Monthly Archives: October 2015

Preschool Playdate: Buttons

Preschool Playdate: October 22, 2015
Inspiration: Count Your Buttons Day

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme: Shared five different articles of clothing and the different kinds of buttons they had. Talked about how once upon a time, the kind of buttons someone wore could tell you about their lifestyle or place of origin.
— Storytime: Corduroy

Of course we had to share  Corduroy by Don Freeman, the story of the little bear with the lost button!!Corduroy

My intention was to reinforce vowel sounds, along with using words that start with “B” like “button”.  B and G lent themselves well to this little activity, so I created little word cards with the idea that the Sweet Peas would use the buttons to cover the letters, working fine motor skills as well as reinforcing vowels and phonics.

I tried this activity on two days…I had my doubts about the image for “big”. Rightly so – many of the non-reading Sweet Peas said “dog” when they saw that card. For the littles it ended up being more of a word identification game.  Only my elementary school kiddos were interested in forming the letters out of buttons on the word cards.

The most fun at this center for our preschool guests was playing with the buttons. Everyone played in the button box. Very few played with the cards as I had envisioned.

I think on it’s own this center might work. The biggest attraction was the Arts & Crafts center, so the Literacy and Math centers fell by the wayside this particular day.

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This was a button sorting bonanza. I had originally designed these activities for our Sweet Peas’ “Busy Books”.  One card was designed to sort by color, the other size, and the third was a “free play”. There were six different outlines so the child could follow through with their own idea of how to sort.

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Buttoning buttons!
Another activity was taken directly from the Busy Books I made. In order to have enough for all the children that attend, I made enough of these for all the Sweet Peas to be able to play at once if that’s how the group moved. I sewed a big button on to one end of the ribbon; on the other side I sewed to a square piece of felt that would act as the “stopper” for the other felt squares being buttoned on to the ribbon.

Level 1: Motor skill development as children “button” the fabric and then slide it down the ribbon.

Level 2: Patterning – the children could create a pattern with the felt shapes as they buttoned the fabric onto the ribbon.

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The other center was playing with the different kinds of buttons found on clothing: plastic, wood, metal, shell, and fancy 🙂 I left the clothes out that we introduced at the beginning of the playdate so that the Sweet Peas could take a closer look at the buttons and try to button and unbutton the clothing.

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
This was an adaptation of a “Love Bug” Valentine’s Day Craft. I called these “Cute as a Button” Bugs.  This was  the big hit for the day!

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We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.  Otherwise, the kiddos and parents that don’t have to leave stay and play until the music teacher for our older Sweet Peas arrives.


Caring and Not Caring

I have been taking our children to some kind of class or activity for eight years now. I am a competitive person, so it takes *a lot* of restraint and intentional letting-go for me to accept that our children may not be the best in that setting.

I had to realize, accept and internalize early on in this journey called “parenting” that how well our children did or did not do/perform in their current activity (or compared to their peers) was not a reflection on me or my parenting. It was a reflection of who and where they are *right now*, and my role as their North Star is to simply guide them.

I learned to ask questions like, “What did you learn? What did you enjoy? What was hard? What do you think about that?” I had to learn these questions because my natural inclination is to want to correct, teach, and ensure that they would do better next time.

I had to learn to shut off that inclination and realize that is the way I am, not the way our children are. They are sponges – experiencing, learning, and growing. I realized over time that it was slightly ridiculous and unrealistic to expect a child with little to no training to easily succeed at the activity. If they wanted to improve, then we would be available to help. If they are just in it for the fun and they are having fun…encourage them anyway.

There are things that have been hard along the way. As a former dancer who worked hard to improve, and who loved the technicalities as well as the expression of the art form, it has been hard not to be too hard on our children, all of whom are dancing.

I expect pointed toes, sharp spotting, expression from the top of the head through the finger tips and (pointed) toes, and joy!! I had to learn to calm down: I was projecting my grown up abilities and expectations on CHILDREN!!! Hello, lightbulb moment!

