Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Johnny Appleseed!

After a week of talking about Johnny Appleseed’s birthday, we finally got around to celebrating it today … with homemade apple pie. Yes, I know September 26th marked the actual anniversary of his birth, and we’re three days past that. Shhhh! Neither my child nor the honorable Mr. Jonathan Chapman will know the difference! We kicked off the day by reading a preschooler-friendly biography of Johnny Appleseed, written and illustrated by Steven Kellogg. Kellogg has a talent for bringing folk heroes to life, and his portrayal of Johnny Appleseed does not disappoint. Little Bear sat entranced from beginning to end, then pleaded “Read it again, Mommy! Please!”

We flipped through the book a second time, with her using the pictures as a springboard to recall the story. Then, we moved on to a stack of apple-themed books, both fictional and non-fictional:

Baby Bear, as usual, interspersed her book selections with the planned read-alouds, so we made it only part way through the stack before nap time. Then, with the tiny tornado safely asleep, the real fun began. While I washed our bag full of Granny Smith apples, Daddy set up his apple peeler/slicer gadget (because gadgets make everything better — wink, wink!) and showed Little Bear how it worked. Together, they peeled and spiral sliced eight apples:

Peeling and slicing apples

Next, I pulled out our Kuhn Rikon Kinderkitchen Dog Knife, the first knife I’ve found that’s sharp enough to cut, but safe for little hands, and showed Little Bear how to cut the spiral-sliced apples into bite-sized pie pieces:

Cutting apples

Little Bear listened as I read our pie recipe aloud and helped locate sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice. She also helped measure ingredients, correctly deducing that we needed three 1/4 cup measures of sugar to equal 3/4 of a cup and that 2 Tbsp. of flour was less than 1/4 cup.

Little chef

We poured the sweet apple mixture into our pie crust and topped it with better. Little Bear paused for one more picture before we hid all the apple-y goodness beneath a second crust:

“Can we bake another pie tomorrow?”

As we were crimping the edge of the crust, she spied an old bunch of bananas on the counter and asked if we could make banana bread too. The oven was already hot, Little Bear and the counter top were already covered in flour, the bananas needed to be used, and Baby Bear was still asleep. So we also threw together a pan of whole wheat banana-zucchini bread before ending our cooking fun and tackling the less-fun kitchen clean-up. (Clean up isn’t too bad of a chore with the scent of apples, cinnamon, and freshly-grated nutmeg wafting through the air!)

Mmmmm!

Baby Bear woke up just in time to join in our post-baking cuddle and story time. The girls played and sampled banana bread while I threw dinner in the oven. Then, we headed outside to see how full the pool was after a day and a half of rain that dumped nearly 6 inches of water on our drought-stricken region. Of course, the puddles practically screamed “Come play in us!” So we had to take time for some splishing, splashing, jumping, dancing fun before heading in to clean up and enjoy dinner, complete with homemade apple pie for dessert.

Thank you, Johnny Appleseed, for your legacy and a fun-filled day.

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Safari Day

We woke to steady rain and chilly wind this morning, which gave me high hopes of a “productive” school day. After all, I reasoned, the girls couldn’t play outside, so we’d have plenty of time for constructive play (and learning!) inside. I pulled a craft kit, a new puzzle, and some seasonal math manipulatives out of the closet, then stepped into the bathroom to sort laundry. I came back out three minutes later to find Little Bear curled up with a copy of African Critters, a 96-page photographic safari and collection of true stories as told National Geographic photographer Robert B. Haas.

“Mommy, can we read this book?” she asked. “Pleeeeease?”

And so began Safari Day.

We spent most of the morning snuggled under her blanket in the recliner, reading, talking, and watching YouTube video clips. The book she’d first chosen took us about an hour and a half to complete, in part because Baby Bear wanted to be included in the fun. We’d read a couple of animal stories, discuss them, ooh and aah over the photographs, pause to read two or three board books with Baby Bear, then return to African Critters and repeat the process. We took time to watch a video clip of African elephants crossing the Namib Desert and watch a cheetah speed through the grassland. And then came the familiar refrain of “More! More! More!”

