Tag Archives: toddlers

Parenting Forward


I recently met with a student who was having a hard time reconciling her mother’s instinct with the pressures from family and friends to parent in a more socially acceptable way.  We had a long, heartfelt talk, and here are some of the “heart-lights” we had that I want to share with you.

If nothing else, remember that you alone are responsible for your child.  You have to live with them, you alone will bear the joy and the guilt of all your decisions. Acknowledging and accepting that, know that trusting your instinct is right and worthy.

Parenting with the end goal in mind looks different than parenting decisions made for immediate behavior modification.  Yelling when it’s not an emergency, hitting, slapping, intimidation, etc., will probably get your child to stop doing what they are doing or get them to do what you want them to do against their will. Taking the time to think about why you are seeing this behavior, asking ourselves if there is a way to change their focus or solve a problem takes time…and if your child is having a full-blown public nuclear meltdown, it may activate our own issues with “being a good/bad parent” or attracting attention, or our stories about acceptance and rejection.

It can be so hard to parent what I call the “long way” when your child is acting out. It is much easier to bargain, bribe, or force the outcome that is easiest in the short term.  Going the long way means letting them cry or tantrum in public, taking the time to ask questions and listen to your child, try to figure out exactly what they need or find a solution, and then patiently see it through so that interactions are loving and peaceful. It may mean changing our plans and trying again another day.

Speaking specifically to the times when our children get loud, the goal of parent intervention is to stop the tears or the tantrum.  We have stories deeply ingrained in our culture about parents who can’t control their children, and therein lies one of the problems. It is a mindful decision to treat them as little humans with their own set of feelings and desires, instead of chattel to control or do our will.

In my mind, the first thing we can examine as a culture is this idea of needing to control children.  Why not start with changing the paradigm? Instead of “children that behave” why not shift the focus to “adults that can make decisions”? It means acknowledging that children are human beings that are going to need to learn to navigate life, with all its ups and downs.

When we start to parent with the idea that our children need to be equipped to be whole, loving, and capable humans when they leave our home, it may drastically change the reasons why we chose to do or not to do when the time comes to teach them the lessons that come with the situations that challenge them.  With that mind, it gives us permission to parent them per what we feel is best for them. Each child is ready for different milestones at different times.

Here are some of the different areas of disagreement with heart-led parenting versus socially-based parenting that came up in our discussion.

Some children are ready to sleep on their own before they are a year old, other children need the warmth and comfort of a parent or sibling into early childhood or the elementary years. Would it help you to know that in other cultures, they consider our practice of tucking children in to sleep by themselves is considered neglectful and sad for the child? Read THIS article or THIS article by Dr. James McKenna on The Natural Child Project site, and THIS one on Fatherly.com (warning: the title is a bit abrasive).

Oh the places you could go with this topic.  Here is the information on the side of extended breastfeeding if that is your choice…

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children are breastfed at least until 6 months old, and to continue breastfeeding after that point – link HERE.

Drs. Melissa Bartick and Arnold Reinhold published a STUDY in March 2010 with these findings: If 90% of new mothers in the USA were breastfed just to the six-month mark, it would save $13 billion in healthcare and other costs – read more about that HERE

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until a child is two years old…really!! Read their statement HERE

So there are three huge pros in your corner if you want to breastfeed, and continue past the 12-month “normal”.  I hope you are encouraged to follow your own rhythm when it comes to breastfeeding your Sweet Pea.

This is the age of mindful eating. We know there are inflammatory foods (list HERE), we know the benefits of probiotics (links HERE and HERE), we know that when offered healthy food,  children will eat it (read THIS fascinating study).  It is okay to trust that if you consistently put healthy choices in front of your child, they will not starve, and they will eat healthy food.