I had to learn to laugh when one of our kiddos went off-stage the wrong way 5 out of 6 performances. I didn’t yell at him, because it wasn’t a big deal. If the dance director didn’t say anything, why should I? As long as he is projecting joy on stage, he is doing his job as a performer.

I had to learn to shut off my critic when our oldest delved into the world of solo competition last year. She has teachers who she respects that are willing to guide and coach her. My role as her mother is to love her, support her by driving her to extra practices, and encourage her to listen to her teachers. My biggest job: to teach her to enjoy the journey. At the end of the day, the journey is about much more than winning or losing. What does she want to improve? What did she learn? What did she enjoy? What was the highlight of the event? What does she want to remember forever and tell her own children about?

It has been hard to watch Puma get passed over for several years. I kept hearing one of her teachers tell me that she was always tired and lethargic in class.  Shame on me for not connecting the dots. It was no surprise that once the ulcerative colitis was under control, she started eating more, and hence having the energy to not just keep up, but start to excel in her classes.

I can’t say for sure that is the reason why she started to get noticed. I do know for sure that she is starting to care about what her dancing looks like.  Whatever it is, she is putting more effort into dancing.

So all those years of marking time, and driving her to dance class, and tuition at the dance studio is starting to show. She is little by little moving up.  Little by little she is being selected for performance numbers. I have to try not to get to excited, because that’s counterproductive to my efforts to not get invested for my own edification. If she has any talent, that is God’s gift to her. If she is succeeding, that is a direct result of her own hard work and effort in her classes. It is not about me.

I wish there were words to comfort the parents who are watching their own children get passed over. It stinks – I know first hand how it feels. It’s hard not to be a little irritated with the teachers who aren’t seeing the potential in a child, especially when several of their classmates are chosen, and you know darn well they share similar skill levels.

As former professionals in our chosen fields (Me: dance, Bruss: baseball), our philosophy is that being passed over is an invitation to work harder.  So if a parent wants to “do something” about it, now it’s time to do some fact-finding…

I am going to suggest something similar to what I tell our childbirth students: choose a “provider” that you trust. In this case, a team, teacher, or organization that you know to be trustworthy, reliable, and that above all, keeps the child’s best interest in mind. If you believe that you are in the best place for your child to learn and grow, then ask to have a conversation with the coach/teacher.

When you go talk to the coach/teacher, try to leave your feelings at the door. Focus on the facts and try to keep the emotion out of it by asking questions like: How is my child doing on a scale of 1-10? How did you give them that rating? What are you looking for when you select “teams” or “groups”? What skills is my child accomplishing? What areas do they need to work on in order to have a better chance at being selected next time?

It also means checking in with the child: what do they think? Does it matter to them to be selected? If it does, share what you learned from your fact-finding conversation with the coach/teacher. If it doesn’t matter to them, then ask them what they enjoy about what they are doing, and what makes them happy about it.

Then, support them! If they want to work harder, help them carve out practice time and/or tutoring in the skills they want to acquire. Point out progress so that even if they don’t get picked again, they can still be proud of the growth they achieved.

If recognition in an activity isn’t a priority for them, ensure that it stays fun for them, because joy is such a crucial part of good health. Doing something they love keeps the stress levels low and the child happy. At the end of the day, is there anything more important than capturing joy in childhood?

Thankfully in Puma’s situation, I didn’t have to have these conversations with the teachers at the dance school because I do trust that the teachers are objective and fair. When Puma made comments about wanting to be included in the performance groups, I asked her what she wanted to do about it.  And then I watched her put her actions behind her words.

I think the best thing we did for Puma as she starting competing last year was giving her the option for an out.  One of our family mottos is, “Be safe! Have fun!” Both Bruss and I told her repeatedly that if at any point, practicing and/or competing stopped being safe or fun, she could stop and that was okay with us.

