Friday, November 7, 2014

Homeschool Preschool

I have been getting lots of questions lately about our homeschool preschool curriculum. The best thing I can tell you is this- you do NOT need to purchase a curriculum to teach your child.

Children, especially preschoolers, learn best from their environment and everyday activities. We play to learn everyday all day. By providing your child with meaningful play to learn opportunities, interacting with them through play or real life experiences, and allowing them to explore the natural world, you are teaching your child. 

Daily we use everyday toys and activities to make real world connections with academic basics. We also use tons of art projects to explore literature, science, and build a foundation for later learning. Duplos are great for teaching colors, counting, sorting sizes, patterns, and more. ABC puzzles, magnets, and play dough stamps introduce early literacy concepts. 

We are also heavily into sensory play. These provide easy ways to create meaningful play to learn activities that support scientific or academic concepts.  Feel free to take a look at my posts on sensory play 101 and why I love sensory play for more information.

The syllabus we use is very basic and easy to follow. I just made a spreadsheet in excel to keep us on track and for planning. We have 1-2 week theme based units with an ‘of the week’ focus. The themes are usually seasonal or holiday based plus a letter, number, shape, and color of the week. I use books with story stretcher activities to explore themes in depth. We use hands on activities and art projects to teach academics. Weekly letter art is a big favorite at our house.  Our ABC boxes get a lot of use too. Math manipulatives, DIY or store bought, make math practice easy.

The most important thing is for your child to have fun. Preschool age is all about instilling a love of learning and fostering their natural curiosity. Use what your child is interested in and go from there. Personally I am not concerned with when my child master’s his ABC’s or 123’s. When he can spell his name or write independently. I do not stress over pushing academics, he will get there when he’s ready. 

And lastly we read. A lot. It is one of the few times Baby Rex will sit still for any length of time. We read together for 30-60 minutes every night before bed, plus other times during the day. He is also really into board games and puzzles which are great teaching extensions. 

Please let me know if you have any questions about anything. Have fun and happy homeschooling!

Date & Theme Letter Num. Shape Color Science & Social Studies
8  Community Helpers M 6 Circle Purple Comm Helpers
15  Community Helpers B 9 Triangle White Fire Safety
22  Apples A 3 Square Red Apples
29  Apples Z 7 Star Green Johnny Appleseed
6  Forrest Friends D 5 Oval Brown Forest Animals
13  Forrest Friends Y 2 Rectangle Blue Nocturnal Animals
20  Pumpkins I 8 Heart Orange Pumpkins
27  Pumpkins O 10 Diamond Black Pumpkin Dissection
3  Fall & Leaves 4 Circle Yellow Fall
10  Fall & Leaves P 1 Triangle Pink Leaves
17  Thanksgiving  & Food E 3 Square Brown Food Groups
24  Thanksgiving & Food N 5 Oval Orange 1st Thanksgiving
1 Christmas & Nativity J 9 Rectangle White Nativity Story
8  Christmas & Nativity C 2 Diamond Green Nativity Story
15 Christmas & Nativity U 7 Star Red Nativity Story
22   Break/Review
29  Break/Review
5  Snow & Ice I 4 Square White Cold/Hot
12  Artic Animals R 8 Circle Blue Artic
19  Transportation G 6 Triangle Purple Wheels & Ramps
26  Transportation F 10 Rectangle Brown Sink/Float
2 Valentines/Friends Q 1 Heart Red Character Dev
9  Valentines/Friends V 13 Heart Pink Character Dev
16 Space S 15 Star Yellow Planets
23 Shadows X 18 Oval Black Shadows
2  Dr. Suess T 12 Rectangle Blue Mixing Colors
9  Noah's Ark & Rainbows H 20 Circle multi Noah's Story
16  St. Patrick's Day W 16 Shamrock Green Folk Tales
23  Easter K 19 Triangle Orange Easter Story
30  Easter A 14 Oval White Easter Story
6  Farm Animals P 17 Square Pink Farm Animals
13  Farm Animals D 11 Diamond Red Visit Farm
20  Weather O 15 Rectangle Blue Weather Words
27  Weather R 19 Circle Yellow Weather Experiments
4  Flowers/Seeds S 13 Triangle Purple Plant Parts
11  Flowers/Seeds E 16 Heart Orange Plant Growth
18   Caterpillars/Butterflies B 18 Square Green Butterfly Life Cycle
25   Caterpillars/Butterflies A 20 Circle Pink Butterfly Life Cycle

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine's Tubby Time

I wanted to do something special on Valentine's Day for Baby Rex. We've been playing with conversation hearts, making crafts, and all things heart themed all week. It was time to just be silly and have some fun.
I painted the tub with washable paint while Baby Rex was napping. I used a heart shape cookie cutter to stamp the hearts on, it was an easy and fast way to decorate. By the time he woke up everything was dry and ready to go. I made jello hearts following the jigglers recipe on the box using the same heart cookie cutter to make the shapes. Next I added his heart shaped measuring scoops and a bag of conversation hearts. He is super excited to play.

