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Homeschool Room Setup using Mother Goose Time Preschool Curriculum

For most, September brings on the beginning of a new school year. Being a homeschool family, we learn all year round. BUT September does bring a new circle time setup and any improvements that Mother Goose Time has implemented for the coming year. This also tends to be the perfect time to clean, rearrange, redecorate and reevaluate our homeschool space. When my box for September arrived, I was so excited to get started!! 

One of the additions to our Mother Goose Time curriculum is a daily “Invitation to Create”. This is a Reggio inspired activity that really helps blossom children’s creativity. I’m so excited they decided to include this for the new year! We have always taken a Montessori/Reggio approach to learning, so this fits so well into our learning style.

This also inspired me to clean off our shelving and use it for activities that X can enjoy all month long and include a space for our daily Inspiration. This not only makes the room much more “montessori” but also forced me to clear away a lot of the clutter. While I think our learning space should be joyous and inspirational, I also think keeping it tidy helps X focus. I’m not as good at staying on top of that as I’d like to be.

So I looked through September’s curriculum and pulled out the items I think he’ll enjoy using over and over.

Starting at the top left- you see our first days Inspiration to Create, followed by our story book of the month and matching puzzle, our phonics cube and our cd player and cds. The second shelf (starting on the left) is one of our manipulatives for this month (a really neat set of magnets), playdough with tools and our letters of the month cookie cutters, circle (shape of the month) stamp with pad and paper, and the circle montessori inset with paper. Bottom shelf is our 2nd manipulative for the month (family stamps) with pad and paper, and a few number puzzles with our featured numbers of the month (1, 10 and 11).

Next I setup our circle time wall with the fun new pieces we recieved.

I moved our weather area below our calendar and added a dry erase board for X to use the magnet set on.

Finally I hung our monthly topic poster and the fun nursery rhyme poster over by our work table. That area also contains our MGT world map.

Mother Goose Time continues to impress me with the quality and quantity of items I recieve. All of the beautiful posters and graphics come with the Getting Started kit. And don’t worry, if you’re hopping on board during a month other then September, they include the Getting Started kit with your first order. Also, if you don’t have a whole room dedicated to homeschooling, that’s not a problem. The Circle Time pieces are designed to be used with a tri-fold poster board (like you used for science fair in high school). The Getting Started Guide includes directions for setting it up on the portable board!

X and I are so excited to get started!!

I received this month’s Mother Goose Time curriculum free of charge in exchange for sharing our experience and my opinions. All content and opinions are 100% mine and truly honest.

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$4 Fine Motor Activity for Toddlers

I frequent the local Dollar Tree looking for items that I can use to create activities for X. I have pretty great luck, honestly. In fact there have been many times where I find items that I purchased somewhere else for much more then a dollar. I go in with an open mind and maybe a few items I’m particularly looking for. It takes me a while. It’s a weekend activity for when my husband is home with X and I have an hour to wonder around and try create activities with what they currently have available. I really enjoy it. It allows me to use my creativity and imagination and I always go home with at least a few activities for X.

This is one of X’s all time favorite fine motor activities.

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All you need is:

  • Sugar shaker (mine is glass with a metal top, pretty nice for the dollar store! But plastic would work just fine),
  • Small food pics (here is where you can be creative. Matchsticks with the end cut off, q-tips, straws… anything that will fit through the holes of the shaker)
  • A small container to put the pics in
  • Plastic tray

That’s it. I found all of these items at Dollar Tree. In fact the container for the pics was a 2 pack and the other now holds his crayons.

X carries the tray from the shelf to the table. Removes all the items from the tray. Opens the container filled with pics and proceeds to place each pic through the holes of the sugar shaker. For now I open the shaker and take the pics out so he can start again, but eventually that will be an added challenge to the activity. when he’s done he puts everything back on the tray and places it back on the shelf. He goes to this multiple times a day. It really is one of his favorites.

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Play Dough The Trilogy: Why We Use it Everyday, Activities to Try and My Favorite Recipe (and Why I Don’t Use the “No Cook” Method)

Play Dough! It is one of our most beloved activities around here (as you can quickly tell when looking at our carpet). We play with it pretty much everyday. Here are a few of the reasons why:

Building Attention Span and Focus: It’s the single activity that holds X’s attention the longest. I try to find activities to help him build his attention span and play dough fits the bill. “Attention span? He’s 18 months!” you may say, but we are setting the foundation for his ability to focus the rest of his life. Believe it or not a child’s (and eventually adult) ability to focus is something that is established very young. Attention span is however similar to a muscle and can be repaired and built up later in life, but if you lay a great ground work early on you may be able to avoid a lot of behavioral and learning issues in the future. Now, when I’m talking about a toddler’s attention span I by no means hours spent on a single activity. There’s just too much going on in their busy little minds! X generally spends about 20 minutes using play dough in the morning and then revisits it for shorter spans through out the day. Other activities hold his attention for 10 minutes or less with the exception of larger arts and crafts projects. 