As it turns out, she has a little competitive streak herself, and she cared.  We figured out extra rehearsals that worked in our schedule, she reminded me in plenty of time to take her, and every once in a while she asked for help from her old dancer mom.

Before every event, I asked her what she had learned going into the event, what had improved since she started, and what she wanted to enjoy at the event. I tried so hard to stress that it wasn’t about winning – it was about the journey and the growth.

As our boys play soccer for a second season this fall, we are trying to do the same thing. Night Owl is extremely competitive and takes it very hard when his team loses. We are helping him channel all that extra energy into sportsmanship after a game, and improvement during practice times. Charger is a “go with the flow” kind of guy: he just loves running, kicking, and playing on a team: the score doesn’t matter to him.

And so it goes…more surrender to the process, their personality, and the journey. So much like birth, in so many ways.

Preschool Playdate: Pumpkins

We enjoyed all these activities on October 15, 2015

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)

— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)

— Discussion of theme: Showed the word “pumpkin” written on the word card, and also passed around the basket of pumpkins for the children to explore

— Storytime

— Poem/Song before we break for Centers: “5 Little Pumpkins” fingerplay

Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington

Sweet little story of growing a pumpkin from seed to sprout to flower, and then watching it grow into a large pumpkin.

Letter Guessing Game inspired by a The Mailbox Superbook activity – I spelled out the word “pumpkin” in uppercase and lowercase letters, and then also selected uppercase and lowercase magnets to match.  

Level 1/2: Parents pull out the letters, name them for the children and tell the phonic sound (child repeats), and then either place them in order under the tag, or have the children place them in the right spot.

Level 2: Child reaches into the bag, feels the letter, and then guesses what they think it is.  Then they pull it out to check their guess, and place it in the correct order to spell out, “pumpkin”.

Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate: Literacy Center

Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate: Literacy Center

This idea is from Preschool Plan It – see the original instructions HERE

You can download the printable I made for your own personal use – it’s not pretty or professional, just an easy file you can print on your own to make your own manipulatives: PPD Pumpkins Math Center.  I left the front blank with only the letter on the leaf; the back had the letter leaf and pumpkin seed stencils on the back.

The instructions were to put the pumpkins and some pumpkin seeds on the table and see what the children would do.  Here are some ideas for ways to lead the children:

Level 1: Have the children identify the numbers and put them in order

Level 2: Practice one-to-one correspondence by having the children place pumpkin seeds on the stenciled shapes

Level 3: Start introducing the concept of even and odd numbers. I purposely stenciled the pumpkin seeds in columns so that the children could get a visual understanding of what makes a number “even”, and what makes it “odd”.

Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate: Math Center

Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate: Math Center


I picked up some gourds and mini-pumpkins from Trader Joe’s.  We picked them to represent some of the different colors aside from orange, and also with texture in mind.  The children could look at them and/or feel them to decide if they were “smooth” or “bumpy”. You might make this extra-sensory by blindfolding the children and then having them sort.

The other part of today’s discovery was for the children to taste pumpkin-flavored foods.  I found a gluten-free pancake mix at Trader Joe’s, picked up a box of their pumpkin snack bars, and I also added some sprouted pumpkin seeds that we buy at Costco.  I also offered some of the shelled seeds that were from the bag that we used for math – they were toasted with oil and salt; also from Trader Joe’s.

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Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate: Discovery Center

Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate: Discovery Center

Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate: Discovery Center

ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
This idea is inspired by Preschool Plan It – see the original instructions HERE 

The idea from Preschool Plan It was to do the handprint pumpkin, and the stem with a finger. I didn’t want two different colors of paint to wash off, so I pulled out our green and brown ink pads.  I started by printing a heart shaped leaf using the thumb pad and green ink. Next, I dipped the whole thumb in the brown ink. Lastly, I brushed orange paint on the child’s knuckles of a clenched hand, and then printed those onto the paper.

Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate: Arts & Crafts

Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate: Arts & Crafts

Plus, one more activity with play dough…making pumpkins with faces (suggested by Preschool Plan It and executed with THIS play dough recipe)

Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate

Sweet Pea Families Pumpkin Playdate

We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a goodbye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.  Otherwise, the kiddos and parents that don’t have to leave stay and play for a little while so we can catch up and talk attachment parenting.


Becoming a line rider

Riding a bicycle with my child brings out the mama bear in me. I love that Puma wants to be active, and that she is motivated to ride the three-mile round trip to go to neighborhood market.  On my own, it would not be something I would even consider!

She likes to go in the morning when people are going to work and taking children to school. Realistically, morning rides make the most sense in our desert climate. But still!! There are enough cars on the road to make me nervous.  It’s interesting that the desire to honor healthy habits in our children makes me a little more brave.

I didn’t think twice about riding on the line of the bike lane, making people move around me in order to protect my child. And then it hit me – oh my gosh!! Maybe that’s why those annoying bikers ride the line: they are just claiming a little more space on the road.

Now I was one of “those annoying riders”, and I was not planning on moving over.  I am kind of sorry that it took living the experience to understand why people might do what they do.  

It was a good lesson on living with more compassion. I have no idea why people who ride bicycles seem to take up so much of the bike lane, or maybe take over parts of the road.  Next time, instead of rolling my eyes, I’ll slow down a little, give them space, and say a little prayer for their safety.

It’s also a good reminder that I can extend compassion into all areas of interacting with others.  We never know what is going on behind the scenes of their facade, so instead of judging or commenting, deep breaths are the order of the day.

Preschool Playdate: Fire Safety

Playdate: Fire Safety
October 8, 2015

I chose this theme in honor of Fire Safety Week last week.  I learned something new while prepping, which is always an added bonus.  Scroll down to the end of the post for my “aha” moment.

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme: Started out by creating a chart of the things they children already knew about fire. We also talked about the different places we see fire, and what to do when we see matches or lighters: don’t touch, and alert your parents or another adult
— Storytime: Golden Book
— Unsquiggle activity: We did some exercises to be in shape like fire fighters
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers: 9-1-1 song

From The Mailbox Songs & Fingerplays book

Help Is On The Way!
“Three Blind Mice

9-1-1, 9-1-1 –
Help’s on the way, help’s on the way
When I need help, I know what to do.
I dial this number for me and for you.
It calls the police and the firehouse too.
It’s 9-1-1.

Jessica Matthews
Footprints, Vernon, NJ


The ideas for all of today’s activities came from Preschool Plan It

PPD Fire Safety Circle Time, PPD Fire Safety Literacy, and PPD Fire Safety Math are the printables I created for today’s playdate. You are welcome to download and print for your non-commercial home use. They are not professional by any stretch of the imagination 🙂

STORY TIME: Golden Book

The Fire Engine Book



Level 1: Phonics of the word “FIRE” along with the introduction of the “Magic E” that makes the “I” say it’s name.

Level 2: Children fill in the coloring page

Level 3: Children trace the letters and numbers to create their own “Fire 911” sign.

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Hat and Boot Match

Level 1: Parent orders the numbers and the dots and shows the child the one-to-one correspondence.

Level 2: Parent orders the numbers or the dots, and the child matches the other.

Level 3: Child orders and matches the sets of cards on their own.

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Activity 1: We put out some helmets, a costume jacket, and some other red clothes to let the children dress up as firefighters.

Activity 2: Mixing colors – red and yellow make orange, and all three are the color of flames. Children could simply mix the colors, or they could write letters or numbers in the paint without getting dirty!! This was a wonderful activity for the children that like paint and do not like to get their hands dirty.

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take

We precut red squares and rectangles, used the scraps of white card stock, and punched out circles in black and white. We placed everything on the ground with glue and a toy fire truck to let the Sweet Peas decide how they wanted to make their fire truck craft.