So what if you don’t eat out at fast food restaurants, or it takes you five minutes to place your child’s order at a restaurant? You alone are your child’s advocate until they know what is good for them and know how to place their own order.  And you will be so proud of seeing their healthy food choices and their awesome physical health when you see how they compare to their peers.  They will spend more time in the classroom and less time in the doctor’s office when they eat healthy, whole food.  It is worth it!!

Behavior modification:
Another loaded discussion.  I would invite you to trust your mama bear instinct here.  Also, try to address your own hang-ups about being a “good” parent and/or giving and receiving love.

This came roaring to a head for us when Otter was three years old.  She went through this phase of hitting me when she was angry…and one day when I was tired and worn down and I couldn’t believe what came out of my mouth, “When you hit me, it makes me feel like you don’t love me.”  That came from a deep and old place, a story that I had from my past. It validated why I do not want to hit our children, and made me even more dedicated to the theory of “gentle parenting”.

Here are some of my favorite parenting resources for you to explore:

Laura Markham – aha! parenting – gentle parenting resource

Janet Lansbury – gentle parenting resource

L.R. Knost – Little Hearts – gentle parenting resource

Positive Discipline – great ideas to help set boundaries and keep them without intimidation

Five Love Languages – discover what moves your family members, and then love them the way that speaks to their heart


What are your thoughts?  What are other areas you feel heart-led about and you find hard to talk about or outright disagreements with your family or friends?


Preschool Playdate: Kindness

Play date: October 6, 2016
Theme: Kindness (in honor of World Smile Day on October 7, 2016)

— 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: what are actions that show kindness?
— Storytime: Knuffle Bunny
— Unsquiggle activity: Kindness Spider Web
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers: The More We Get Together
— Centers | Free play
— Closing

Kindness Spider Web Game from BrightHubEducation.com:

“Have your group sit in a circle on the floor. Take a large ball of yarn and give the end of the yarn to the first child. Have this child roll the ball to another child and say one nice thing to that child. Then, this child rolls the ball of yarn to the next child and gives praise.

Now, make sure all children hold onto the yarn when it comes to them. After the game is finished, show the children how they are entwined in a spider web of yarn – everyone is connected to one another and has shown kindness.”

Mo Willems is one of our favorite authors. This series is set in Brooklyn, NY, one of the Burroughs in one of our favorite cities.
This is the story of a preschool-age Trixie learning and her favorite bunny toy. It lends itself well to the theme of kindness and what kind actions are, as opposed to unkind. Both are evident through the course of the story.



“K” sound box – the “K” sounds in our box were kangaroo, key, killer whale, kitty, and koala. The other items were thrown is as decoys so the children could say yes or no to the beginning sounds and decide whether or not they went in the sound box.
I really debated using the “killer” whale since our theme was “kindness” last week. Thankfully the kiddos (and parents!) gave me a pass and none of them voiced an objection.


This was an activity for the older children from Enchanted Learning. The older siblings of the preschoolers enjoyed this reading/match activity, and the preschoolers just like writing with the dry-erase markers even if they can’t read.


There were lots of different ways to play at this center last week…
Level 1: Identify the numbers and put them in order using the cards, foam numbers or magnet numbers.
Level 2: Match the cards ~ numbered cards to picture cards or cards to number manipulatives
Level 3: Memory game ~ turn the cards over and have the children find the matching cards.

These are cards that I printed with pictures from the Internet. I specifically chose images that represented children of different ages and skin tones. I feel as if normalizing variety in shape, size and color is part of teaching kindness.



This was another activity that leant itself to the idea, “we are all the same and we are all different”. Some of the children put their thumbprints on our card, so they could see everyone has finger prints. Then we could point out how although each print is different, every human can benefit from kindness.



ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
We took paper chain dolls to the next level with markers and stickers. Although each doll was the same shape, the children had the opportunity to personalize each cut-out. The lesson here was, “we are all the same and we are all different”.



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.

Come back next week to see the “Teddy Bear” Playdate we are having today in honor of Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day.  We are modifying it to “Take Your Teddy Bear to Playdate Day”.