  The jello hearts made for an interesting texture to squish with his hands and toes.
Since Baby Rex is only 16 months old I kept all his play material edible just to be on the safe side. As always the rule is 'no mouth' and he is really good about keeping things out of his mouth since we've always done lots of different sensory play. 

The conversation hearts were a great addition that provided many teachable moments. 
We identified and sorted colors and practiced counting. He really liked it when I stacked a few up for him to knock down again and again. 

 This is my FAVORITE picture from today. One of the reasons I love sensory play so much is the goofy grins, silly faces, and endless giggles on my son's face. These are the moments I cherish. 

 As Baby Rex was winding down, I turned on the water to add a new dimension to his play. 
The jello hearts quickly melted while the conversation hearts took a bit longer to dissolve. Baby Rex enjoyed splashing, scooping, and pouring the red cherry scented water.
When he was done playing I just turned on the shower to give Baby Rex and the tub a good rinse.Now we are all set for our next tubby time adventure.

Simple Valentine's Sensory Bin

Happy Valentine's Day

Baby Rex is at an age where he doesn't really understand most holidays. But that doesn't stop us from having a little fun. This Valentine's themed sensory bin was just the thing to brighten up a cold February afternoon. 
Baby Rex and Little Bear enjoyed exploring the contents:
red & white rice
conversation hearts
heart scoops
foam hearts
heart bracelets

Little Bear is a bit more timid than Baby Rex with new materials and textures. I love that he watched Baby Rex interact with the sensory bin before deciding to play himself. Another great example of how sensory play will meet each child where they are and engage them accordingly. Sensory play is an amazing activity for side by side and early cooperative play. 

These two tots really enjoyed their Valentine's surprise sensory bin. They happily explored and played with little input from me. 

I love how sensory play really highlights each of their personalities. Baby Rex is about the big actions and noises- he like to scoop & dump the rice, rain down handfuls, sit in the bin, and trow rice about. 
Little Bear is much more meticulous and detailed orientated. He was the first to notice that the conversation hearts had words printed on them. He inspected each element of the sensory bin in great detail.

Hope you find a special and fun way to celebrate Valentine's Day with your little ones

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sensory Play 101

What is sensory play?
          Sensory play may also be referred to as “messy play” or “hands on learning”. It is anything that engages your child’s senses, most often touch or smell. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers interact with their world mainly through touch to gain knowledge and feel confident in their environment. At the earliest stages of learning, children process information through direct interaction, observation, and exploration.

What is purpose of sensory play?
Children are hard wired to learn through sensory input from day one. By providing frequent opportunities for sensory play you are helping their brain build neural pathways that will support later learning. At its core, sensory play is the earliest form of the scientific process your child will encounter. They have formulated a question, hypothesized an outcome, experimented, and made conclusions all without being able to verbally communicate it to you.

Sensory play promotes and supports fine and gross motor skills, cognitive development, social interactions, builds self esteem, pre math concepts, problem solving and reasoning skills, imaginative play, language development, and so much more. In a single activity, sensory play can be hugely beneficial to your child crossing multiple early learning objectives. The same sensory play materials can be used with various age children meeting each child where he or she is in the learning process.  Consequently each child will explore, learn, investigate, and form conclusions appropriate to their individual needs.

Creating sensory play opportunities
          Sensory play is a process driven activity. It is about your child’s interactions and explorations with the materials rather than a final product or outcome. Sensory play should be a child lead activity start to finish.  There is NO right or wrong way for sensory play. It can be as simple as rice or beans in a bin to explore or in depth small world play and themed set ups. It can be extremely messy with shaving cream, goop, or Jell-o to no mess at all with sensory bottles, textured fabrics, or glow sticks. Going for a walk to observe nature is sensory play in a simplistic form that requires no set up or clean up and is free.

          As I present the activity or materials to my child, I let him take the lead. I may verbally illustrate what he is doing or feeling. I copy his movements and ideas (within reason!) I may demonstrate a different way to play or ask questions to further the activity. I often pick a few new vocabulary words or phrases to repeat frequently throughout the activity.  This has been a critical learning step for my speech delayed toddler. We verbally label everything!
Wrapping paper runway- encourage them to run, walk, crawl like a cat, jump like a frog, bear crawl, etc. We’ve now incorporated different movements with animals and sounds.

Set up
Where, when, and how you include sensory play into your child’s daily routine is up to you. Keep in mind your space restrictions as well as you and your child’s comfort level with play materials. Sand/water tables are great inside and out. Under the bed storage containers, baby pools, and my personal favorite – the bath tub, are all great options for containing messes. You may also want to use a sheet, plastic table cloth, or shower curtain to aid in the clean up process. Play materials such as rice, small beans, oatmeal, and lentils all vacuum up easily and quickly for inside play. Get your children involved in the clean up process. My tot loves to use a washcloth to clean the shower walls or the vacuum hose to get the last beans from the play room floor.

Sensory play extensions
          Sensory play can be used to introduce or reinforce other learning concepts and objectives such as color or letter recognition, cultural celebrations, animal habitats, and other areas of scientific study. A favorite at our house is extending a favorite story with a sensory play activity.