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Children mentioned one thing they learned about fire safety. I also pulled out our parachute to teach the children that they need to crawl out a burning house to stay below the rising smoke.

We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.  Otherwise, the kiddos and parents that don’t have to leave stay and play until the music teacher for our older Sweet Peas arrives.

Tune in next week to see all the fun at our Pumpkin Playdate!

P.S. My “aha” moment: When I was reading the Preschool Plan It page on fire safety activities, the teacher talked about how it is even more important to acclimate an anxious child to the sound of the fire alarm in your home or school.  The best way to figure out who can handle the noise and who is going to freak out: let them experience the fire alarm when it’s not an emergency.  She said that an anxious child is more likely to be the one to hide in the event of a fire drill, or even worse, during a real fire.  By talking them through it and literally holding their hand during a drill, you start to build their confidence and courage in the event that the fire alarm signals for the “real deal”.  Today’s playdate was also a great reminder for our own family to review and practice our fire safety plan – I hope it will be a good reminder for you, too.

Tale of a Chiro Convert

We invite our chiropractor to come speak to all of our childbirth prep class students.  If you had told me 7 years ago that this was going to be true, I would have laughed you out of the room.  Here is my story – maybe it will help you understand why people choose chiropractic care if you are on the fence about going to go see one for care.

I was terrified of chiropractors.  In my mind, they were back-crackers.  I have a vivid memory of my childhood dance instructor, who I revered, going ballistic when she saw some of my classmates walking on each other’s backs.  She admonished us to NEVER risk injury to our back, or we would live to regret it when an injury prevented us from dancing, or doing anything else we wanted to do. There was no way a back-cracker, or “chiroquacker” as I called them, was ever going to touch me!!

As an adult, I became a student of yoga.  This study also emphasized the sacred spine, the lifeline of all health. Except, our instructors had a working relationship with a chiropractor and there was a reciprocal discount between the studio and his office. I chalked it up to a crazy idea and I wanted nothing to do with chiropractic care.

Fast-forward to July 2009.  I was pregnant with Charger, and at my 32-week check with our one of our OBs, he informed the student nurse that the baby was breech. No thought to mention to me that I might want to do something to change that.

Before our 36-week appointment, I had growth ultrasound to see how big Charger was. I consented to this because my primary OB wanted to know if she would need extra hands during the birth “just in case” – Night Owl was an easy 11 pound, 1 ounce delivery – surprise! She didn’t want any surprises this time. The ultrasound showed that Charger was still breech!!  The ultrasound tech mentioned that if he was a persistent breech, my doctor would want to schedule a cesearan.

Cue FREAK OUT!!! I was speechless at the idea of a surgical birth and recovery with two toddlers running around. I looked for everything I could on the Internet to see what I could do to get this baby head-down.

At our next appointment, I took the list I had compiled and went through it with our primary OB.  She checked off the ideas she was comfortable with, and I set all my intention on having a vaginal birth with a head-down baby. (Read more about that HERE.)

The combination of things we tried got Charger into a transverse position. That position was still most definitely a cesarean birth – there is no other way to birth a baby who is lying sideways in the uterus. Last on the list of things to try was to have a chiropractor do “The Webster Protocol”.

As things worked out, all three people I asked for a recommendation gave me the same name: Dr. Kevin Ross. So with a wish and a prayer I went to see him.  To my surprise, he was very kind and took the time to explain to me what chirpractic care is, what it isn’t, and what I might expect from The Webster Protocol (click HERE for an explanation of what it is from Dr. Ross).

It wasn’t as scary as I had imagined – my back was still in one piece and I actually walked better after my first adjustment. And, The Webster Protocol worked for us!! I think I had a total of three visits before Charger turned head-down on his own, and then I kept going 2 times a week to make sure things stayed balanced.  He was borh eight days after turning head-down.

