Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

A Hard Day’s Play

Exhausted ...

I thought we’d had a relatively slow day today, but the girls seemed to think otherwise. Baby Bear (my night owl) conked out shortly after dinner. Little Bear started picking up toys in true 3-year-old fashion — pick one up, play with two, pick another up, play with three, etc. Some time passed before I suddenly realized she’d had ample time to clean up, and I hadn’t heard from her in awhile. We found her in the corner of the living room, surrounded by toys and sound asleep.

We babysat for part of the day today, and our newborn guest was not her usual happy self today. Add the needs of a tiny infant with an upset tummy to the needs of a teething toddler, and it doesn’t leave a lot of time for academics!

We did manage to squeeze in a little reading time this morning, though not as much as I would have liked. We’ve been reading through The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: A Classic Disney Treasury and today read the story of “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too,” a tale of friendship, kindness (and the lack thereof), forgiveness, and acceptance.

We’ve been learning about bugs this week, so Little Bear entertained herself for part of the morning by drawing bugs. She also completed several activities on while I was busy with the little ones.

Mighty Mind

This afternoon, she and I spent about half an hour doing Mighty Mind together. This problem-solving game has easily been one of our best purchases this past year. When we first got it, I had to walk Little Bear through the puzzle-solving process. Now she’s moved on to more challenging tasks, and she’s capable of completing most of them independently. I stay near by to help her get pieces in and out of the puzzle tray (no small task for little hands) and to offer tips if she gets stuck.

Next, I pulled out Little Bear’s Theraputty, which she hadn’t worked with recently. I began by mixing in a handful of plastic Letter R’s for her to find. As she dug each one out of the putty, she had to name a word that began with the letter R and a word that ended with the /r/ sound. She had trouble coming up with words ending in /r/, so I gave her clues along the way:

  1. Never open the _____ to strangers!
  2. I’m big and fierce. I hibernate in the winter. I have babies called cubs. I’m a ______.
  3. Mommy Bear is your _____, Daddy Bear is your _____, and Baby Bear is your _____.
  4. Push in your _____ when you leave the table.
  5. A doe, a buck, and a fawn are all members of the _____ family.

We moved on to random letter mix-ins, and Little Bear simply listed as many words as she could think of beginning with each letter she pulled out. Of course, she also had plenty of fun just playing with her Theraputty. She stretched it and kneaded it and shaped it and rolled it, before finally transforming it into a “pie” and filling it with her letter R “raspberries.”

We wrapped up the day with some fun in the sun — a good hour or more of pool time, along with a couple of neighbor kids. Little Bear jumped in and swam across the pool at least 30 or 40 times, and Baby Bear broke free from Mama and attempted to swim on her own (with the aid of her Puddle Jumper life jacket) for the first time today. She succeeded in making her way to the stairs, climbing out, and climbing back in the water at least half a dozen times — no small feat for a 13-month-old! Fun, fresh air, sunshine, and two little girls tired enough to want to sleep … what a great way to end the day!

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Lest we forget …

As Memorial Day weekend approached, I was torn on how to broach the subject with Little Bear. Memorial Day stands as a tribute to the countless men and women who have laid down their lives in service to our country. But death and war are tough topics even for adults, much less a not-quite-four-year-old. At the same time, I didn’t want to bypass the heart of the holiday and portray as nothing more than the unofficial start of summer vacation.

In the end, we talked about freedom. We talked about some of the freedoms we enjoy that people elsewhere in the world do not. And we talked about the price of freedom — how our freedoms to live, work, and worship were purchased through the struggles and sacrifices of previous generations and how it’s our duty to preserve these same freedoms for the next generation.

I looked long and hard for resources to help explain the significance of Memorial Day to Little Bear, only to discover that Memorial Day seems to be largely forgotten by publishers of early childhood and elementary resource books. One American publisher (who shall remain nameless) dedicated 19 pages of their May resource book to May Day, 9 pages to Cinco de Mayo, and 11 pages to Mother’s Day, but didn’t even mention Memorial Day. In the end, I turned to What Is Memorial Day?, a simple introduction I’d prepared for my ESL students a few years ago.

As Little Bear and I talked, I felt like I was walking a tightrope, trying to present factual information without overwhelming her with facts. In the end, she concluded that Memorial Day was both a “sad” day as we remembered America’s fallen soldiers and a “happy” day as we celebrated and enjoyed the freedoms they secured for us.

And celebrate we did!

We played frisbee, played baseball (or something akin to it), went swimming, had a picnic, played in the sand, and simply enjoyed spending time with each other and with friends.

Little slugger

Playing frisbee

Mommy's little sweethearts

Sisters ...