See you next Thursday!  Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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 🙂

Preschool Playdate: Hat Day

We are back with “sneak peaks” into our daily activities!  One of our favorite days of the week is Thursday, when we host Preschool Playdates for our alumni families.

Our first playdate for the 2016-2017 school year fell on the celebration of “Hat Day” on September 15th. We had lots of fun exploring around hats and the letter “H”.

Harry’s Hats, by Ann Tompert, illustrations Marcelo Elizalde
I picked this book because of it’s obvious tie-in to our theme. I also like it because it helps teach the days of the week.  We follow the main character, Harry, through a week where he wears different hats and enjoys different activities.


This week we kept it simple.  I put out mini-whiteboards and dry erase markers so that the Sweet Peas could explore writing.

We also had this “H” sound box for the children to play with different toys that either showed the letter H or started with the letter H.  The items included: handbag, hair bows, headband, and horses. Other great “h” words: house, hippo, hydrant – we didn’t have small toys to represent those!


We used hats for imaginative play, counting, and sorting


Craft hat and magnet play!

We upcycled some oversize coloring pages the kiddos had outgrown, then we folded the colored papers into hats! They enjoyed wearing the points in front and on the side.
You can also use the letters to teach sounds and upper case and lower case, as well as reinforcing the theme.


paperhatInstructions from http://www.hittyprintmini.julieoldcrow.com/camp/camp2005.htm

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.

Next week: Fall Fun!!

Air Travel: Toddlers

Travel Series: The ABC’s of Flying with Toddlers

Welcome to the second installment of our summer travel series…flying with your toddler! For the purpose of this series, we are going to consider children between one to three years old as “toddlers”. (Click HERE If you are looking for baby flight tips!)

The key to understanding this age: squiggle. Children this age are newly mobile, and they want to move!! They are exploring their new freedom, figuring out boundaries, and sometimes even testing them as they reach the mid-twos and into the threes.

What to do with all this energy? My best advice is to work with it instead of against it.

A.) Talk to your children about what to expect.

I am a big believer in having one-sided conversations with your children at this age. I know they are probably not answering in complete sentences…it doesn’t mean that the information isn’t being soaked in. Take the time to explain and describe the experience.

Some things to highlight and fill in the details about might be…

We are going to pack – we are going to drive and park the car – we will go through security – we will wait to get on the plane – we will have to sit in our seats with our seat belts on – we will have fun – we will get to see the clouds – it’s going to be an adventure – it’s going to be cramped and feel like a long hug – we will get snacks – when we get off the plane we will see (people? place?) – we will have fun!

Yes, fun is in there more than once because THOUGHTS ARE THINGS! Start planting the seed in your child’s mind that this is going to be FUN and maybe, just maybe, (okay probably!) you will have a fun time if you allow yourself to experience a trip from your child’s point of view. Everything is new – big – amazing – and because you are there, they know they are safe.

Show them pictures of airports and airplanes. If you are going to take their car seat on the plane, tell them they are going to have it on the plane and that it may feel like a very long car ride. You can explain the experience of takeoff and landing – the opportunity to introduce concepts and vocabulary is endless when it comes to travel.

If you still have to carry travel documents (usually a yes for children under two) such as a birth certificate or vaccine record – check with your airline for requirements – then show them those, and show them where they are in your bag.

Once our children were mobile, I would also make them a name tag (2″x3″) to attach to their clothing.  On one side, I would put their picture, name and birthdate.  On the other side, I would write our names, phone numbers, list any allergies and their blood type, and the phrase, “I AM A U.S.A. CITIZEN”.  I would laminate this, and then attach it to their clothing with a safety pin.  You may want to do some trial runs with this before travel day so that they are used to it, and you can figure out where best to put it so that it stays on without bothering them.  The best spot for our kiddos was at their waist right around the area where a waistband was out of the way of a seatbelt.