With that, my “plan” for the day officially went out the window, and we plunged headfirst into an impromptu study of Africa. We located the continent of Africa on a map and on the globe. I pointed out the major countries in Africa (not that I expect Little Bear to remember these, but I wanted to reinforce the concept that continents are made up of individual countries and that Africa is a continent, not a country). We read the following books.

By lunchtime, it felt like we’d barely scratched the surface of this fun, unexpected jaunt to the other side of the world. But my voice needed a break, and we all needed to eat. … At Little Bear’s request (or rather, plea … she’s been requesting¬† for days!), I stuck in a Busytown Mysteries DVD and let the girls watch television while I fixed lunch. Afterward, Little Bear built a “camp” out of Duplos, populated it with wild animals and took her Duplo people on a safari of their own. By the time I finished my chores, she was ready to do more work, and Baby Bear was ready for a nap. Continuing our morning’s theme, Little Bear colored a picture of a tiger and completed a sticker page depicting Big Cats. She also continued on in her Kumon cutting, pasting, and tracing books.

Our only formal schoolwork of the day was a review of the first chapter in The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons. Slowly but surely, Little Bear is learning to blend sounds into words. She ended today’s lesson by independently reading three short sentences.

Was today the day I’d planned? No. Not at all. Instead, it “collapsed” into something far better. I love having the freedom to help my child follow her interests and develop a passion for learning. I love learning alongside of her. I love being able to do “school” from the comfort of the recliner, with both my girls in my lap and a cozy blanket atop us all. I love being my children’s teacher as well as their mother.

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Autumn Breezes …

With storm clouds hovering and rain in the forecast through the weekend, we started our day at the park today. Little Bear quickly made friends with a little boy who introduced himself as “Peter Parker, but most people call me Spiderman.” He went on to claim that he’d spun all the ropes in the rope course and strung them up so that other kids could climb like Spiderman. He also informed her that he was 50 years old, but would soon celebrate his 106th birthday. I bit my tongue a few times as I listened to their conversation, but Little Bear neither challenged nor seemed impressed by his outlandish claims. (She later told me, “Mommy, he was just pretending!”) Her response?

“Well, I’m a really fast runner. Want to see if I’m faster than you?”

With that, they took off around the .3-mile track. Fresh air and active play are always good things!

While Little Bear interacted with the pint-sized superhero, Baby Bear was busy observing a sweet, gentle dog who had accompanied her toddler to the park. All told, she spent at least half an hour scrutinizing that dog from every possible angle and sporadically summoning the rest of us to watch the “Pup! Pup! Pup!” with her.

Dog watching …

Baby watching …

Eventually, we were left alone at the park, and the girls played together for awhile. Little Bear conquered the climbing wall and shimmied up a 6-foot step climber. Not to be outdone, Baby Bear followed her big sister up the step climber while Mama Bear held her breath. She made it up safely, and from that point on, there was no stopping her! Whatever sister did, she attempted — and more often than not, she succeeded!

Conquering the climbing wall

“I’m a can-do kid!”

Shortly before we left, we heard a plane overhead, looked up, and realized that we were in the flight path to our local airport. The girls watched in fascination as a small jet descended above us in preparation for landing.

Of course, the girls also observed groundhogs, chased dragonflies, watched birds, and trailed ants. Little Bear “wrote” in the mulch, climbed on rocks, and used the rock retaining wall as makeshift balance beam.

Then it was time to leave and head to the grocery store — NOT the girls’ favorite errand. In memory of Johnny Appleseed, though, we did take time to examine all the varieties of apples available at our local supermarket. Little Bear (with some guidance from Mama Bear) chose three varieties to taste test and counted out eight Granny Smith apples to turn into homemade apple pie, our planned Saturday project.

Silly monkey!

So much to see in nature’s classroom!

Once home, we read, drilled short /a/ word families, and reviewed numbers. Little Bear practiced writing the number 5, then colored and played with Play-Doh while Baby Bear napped. She also spent about an hour reading, listening to stories, and playing short vowel games on Starfall.com. We wrapped up the day with more outside time and an impromptu “rain dance.” We’ve since gotten over an inch of rain, much to the delight of my little dancers!

