Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Mm is for Mommy

Mm is for Mommy Date

As we continued our Letter Mm activities today, we focused on one of my favorite topics — Mommies. We began the day with the story of Hannah, then read one of my favorite books, A Ride on Mother’s Back: A Day of Baby Carrying around the World, before it was time to head out for Little Bear’s weekly speech therapy appointment.

Once therapy ended, we picked up some lunch and headed to the park for a Mommy date. It seems that we practically live outside these days, but with highs already pushing 90 degrees, I know that beautiful sunny days will give way to blistering heat all too soon. Getting the girls outside as often as possible during these relatively comfortable days is high on my priority list. Plus, any mommy-themed day practically begs for a Mommy-Daughter date, and the girls are still young enough to prefer the cheap fun of the park over expensive trips to the mall!

Monkeying around ...

Making progress ..

Both girls enjoyed the rare fast food lunch, but the playground definitely trumped lunch. Little Bear had complained that she was “starving” as we drove to the park (one we hadn’t visited before), but when she caught sight of the climbing structures, she quickly lost interest in her food, and I had to beg her to eat at least a few bites before trying out all the new activities.

Making noise ...

Baby Bear took time to eat, but soon followed in the footsteps of her sister. She paused briefly at the base of the toddler staircase, so I helped her with the first couple of stairs, then directed her toward the low toddler side. She’d gained confidence on that small staircase, though, and there was no stopping her. In a flash, her short legs were climbing the stairs to the big kid portion of the play area, and I saw my “baby” girl toddling fearlessly toward the 9-foot slide her big sister had just gone down.

… Much as I try to encourage the girls to try new things and rise to new challenges, I was NOT ready to stand by and watch my 11-month old dive headfirst down a slide that towered more than 3 feet above *my* head. I joined the girls on the play structure in near record time and redirected Little Miss Daring to a slide that was only six or so feet off the ground.

Making memories ...

After an hour or so of play, we headed home so that Baby Bear could nap and Little Bear could tackle some more formal work. Little Bear practiced spelling Mommy with letter cubes, then traced the word Mommy in a rainbow of colors while I got Baby Bear to sleep. We shared a few more books and relaxed while watching an episode of Diego. Then, we headed to the kitchen for this week’s Letter Mm cooking project: Monkey Bread.

I showed Little Bear how to cut biscuits in quarters and guided her through cutting up three or four, then gave her one to try on her own. She carefully held the biscuit with one hand, held the knife with the other, and started to cut — right above where her fingers were. I caught her hand before she could do any damage, but quickly realized that Montessori theory notwithstanding, I’m really not ready to let my 3 1/2-year-old learn how to use a real knife. We struck a deal, and I cut the rest of the biscuits while she rolled them in sugar and cinnamon (which she had measured and mixed — math in action!) and put them in the pan.

Rolling biscuit pieces in cinnamon and sugar

Mm is for Monkey Bread

Little Bear spent some time playing in a magnet sensory bin, while I fixed breakfast for dinner to go along with our monkey bread. We wrapped up our day by examining the bean seeds we began soaking yesterday and by putting some broccoli seed in a bowl to soak for sprouts.

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Seeds and Such

Digging into a seed study

Today was filled with a mish-mash of hands-on learning. Little Bear had ballet early this morning; then, we came home and dove into our study of seeds. We hauled a tub of pinto beans outside for some scooping, pouring, measuring, and sensory fun and soon had two neighbors join our “class.” Apparently 3- and 4-year-olds find dried beans fascinating. The activity that I’d prepared solely for Little Bear really wasn’t big enough to accommodate three sets of little hands, though. Little Bear eventually crawled up in my lap for some story time and left the boys to play in her bean tub without her. Of course, once the boys realized that books were being read, they too abandoned the bean tub and joined us.