I would also fill out a couple of index cards with the same info and tape it to their car seats and the underside of their strollers.  I am a big “just in case” person – thankfully, we never had to use them.  My intention was that our children could be identified, cared for, and quickly reunited if we were separated or god-forbid, incapacitated for whatever reason.  Once I placed them, I would show them where they were and tell them that this information would help reunite us if we were separated.

B) Packing List for the flight

Diapers – Plan on taking two sizes for the flights…one that fits and one size bigger to catch blowouts – put the child in both of them for the duration of the flight. This would also work if there is going to be extended car trips at your destination.

Books – we love the Indestructibles series: they are lightweight, bendable, and there are no words! You can introduce vocabulary or make up a new story every time!! Even if you can’t find these, something your child can hold aside from your phone is great! At this stage, “reading” also includes eating the books sometimes. Pick two or three favorites if you are packing board books – and maybe read them in different voices, or change up the story a little bit every time and see if they notice!

Toys – some favorites that you know they like, some new ones wrapped up as gifts. We would buy a little set and wrap up each piece individually to be opened up every time the alarm rang on a watch or phone.

Snacks – I seriously believe that you cannot pack enough of these. We had a small soft-sided travel cooler that would carry a small ice pack and lots of cheese sticks. I also like the “handful” snacks from Trader Joe’s (lots of protein!), and also fruit leathers or cereal snacks. The cereal snacks serve a double purpose… first, you can make shapes or letters with them on top of a napkin on the tray table…and then your toddler can eat them up.

Wipes – do not leave home without them!! I put some in my purse and in the diaper bag.

Wet mat – I shared THESE last week as well – I never left home without several of these tucked into my bags…they are great for the car seat or your lap if your child is going to sit on you, and they also make great floor mats if you are going to be at the airport for a while and need a place for your child to sit aside from the dirty floor.

Extra clothes – for both child and parent!! When a spill or a blow-out happens, it is hardly ever contained to one person. As I mentioned last week, extra clothes is packed into zip lock bags – it lets you squeeze out the air for tight packing, and also provides a container to hold any icky smells/wet stuff you don’t want getting on the rest of the items you packed in your bag.

Wet bags or zip bags – I always carry an extra wet bag and a few quart-size sealable plastic bags…you just never know. They can store dirty clothes, uneaten snacks, serve as containers for errant toys or crayons…they have always come in handy.

Coloring or writing implements – a spiral notebook and triangle crayons or pencils that don’t roll are my favorites!!

C) Flight Tips

  1. As in last week’s tip list, do your best to plan flights around their sleep times. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, get through security, and then have time to feed them and play with them in the gate area before you board the plane. Walk up and down the concourse, or have races, or go window shopping if your airport has shops along the way…anything to get them primed for a nap on the plane. Once you board and get them settled, you can all sleep through the flight.
  1. Take advantage of any early boarding policies for families with small children. At this age, some kiddos will still use their carrier, others may be too big or too squiggly and your best bet to move through the airport is a stroller…either way, it adds up to a lot of gear!! Early boarding gives you extra time to lug on any of the bags, car seats, assorted gear, etc. that you don’t gate check*, and let’s you get your children situated without the huffing and puffing of the line of people behind you. Wait until they are pleasantly surprised when your child travels well…they will change their tune!
  1. Have a strategy for take-off and landing – at least two to three ideas to help them deal with the air pressure changing in their ears. If you are still nursing and you have a lapsit child, you can breastfeed them during take-off and landing. If your child is in their car seat and/or not breastfeeding anymore, then you can offer them a drink or show them how to yawn big and wide…make it into the “Yawning Game”…who can yawn the biggest?!? Or if your child is a little older, you may even consider chewing gum for them. Whatever it is, have a plan in place to help them move air down through their throat to help counteract the effects of changing air pressure.
  1. Definitely take advantage of empty aisles between service times if, despite your best laid plans, your sweet pea did not fall asleep for the duration of the flight. As long as the seat belt light is off, you two can go up and down the plane. I would also use a timer for this…when the alarm goes off, we will get to walk up and down the plane one time. Have them look for a color as they walk, or maybe a letter – let the walk be a little different every time.
  1. Relax – your child and the people around you feed off of your energy. If you are anxious, they will multiply it. If you are relaxed, your child feels your safety, and the people around you will feel your confidence and probably start to relax a little themselves. If I can make eye contact, I will greet them and make a little small talk. You can even invite them to help and make them your ally…