Building Muscle, Fine Motor Skills and Hand Eye Coordination: Using play dough works the muscles in the fingers, hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. Pushing, squishing, ripping… you name it! A lot of muscle toning is going on there! Using tools and some of the activities we do take great finger, hand and wrist control and really helps develop those fine motor skills as well as hand eye coordination. I try to create a variety of activities where X uses tools, but play dough is the easiest way to do that.

Inspiring Creativity and Imagination: Whether he’s creating patterns, burying and excavating farm animals or making sculptures those creative wheels are turning! It’s often hard to find creativity and imagination building activities for young toddlers. Their language skills and understanding of the world are somewhat limited so they’re not making up stories or playing house. Play dough is a great opportunity for them to express themselves and ideas.

Building Language: We talk about colors, shapes, textures and motions. “Squish the ball!” Mommy made a triangle” “This tool is blue” There are many opportunities with play dough to introduce words and explain concepts.

It’s Fun! Who doesn’t love play dough?

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Here are some simple activities that I incorporate into our play dough time:

  • Building shapes. I build different shapes (Cones, cubes, Spheres) and we talk about what they are
  • Building faces. I often make an oval and construct eyes, nose and mouth. X puts theme where they belong. He often helps me create and apply the hair. He loves naming and pointing to body parts, so this is a favorite of his.
  • Fine motor sorting. I flatten out a piece of dough and create small indentations with my pinky. Then I roll a bunch of small balls that will fit in the indentations. X places the balls in the holes. sometimes I do them in shapes or we count as he places them in the holes.
  • Big and small. This is a great way to introduce the concept of big and small.
  • Sculptures. X loves taking a mound of dough and making sculptures by sticking the tools in at different angles.
  • Textures. We use our tools to create different textures and patterns. I demonstrate how to make a texture and X copies. He’s also now starting to make his own textures and patterns.
  • Dough slicing. I flatten out long strips of dough and X uses our pizza cutter style tools to slice it. He has to focus at pushing the blade the full length of the dough. This also builds wrist strength and hand eye coordination.

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We use a variety of different tools. I bought a set of clay tools on Amazon, but most of the tools we use are things we’ve re-purposed. Sand toys, poker chips, sea shells, clothespin, farm animals (one of X’s favorites), old bubble wands, a guide to our set of hair clippers (the guide cuts much longer then we use and it makes some great textures and patterns!), straws, food pics, small wooden dowels, macaroni… The possibilities are endless. I’d also like to talk a little bit about our set up. The tools are kept on a tray on X’s art table. I used to keep them on his shelves but our shelves are super full right now and he often has trouble carrying a tray with so many items on it without spilling them. The dough I keep in plastic food container that is easy for X to open. The dough IS kept on his shelves. So when he wants to use his play dough, he carries the container to his art table, opens it, removes the dough and sets the container aside. Clean up consists of returning the dough to its container and the shelf and putting the tools back on the try. Generally I try to only give X two or three components or options so he doesn’t feel overwhelmed. But I’m really trying to foster his creative spirit, so I give him multiple tools unless I’m doing a theme (as seen above with the “sand dough” and shells). He always seems to know what he wants to do (which changes daily) and does not seemed overwhelmed by the plethora of tools. Here is what is currently in our tray:

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I have tried a variety of different recipes, but this is my go to. Sometimes I will try out others if I’m going for a different texture or theme, but this is the recipe I use most often. It lasts weeks, even when left out (Daddy tends to forget to help X put away the dough). Usually I get bored of whatever color we’re using before I actually need to make a new batch for any reason. This is a cooked play dough recipe. There are a lot of “no cook” recipes out there, but in the many I’ve tried I find them to be more time consuming and messy then my simple cooked version. The no cook recipes use boiling water (so you have to wait for the water to boil) then you mix the ingredients and have to wait for the dough to cool enough to be handled. Then you take the sticky mass and knead it until combined and smooth. It covers your hands and counters in sticky dough and takes just as many dishes as a cooked version. I just don’t understand the appeal. My cooked version takes 2 or 3 minutes tops with no mess. So without further ado:

Standard Homemade Play Dough:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 teaspoons Cream of Tarter
  • 1/3 cup Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • a few drops Food Coloring

Equipment:

  • Non-stick Pot
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Technique :

  • Combine all ingredients in the non-stick pot.
  • Cook and stir over medium heat (my stove top runs hot, so it may work quicker at med-high for some of you).
  • The dough will get slightly darker and have a rubbery (or finished play dough) look to it once it’s cooked enough. It really doesn’t take long at all.
  • Let cool.
  • Knead a few times to make sure it is well combined.
  • PLAY!
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Toddler Sorting Activity for Early Math Skills

I think X is going through a “sensitive period” for order. Montessori speaks about children being more receptive to building different skills at certain times. She referred to these times as “sensitive periods”. If we as parents, teachers or care givers can observe when these periods are happening, we can provide tools and activities to maximize them. Forcing the Bloom made a great post here about observing our children. I have yet to take notes on my observations of X, but it’s a GREAT idea! I do however reflect on what I’ve noticed about his habits and play to better provide him with projects and Montessori inspired work.