The favorite read-aloud of the morning was without debate Seeds! Seeds! Seeds! by Nancy Wallace. In fact, by the time we got to the end, Little Bear was begging to do all the projects the book’s main character did herself. (I should have seen that coming and planned accordingly.) We also identified various types of seeds, organized seeds according to size, and brainstormed a list of edible seeds.

Are these seeds edible?

A spent seed pod ...

While we were reading about seeds and discussing them, Baby Bear was busy finding them … along with sundry other objects. She first came toddling over to the picnic table with a spent magnolia seedpod she’d found on the ground. A couple of passes later, she showed up with a grass seed head hanging from her mouth. Her final “discovery” of the morning was brown and seed-shaped, but decidedly not a seed. Oh, well … 2 out of 3 isn’t bad — especially at 11 months old!

NOT a seed!

With lunch time fast approaching, we bid the neighbors good-bye and headed back inside. We tossed a handful of seeds into a bowl to soak. We’ll observe changes for a day or two, then attempt to sprout them in a plastic bag. (I’m not really expecting grocery store dried beans to sprout, so we tossed a few garden seeds into the bowl as well.) Little Bear then sat down to watch an episode of Sid the Science Kid, while I fixed her much-awaited M-themed lunch. Today’s meal included macaroni and cheese, mixed vegetable chips, melon kebobs, mango (fresh and dried), a blueberry muffin, and mozzarella cubes. It wasn’t the most colorful of letter meals, but was relatively healthy — and her smile shows just how well it was received.

Letter Mm lunch

After lunch, Little Bear completed coloring, cutting, and tracing activities, then watched an episode of SuperWhy while I got Baby Bear to sleep. We enjoyed a few more read-alouds during nap time, reviewed tonight’s Awana lesson, and did a few of the calendar time activities that we hadn’t had time for before ballet this morning.

Five ballerinas ... and 48 puzzle pieces

We wrapped up our day’s activities with a new 48-piece ballet-themed floor puzzle, one of the larger puzzles Little Bear has tackled. She needed some help figuring out which pieces went where, but put it together on her own, saw it through to completion, and had fun in the process.

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Monkeying Around on Monday …

Mm is for mud -- and Monday

Mm is for monkey

Little Bear bounced into the living room this morning wearing a monkey nightgown and declaring that monkeys were her current favorite animal. Since Mm is our letter of the week and monkeys were on the agenda anyway, I dubbed today “Monkey Day.”

We grabbed a stack of books plus a couple of games, then headed outside.

Monkeying around

I gave both girls time to run around and encouraged them to pretend they were monkeys, a task Baby Bear embraced wholeheartedly. (I would have been happier had she been a little less zealous about trying to feast upon the local insect population. …) Little Bear played with her baby sister briefly, then allowed that she really just wanted to “do schoolwork.” Our monkey fun included …

Art — Making brown paint footprints to serve as the body of a footprint monkey

Language Arts — Reading the books pictured above (Little Bear read portions of That’s Not My Monkey and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed on her own); hiding Baby Bear’s sock monkey around the yard and using position words to tell where it was (in the tree, under the picnic table, by the pool, etc.).

Math — Making comparisons while playing Barrel of Monkeys (who got more/less, who had the longer/shorter strand); using aforementioned monkeys to make patterns and make equal groups.

Music — Singing “Monkey Say, Monkey Do” and “Five Little Monkeys.”

Science — Reading a non-fiction piece about spider monkeys; learning what monkeys eat, where they live, and how they move; watching National Geographic video clips on Howler Monkeys and Snow Monkeys.

Reviewing initial consonant sounds

On other more or less educational fronts, we …

Bible — Read the story of Moses in the bulrushes and discussed how Miriam was a good big sister; talked about mercy and began learning “I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord Forever.”

Word-building puzzles

Language Arts — Used Little Bear’s Learning Palette to review initial consonant sounds; practiced writing the letter M; completed a set of word-building puzzles; completed two online reading lessons; completed performing arts vocabulary lesson using sticker picture encyclopedia.

Math — Practiced counting to 50 by 5s and 10s; played categorization and matching game.