Hello, this is my Sweet Pea’s (x)th trip…we are so excited to have fun!! We have packed lots of entertainment in our magic bag…and of course, if you have any positive travel tips for toddlers, I’d love to hear them! Hopefully we will all get to sleep…and if not, we are going to have lots of fun learning and exploring along our trip to (destination)!!


That’s about all I can think of for now. Did I forget anything? I would love to hear what works for your family – please leave me your best tips in the comments!


*gate check: once you get to the gate with all your gear, you can check anything you don’t want to or can’t carry in the main cabin due to size restrictions. I would pack a couple of large garbage bags to store the gear in and attach a name tag and claim ticket to the outside of the bag.

Preschool Playdate: Camping

THEME: Camping – because our house was a mess and we needed to play outside
Play date: May 12, 2016

— 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: what do you do when you go camping? what do we take?
— Storytime

I read the Sweet Peas the Spanish version of “Clifford Takes a Trip” by Norman Bridwell.  It afforded the opportunity for lots of conversation…the tent, fire safety, and how to interact with wildlife!!



Skipped this today – we ended up with two math stations! And I also wanted to leave lots of space for imaginative play.


We brought back the clothesline numbers…because usually there are no washing machines when camping!! The kiddos had fun with the clothespins – and being outside, the “shirts” were flapping in the breeze. We could talk about how the wind helps clothes to dry when we hang it out to dry.

Charger created our second station – he made a game out of numbered tents…and remembered that we went up to six…and he made matching number cards – you can see it in the picture of the camp-out play stations below.



This week we incorporated sensory play and imaginative play.  We used water beads and plastic fish for one station, and then set up three different “camp-out” stations around the front yard for the children to explore.

image1 (5) IMG_6613 IMG_6616


ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
This was a craft inspired by our 18-inch dolls. The arts & crafts books created by Mattel for these dolls encourage children to get creative and make their own accessories. In that spirit, I thought of a cute camping craft that would be easy, and without incorporating the real sugar in marshmallows!! So we made these “marshmallow” treats to play with around our “campfire” and then we sang one of my favorite songs from Girl Scouts, “Make New Friends”.


To make marshmallow sticks: colored a basic popsicle stick with brown marker, glued on a cotton ball, and then “roasted” it in our pretend campfire (reusing a prop from our Thanksgiving play!).


Craft is great for child’s play, or for 18-inch dolls!!

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.  The big winners today were the sensory water beads and the roasting marshmallows craft.

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

Preschool Playdate: A.A. Milne

Play date: January 21, 2016
Theme inspired by A.A. Milne’s birthday (January 18, 1882)

— 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: talked about the characters in the series
— Storytime: Tigger’s breakfast
— Unsquiggle activity: “take the ants out of your pants”
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

Thank goodness for all our dollar store flash cards! I had purchased these when Puma was a preschooler because she adored Winnie-the-Pooh.  They came in handy today, after a good dusting off!

Today’s craft and discovery table were inspired by the Sugar Aunts blog.  The take-home mask craft was printed from the Surburban Mom blog.

We got these little books for Puma’s first birthday party so that guests could share a little story time with their Sweet Peas.  I selected a story that recounts Tigger’s search for the perfect breakfast. I emphasized that he tasted everything until he found the food that tasted just right to him.  We also had our stuffed animal friends help us tell the story!



We had two options here – both games created out of the cards.