What really sold me on continuing care with our chiropractor was the new baby check that we did around 10 days postpartum.  I had a huge and painful learning curve when I was breastfeeding with Puma, and another painful initiation of breastfeeding with Night Owl.  It took 6-8 weeks with both of them for nursing to be less painful. Before that, it made me cry every time I nursed on the left side.  It’s a miracle that we breastfed at all: if it wasn’t for the fact that I had seen it as a child and an amazing support system, we would have quit after the first week.

Charger and I started out the same way – it was excruciating to nurse on the left side.  Dr. Ross did one little tiny adjustment on Charger.  The next time I put Charger to the breast to nurse – flowers bloomed and angels sang. It was a miracle!! Pain-free!! And it never hurt again.

After that, I was hooked.  We continued care all through Otter’s pregnancy.  Being pregnant with my fourth, and having a 6, 4, and 2 year olds to care for was a little daunting given the demands of pregnancy in my body.  There had been days with all three previous pregnancies where I literally crawled around the house in the evenings because walking was too painful.  When I could “walk” in late pregnancy, I waddled. I believed my body did not like being pregnant.

That pregnancy taught me the benefits of chiropractic care as the body changes through pregnancy. It was my best pregnancy ever!! I had more energy, I was virtually pain-free, and I was able to walk from day one until the day of her birth *without* waddling. It turns out my body needed some pubic bone adjustments along the way to resolve that excruciating pain that made me crawl or waddle in late pregnancy. Dr. Ross also did “Webster checks” every session to make sure that my body would encourage a head-down baby. By that time, he had also started using KST in his office, and that allowed me to connect with our Sweet Pea in a whole new way.

Our whole family has been going to see Dr. Ross for 6+ years. Daddy Bruss and I are in the best health – we rarely get sick, and when we do, it doesn’t last very long.  We have also learned much more about natural living with Dr. Ross’s guidance – his wisdom has forever changed the course of our family’s health.

The biggest beneficiaries are our children. From an early age, they are learning that their body is a wonderful machine with the ability to heal itself.  As soon as something is misalinged, Dr. Ross does a child-appropriate adjustment and they are off and running. The same holds true for them: they are rarely sick. For the most part, rest and hydration kick any illnesses in less time than is typical. They are also learning that their body is capable of healing itself. Medication is rarely necessary, so they are not learning that drugs are a panacea for every ache and pain.  First we ask Dr. Ross, and then we usually follow whatever course of action he recommends based on their needs.

In fact, one of our pediatricians thinks we had left the practice since it was so long between visist with them. I chalk it up to saying our prayers, taking our Juice Plus, drinking lots of water and getting adjusted 🙂

So that’s our story. Please leave me a comment if you have any questions about our experiences.

Find out more about Dr. Ross and his practice HERE


Preschool Playdate: Oktoberfest

Play date: October 1, 2015

Fun little side-note…as I searched the internet for ideas for this playdate, I discovered that apparently some preschool teacher decided to serve apple juice in child-sized beer steins to celebrate Oktoberfest in her classroom…LOL. That is a direction we definitely did NOT go.

Anyway, my inspiration for our playdate came from a beautiful map book Charger was gifted this summer. The book is called “MAPS” by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski. HERE is an image I found of the page online:

MAPS Germany

I went through and created categories from the images on the map to start brainstorming.  I also explored Enchanted Learning to see what kind of ideas they had, and voila! Our playdate was pulled together overnight.

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)

Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)  Skipped this part last week since our group was so big and the discussion of the theme was a little longer.

— Discussion of theme: Used the MAPS book to point out different parts of Germany and German heritage/contributions to our modern culture.

Stories: Brothers Grimm, Hansel & Gretel, Snow White, Musicians of Bremen
Composers: Bach, Beethoven (I guess Handel not included since he is considered a British composer?)
Inventions: Printing Press – Johannes Gutenberg, Beach chairs, Aspirin – Felix Hoffman, Cuckoo Clock
Dogs: German Shepherd, Dachsund
Food: Gherkins, Pumpernickel, Roast pork, Dumplings, Breads (including rye, pretzels), Sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), Weisswurst (white sausage)

— Storytime – worked some unsquiggle in by handing out felt figures before story time and having the Sweet Peas listen for their piece to be named. When they heard it, they brought their piece up and put it on the felt background.