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“I love … BOOK!”

Baby Bear turned 17 months old today. More significantly, she uttered her first self-constructed sentence today, and with it confirmed that she is indeed our child. (Not that we had any doubts!)

She’d gone from Big Sister to Daddy to Mommy to Daddy again, telling each of us “I love YOU!,” when she suddenly stopped, picked up one of her books, held it high in the air, and declared, “I love … BOOK!” And love books she does! We read at least two dozen board books today and read some of those several times over. In fact, her second new word/sentence of the day was the imperative “Read!” … uttered repeatedly as she chased Mommy around the house, with a book in each hand.

On a more mundane note, we spent much of the morning outside. The girls collected magnolia “cones,” examined them, and compared the mature fruit to the immature ones that had fallen off the trees before producing seeds. Most of the cones beneath our tree were small and immature. Little Bear counted out 20 of the immature cones and arranged them into various shapes and designs, while Baby Bear contented herself with picking them up, putting them in her bucket, dumping it, and filling it again.

Inspired by The Puddle Pail, a gentle tale of two brothers who loved collecting things, Little Bear looked for more things to collect. By the time we came inside, the girls had amassed piles of rocks, leaves, and twigs (which Baby Bear delighted in sorting from shortest to longest) along with their bucket of magnolia cones.

The girls watched an episode of Sesame Street while I spent the better part of an hour on the phone 45 minutes on hold and about 2 minutes actually talking to a Gymboree customer service representative about issues with Gymbucks redemption. Sigh. I love Gymboree’s clothing, but getting the head-to-toe cuteness at my <$18/outfit (and preferably <$12) budget costs me at least as much time as money! (On the plus side, most outfits survive two kids and still emerge in good enough condition to resale!)

After lunch, we did a couple of jigsaw puzzles, read some fairy tales at Little Bear’s request, and sang some songs before Little Bear retreated to the bedroom to build with Duplos and Zoobs while I tried to get Baby Bear down for a nap. Only afterward did I look at the calendar and realize that today was Johnny Appleseed’s birthday. Oops! Guess we’ll be reading about Johnny Appleseed and baking apple pie tomorrow!

Little Bear did some cutting, tracing, and coloring activities while Baby Bear napped and I cleaned the kitchen. She then asked for a blank sheet of paper and surprised me by drawing and cutting out a recognizable castle. Unfortunately, she took her castle outside to show her friends and converted it to a paper airplane (aka “trash”) before I snapped a picture. Of course, taking her castle outside to show her friends evolved into another hour and a half of active outdoor play, along with the end of planned learning.

We wrapped up our day by testing Lauri Phonics Center Kit-Word Families, a hands-on activity that helps children recognize rhyming words and identify spelling patterns. Little Bear had eyed the box with eager anticipation all day long and begged to try it out before bedtime. I was more reluctant, in part because I envisioned Baby Bear demolishing the card stock word family mats and turning all 70 foam picture tiles into chew toys. (Instead, she did her best to join in the fun and match tiles to cards. More on that later …)

Ultimately, we agreed to tackle just five of the included word families, one for each short vowel. The objective was straightforward: Little Bear drew a picture tile, said its name, and placed it on the correct word family mat. Tired as she was, though, she initially seemed to “miss” the idea that word families consisted of rhyming words, and after painstakingly sounding out and spelling about 10 words, she was ready to give up. It probably didn’t help matters that her Baby Sister “beat her” three times over, pointing to the correct word family mat while she was still trying to break words down into letter sounds. I’m pretty sure Baby Bear’s luck was just that — luck. Little Bear, however, found it somewhat disconcerting.

Instead of letting Little Bear quit, I pulled five pairs of word tiles, placed them upside down, and encouraged her to match the rhyming words. From there, she quickly figured out how to match the rhyme pairs with the correct word family mat. She placed the remaining tiles on the boards, then read all of the words on each card before we packed the activity away. In the end, she was left begging for more — always a good sign! — and wanting to know when I planned to let her tackle the “harder” word families.

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Aaarrrrr!

