Tag Archives: reading

Preschool Playdate: Native American Day

Play date: November 10, 2016
Theme inspired by the USA recognition of Native American Month

— 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: homes of different tribes http://www.native-languages.org/houses.htm
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers
— Centers | Free play
— Closing

My favorite thing about these two books is that they point out to the reader that there was no “discovery” of “America”.  There was already a vibrant, rich and long-standing cultural traditions alive and well when Europeans landed on these shores.  One of the books has a great map that shows the regions in the United States and how the cultural traditions developed to suit their climate.

The other book has images that are better suited for adaptation for toddlers. By that I mean that it is easier for me to make up an abbreviated version of the page to suit their attention span!

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I adapted THIS idea from the Heidi Songs blog .

Since we were not focusing on Thanksgiving this year, I decided to use an image of a buffalo since that animal played such an integral part of Plains Indian culture.  The letters on the plate are the first letters of names of the children who attended playdate this day.  I have found that associating the letter with a person they know really helps them to remember the letter name other times, so I wanted to use letters that were familiar to them from our weekly circle time.

Get your own “Bison Clip Art” to adapt it any way you like for your group.


As it turns out, we had a blue box from Costco that was just the right size for the sweet peas to sit in and play “going fishing”.  The fish are numbered, so there are lots of ways to play as they “caught” fish:

Level 1: Count how many fish they caught – there were up to 20 that could be snagged with the magnetic fishing poles.
Level 2: Separate the fish into groups – they are numbered 1-5, so potentially five different groups to make
Level 3: Add up the numbers on the back of the fish.  This makes the game challenging for the older children since the total sum could reach 50.


Weaving was a skill used across the country to create everything from baskets to blankets.  I thought that the sweet peas would enjoy trying it.  To make it easier for little hands, I used shoelaces.  They have a nice tip for chubby fingers to grab on to, and they are a little slicker than yarn.  The slickness makes it easier to pass the string up and over since it’s not snagging on itself like yarn does.


ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
One of the art forms that our toddlers could attempt is drawing their own totem pole.  These were illustrated in the book I shared with the group.  HERE is the pattern that we shared on the craft table.  I also printed out THIS inspiration picture.  I asked the sweet peas to think about which animal they liked or related to, and they came up with their own totem pole creations.

This craft can be taken a step further by cutting out the finished drawing and pasting it to an empty paper towel tube so that it can be free-standing.  Since we are out of the habit of using paper towels, I could only share this idea with the parents for them to do at home.

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Very organically, our children transformed our schoolroom into their own Indian Village.  They created a longhouse out of some pillows we have in our bedroom.  They also used blankets to create other home structures.  They had their fishing area set up complete with boat storage.  Other things they incorporated into their playtime: left-over buffalo plates without letters on them, and “eggs” from our kitchen play area.

Charger set up a hunt for buffalo by setting up buffalo plates around the house.  He had the kiddos throw a bean bag at the plates to knock them over (clever little man also had them count their yield!).  Someone else was tasked with fishing.  And then they grabbed the eggs from the “prairie chicken nests” and brought everything back to our craft table to make a feast.

It also let us talk about sustainability.  The Native American tradition is one of living in harmony with the environment, taking only what was needed and leaving the rest alone.  We could have the conversation about how many buffalo a group of six would need, and how practically every single piece of meat, bone and tissue was put to use.  We took out one of the “First Americans” books again and read that page in detail.

It was really neat to see the sweet peas enjoy the elements of the different activities in their own way.  Watching them assimilate the lessons through play once again validated why this kind of time to be creative and play is so important for children.

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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.  Playtime was definitely the crowd favorite today, as was the fishing game.

To close out our time together we sing 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.

Thank you for checking out our Native American Playdate.  We have one more to share with you this season.  Today we are doing Children’s Day in honor of the Universal Children’s Day on November 20th….all the details will be up in next week’s post.

One more thing in case you are interested…Here are some Thanksgiving ideas to share with your Sweet Pea at home. Check out this link:

Preschool Playdate: Johnny Appleseed

Playdate: September 29, 2016
Theme: inspired by Johnny Appleseed’s birthday on September 26th

— 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
— Storytime
— Unsquiggle activity: “A” sound box
— Centers | Free play
— Closing

This is actually the second time we have done this theme – what’s not to love about apples?! We brought back some of the activities that the children loved last time and added new ones that better fit the age of the children attending last Thursday. Click HERE to see last year’s event.

