. And it’s also pipe cleaners plus some beads. The pipe cleaners work very well for this. Soon we’ll try a regular string again, but for now, this works for him.

Classroom Setup #4

Shelf Three

The pouring station is still there; it’s got two little pouring pitchers and felt balls for the actual pouring. We tried water for a while, but it was a mess every time. Since I can’t always watch and help, I switched to the small balls so he can do that activity without me. Next to the pouring station is cutting! I took away the scissors about a month ago, and I’m bringing them back. We will see how he does with them this time.

Shelf Four

This is fun stuff. It’s two colors of Play-Doh on the left. And on the right, it’s some pieces of cardboard plus stickers. I’m not sure how those are teaching him anything, but they are at least helping him with fine motor movements.