Social studies — Read two books about manners, watched Kidsongs: Fun With Manners, and practiced using good manners.

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The Week Ahead — Seeds and the Letter Mm

As we move into the coming week, we’ll be learning about seeds and focusing on the letter Mm. Our seed study will be based on the following books:

Planned activities include …

  • sprouting seeds in a plastic bag to observe growth
  • sprouting broccoli and radish seeds to eat
  • exploring the life cycle of a seed and recounting with sequencing cards
  • planting seeds outdoors
  • sorting seeds according to size
  • pouring and measuring seeds
  • playing a tactile matching game using balloons filled with different kinds of seeds
  • making a seed mosaic
  • discussing what seeds need to germinate
  • identifying and sampling edible seeds
  • hunting for seeds in the fruits and vegetables we eat

Planned activities for the letter Mm include …

Mm Lunch
Macaroni and mixed vegetables; Muenster cheese; miniature muffins; mango; mandarin oranges; milk.

Paint with marbles. Paint with magnet. Make a footprint monkey. Use magnetic shapes to make pictures.

Memorize John 10:27. Read the story of Miriam and discuss ways in which Miriam was a good older sister. Discuss the quality of mercy.

Make monkey bread.

Fine Motor Skills
Put sticker stamps on envelopes. Drop “mail” through slot in shoebox mailbox. Play magnetic fishing game. Complete simple mazes.

Gross motor skills
Move to music. March.

Language Arts
Transform uppercase Mm into mountains or decorate with colored macaroni. Marble paint a lowercase Mm. Identify words that begin and end with Mm. Learn “Little Miss Muffet.” Read the following books aloud:

Sort M&M’s by color. Use M&M’s to make patterns. Add groups of M&M’s. Play matching games. Learn to distinguish between pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters.

Learn “I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord Forever” and “The Tale of the Sun and the Moon.”

Social Studies
Begin learning about maps.

Read What Makes a Magnet?. Play in magnet sensory bin. Experiment with Magnetic Match Rings. Build an electromagnet.

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Lights, Lemons, and Little Explorers

Hands-on learning at its finest ...

I had to disappoint Little Bear this morning with the news that since she was still running a fever, she couldn’t go to Sunday School. She turned her puffy, watery eyes and runny nose toward me and said, “But I feel fine!” … So we compromised and took our germs outside, where the birds and squirrels could have cared less, instead of spending the morning in a small room packed full of other little people.

Over the past month, we’ve been blessed with some desperately-needed rain here in West Texas, and for the first time since we moved here, the yard is alive with tender green growth and tiny flowers. Each excursion outdoors is a veritable treasure hunt, as Little Bear hunts for new patches of flowers or some unknown leaf. This morning, she was greeted by a sizable patch of tiny yellow flowers peeking through the clover and was overjoyed.

Little Explorer

She also found some new weed growing beneath the magnolia tree and tugged on one of its leaves, only to have the whole weed come up in her hand.

A fragile root

Her initial concern gave way to curiosity, and she observed that this particular weed had a weak root system. She asked if we should try to replant it, then decided it probably wouldn’t survive even if we did. (The brown leaf near the bottom and brown spots on the upper leaves gave credence to her theory.)

As the sun rose high in the sky and it grew unpleasantly warm outdoors, we came back inside and built an L out of Duplos. Little Bear had asked whether light could really fade colors, so we stuck our Lego L on a sheet of black construction paper and set it out in the sun to observe what would happen.

Using the sun's light to make a sun print

Living in an apartment complex sometimes hampers our science experiments, and this was one of those occasions. At some point, our L got bumped, so the finished product was not as perfect as I’d hoped. Little Bear was still able to see clearly, though, how the Texas sun faded the construction paper everywhere except beneath the L in the two short hours our project was outside. We talked about how sunlight could cause damage by fading upholstery, carpeting, drapes, etc. I also pointed out how the sun’s ability to “bleach” colors could work to our advantage by bleaching organic stains from clothing. (Baby Bear managed to get chocolate almond milk on two outfits yesterday, so tomorrow, we’ll experiment and see if the sun can do what Shout Advanced and Oxyclean couldn’t.)