The Pirate Princess

Since pirates are one of Little Bear’s chief interests these days, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to participate in International Talk Like a Pirate Day. After a quick review of this week’s word families and numbers, I pulled a stack of pirate-themed book off the shelf while Little Bear dug out her pirate costume. Then my little buccaneers and I settled down in the recliner for read-alouds:

We ended up reading Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC several times over and going on a hunt through our apartment for things that started with each letter of the alphabet. Little Bear was quite perturbed that I didn’t happen to have an x-ray laying around to accompany the letter Xx!

Next, I pulled out a bag of gold doubloons (or rather the plastic Dollar Tree version). We counted them, sorted them into groups of 10, divided them equally, then counted our shares. We threw them in a plastic tub, took turns pulling out a handful at a time, estimated how many we had in our hands, counted, and made more/less comparisons. We then hauled our loot outside to bury it, but several short marauders struck while Little Bear was hunting for the perfect spot. By the time she decided where to dig, the treasure chest lay empty and her playmates stood around enjoying their shiny plunder. Mommy orchestrated a doubloon toss to recapture most of the plundered gold, and it finally made its way into the ground:

Buried treasure …

Of course, much of the fun of burying treasure comes with digging it up again … and burying it again … and digging it up again. All told, I’m pretty sure our “treasure” was buried at least four times over. And given all the little hands involved in the process, I’m equally sure that we’re going to be finding doubloons in the dirt for weeks to come!

We wrapped up the day with some pirate-themed art. Little Bear used paint markers to paint a picture of a pirate, a picture of a pirate ship, one arm, both legs, and her shirt. One bubble bath and a bedtime snack later, I turned Little Bear loose to choose “a couple” of bedtime stories while I threw the girls’ clothes into the sink to soak. Would you believe that Shiver Me Letters somehow found its way onto the top of her 4-inch stack of books?

“We need the letters to make the words in our other stories,” she explained.

“Again?” I replied. “Aaarrrrr!”

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Learning to Say Good-bye

We woke this morning to the sound of a moving truck — a familiar sound when you live in a large apartment complex with a substantial student population. Today, though, that sound meant that it was time for Little Bear to say good-bye to three friends and playmates.

Life, love, and happiness …

Little Bear has been obsessed with trucks lately, so she begged to go outside and take a closer look at it. Then came the inevitable questions:

“Mommy, what kind of truck is this?”

“It’s a moving truck,” I replied.

“Who’s moving?” she asked.

Taking a deep breath, I answered.

“Will I ever see them again?” she asked.

“I don’t know, Honey,” I replied, reaching out to take her in my arms and dry the tears I was sure were to follow.

Instead of dissolving in tears, though, she extricated herself from my grasp, saying, “Then, we need to play and have fun NOW!”

… and she was off, choosing to make the most of present moment instead of grieving the changes to come. The kids played dolls, played cars, rode bikes, played games, ran, giggled, and simply enjoyed being together. Suffice it to say, our usual morning routine went out the window. Some things trump reading, writing, and arithmetic — like making memories, celebrating friendship, and learning to say good-bye.

“Now what do I do?”

I’m sure there will come a day in the not-too-distant future when Little Bear turns to me and sadly says, “I wish {my friends} still lived here.” But for today, she wisely chose to live in the moment and make the most of the time she still had with them.

Beyond the life lessons, we squeezed in a bit of academic work this afternoon. We continued on in The Reading Lesson, following what seems to be an emerging 10-minute lesson format with one page of review and two pages of new content. Little Bear doesn’t love this book, but she is getting better at sounding out simple words, and she’s motivated enough by her successes to tolerate out the relatively dry textbook approach. Little Bear built -at words with alphabet Duplos and read a couple of Bob books.

A perfect ten …

We reviewed numbers 1-30 using our hundreds chart. Then, at Little Bear’s request, we pulled 1-2-3 Farmyard! off the shelf and played three variants of it. In the first variant, we simply tried to build a hand with one of each type of animal in it. In the second, we built a hand comprised of just two types of animals. In the third, we tried to build a hand that added up to 10 animals. This variant challenged Little Bear, since she not only had to count the animals, but also had to apply addition, subtraction, and logic skills. After Mommy won two back-to-back hands of this variant, we worked together to build three more “perfect ten” hands.

