Monday, July 14, 2014

Early Literacy 21: Fold-Up Forts

I love making box forts with my kids and they love them too. What usually ends up happening is that we have this really awesome box fort in our living room for a couple months and I finally get tired of it and recycle it. No problem. The kids got their use and we all had fun.

When I started making box forts for my library program, the Early Literacy Fair, I didn't have the luxury of storing forts in the middle of the room because I didn't have any place to put them at the library and I couldn't store large forts at my house either. So, I needed to devise a way to make a fort that folds up for easy storage behind my cubicle at work, behind the couch at home or under a bed.

This is what I came up with. The forts fold up like accordions and I can stash them in tight spaces at work and at home. I love box forts for imaginative play, creativity and to help set the scene for social interactions. Here is a link to the PDF instructions.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Early Literacy 20: Block Food

I got this idea from born imaginative. She made homemade block groceries for a play kitchen. Make sure you check out her blog, because she has some wonderful ideas for homemade toys.

I am doing a play bakery shop for the Early Literacy Fair and so I decided to do play bakery items. I found images on Google for baking supplies, printed them, cut them out and used Mod Podge to put them on my blocks from home. These are double sided blocks, so there is an ingredient on each side. I think they are going to be a big hit at the library and at home with my kids. These blocks will add some environmental print to the play kitchen. When we talk about the ingredients we will put in our play cookies, we will be building vocabulary, sequencing skills and storytelling skills.

 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Early Literacy 19: Counting Cookies

I made this Counting Cookies activity for the Early Literacy Fair. My kids also love playing with the cookies, especially when I play with them, which is the whole point of the game. I made the cookies out of two circle felt pieces and I sewed them together on my machine. I put on chocolate chips with some brown puff paint. A co-worker gave me an empty pretzel jar from Costco and voila, my cookie activity was done. As a finishing touch, I added a Cookie Monster stuffed animal my kids hardly played with, until now. They love stuffing the cookies in his mouth while I talk in a Cookie Monster voice and count how many they can cram in there.

The goal of the game is to count the chocolate chips on the cookies and count the cookies as you put them into the jar or Cookie Monster's mouth. You can also chant "Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?" and blame it on Cookie Monster at the end. This was super fun and easy to put together. I only have 10 cookies right now, but I might add more when my younger one gets a little older. We can focus on vocabulary, counting and phonological awareness all at the same time. It is also really great for helping my kids practice taking turns and waiting for the other person to put the cookie into Cookie Monster's mouth before they get a chance to do it too.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dancing Books

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Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems

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Let’s Dance, Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton

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Kitchen Dance by Maurie Manning

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How Can You Dance? By Rick Walton

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Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

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Baby Dance by Ann Taylor

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Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton

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Dancing Feet! By Lindsey Craig

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How Do You Wokka-Wokka? By Elizabeth Bluemle

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Down By the Cool of the Pool by Tony Mitton

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Early Literacy Challenge 18: Playing Target

Shopping Cart Toy - Metal Grocery WagonA few days ago, my kids rediscovered the Melissa & Doug grocery cart one of the grandparents got our son for his second birthday. So the grocery cart has been moved from the basement to the living room. The other morning, A and M were fighting over the grocery cart and so I ran downstairs to get our play cash register, which I bought at the ARC for $1.50.

I set up a play Target store just by asking the kids what they wanted to buy at Target and they started putting toys in the grocery cart. Then our living became a Target check out lane. A and M helped put the toys on our window seat (the conveyor belt for the check out lane) and then I rang the toys through. A paid for his toys with play money he had fun putting in his tractor wallet. Maggie got to play with the zipper on one of my old purses. It was simple, fun and we already had what we needed. I think the skills we hit in this imaginative play were early math skills, vocabulary, narrative skills, gross motor (pushing the cart around), fine motor skills (zippers on purses & wallets) and social skills (working together to play and take turns). Plus,  we had a lot of fun.

If you don't have the cash register or grocery cart, you can make your own cardboard box cash register. There are some great ideas already online that you can mimic. You can use a basket to carry instead of a cart to push. Here is also a link to free play money you can print, or you can cut out your own from green construction paper.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Early Literacy Challenge 17: Shape Sorters

Yesterday morning M (now 20 months) and I were playing with various toys from one of the baskets in our living room. She got very interested in our Ikea shape sorter. At first she was really frustrated putting the shapes in the spots, but the more we worked together, the easier it became and by the end, she was doing it on her own (I was still helping her match the shapes to the spots, but she was putting them in the holes on her own).

I named each shape as she worked it into the matching hole and I praised her progress with each new shape she put into the sorter. Next time we play, I will talk about the different colors too. It was enough this time to just talk about the shapes and help her match them to the corresponding spots.

It was just a really fun and simple way to work on shape concepts, fine motor skills, vocabulary, matching skills and M's self-esteem all at once. We sat together for about eight minutes working on this, but because I had all my focus on her, it felt like a really special moment. Once M masters this shape sorter, we will move on to a more complicated Melissa & Doug one with smaller shapes with more variety that she got for Christmas this past year.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Early Literacy Challenge 16: Empty Spice Containers

When we bought our house two years ago, my husband decided to update and get rid of all the old spices in our pantry before moving. I walked into the old kitchen to see him dumping the spices and recycling the spice containers. I was so happy to see him getting rid of the spices because I could finally have some empty spice containers around the house for our son to explore. We recycled all the glass jars, but we saved all the plastic and tin (metal, aluminum?) ones that would not break when being handled by babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

We have played with these over the last few years, but my kids rediscovered them this morning and I pulled a whole bunch I had been saving out from a cabinet in the garage so they could have way more fun.

Both A and M are having fun opening and closing the lids (fine motor skills), smelling the remnants of the old spices (exploring their sense of smell) and A, our three-year-old, was pointing out letters and logos on the spice labels (envrionmental print recognition). Our son took a spice container to preschool yesterday because he said, "I can't forget my ingredients!"

When my kids are tired of playing with these, I am going to put them aside for the play bakery station I am putting together for our library's annual Early Literacy Fair. After the Early Literacy Fair, I will take them home again for our play kitchen.