Tonight, we read about light in our Kingfisher First Encyclopedia and headed outside to see how quickly the beam of a flashlight could travel and how far it could spread. Little Bear observed that the light became fainter the further it spread. We also made a futile attempt to count the stars.

When Mommy gives you lemons ...

... make lemon bars!

Last but not least, Little Bear finally got a chance to turn fresh lemons into lemon juice and help me make lemon bars. She struggled with holding our cheap plastic juicer still while turning the lemon, so she devised her own method of juicing. She held the lemon and spun the juicer around beneath it. It wasn’t the method Mommy had in mind, but it got the job done. Little Bear took one taste of the sour lemon juice and was not at all sure we could make something palatable out of it, but after sampling the finished product, she deemed it a success.

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The Week in Review — Letter Ll

As the week wound to a close, we finished most of the Letter Ll activities we had planned, plus a few more. On the math front, Little Bear compared groups of lemons and limes, made equal groups of lemons and limes, added lemons and limes, and made patterns from lemons and limes.

Balancing act ...

Lemon-Lime Addition

Tomorrow, we’re planning to juice some of our lemons and limes, see which produces more juice, then turn the juice into limeade and lemon bars.

On the science front, we read about light and identified sources of light. Little Bear observed that the sun was the largest and brightest source of light. We played with shadows, using both the sun and a flashlight.

For social studies, we began learning about landforms with a look at mountains, valleys, hills, deserts, and islands.

For language arts, Little Bear made Ll’s out of leaves and Legos, practiced writing the letter Ll, brainstormed a list of words that started with Ll, and sorted picture cards according to whether they began or ended with Ll. We also read all of our planned letter Ll read-alouds.

Our ladder-climbing excursion to one of the parks in town had to be cancelled because both cubs have runny noses, fevers, and earaches yet again. But we did manage to have plenty of hands-on letter Ll fun outside our own apartment.

Ll is for look -- looking for signs of spring ...

A mother bird on her nest

Bloom and flower

A bird in the grass

Along with looking for signs of spring, Little Bear saw how high and how far she could leap and discovered how much she could lift. She listened for animal sounds. She formed Ll’s out of twigs, leaves, rocks, and flowers and practiced writing Ll’s in the sand.


We also had some Ll fun inside. I pulled our Melissa & Doug Latches Board out of the toy closet, and both girls enjoyed using their motor skills to open and close the latches. Little Bear also honed her fine motor skills by making long chains of monkeys, by digging L’s out of Theraputty and by forming Ll’s with Play-Doh. She built with Legos almost daily and humored me by building with Lauri Locktagons one afternoon.

Ll is for latches

Ll is for loud (and laughing)

Ll is for long

Little Bear has asked whether we can focus on Ll again next week — in large part, I suspect, because she wants to go ladder-climbing at the riverfront park (which boasts much taller ladders than our usual playground of choice. We’ve still got 14 letters to go, though, and I’d like to finish the alphabet before her 4th birthday. It’s time to move on to Mm — and maybe Mommy can take her little monkeys to the magnificent climbing park this coming week!

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As Little Bear approaches her fourth birthday, I’m gently adding more structure to our school days and incorporating more written work. I’m not fond of workbooks or rigid curriculum, but I want Little Bear to learn to …

  • follow directions.
  • complete tasks.
  • do her best.
  • attempt new things.
  • work toward a goal.
  • do what needs to be done, regardless of whether it’s a “favorite” activity.
  • develop a genuine sense of accomplishment.

