Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Just Following Their Lead …

on July 25, 2013

Both girls hit the ground running this morning, with long lists of what they hoped to do today. So instead of trying to return them to our routine, I decided to go with the flow and follow their “plans” for the day. First off? A steady stream of read-alouds! Turned loose on the bookcase, they pulled out favorite after after and listened for as long as Mommy was willing to read:

When my voice and tolerance for kid’s books finally reached their limits, the girls turned their attention to the game shelf and begged to play their Disney Princess Enchanted Cupcake Party Game. Now, I’m generally not a fan of anything branded Disney. But Jessica saw this game in Target before Christmas, and it was love at first sight. The game is manufactured by Wonder Forge, creators of several other good early childhood games that we’ve liked, so I took a chance on buying it, and I’m really glad I did.


So what can a “just for fun” game, complete with Disney Princess hype, actually teach? In this case, quite a bit.

As with most games, players must take turns and follow rules — basic skills for the preschool set and beyond.

Unlike many games, however, Disney Princess Enchanted Cupcake Party Game is cooperative. In order to succeed, kids have to work together. Now, we have shelves full of competitive games, so I’m not “anti” competition. But my girls have competitiveness programmed into their genetic code, and I really don’t have to teach them to try to win. I do, however, sometimes have to actively encourage teamwork and cooperation, and this game is a painless way of doing this. (Arguments take precious time that could better be used building cupcakes — and Mommy doesn’t stop the sand timer for sibling disputes!)

In order to “win” the game, players follow recipe cards to build four-part cupcakes complete with specified cupcake liner, cake, frosting, and decorative topping. In educational terms, that translates into reading and following instructions, visual discrimination, and fine motor work — another set of needed skills.

Last but not least, there’s a healthy element of chance in the game. Each turn begins with a player flipping an instruction card. Only when players have flipped a Mix, Bake, and Decorate card does cupcake making commence. There are also four clock cards in the deck, however, and if all four of these show up before the needed Mix, Bake, Decorate sequence, it’s game over. Our first game today ended with a clock in the first hand, a gentle testament to the fact that sometimes neither board games nor life go exactly as planned.

As we were playing our third and final game for the morning, Baby Bear dug out the previously-unopened Melissa & Doug Sort and Snap Color Match she’d gotten for her birthday and asked to play with it. In keeping with our theme, I inserted a fish pattern card, and the girls sat down to work. Baby Bear initially had a bit of trouble manipulating the pieces well enough to insert the snap caps into the board.

Observing big sister ...

Observing big sister …

But after taking time to observe how her big sister did it and with a bit of practice, she was soon working away by Little Bear’s side:

Working together ...

Working together …

Success!

Success!

The girls went on to do frog and turtle pattern cards as well; then, Little Bear asked whether we had any turtle pictures they could color. I didn’t. (Pond and river creatures are on the schedule for next week!) But Google Images proved to be our friend, and both girls happily colored their turtles of choice while I fixed lunch.

After lunch, both girls helped clean help, then played together happily for a solid hour or more. It was only after I heard Spanish and walked in on this scene —

"Uno, dos, tres, quatro ..."

“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro …”

— that they seemed to remember Mommy was in the house. Yes, both girls were half-hanging off the sofa, half-standing on their heads. Yes, both were counting to 10 in Spanish, thanks to the pedagogy of their good friend Dora the Explorer.

Of course, once Mommy appeared on the scene, happy play time came to an abrupt end. Baby Bear began begging to watch her beloved Dora, while Little Bear asked to do some “real” school work.

Doing "real" school work ...

Doing “real” school work …

So while Baby Bear zoned out with the electronic babysitter, Little Bear and I tackled phonics. Today’s work included …

Then, Little Bear used her screen time to watch today’s coral reef episode of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That and complete Reading Eggs Lesson 45, while Baby Bear and I worked together a bit.

For Baby Bear, “school” is still very much defined in terms of “Play with me! Play with me!” Today’s “work” including building with Wee Wedgits, assembling her Fish Colors Mix N Match Peg Puzzle several times over and reviewing color names, identifying the ocean animals on her Melissa & Doug Wooden Animal Nesting Blocks, and sorting and stacking the blocks.

Sorting ocean animals from largest to smallest ,,,

Sorting ocean animals from largest to smallest …

Baby Bear and I wrapped up our time with a few minutes of Wee Sing and Learn ABC play on the iPad.

Having gotten in her “Mommy time,” Baby Bear ran off to play on her own while Little Bear and I sat down to do math. Today’s work included …

  • yesterday and today’s practice sheets from Daily Math Practice, Grade 1;
  • 15 minutes of Miquon Math (counting, more/less, review of even/odd numbers; numeral formation)
  • counting to 100 by 5’s
  • a quick lesson in adding single-digit numbers to 10

We ended our school time with a game of POP for Sight Words Game, which Little Bear won easily with a bit of help from her sister. (Baby Bear can’t read yet, but she wanted to play too, so she drew word cards for Mommy to read. She took great delight in digging POP! cards out of the box, repeatedly forcing Mommy to return all of our popcorn sight words to the box. …)

More play time was followed by dinner, bath, three more ocean-themed read-alouds (during which Baby Bear succumbed to sleep), and two more chapters of Robinson Crusoe (which ushered Little Bear up to the brink of sleep).

Hopefully, we’ll soon be able to get back onto some semblance of a normal schedule. But for today, the girls proved themselves quite capable of filling the hours with fun and learning.


2 Responses to “Just Following Their Lead …”

  1. Susan says:

    So cute!!

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