Activity 1: Word Match
It could be played as a memory game, or very simply as a “show and find the match” for the younger children. If they were playing the “show-match” version, I encouraged the parents to emphasize the first letter/sound as their child searched for the matching card.

The second activity was for word correlation.  It was a self checking game – if they matched the words correctly, they would form a picture on the reverse side that incorporated the two words that they had matched.  This is a great game to reinforce the “go-together” concept, and also to do visual recognition once the items were shown on an illustration.

We had two card games for this center as well…

Activity one: Shape or Color Match
This could be played as a “show and find” or a memory game.  We added the same shapes in orange if the Sweet Peas wanted to play memory.  Otherwise, we stuck to the primary colors to reinforce the colors as well as the shapes for the younger Sweet Peas.

Activity 2:  Number Match
The Sweet Peas matched the number to the card with the corresponding number of pots. To further emphasize 1-to-1 correlation, they could pin the “honey bee” clothespins to the card to match the number of pots.



Another use for the “honey bee” clothespins! There are several ways to play:
Level 1: fine motor skills only – celebrate picking up a flower with the clothespin!
Level 2: Pick up flowers of a certain color
Level 3: Name a number to pick up of a certain color.  This could be done progressively: take out 1 pink, 2 yellow, 3 blue, etc.,
Level 3a: Name a size of flower to take out…you could also request a certain amount here, too.



ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
We made a couple of adjustments to the craft as suggested by Sugar Aunts.  We have lots of younger siblings that come to play date, so wiggly eyes were definitely out, and, there was absolutely no way we were going to plug in a hot glue gun for the wings…so we put out markers for the Sweet Peas to draw faces on their “bees”, and we used tacky glue for the wax paper wings.  They ones we made as samples and for the centers all held up pretty well; here’s wishing that they survived once the Sweet Peas took them home!



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.

Join us next week when we share all the fun we had today for our Australia theme!

Preschool Playdate: Science Day

Held on April 23, 2015

The inspiration for this day was the fact that World Laboratory Day was observed on April 23, 2015.  I thought it would be fun to have the kids attend their own Science Lab and get a chance to be immersed in exploration and discovery for an hour.  I planned out this day by focusing an experiement on different aspects of science: measuring, magnets, animal kingdom, and weather.

As you will notice, most of our Sweet Peas made or contributed to the sign for their station. Puma was at the Water Cycle, Night Owl was at the magnets (I made this one before the kiddos all piped up that they wanted to make their own!), Charger did the Wind Power, and Otter contributed to the Mass sign.  It was cool to see how her lines were denser in some areas than others….she got the concept in her own toddler way!! Even our nanny got involved and ran an activity since I got carried away with the planning…once I got started, I was on a roll!

— 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
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers


I found THIS slide show online that I printed to share with the children.  Big pictures, simple explanations, and lots of vocabulary!! Perfect for preschool!!


Here we explored the concept of feathers, fur, and scales.  It is an activity out of the Mailbox Superbook. The Sweet Peas identified the animal, and then sorted them into the correct category according to the type of skin covering the animal has.  We added a sensory component by having examples of the different kinds of skin coverings for the children to investigate and discuss.



This center explored the mass of different items.  They measured different quantities into the scale basket, noticed whether or not the same amount of different items weighed the same,We also had them make a prediction about how much the half-full bean container and the full container of feathers would weigh, and which was greater.  This led to a conversation about how much air vs. mass were in the different things we weighed.




TABLE 1: Magnets
Sweet Peas got to play with magnetic fishing poles to see what was and wasn’t magnetic.  Once they items were worted into two piles, we talked about the qualities of both sets.