This is actually a narrative biography of Johnny Appleseed’s life that is WAY to long for a preschooler to listen to all in one sitting. We broke it up over five days for our big kids!!  However, the book boasts one-page and two-page illustration spreads, so I searched the internet to come up with the high points of his life, made up two sentences to summarize those points, and showed 7 pictures to go along with the summaries.  It all worked out!


Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend; Written and Illustrated by Will Moses


Fun with magnet letters!

Level 1: Match the letters to the corresponding letter in the word “apple”
Level 2: Sort the letters into Uppercase/Lowercase or sort by specific letter
Level 3: Turn over the “apple” word card and have the child spell out the word; then check for accuracy.


Number recognition/spatial recall
The apple cards are programmed with numbers and the Spanish words for the numbers. We had two levels of play:
1) jumble one set of cards and put them in order/
2) use two sets and place them apple-side up to play a memory match game.


Modifying the “Cookies on a Plate” game from Lakeshore Learning to fit our theme…

Here is “Apples in the Bowl”. Roll the die, count out that number and place the apples in the bowl. The first player to reach the number ten wins.

This game is great for teaching one-to-one correspondence as well as addition; and for older children you could introduce the idea of “greater than” and “less than”.

There is also a sensory interaction with the apple shape and noticing the differences in color. Another level of play would be to sort by color into the separate bowls.


Tasting apples and apple products!

We showed the different colors of the outer skin, as well as the different tastes of each apple (sweet, sour, tart)

We also did a texture and flavor comparisons between fruit, sauce, and juice.

We always enjoy a good tasting center!!



ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
Fun fact about apples: there is a star hidden in the core!!


My intention was to use the core to stamp….



The sweet peas decided to use them as painting implements instead!!



I love how they adapted to materials at hand to suit themselves and create their own art.


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 poem where children are welcome to give hugs; then we sing our closing song and say a final good-bye.  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. The rest of us stay and visit for a few more minutes and watch our Bradley babies enjoy their extended playtime 🙂

Summer Reading List – Mama version

Surprisingly, I have actually managed to finish quite a few comedic and/or “chic lit” books so far this summer. TV shows being on hiatus combined with trying to rest more have been an awesome combination for extra reading.  But I have also pulled out some new and old parenting books that I plan to read or re-read this summer too, if any mamas are looking for some family related reading they are all below with a few thoughts!


Sacred Pregnancy: A Loving Guide and Journal for Expectant Moms
Anni Daulter

sacred pregnancy book
If you find yourself less inclined to stay up to date with the week-by-week pregnancy updates online or via a phone app during a subsequent pregnancy but feel like you don’t want to completely ignore the changes taking place in your body each week, this is a great alternative! The book is set up for a few pages each week talking about various things that may be happening with you or baby that week, way less clinical and more spiritual, and also gives a topic you can journal about that week and a small activity to honor yourself and/or the baby growing inside of you! I have this on Kindle version but so wish I would have ordered a physical copy as the illustrations look so beautiful and there is probably room to journal right inside the book which would make it such a special keepsake even once the pregnancy is over.

Parenting from the Inside Out
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. & Mary Hartzell, M.Ed.

parenting from the inside out book

I love everything about this book! It is NOT an easy read by any means and I have only made it about half way through but if I ever get some quality, uninterrupted time to read I like to pull this up on Kindle and am always highlighting passages and taking numerous notes. It is written by a psychiatrist and early childhood and parent educator and is very straightforward and scientific at times. It delves into how memory works, how certain parts of the brain develop and work, and is centered on emotional intelligence, self understanding and reflection. It also lays out very specific ways for us as parents to grow and understand ourselves and our children more. Everything is very practical and I learn a TON every time I pick it back up. Before the book begins it states “This book will encourage you to build an approach to parenting that is founded on basic principles of internal understanding and interpersonal connection. The anchor points for this approach to the parent-child relationship are mindfulness, lifelong learning, response flexibility, mind sight and joyful living.” These are all principles that were important to me and my husband long before having children, so this book really resonated with me on all levels. I would highly recommend if these are things that are important to you in your life as well!