Sooo excited to have a picnic!

Attacking her first hot dog


Towers, Poems, and Puppy Math

The Tower of Babel

We kicked off the morning by reading the story of the Tower of Babel, then trying to build a tower that reached to the ceiling. Little Bear built with nesting blocks, three different types of wooden blocks, and Duplos, but never managed to build a tower taller than herself. When at last she realized the task was beyond her ability and that her best efforts were futile, we discussed how it was just as futile for man to try to reach Heaven in his own strength — whether by building a tower or doing good works — and reviewed John 14:6.

Next, we turned our attention to poetry. Little Bear loves nursery rhymes, and we’ve been expanding on that love recently by incorporating selections from The Random House Book of Poetry for Children and A Child’s Garden of Verses, along with occasional kid-friendly poems from other sources. (Mommy is partial to Emily Dickinson and Jack Prelutsky.) Today, we expanded on that theme by reading Fancy Nancy: Poet Extraordinaire! and exploring different types of poetry. Then, we took a birthday message Little Bear had narrated for her Nana and turned it into a poem:

To Nana On Her Birthday
by Little Bear ( with a little help from Mommy)

I love you, Nana!
You are my friend.

Please come for a visit
before summer’s end.

Today is your birthday.
Hip, hip hooray!

I hope you get a birthday cake
and birthday presents too.

I’m sending hugs and kisses
and lots of love to you.

It won’t be winning any prizes, but Little Bear was super excited to e-mail Nana a birthday poem she had authored in large part by herself. She was even more excited when Nana responded with a poem! (Thanks, Nana — and Happy Birthday!)

Moving on to our textbook work, we’re continuing to work on basic number sense. We pulled out all of our stuffed animal pets today, sorted them by type, counted and graphed each type, then made more/less comparisons. We also observed how a group of five puppies remained a group of five puppies whether the group was spread out, pushed tightly together, stacked, lined up, hidden under a playsilk, or arranged in any other configuration Little Bear could imagine.

Five puppies ...

are five puppies ...

any way you stack 'em!

We repeated this activity with buttons; then, since Baby Bear was napping and Little Bear could safely play with buttons, she enjoyed some free button play time. She’d pull a handful out of the bin, count them, sort them by shape or color, then compare groups. Finally, she tackled the somewhat tedious task of completing a number tracing and writing worksheet. Suffice it to say, handwriting is NOT Little Bear’s forte. But she did the work without complaint and did her best — two things that count for far more in my book than beautiful penmanship.

After one tedious written activity, we chose to leave the phonics book on the shelf today and instead enjoy some Letter Qq activities on We also read Quick as a Cricket and re-read Q Is for Duck: An Alphabet Guessing Game. Wrapping up our Letter Qq fun, Little Bear got to watch VeggieTales: Esther: The Girl Who Became Queen and once more dress up as a queen.

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Qq is for Queen

Qq is for Queen

A queen and her kingdom

This morning was simply too beautiful to stay inside. So we headed outdoors with a copy of Esther: The Brave Queen, read the story, and enacted parts of it while enjoying fresh air and sunshine. Baby Bear might not have understood much of the story, but she certainly enjoyed relieving Queen Vashti of her crown, then crowning Queen Esther!

Of course, Little Bear also had to take time to hunt for wildflowers, count the birds, and watch the squirrels while we were outside. And no morning would be complete without feeding the birds and simply taking time to run and enjoy the less-than-100 degree weather.

Once back inside, we made time for a rhyming word game, some letter Qq writing practice, and a couple of read-alouds before Mommy made a much-needed grocery run. This afternoon, Little Bear got some fine motor skill practice while completing a pet-themed sticker activity. She completed a lesson in her phonics book, played with pattern blocks, and watched an episode of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That while Baby Bear napped.

The girls played while I prepped dinner. Then, we headed to the pool for some more fresh air, sunshine, and late afternoon fun:

A great way to end the day



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Making a Splash

The neighborhood pool opened Friday, much to the delight of both girls (and their parents)! I was so focused on digging out swim gear, applying sunblock, and making sure both cubs were safe in the water Friday that I didn’t realize until after the fact I’d forgotten to take our annual First-Day-in-the-Pool pictures. We had extended family visiting this weekend, though, so the girls’ aunt took plenty of Second-Day-in-the-Pool pictures for us:

Little Bear with Uncle Tim

Mama Bear and Baby Bear

Fun in the sun

Outside the pool, Little Bear has continued to work with rhyming words and word families. She’s taken an interest in time and is trying to learn how to tell time on an analog clock. We’ve played patterning, matching, counting, and story-telling games. We’ve learned about pets through books, videos, pictures, puzzles, play, and conversation. (Shhh! We’re saving the secret of the digital clock until after she learns to tell time the old-fashioned way!) We’ve also finished our third Bobbsey Twin book.