While any one of these goals could be achieved through any number of methods, limited workbook usage helps us meet all of them. This week, we began incorporating Get Ready for the Code and Singapore Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics into our weekly schedule, in part to get Little Bear accustomed to bookwork and in part to solidify the phonics and math foundation we’ve been building through games and hands-on activities. Our days are still largely filled with outdoor activities, hands-on learning, games, puzzles, crafts, songs, and stories, and I have no intention of changing that any time soon. Today, though, Little Bear had a morning ballet class, an afternoon doctor’s appointment, and an evening AWANA meeting, so our Monday/Wednesday/Friday “bookwork” filled a disproportionate amount of our abbreviate school day.

Little Bear watched an episode of “Sid the Science Kid” while eating breakfast and getting dressed for ballet. We reviewed our songs of the week and our memory verse on the way to ballet. Then, after class, we came home to read today’s Bible story, complete today’s Get Ready for the Code lesson, and eat lunch.

The first volume of Get Ready for the Code focuses primarily on initial consonant sounds, and Little Bear knew all of those by the time she was 2 1/2. It also includes some age-appropriate handwriting and coloring activities, though — skills Little Bear needs to practice. She’s recently started balking at the Kumon tracing and coloring activities we’ve been doing for the past six months, but was overjoyed to start a “big kid” textbook. The “easy” phonics lessons allow her to demonstrate (and cement) her phonics knowledge while honing her fine motor skills.

We filled our waiting time at the doctor’s office with a couple of pages of Maurice Pledger’s Jungle World Sticker Book, learning about reptiles and insects of the rainforest. We also read several spring-themed read-alouds, including the following:

We tackled math this evening, focusing on the concepts of “same” and “similar.” Little Bear is familiar with the concepts of “same” and “different,” but “similar” was new to her. After figuring out that “similar” meant “mostly the same, but not identical,” she had a blast pointing out items from Duplos to dinosaurs that were similar, then telling how they were alike and how they were different.

Baby Bear attacked the puzzle shelf as we were finishing today’s math lesson, so Little Bear ended the day by helping me sort puzzle pieces, then re-assemble puzzles to make sure all pieces were present and accounted for. Among them was a box of three-letter-word puzzle cards, and Little Bear was delighted to discover that she could read every word in the box. She also enjoyed matching baby animals with their mothers to complete the Eeboo Baby Animals Puzzle Pairs that we hadn’t done in a while.

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First Day of Spring

Spring flowers

It’s felt like spring for most of the past month here in Texas, but since today marked the official start of the season, we spent much of the day outside. We began the day by using our senses to observe signs of the changing season. Little Bear saw …

  • green grass
  • new leaves
  • buds on bushes
  • tiny flowers
  • a bird on a nest
  • several noisy crows
  • ants scurrying around
  • an orange and black butterfly
  • people wearing short sleeves
  • children playing in the sun
  • open windows

Blue skies and young leaves

A noisy crow ...

She heard …

  • the wind blowing
  • birds singing
  • squirrels chattering
  • the sounds of other people enjoying fresh air and sunshine

She felt …

  • the warm sun on her shoulders
  • the warm earth beneath her
  • the wind in her face
  • squishy dirt softened by recent rains
  • tender, young leaves
  • a roly-poly wriggling around in her palm

Ah, spring!

Ll is for leaf

A girl and her leaf ...

We’ve had strong winds and stormy weather the past couple of nights, so the yard was littered with small twigs and sprigs of leaves. Little Bear collected a couple of handfuls of leaves and used them to form our letter of the week, Ll. She also grouped the leaves she’d found by type, sorted them according to size, and counted out the date in leaves. She climbed up in her favorite tree and spent a few minutes pretending she was a bird perched atop her nest. Then, she was off again, collecting more leaves, playing with a neighbor, building a tower of twigs, digging in the soil, drumming on the metal fence surrounding the pool and trying to figure out why a stick made more noise when she used it to strike the hollow metal fence than when she banged it on the ground.