How to Raise a Healthy Child… In Spite of Your Doctor
Robert S. Mendelsohn, M.D.
I have had this book for awhile now and have never actually read it, I have just used it as a very useful reference guide. The index has everything you could possibly be wondering about and you can flip right to the appropriate page. I really want to sit down and take it in cover to cover though, I know I won’t remember everything but I think there is probably a lot of useful preventative information that would be nice to have in the back of your mind before you are in the thick of a OH MY GOODNESS MY BABY IS PEEING BLOOD AND HAS A FEVER OF 104!!!??? episode. It does a really great job of providing a balance between treating at home and when to seek care, most everything I have read doesn’t seem too liberal or too conservative, just logical paired with the author’s actual experience as a medical doctor.

kids are wroth it!
Barbara Coloroso
This book was recommended by my wonderful doula and mama to seven, Rose, so I knew it would be a good one. I have only got through seven of sixteen chapters but have really loved it so far. Chapter Two talks about “three kinds of families” and I found it to share a lot of similarities with Dr. Laura Markham’s (the next author on the list) four parenting styles. Some parts were a tad overwhelming to me as they address some very typical patterns and behaviors that we have fallen into with our toddler without even realizing and/or thinking about it. It definitely prompted me to want to make many positive changes in the behaviors we use to encourage him to change his behavior. There are also a lot of tools of self reflection in this one, ways in which to honor our own feelings as parents and how to work through them while still being our best selves for our children. One of the main themes throughout the entire book is how to empower children, something I really appreciate and try to keep at the top of my mind at all times, can’t wait to finish the rest!

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
Dr. Laura Markham

I have probably said this before, particularly when I reviewed seeing Dr. Laura speak earlier this year that while the book is very feel good and has many great messages, I find most of it very hard to apply to toddlers in particular, especially ones that are not yet verbal. There are only 17 pages specifically for the toddler ages, 13 months – 36 months, which is obviously what I am most interested in right now. I think there is a lot of “big picture” information too, showcasing what ideal circumstances will look like when you and your child are connected, instance, etc, but it was sometimes hard for me to find information helpful for specific circumstances we find ourselves in that are hard to deal with. Some of the techniques are helpful, like offering choices, making a game out of hard times like bath, brushing teeth, etc. but I also find us a lot of time going through all of those tools and still ending up in a tense place. I think there is a lot of great information for “preventative” work with our children though, and the overall theme does really seem to be self care and connection to help avoid as many negative situations between child and caregiver as possible. I am happy to keep this book around and think I will re-read it many times during the school age years!

The Discipline Book
William Sears, M.D. & Martha Sears, R.N.

I picked up this book when looking specifically how to handle discipline with my two year old. I found that during age 1 he was still learning and exploring and there was only keeping him safe and guiding him, no discipline. As we approached his second birthday it was clear that “discipline” was needed. Discipline has a very negative connotation but I am not referring to punishment, just a way to reinforce important rules to keep him safe, provide structure, and understand age appropriate behaviors along with what I could expect him to understand, etc. Because this is what I was looking for I only read Chapter 1 “Our Approach to Discipline” and Chapter 3 “Understanding Ones, Twos and Threes.” I really liked the information as it was easily presented, easily digested and practical. I did feel that some parts were focused on setting limits and providing structure around “age appropriate behaviors” but what exactly is age appropriate wasn’t defined, as it varies from child to child? That was a hard one for me because it was what I had struggled with before I even picked up the book, what is appropriate to expect from my 18 month old? What does he actually understand? What is he actually capable of? This has gotten easier as he has transitioned into two and now into two and a half. I have a better grasp on his understanding and capabilities even though he still doesn’t talk much, and revisiting this book as well as reading ahead will definitely be helpful!

What are your favorite mama or family focused reads? Is there anything you have heard of but just haven’t picked up? I know I have been meaning to find Raising Your Spirited Child as well as The Whole-Brain Child I just need to get through the rest of the above first!



Wordless Wednesday: Winter Reads

This is a hard post to do because I am so painfully aware of copyright infringement! I want to share these books with you and images out of the pages to illustrate why we love them.  At the same time, if any of the authors and/or illustrators see these images and want them taken down, please let me know and I will do so.

Here are some of our favorite books in our Christmas book basket.  We just put them away so we can enjoy a fresh read of them again at the next holiday season.  Some are illustrated versions of songs that we like to sing, others are heartwarming stories of the Christmas tradition and the Christmas season.  And, thanks to one of our SPB families, we have a picture of a Sweet Pea enjoying his reads…mama says there is not a book he doesn’t love…that’s what we like to hear!!

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Upcoming Event: Healthy Happy Baby Expo

I am so excited to announce the Healthy Happy Baby Expo coming up next Saturday, September 21, 2013.  We sat down with organizer Kim Swayman, owner of the Healthy Baby, Happy Earth store in Glendale, AZ.  Please read our interview with her over on Sweet Pea Birth‘s today.