In the week ahead, I hope to get back on some semblance of a schedule, at least to the degree that we can with a borrowed newborn in the house.

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Quiet Places

Qq is for quiet

Little Bear’s weekend encounter with the stove has limited our written work this week, but we’ve still found time for some hands-on fun that doesn’t involve a pencil.

We’ve begun working with bar graphs in math. As an introduction, I’ve been bagging up small toys, then letting her pull them out one by one, sort them, and count them. We’ve graphed them together, using both a written bar graph and a Duplo graph.

Exploring bar graphs

We’ve continued reading Little House in the Big Woods and The Secret at the Seashore, along with several pet-themed books. We’ve talked about caring for pets, done pet-themed puzzles, and built a Magna-Tile dog house for one of our Pound Puppies.

We’ve spent time outside, counting leaves, flowers, birds, squirrels, butterflies, and whatever else happens to catch Little Bear’s fancy. We’ve made more/less comparisons. We’ve also added birds to squirrels, mourning doves to sparrows, and yellow flowers to pink.

Little Bear hasn’t practiced writing this week’s letter on paper, but as she was playing outside today, she wanted to try writing it in the dirt:

The letter Qq

On a more practical note, we’ve had the opportunity to babysit a precious newborn several days this week, and both girls have learned from the experience. Little Bear is a year older than she was when her sister was born and is better able to recognize the needs of newborns and help ensure that those needs are met. She’s fascinated with how tiny this baby is and loves comparing the baby to her little sister. Baby Bear has been learning how to share Mommy’s attention with someone smaller and more helpless. Both girls are fascinated by our little guest and could spend hours just observing her.

With summer on the horizon and Daddy Bear currently on break between semesters, we’ve slowed down on formal “work” and may slow down even more in the weeks ahead. Learning is a part of life, though, and as such, learning will always be taking place, whether through play, exploration, discovery, travel, casual reading, creative moments, or textbook study.

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MagnaTile Math

Little Bear loves to build and loves to work with numbers, so today, we pulled out her MagnaTiles and used them to help her visualize different number concepts. We began by using the tiles to replicate shapes shown in her math book, a task that proved more challenging for her than I anticipated:

Copying shapes

Next, she used the same number of tiles to create shapes of her own, a task she found much more enjoyable:

The many faces of 4

As she worked with the tiles, she noted the various tile combinations that added up to our target number. She found that 0+4=4, 1+3=4, 2+2=4, 3+1=4, and 0+4=4. She did the same for the numbers 3 and 5.

In other work, Little Bear practiced her cutting and pasting skills with pages from our Kumon First Steps workbooks. We counted out the date in alphabet blocks, then used the blocks Little Bear selected to build three-letter words. We watched an episode of Sid the Science Kid that tied into this week’s pet theme. We read a chapter in Little House in the Big Woods, several chapters from the third Bobbsey Twins book, and a stack of pet-themed picture books.

We took a break from most of our written work today, and Little Bear instead spent the better part of an hour sculpting with Play-Doh.  After lunch, we took advantage of the relatively cool weather and spent plenty of time outside, watching a squirrel, feeding the bird, playing in the moist soil, and playing with friends. Play eventually moved indoors, where the kids played a variety of board games, built with wooden blocks, and raced toy cars around the living room.

Wrapping up the day’s fun, Little Bear enjoyed a dinner date (and subsequent grocery shopping) with Daddy, while a teething Baby Bear stayed home with Mommy for extra snuggles and an extra nap.

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The Week Ahead — Pets and the Letter Qq

As we move into the coming week, we’ll be focusing on one of Little Bear’s favorite themes — pets. We’ll also be working with the letter Qq. Planned pet activities include …

  • identifying animals that would make good pets
  • visiting a local pet store
  • reading about different types of pets
  • discussing proper care of a pet
  • solving pet-themed addition problems
  • completing pet-themed cutting, coloring, lacing, pasting, and tracing activities
  • lots of pretend play (as pets, pet owners, and a veterinarian)

Letter Qq
Use Q-tips to paint question marks on the letter Qq.

Qq Lunch
Quiche, quesadillas, quinoa,  quick bread, Quaker Oat Squares

Make pictures from Q-tips. Decorate a queen’s crown. Use shapes to create quilt squares.

Memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:19. Read the story of Queen Esther.

Follow recipe to make Honey-Raisin Quick Bread.

Motor skills
Toss quarters into a pail. Fold napkins and washcloths into quarters.