On a theme front, we finished reading Jobs People Do, read ABC What Will I Be? yet again, and played another game of occupations charades. Little Bear was especially interested in learning about farmers and “people who take care of animals,” so we read …

Last but not least, Little Bear drew, colored, and traced, while I tagged a few more things for consignment. Then, we headed back outside for more fun with friends before time for dinner, baths, and bed.

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Before the Rain …

Summer isn’t officially over, but we’ve been enjoying three blissful days of gloriously cool weather here in West Texas. My one goal for the weekend was to get the girls to the park and enjoy the brief reprieve from the heat. Ok, that and perhaps tagging stuff for a fall consignment sale … since drop-off is just four days away and I haven’t started tagging yet! With highs in the 70s, though, getting outside definitely trumped sticking price tags on outgrown clothing and unloved toys.

We initially planned to head to the park right after an early lunch. Baby Bear spent about half of last night playing happily instead of sleeping, though, and by lunchtime it was obvious that the only place she needed to go was back to bed. Four hours and one well-rested toddler later, we finally made it out the door — to be greeted by darkening storm clouds.

Sisters make the best friends!

Ever tried to tell two kids that their fun surprise outing, already postponed once, is suddenly canceled due to a threatening rainstorm? Yeah. We weren’t going there. We got in the car and drove the short distance to the park, hoping for the best. In the end, the girls got in a solid hour and a half of active play without seeing a single bolt of lightning. Ironically, the first rain drops fell about two minutes after we left the park.

Wheee!

End of summer fun …

Love that smile!

Making memories …

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Get ‘er Done!

“I don’t want to do school today,” Little Bear informed me this morning.

In truth, I didn’t want to either. Of course, I also didn’t want to tackle the three loads of laundry waiting to be done, the dishwasher full of dishes waiting to be unloaded, the diaper that needed to be changed, or anything else for that matter.

“Well, what do you want to do today?” I asked Little Bear.

“I want to play in the mud,” she informed me. “And watch TV.”

In the end, we compromised on some mud-free outside play time while I started the laundry that resulted from yesterday’s mud fun, a nature walk, reading time, an episode of Team Umizoomi … and school. In fact, when she peeked in our work bins, she was actually pretty eager to get started.

This morning’s read alouds included …

Our next work bin contained Melissa & Doug Animal Pattern Blocks Set, which the girls did together (with a little refereeing from Mom). Baby Bear is beginning to recognize colors, so she hunted for the correct color tiles to complete each puzzle and tried to fit them in place. Little Bear actually put the tiles where they belonged and told her sister about each animal they were creating.

Wedgit success!

Next came critical thinking activities. Little Bear solved half a dozen riddles in Can You Find Me? and worked through two puzzles in Mind Benders Beginning Book 1 (PreK-K), and followed pattern cards to build with Wedgits.

The math bin included my iPad, complete with a new number tracing app. I’d also installed the free version of Brain Counts Approach to Montessori – Numbers with plans to test it later, but Little Bear spied it, tried it, and dubbed it a new favorite. On a more traditional note, we used flash cards to practice numeral recognition and used buttons to count by 2’s to 20.

Then came the reading bin — and with it, discovery of Little Bear’s reluctance to “do school” today.

“Mommy, why do I have to learn to read?” she asked.

“Because you love books,” I said.

“I like for you to read them to me,” she said.

“Well, Mommy doesn’t always have time to read, and I won’t always be around to read,” I said. “You’re getting to be a big girl, and big girls read all by themselves.”

“But I’ll always be your baby,” she countered, “and if you can’t read to me, I can watch TV.”

Trying another approach I asked, “Why don’t you want to learn to read?”

“Because it isn’t fun!” she declared.

“Reading isn’t fun?” I queried.

“No, reading is a lot of fun,” she responded. “Learning to read isn’t fun, though.”

“It’s a lot of work, isn’t it?” I said sympathetically.

She nodded. “I don’t like work,” she admitted.

“You know what?” I confessed, “I don’t like work either.”

“You don’t?” she asked in wide-eyed amazement.