·       Letter I-Spy: ABC beads in a water bottle with rice
·       Color themed sensory bins, bottles or tub play
·       Holiday themed sensory bins or tub play
·       Ice and arctic animals
·       Mixing colored vinegar with baking soda
·       Mixing paint or colored water

Sensory Play for Babies & Toddlers
          With a little careful consideration and preparation, the littlest of children can participate in sensory play. If you think, many baby toys are in fact geared towards sensory stimulation. Bright or contrasting colors, various textures, toys that crinkle, rattle, or squeak.
I am a huge fan of edible materials for babies and young toddlers. This allows them to freely explore while ensuring their safety. Baby food, yogurt, cooked pasta, oatmeal flakes, bread crumbs, rice, cornmeal or flour – plain or mixed with oil to make moldable dough.
For my son, the more sensory play we did the better he became at keeping things out of his mouth as even with edible materials our sensory play rule is always “no mouth”.

Material Suggestions
          Most sensory play items can be purchased at the grocery store or Target. You can find great accessories or add ins at the dollar store, craft store, or thrift shops.

Food Items: Beans, lentils, pasta, rice, cous cous, oatmeal, cornmeal, flour, bread crumbs, cereal, jell-o, pudding, yogurt, baby food, cooked spaghetti, coffee grounds, popcorn kernels, popcorn, salt, sugar/sugar cubes, coconut, whole nuts (walnuts, pecans, peanuts) dried fruit slices (orange, lemon, apple) Apple peels, marshmallows, sprinkles,
·       root veggies with the leafy tops (carrots, beets, radish)
·       Investigate, then cut open fresh fruit or veggie – bell peppers, squash, watermelon, apples, pumpkins, etc.

Paper: wrapping paper, tissue paper, toilet paper, shredded paper, butcher paper, streamers, Easter grass

Natural Items: acorns, pinecones, grass, leaves, rocks/gravel, dirt, hay, fresh or dried flowers, planting seeds, vegetation - (ferns, moss, grasses), sea shells, drift wood, natural sand, snow, water, ice,

Fabric: Ribbon, felt, tulle, various fabric scraps, yarn

Misc: packing peanuts, bird seed, deer corn, aquarium gravel, glass decorator beads, Epsom salts, shaving cream, glow sticks, paint, pom poms, pipe cleaners, feathers, bubble wrap, cotton balls,

Accessories & Add ins:
Food coloring, essential oils or extracts for scents, kool-aid (to dye and scent), spoons, kitchen utensils, measuring scoops and spoons, funnels, colander, cups, tweezers/tongs, turkey baster, eye droppers, small garden tools, muffin tins, pie plates, tin cups, ice cube trays, small animals or figures, foam shapes, glitter, confetti

What you put into sensory play and get out of it is completely up to you; from super messy, to dry and clean, and everywhere in between. Sensory play provides opportunities to learn, grow, and create magical childhood memories. 

Why I Love Sensory Play

A little while ago someone asked me why I love sensory play. I know she was looking for a short and simple answer but it is so much more and deeper than that, with layer after layer of pure goodness. For tips on how to get started, check out my Sensory Play 101 post. 


I love that sensory play is like a magical reset button for my child and sometimes myself as well. 

Bad weather got you cooped up and bored? Just roll out a wrapping paper runway to run, crawl, hop, and giggle that energy out. Now it’s a thunderstorm, then a cave, next a blanket, a magic carpet and more. 

Cranky, over stimulated, or anxious kids? Time for some lavender rice to help mellow out.

In a funky mood? Drop some glow sticks in the bubble bath, dim the lights, and crank the tunes.

Kids not getting along? Sensory play.

Bored with their same old toys? Sensory play.

Mom is running out of ideas? Sensory play.

Messy, clean, or somewhere in between sensory play has the ability to refocus our energy and feelings in a safe and positive way. 

 I love that children of any age and any ability level can be successful and benefit from sensory play. Sensory activities meet a child where they are and then challenge them both physically and mentally. 

I love that sensory play can be used as an extension of the academic classroom. Whether your child is learning their colors, beginning to read, or early math facts; sensory activities give a hands on approach to mastering these building blocks for later learning.

I love that sensory play puts the child in control. There is no right or wrong way for sensory play. You can provide the opportunity to play and even make suggestions on how to use the materials. But overall sensory play is a child driven activity start to finish.


I love that sensory play can assist my child in overcoming any developmental delays. At 18 months old my son had zero spoken words and very little babbling. We have been working with a SLP and tailoring his sensory activities to promote early language skills. By breaking down the speech process into baby steps and integrating those steps into his sensory play, he has thrived. Fast forward 10 months later he is talking in long complex sentences and has the vocabulary and general language skills well above his age level. We are still using sensory play to work on his articulation and intelligibility.  

I love the giggles, grins, and funny faces. 

I love the serious expressions as he deeply contemplates what he is experiencing. 

I love the light in his eyes as he experiences something new, figures something out, and has FUN!

I love that sensory play creates magical childhood moments.

This face is why I love sensory play.