TABLE 2: The Water Cycle
This simple experiment using water and cotton balls allowed the Sweet Peas to physically experience how water droplets collect together to form clouds until they are too full to hold any more condensation, and then see how precipitation happens when the cloud is beyond capacity.  We introduced the words “evaporation”, “condensation”, and “precipitation”.  It was neat to see everyone at this station have lightbulb moments.IMG_5520

TABLE 3: Wind Power
The Sweet Peas got to experiement with the power of air at this station.  First they blew through the straws onto their palms to feel what they could do with their own lungs.  Then they got to experiment with blowing “wind” across our little “pond” to see how the boats moved.  They could blow along the bottom, the top, turn the sails and blow into the sails…another favorite since water and straws were involved.IMG_5519


ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
First the Sweet Peas colored a coffee filter with water-soluble markers.  Then we attached the filter accordian style to a prepared-ahead popsicle stick on which Puma had a hot-glued a pipe cleaner.  We twisted it at the top and formed antennae.  Once the “butterfly” was assembled, we used water that we trapped in the straws with our fingers to stain the wings.  The Sweet Peas got to experiement with how much water they could trap, how fast the flow was, and see how the colors blended and make predictions about the new colors that might result from the color blending.  Once the “wings” dried out, they had a take-home butterfly puppet.



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.  There were lots of different favorites on this day…even some of the moms mentioned stations where they learned something new – that was pretty cool!

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 right away will stay and play until the music teacher for our older Sweet Peas arrives.

I hpe you enjoyed our tour through Science Experiement day!! My intention was to show our friends that science doesn’t have to be this daunting thing – every day things around the house can easily turn into an opportunity for discovery, and to awaken curiosity and exploration.

All My Reasons

I wrote about how extended breastfeeding looks in our family last week (HERE).  As I wrote today’s post for SPB, it occured to me that I have so many reasons why this choice has worked for us that I have never written down.  I will share five that I can think of right now.

Why do I breastfeed children long after they can ask for milk??

P.S. that is a common reason why people say they are disgusted by extended breastfeeding, “Once they can ask for it, it’s over.”  FACT CHECK: Did you stop giving your child other liquids or solids once they started speaking??? A: NO! Nobody in their right mind leaves a small child alone in the kitchen to fend for themselves simply because they can make requests. Just because your child can ask for milk does not singly disqualify them from being breastfed ever again.

It keeps us connected.
Toddlers are a force of nature to be reckoned with.  Constantly moving, constantly building new skills, and testing the limits of what they can do (or break!).  These little balls of energy can be a challenge to keep up with as they learn about the world around them and their place in it.  Breastfeeding has provided the opportunity to look them in the eye and share a moment of stillness in an otherwise crazy day.

It provides more good stuff as they age.
The older the child, the more antibodies and DHA are found in the milk.  So, as your child grows in exploration, the mother’s body naturally increases protection against all the things the child is touching and putting in their mouth.  In addition, the DHA brain-building component increases as your child’s age increases.  It continues to increase throughout the breastfeeding relationship to keep up with brain growth, which has a one-year growth spurt.  If biological breastfeeding is followed through until a child loses their milk teeth (aka baby teeth), they will receive the benefits of DHA through all the years of brain growth, which plateau between 5-7 years of age.  (True statements!! I will add some references to this section tonight when I don’t have our homeschool day looming ahead of us!)

It protects me.
The longer a woman breastfeeds, the less likely she is to develop breast cancer.  This one is huge for me since two of my aunts are breast cancer survivors.

Find the study HERE

About the study from an American Cancer Society article examining the claim that breastfeeding lowers cancer risk.  Overall, the article says that more research is needed, but I liked their concise summary of the study.:
“For every 12 months of breastfeeding (either with only 1 child, or as the total period of time for several children), the risk of breast cancer decreased by 4.3%, compared to women who did not breastfeed. Risk decreased by 3.4% for each child breastfed, compared to women who did not breastfeed.  This lower risk did not differ by women’s age, race, numbers of births, age at birth of first child, family history, or country of residence.”

Even though the American Cancer Society says that more study is needed, the fact that several studies have shown some decrease in risk is enough for me to err on the side of caution and keep breastfeeding as long as the Sweet Peas are willing to keep on nursing.