“Nope,” I replied. “I don’t like doing laundry. I hate washing dishes. And I’m pretty sure that nobody likes changing poopy diapers! But I do all those things. Do you know why?”

“Because you have to,” she said. “You’re our Mommy, and you have to take care of us.”

“That’s right,” I responded. “Taking care of my girls is my job, even when it’s hard, even when it isn’t fun … just like learning is your job, even when it’s hard, even when it isn’t fun.”

Little Bear tackled today’s {brief} reading lesson without further complaint. Of course, I do want her to associate reading with fun, so our 10 minutes of formal instruction from The Reading Lesson was coupled with a half hour of Boggle Jr. word building and word family fun! Then, we headed back outside for more {mostly} mud-free play and fun with friends.

 

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Rain and Reading

We woke to cloudy skies, wet grass, puddles, and a 20-degree drop in temperatures this morning — exciting stuff when you’re living in a hot, drought-plagued region with a dwindling water supply! With more severe weather in the forecast, we headed outdoors right after breakfast to enjoy some fresh air while we safely could.

Little Bear observed that it was noticeably cooler outside — cool enough, in fact, that she was chilly. She noted that the wind was blowing and that the wet grass was filled with chattering birds. Baby Bear, meantime, observed a small puddle on the sidewalk and made a beeline for it. She splashed happily for a few seconds, then literally threw herself down into it, laying flat on her belly and slapping at the water with her little hands. I realized then that play time would need to be followed by bath time, and if you’re going to have to bathe kids before lunchtime, you might as well make the extra baths worthwhile. I gave Little Bear the OK to dig for worms in the moist dirt, then followed Baby Bear as she hunted for more puddles. Suffice it to say, Baby Bear’s puddle hunt proved more productive than Little Bear’s worm hunt. (Apparently, Texas summers are too hot and dry to appeal to earthworms.) Little Bear soon joined the puddle hunt, and we splashed happily along until both girls were soaked through. Then, we headed in for baths, dry clothes, calendar time, and our morning Bible story.

I had some time-sensitive work to do, so I let the girls watch an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while I took care of Mom Stuff. Then came story time. We’ve been learning about community helpers this month, so this morning’s theme reading included …

We wrapped up our morning story time with several just-for-fun books, including Sandra Boynton favorites Tickle Time! and Fifteen Animals!. The final title paved the way for math, where we’re working on identifying numerals. Little Bear can count with ease, but she struggles a bit with numeral recognition. Today, we drilled numbers 12-25 using both flash cards and our 1-100 chart. We wrapped up with a game, where I called a number, and she raced to find it before time was up.

We worked through a couple of Mind Benders Beginning Book 1 (PreK-K) puzzles, four riddles in Can You Find Me?, and two short lessons in First Time Analogies.

The girls played while I fixed lunch and took a break after lunch. Baby Bear eventually fell asleep, and Little Bear asked to play on the iPad. She spent some time on ABC Food, did several dot-to-dot puzzles, then played a rhyming word matching game.

Little Bear covers the /c/ sounds with yellow buttons and the /s/ sounds with pink.

The iPad game led into today’s reading lesson. Yes, we’ve once again started formal reading instruction, this time at Little Bear’s request. We started using The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons this week and are currently working with the sounds /a/, /c/, /o/, /s/, and /t/. I learned through brief experience with another popular reading program that Little Bear needs hands-on activity in order to focus on the task at hand, and The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons lends itself to such use. Today, we used buttons to cover target sounds, used Wikki Stix to match letters with pictures representing their sounds, and used a fun pointer to blend sounds from left to right. Little Bear ended today’s lesson by writing all of this week’s letters in her salt box.

Singin’ in the rain

By the time Baby Bear woke, an early afternoon thunderstorm had given way to a steady, gentle rain with no thunder or lightning. Little Bear had asked several times if we could go out in the rain, so I changed the girls into jeans, old shirts, crocs, and rain coats (although I’m not sure why I bothered with the latter) and took them back out. Little Bear hit the grass running, dancing in circles, and singing about how much she loved rain. Baby Bear, meantime, was pretty excited over the wet stuff falling from the sky as well … then, she discovered MUD.

When she first stepped off the sidewalk, the naughty mud stole her shoe.