— Unsquiggle activity Also skipped – it was time to get the Sweet Peas moving!!

— Poem/Song before we break for Centers: “Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone?” since we had talked about German Shepherds and Dachshunds during the theme discussion.

While the families arrived and during center time, I played classical music written by German composers in the background.

I had the story of  The Musicians of Bremen in one of our schoolbooks from last year. There are more words than pictures, so I created images and felt pieces to use as I read.  I held up the cards to show the contribution of each animal to the band: “lute”, “drum”, “night music” and “music”.  Before we started storytime, we handed out the felt pieces for the children to bring up and place on the felt background as they heard their piece named in the story.

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Look under the “Discovery Table” for image source list.

This was an edible center – yum! Always fun for preschool playdates 🙂
I cut out the capital letter of all the preschool age guests and their younger siblings. The Sweet Peas would then find the letter of their first name (or a friend or sibling), and then cover the letter in pretzels. Eating happened all along the way!

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Find the original idea HERE on “The Educators’ Spin On It”

Counting With The Dogs:  This is a center of my own creation that incorporated German dogs, dice, and patterning.

Level 1: Place correct amount of items onto a numbered plate
Level 1a: Roll 1 die and count out the items to match the face of the die

Level 2: Create a pattern and continue the sequence. When we play this, I create the first two patterns, and then invite the Sweet Pea to make one for me to figure out.

Level 3: Roll 2 dice, count out, and add

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Image sources: links to image online
Bone ~ DachshundGerman Shepherd 


Part 1 of the Discovery Table disappeared before I got a picture of it.  We cooked some Weisswurst (white sausage) and served it with sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) so that the Sweet Peas (and the mamas!) could enjoy some German food.

Part 2 of the table was having the Sweet Peas play with the felt figures and retell the story if they are advanced communicators. If they are still acquiring verbal skills, you could ask them the order that the animals were introduced in the story, and then “what happened next” to prompt them.

Image sources: links to image online
Donkey ~ Hound ~ Cat ~ Rooster ~ House ~ Robber ~ Witch Hat 


ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
This idea came from Enchanted Learning, an online teaching resource with *a ton* of ideas and activities.  HERE are the instructions, and here are the samples I made for the Sweet Peas:

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I prepared the eyes and cut out the ears and noses ahead of time. The Sweet Peas could place them however they wanted to on the paper bags. Ears up was a German Shepherd, ears down was a Dachshund; and the Sweet Peas pasted them every which way to come up with their own creations!

We finish our Preschool Playdate with a sharing time: each child that wants to share gets to say what (s)he enjoyed the most about the morning.  We close with a good-bye song where children are welcome to give hugs.  It helps to set a formal end to the time together so that parents have a clear reason to insist that it’s time to go if they have somewhere to be afterwards.  Otherwise, the kiddos and parents that don’t have to leave stay and play until the music teacher for our older Sweet Peas arrives.

Come back next Thursday to read all about the FIRE SAFETY play date that we had today since it is Fire Prevention Week in the USA this week.


Making Love a Priority

Here is a little “happy family” tip that will hopefully help you as much as it has helped me.  It”s a visual tool that has really helped me connect with each of my children and my husband on a daily basis.

It was an idea born from my “Mommy Day Off” while Otter was having all her tantrums. I realized that all the other Sweet Peas were acting out because it was the way to grab my attention away from the other child acting out. Talk about C.H.A.O.S.

This is my least favorite scenario:  my children are acting out, and I get frustrated and yell because I am tired or have too much on my plate, and then I feel guilty because I was Crazy Mommy, and they are scared because they felt aggression…that is a circle I definitely want to avoid.