We headed indoors for lunch and Baby Bear’s nap time. Little Bear and I read The Grouchy Ladybug, Library Lion, Is Your Mama a Llama?, and The Lion and the Little Red Bird (Picture Puffins)while Baby Bear slept. Little Bear also used Duplos to build the letter Ll, finished a reading lesson she’d started last night, and read a couple of sight word readers to me.  Once Baby Bear awoke, we headed back outside to enjoy more beautiful spring weather while tackling some more written work. Little Bear completed a couple of initial consonant sound worksheets and a size comparison worksheet, then practiced writing the letter Ll. We wrapped up our day’s activities with some shadow play and a game of Red Light, Green Light.

Ll is for little sister

The Letter Ll


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The Week Ahead …

As we move into a new week, we’ll be focusing on spring and the letter Ll. Our planned spring read-alouds include the following:

Other planned activities include …

  • going on a nature walk and hunting for signs of spring
  • photographing signs of spring and using photos to make our own spring-themed book
  • forcing bulbs
  • reviewing the four seasons and sorting picture cards by season
  • making butterflies from coffee filters
  • counting and comparing groups of flowers
  • using flower stickers to create patterns

Planned activities for the letter Ll include the following:

Ll Lunch
Lasagna or lentil soup; lettuce; lima beans; lemon bars; limeade

Make a paper plate ladybug. Use shapes to create a lion.

Memorize 1 John 4:7. Read the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den.

Make limeade.

Fine Motor Skills
Squeeze juice from lemons or limes. Practice opening a lock.

Gross motor skills
Play “Red Light, Green Light.” Climb a ladder.

Language Arts

Collect leaves and use them to decorate an uppercase L. Transform a lowercase l into a ladder. Differentiate between /l/ and /r/ sounds. Talk about likes and dislikes. Read the following books aloud:

Roll dice and add dots to a ladybug. Make patterns from lemon and lime slices.

Review the songs “This Little Light of Mine” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Social Studies
Begin learning about landforms.

Experiment with light. Review the characteristics of living things.

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St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's Day

17 blocks

Little Bear has been counting down to St. Patrick’s Day all week, so she couldn’t wait to add March 17th to the calendar. She counted out the date in green Duplos and used them to build a tower following an AB pattern. She also built a St. Patrick’s Day garden of green Duplo flowers, though Baby Bear demolished it before I got a picture.

After a lazy morning and late brunch, we kicked off the afternoon by reading a simple biography of Saint Patrick, The Story of Saint Patrick. We also read St. Patrick’s Day Alphabet for a second time, then listened to some traditional Irish music and watched a video clip of an Irish jig.

Next, Little Bear followed a trail of shamrocks to find a pot of gold that a leprechaun had left under the dining table. Our leprechaun was a poor leprechaun who shopped the after-Mardi Gras sale at Dollar Tree, so our pot of gold included green and gold plastic coins. We divided these by color, and Little Bear and I took turns trying to toss our coins back into the pot. After each round, we counted the coins that landed inside the pot and compared numbers.

Fill 'n' spill ...

Coin toss ...

Little Bear loved this activity, and by the third round, became fairly proficient at getting her coins back into the pot. Baby Bear was also captivated, probably because we were tossing around shiny, noisy objects. She crawled around picking up the coins that missed their target and gleefully dropped them into the pot … pausing only occasionally to taste them.

We continued our fun with some Play-Doh time and a shamrock coloring page. Little Bear spent the better part of an hour rolling green dough, cutting out shamrocks, and giving them faces. She enjoyed the coloring page as well, although she did insist on making a rainbow of her shamrock.

St. Paddy Play-Doh fun

We took a break for a couple of episodes of Sid the Science Kid and some random just-for-fun reading. Then, I broke out a package of shamrock stickers. I started two patterns and let Little Bear complete them. She created two more of her own. She also used the stickers to outline the letter Pp for St. Patrick’s Day.

Shamrock patterns

We wrapped up the day’s activities with some painting fun. Little Bear used a bell pepper dipped in green paint to stamp shamrocks on sheets of white paper.

Pp is for Patrick

Bell pepper shamrock prints

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