“That’s MY shoe!”

She fussed for a minute, rescued her shoe, then decided to stick a dip a curious foot into the sticky brown stuff:

“What is this stuff?”

… It was love at first squish!

Stepping in with both feet …

Little Bear splashed in puddles, rode her bike through the puddles, and tried to catch rain drops on her tongue.

You haven’t lived until you’ve caught a raindrop on your tongue!

Finally, she too made her way over to the mud, telling me all the while, “I don’t like mud. Mud is yucky. I don’t want to get my feet all yucky and dirty. OOOH! IT FEELS GOOD! MOMMY, I LOVE IT!”

Mud between her toes …

Making memories …

Turned loose to play in the mud for the first time EVER, the girls would happily have played outside until nightfall. I didn’t want them getting too chilly, though; so I finally lured them in with the promise of hot chocolate.

The girls were so dirty that they went straight into the shower, clothes and all. I rinsed raincoats, rinsed clothes, rinsed girls, scrubbed the tub, then refilled it with a warm bubble bath and two mostly clean girls while I and a bar of Fels Naphtha waged war on the mud stains.

Once clean, Little Bear helped me make “real” hot cocoa and “porridge” (oatmeal with apples, raisins, and cinnamon) for a warm easy supper on a cool end-of-summer night. She finished up her fine motor work for the day (a cutting activity, a pasting activity, a coloring page, and a couple of sticker puzzles) while I cleaned the kitchen. We wrapped up the day building with Wedgits, playing a game of Colorama (with Baby Bear rolling the dice), making pattern block animals, and reading at least a dozen just-for-fun books before bedtime — all in all a fun ending to a memory-filled day.

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Election 2012 (followed by giveaway)

With the 2012 Presidential Election just weeks away, I’ve wrestled with how — and whether — to explore the electoral process with Little Bear. On the one hand, she’s just four years old. She’s years away from participating in the electoral process or even beginning to form her own political opinions. On the other hand, I firmly believe that good citizens are made, not simply born, and I want her to recognize and appreciate our unique form of a government from a young age.

As I contemplated the election through a child’s eyes, I asked myself what I hoped my preschooler could learn through the process, and I came up with a list of age-appropriate ¬†goals. At this stage, I want her to learn that …

  • Different countries have different types of governments. Some countries have kings or queens. The United States has a government chosen by the people.
  • The President is the highest elected official in the United States.
  • The President is chosen by the people. He serves the people and is accountable to the people.
  • The Vice-President serves under the President. He will become President if something happens to the President.
  • George Washington was the first President of the United States.
  • Barack Obama is the current President of the United States.
  • The President lives in the White House.
  • As Christians, we have a duty to honor our elected officials (Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17), to submit to them (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14), and to pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
I’ll probably take time to familiarize her with the two candidates for office, but will not delve into their beliefs and/or politics. I distinctly want to avoid presenting the candidates as “our guy” vs. “the other guy,” along with any “good guy/bad guy” stereotypes. At the ripe old age of four, I don’t think she needs to have a “preferred” candidate. Rather, I think she needs to understand that it’s her duty as both an American and a Christian to honor, obey, and pray for the leaders God allows to hold elected offices.

Planned activities for the weeks leading up to the election include …

  • voting on a dessert. Each person in the family will get one vote, and each person’s vote will carry the same amount of weight.
  • finding Washington D.C. on a map.
  • take a virtual tour of the White House.
  • reading about past presidents. Read short profiles of a different President (Smart About the Presidents) and first lady (Smart About the First Ladies) each school day. Read longer biographies of Washington, Obama, and any other presidents that capture Little Bear’s interest.
  • taking a field trip to the polls. Go with Mommy to vote and see how the electoral process works.
  • watching news coverage of the election. Count red states and blue states. Compare electoral college votes.
  • praying for the newly-elected President.

In light of the upcoming election, our September giveaway is for a copy of Woodrow, The White House Mouse, one of my favorite books for introducing young children to the role of the U.S. President. I’ll also be giving away a copy of the DVD So You Want to Be President… and More Stories to Celebrate American History (Scholastic Storybook Treasures) in October.

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