Language Arts
Identify words that begin and end with Qq. Discuss questions and differentiate between “asking” sentences and “telling”sentences. Read the following books aloud:

Learn to recognize quarters. Divide circles and squares into quarters. Use 1/4 cup measuring cup to fill 1 cup measuring cup with liquids and solids.

Sing “Six Little Ducks” (QUACK, QUACK, QUACK!)

Social Studies
Read stories about quilts and discuss how quilts serve both practical and sentimental purposes. Look at different types of quilts.

Learn about quail.


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A Well-Spent Saturday

A bit of magic

Little Bear woke up too early this morning and entertained herself by making a Mother’s Day card while her Mommy caught an extra half hour’s sleep. She watched an episode of Busytown Mysteries, while Mommy had a cup of coffee. Then, we headed outside to enjoy beautiful spring morning.

The girls …

  • fed and chased the birds.
  • helped replant some of our plants that had been uprooted by torrential rainfall.
  • used a magnifying glass to examine a hill of ants.
  • hunted for wildflowers.
  • examined empty eggshells from a bird’s nest.
  • played in the wet dirt.
  • rode their ride-on toys.
  • blew bubbles.
  • played with the neighbor kids.
  • watched the squirrels.

While we were playing, Daddy Bear ran errands. He came home with a box of doughnuts and a copy of Chipwrecked (free with the Redbox Mother’s Day coupon code), so we enjoyed a rare family movie afternoon complete with snacks.

Following the movie, both girls wanted to read. We read board books until Baby Bear grew tired of listening, then Little Bear and I read continued on in our current chapter book, The Bobbsey Twins’ Adventure in the Country. Next, we headed to the office for some rough-housing and family fun with Daddy, but with books surrounding them, the cubs soon quit playing and began to pull yet more books off the shelf. … Almost every activity in this house, it seems, either begins or ends with reading!

The day’s fun gave way to a more painful learning experience when Little Bear’s curiosity got the best of her. I heard a deafening scream in the dining room and ran to find her clutching her right index finger. She’d stood on one of her toys and reached across a counter into the kitchen to touch a hot burner. “I just wanted to see how hot it got,” she finally managed to say. Suffice it to say, the burner was HOT. A cold water bath, followed by aloe, topical anesthetic, and a dose of ibuprofen relieved most of the pain, but this is one hands-on learning experience Mommy prays we never repeat!

We snuggled in the recliner for more reading time and a Fancy Nancy game while we waited for the pain meds to do their work. At last, Little Bear declared that her finger felt better, and she was off to play again. This time, she stuck with “safe” activities — building with Duplos, playing in her play kitchen, and doing puzzles. And so ended another week.

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A Break from the Heat

Given Little Bear’s new-found interest in chapter books, I dug my collection of Magic Treehouse books out of storage over the weekend and began reading Polar Bears Past Bedtime to her yesterday afternoon. At her insistence, we finished reading it before breakfast this morning. We assembled our world map puzzle, located the polar regions, and named as many polar animals as we could think of.

Little Bear sweetly asked to watch television this morning, and I let her. More often than not, I ask her to wait until after schoolwork, but “after schoolwork” has a way of becoming “after lunch” and “after rest time,” by which time there’s nothing on that I deem appropriate for a not-quite-4-year-old. This morning, we simply took time to enjoy an episode of Curious George and The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That.

By the time her shows ended, a steady night of rain had given way to a cool, moist day. We stepped outside just long enough to observe the weather, feel the damp grass, squish a handful of mud, and help an earthworm find its way back to the lawn. We came in and read about weather, climates, and the water cycle in our Kingfisher First Encyclopedia and Weather and Climate: Geography Facts and Experiments (Young Discoverers Series). We also read about different types of clouds and took time to identify the clouds we saw in the sky.

Moving on, Little Bear completed a couple of math lessons, a phonics lesson, a cutting exercise, two tracing pages, and a couple of pasting activities. Little Bear has been exploring relationships between objects in math, so we pulled Ravensburger’s Can You Match It?, a picture association game/puzzle, off the shelf for some hands-on review. We also continued reading in My First Hands-On Bible and discussed the purpose of rules.

Baby Bear took a rare nap in the bed this afternoon, giving Little Bear and I some equally rare “just the two of us” time. Instead of our usual afternoon story time, I pulled a pony-themed sticker mosaic kit out of the closet, and we sat down together to tackle the first project. She can and has done these projects alone in the past, and she could have done the same today. But sometimes, having Mommy’s undivided attention trumps being able to say “I did it all by myself!” … and today was one of those days.

Rounding out the day, Little Bear completed a couple more lessons on, and we enjoyed yet more read aloud time, this time with picture books.

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