Although it is billed as a “Baby Expo”, there will be plenty there for parents of older children.  Along with the usual fare of Breastfeeding Q&A, babywearing, and car seat safety, some of the other sessions are:

  • Protecting Your Little Explorer – Session taught by Nancy Dastrup, owner of Arizona Childproofers
  • Helping Siblings Adjust – Taught by Youth Etc. – Valley Clinical Services
  • Nutrition – Baby’s First Year- Presented by Lisa Ingermanson RD,CLC – Easter Seals Southwest Human Development
  • Fostering a Love of Reading – Offered with Michelle Clark from Babymoon Inn – she is known for creating early literacy play spaces in over 20 libraries and for providing training on early literacy across the country

Check out the complete listing at the event website, http://www.healthyhappybabyexpo.com.  I just got a note from Kim that the Comfort Measures Class offered by my colleague is full, and we are adding a second session.  It is definitely a great idea to pre-register for these free classes, save your seat, and get the most out of your day!!

Will we see you there?  We will be there in the afternoon after we teach our Bradley™ “Next” class.  Leave me a comment and let me know if we should look for you.

Tuesday Tip: Play is Learning

As we get ready to go “back to school” in our home, we face a unique situation where we only have one child who isn’t being “schooled” with a curriculum.  However, every day is a school day when you realize that every interaction, every activity is a learning opportunity for your toddler.

Here are five ideas pulled from THIS article – these are the ones that we are trying to remember to use – we have the supplies…now to pull them out and enjoy them with Otter, and all the other kiddos, for that matter.

5. Provide puzzles, oversize wooden beads for stringing, blocks and other toys. (My note: great for spatial relationships, counting, sorting, hand-eye coordination when you string, cause & effect when you build and topple.)

6. Provide drawing and art materials to help your child develop pre-writing skills. (My note: great for developing gross- and fine-motor skills.  Also sense of touch if you use different textures of paper.)

7. Encourage pretend play such as “Let’s pretend we’re going to the store.” (My note: this is a perfect opportunity to engage older children.  Puma really enjoys playing store, so I can leave the set-up to her, and Otter and I can be her shoppers.  The two most common themes are Farmer’s Market and Pet Store – LOL.  Added bonus: Puma practices her math when she makes change!)

8. Play rhyming games to help your child notice similar sounds.  (My note: being a bi-lingual family, there are ample opportunities to do this.  So far we rhyme English to English and Spanish to Spanish.  Maybe we will expand to cross-lingual rhyming this year!  We definitely can add more rhyme time to every day…also a great opportunity to practice our sign language if we sign the rhyming words.)

9. Ask your child questions that encourage creative thought (“What do you think about …”).  (My note:  This one we have to incorporate…such a great idea can’t believe we have missed this one!!)

Read the complete 10-point list HERE

So as we strive to do more “play” and passive learning for Otter, it’s time to dig out our Discovery Toys and pull the chunky puzzles down from the shelf!  The bright colors engage her, and usually her siblings, too!  I love this line because you can replace lost parts…a gift when you can’t stand playing with incomplete sets (my little OCD challenge!).

I also take the time to cull our books every season and make sure fresh chunky books are on the lower shelves for Otter and Charger, and highlight the ones that are seasonal.  Some of our faves are from Barefoot Books – great Spanish selection and sing-along books.  We also make sure that any books that are on-subject for the older kiddos find their way to the schoolroom for that week’s focus.  I find that rotating our book collection keeps things fresh for all of us!

A staple in our school space is an easel and watercolors with cups and paintbrushes.  Every morning I refresh it with paper and make sure we have clean brushes.  The water filling I leave to the kiddos – good sensory activity and practice moving liquids!  It gets a little messy however I think the lesson is worth it.

We also started an “art station” in the kitchen the last few weeks of school last Spring.  Anyone else love doing art in the kitchen??  The sink is right there 🙂

I rotated the activity every week (stickers, stamps, crayons, markers, gluing, cutting and pasting, etc.).  It gave the kiddos a “play” activity to do while they waited for their meal, and it also allowed me to work in one (or more) art activity into the day.  We will be doing this again this school season.  Please send along any “center” ideas that we can set up in the kitchen – we will need some inspiration in a few weeks when we run through our standbys!

What do you think? Do you think you take enough time to play with your children?  I know I don’t, and that is something I am working on as I strive to add more breath to our days.