When the Sweet Peas and my husband receive love in their “language”, they are acknowledged, honored, and then everything things to run more smoothly.  So what I did was print out a visual reminder of the 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. I put the chart up on the inside of my medicine cabinet so I could look at it every day while I brushed my teeth. I hoped it would remind me to connect with them daily.

It helped – kind of. At least I was looking at it every day and trying to meet everyone in their love language(s).

I did one little thing two weeks ago that has made a huge difference.  I color-coded it!! I used our dry erase markers and marked the chart so that not only am I reviewing the love languages, I am checking in every day with who needs to hear/feel/see what they respond to every day!! Duh! How did it take me four months to figure that little piece out?

Well, at least it did finally occur to me to make the adjustment…and it has helped immensely. Now it works like a checklist.  Everytime I wash my hands, I look at the chart to see who needs what, and I ask myself if I have I met them in their love language yet that day. If not, then they are next and I can check in with them before moving along my daily “to-do” list.

By making sure that my family is receiving love the way they feel loved every day, we are all operating from a much more peaceful place.  My biggest “button” (another topic all together that I will write about some other time) is “Love and Connection” – if all the relationships in my circle are tended and healthy, then I am at peace and feeling fulfilled.

Here is my chart.  I was a bad girl and just did a “copy/paste” of the emblems from the 5 Love Languages website, hence the grainy picture I am sharing because this is for informational purposes only!

Love Languages Chart

I am not sure how you will choose to create yours – there are probably lots of ways to make this much more fabulous! I would love to see what you come up with if you think this is something that will help you create a more peaceful home.  You can email me your creation: sweetpeafamilies{at}gmail{dot}com.

Preschool Playdate: Fall Leaves

This theme was inspired by the First Day of Fall on 9/23/15…playdate held on 9/24/15

— Welcome song in English (emphasizes printed name recognition as Sweet Peas find their card in a line-up and place it on our Name Ledge)
— Welcome song in Spanish (reinforces names as Sweet Peas sing to their peers)
— Discussion of theme – Colorful Leaves
— Unsquiggle activity: Vowel Song
— Storytime: A Leaf Blew In
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers: Otter made up a little song about falling leaves to the tune of “London Bridge” – awesome!!

The leaf and the acorn patterns seen in the centers are from The MailBox Superbook.

We started the morning by reading the highlights out of the book, Colorful Leaves, by Maria Fleming. It introduced basic biology concepts and vocabulary: photosynthesis, cholorphyll, buds, veins, roots.

We used castanets to make the sound of leaves blowing slowly, and then increased speed as the wind blew harder, and then back down to slow again as the wind passed.

After that, we read When the Leaf Blew In, by Steve Metzger.  I invited the children to make the animal sounds as we read through the barnyard adventure.

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Two activities here~
Pre-writing: offered a pile of construction paper leaves and acorns for the Sweet Peas to write or draw on.
Phonics: Vowel identification and matching, along with sounding out the letters.

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Reprising an activity from our Johnny Appleseed Day, I pulled out the apple number cards I had made. 1: they have leaves on them, 2: apples are harvested in the fall 🙂

Level 1: Count the apples

Level 2: Order the numbers on the back of the cards

Level 3: Play a “memory” match game with two sets of cards, and then order the numbers.

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Activity 1: Acorn hunt!! The leaves were purchased at our local Tuesday Morning store. We filled our tub with the leaves and the acorn cut-outs.  The children had to rake through the leaves to find 10 happy acorns.

Activity 2: Play dough in red, orange, and yellow today! Pounding or rolling the dough in order to use the cookie cutters, or they could press the leaves and acorns into the dough to make impressions.

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ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
One of the topics in the Colorful Leaves book pointed out how leaves come in many different shapes.  These are some of the different shapes that I collected outside our home.  The children got to arrange them as they wanted to and then make a leaf rubbing to take home.

I saved all the leaves and pressed them between two boards and under a pile of cookbooks after the playdate.  The plan is to let them dry out and have the children observe the changes at the next session.

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