It makes me sit still.
Between homeschooling, projects, and a list to work through every day, I am my own tornado moving through the house.  Breastfeeding makes me sit down, breathe, and take a deep breath.  It forces me to respond to my Sweet Pea instead of doing “one more thing”.  Once the days of babywearing are over*, sit-breaks to breastfeed provide think-time in an otherwise busy day.  I usually practice a little meditation to settle down and be present with my Sweet Pea.

It helps me forgive them.
The constant testing, NO responses, testing.  It can be so frustrating when all you want to do is get from Point A to Point B in a straight line, and they insist on taking every detour and side-trip along the way.  The biological hormone loop that happens with breastfeeding not only makes more milk, it makes us fall in love with them a little bit more every time we put them to the breast.

There are days when this response has been the only thing to keep me sane.  I am eternally grateful that we have had this biological mechanism in play during Otter’s Reign of Toddler.  No matter how crazy the day has been, they end with me cradling her in my arms as she nurses to sleep and turns back into a sleeping angel on earth.  And me squeezing her a little tighter, and maybe shedding a tear or two as I thank God that we have survived another day.

It brings them back from the brink.
Speaking of testing boundaries and going over the edge, having the option to offer nursing when all else has failed to solve a problem has been a great boon.  Crying? Tantrums? Disappointment? Frustration?  Mommy can fix that with one cradle into the breast and a little warm milk can solve a myriad of toddler acting-out scenarios.  Is it forever? Absolutely not…yet while it works, it feels like a miracle.  LIttle by little, they start to say, “No!” and honoring that helps us to help them learn more coping mechanisms when they are ready to learn them.

So there are five of my “whys” – hopefully this will help you with words to say to the people in your life who are questioning your choice to breastfeed beyond six months or the first birthday.  Breastfeed on your terms – you will not regret doing what your instincts are telling you are best for you and baby.

*Going back to work with Puma made me an expert in breastfeeding in a carrier.  Hence, hands-free breastfeeding *and* getting things done.  I usually wind down daily use of carriers or slings on a regular basis after the second birthday simply because our children get too heavy to wear all the time.  I know plenty of families that babywear well beyond this age; just like breastfeeding, it’s a personal choice dependent on what works for the family.


Preschool Playdate: Children’s Books

We held this playdaye on April 2, which also happened to be Children’s Books Day.  It was hard to plan for any specific theme since we invited our guests to bring theire favorite book to share.

Getting the morning off to our regular start:
— 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
— Poem/Song before we break for Centers

Here are the books our guests brought to share:

  • Opposites by Sandra Boynton
  • The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurray

We alternated sharing books with unsquiggle games.

You can read the instructions for this center in the photo below.  I wrote the child’s name on an envelope, then put their “carrot” letters inside the envelope. They had to find their name, and then sort their letters to spell their name.

We added another component to this center by having the children separate the stuffed animals into two groups: carrot eaters and non-carrot eaters.



This was a simple sorting center since I didn’t have a theme to guide me.  We used buttons and egg cartons for this activity.  The kiddos could sort by color and/or by shape on this one.  Another idea was for the parents to start a pattern and have the children finish the pattern.


Another improvisation since the there was not a particular specific book/theme.  I chose containers with different size holes so that the kiddos could experiement and see what kind of “rain” would fall on the boats.

They could talk about small and large, fast and slow, sink and float.  They could also talk about the different kinds of rain: drizzle, sprinkle, rain, storm, hurricane.


ARTS & CRAFTS ~ Make & Take
This idea and pattern came from the Toddler Calendar.  I printed the duck on white and yellow cardstock, and cut out the umbrellas from some fun Spring paper we have in our stash.  Kiddos used glue to put it all together, and then the cotton swabs to paint the rain.


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 are welcome to stay and play until the music teacher for our older Sweet Peas arrives.