This activity is one of those. X helps put away his toys and activities; if normal things in his environment are out of place he fixes them. I ask him to assist me in picking up, carrying in groceries and cleaning the house. He very obviously enjoys the meaningful work. Sorting items is not only supporting a need for order and fine motor development, but it is also early math work. Not only is it great for building skills, but it’s easy to set up and very inexpensive.

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I purchased this egg tray for a dollar. I pulled these wood pieces from a set of building blocks we have and VIOLA! 

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I encourage X to place the blocks in order as opposed to randomly. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. To further the math experience and add a language component, we count as we place each block in it’s spot. This could also be used as a great matching set up when he gets older. Colored dots, shapes or numbers could easily be applied to take this activity to the next level.

Stay tuned, I will be making a post later this week about the practical life activities we’ve been incorporating into our days!

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Using Tongs: Fine Motor and Transferring Skills

I am continuously amazed at X’s fine motor capabilities. I try to come up with new activities to challenge him and he masters them quickly. That being said, he loves them. Even a mastered skill will hold his attention for quite a while. So  I keep making them, and he keeps loving them. This one was a little different for him. This not only involved hand control, but arm and wrist control. Montessori presents a variety of transferring activities, and this is modeled after those. In typical Montessori fashion I present this activity on a tray. Aside from the the actual challenge of the activity, this created a new challenge for X. He’s learning to carry a tray with multiple items on it, breakable items at that! He’s very careful when moving this tray on and off of the the shelf. When he returns it to the shelf if the bowls have tipped over or aren’t correctly placed he fixes them. I love the new sense of order he’s developing. 

2271  To put together this activity I grabbed two small rice bowls (I used Asian rice bowls because they’re a nice size and colorful), five bouncy balls, child sized tongs and a wooden tray. The goal is to transfer the bouncy balls from the left bowl the the right bowl with the tongs. Activities moving from left to right helps establish skills for reading in the future. I started off by placing one bouncy ball in the bowl at a time. This was a little easier to pick up. Once he became more comfortable with the activity I put all of the balls in at once, creating a little bit more of a challenge. Using bouncy balls also creates a challenge in and of itself. If they drop the ball into the bowl, it will bounce out. If your little one doesn’t need the extra challenge you could use pom poms. Changing the style of tongs can also be an added challenge. X has two different kinds of tongs so far that we use. I’m always keeping an eye out for different tongs to try with this activity.

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X loves this activity. It has been on his shelves for quite a while and he still uses it daily. 2270

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Fruit Matching

Today we’re going to try a matching activity. X is beginning to recognize similarities in items. He’s been working on (and improving at) his shape sorting and shapes puzzles. So today I thought we might try a little matching. I’m using some small fruit cards that I bought on at JoAnn’s. I originally purchased these (and a set of vegetable cards as well) to hang near X’s snack table. They give him something to look at while he’s eating and have proven to be a great language tool as well. He points to each and wants us to say the name of the fruit or vegetable. He also immediately identified the ones he was already familiar with (carrots, apples and bananas). I hung one of each on the wall by his table, but the sets came with 4 of each. I packed them away, knowing someday I would come up with another use for them.

Today is that day! We’re going to start with just 2 items. I chose two fruits that X is most familiar with (apple and banana). Hopefully his prior familiarity and knowledge of the cards will help him understand the matching. As with most of our activities I will be presenting it on a tray, Montessori style. Also sticking with Montessori concepts I will be demonstrating the process of matching for him and then letting him take a try. Hopefully where he is already familiar with the cards, he will be able to focus on the activity as opposed to exploring the material. Once he’s mastered matching two types of cards I’ll add in additional cards to increase the difficulty.

I’ll be posting back with how it went and some pictures 🙂

So! We tried it out. X immediately ran and tried to stick them to the wall next to his snack table… That’s matching, right?!? Lol he didn’t quiet understand the matching part. But we got some nice language review in. I’ll leave them on his shelf in case he shows interest. New concepts can often take multiple introductions to understand. That’s what learning is about!
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Also lately we’ve been having a blast with our water table that we brought inside to house our sensory play. We live in the South, so it’s far too hot most days to use our water table outside. Please stay tuned for a fun post about indoor water table activities!

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Sensory Bins for an (almost) 10 month old

Lately I’ve been providing X with sensory bins to play with. This is something I’ve been looking forward to doing for a while. The challenge is he still is putting things in his mouth, especially new things. So I’ve stuck to edible sensory play. So far we’ve explored oats and dry macaroni.

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Primarily he enjoys picking it up and putting it on the floor, feeling it with his hands and mouth. He hasn’t really interacted with the tools I’ve provided with the sensory Medium. Honestly I think he won’t start using the tools until the medium becomes familiar. At this point it’s new and exciting all on its own! Here is another situation where I need rein in my enthusiasm and provide the same medium multiple times. Babies learn from repetition, so I’m sure there is much more to be learned from macaroni and oats in the future!

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For Thanksgiving I made a veggie platter and purchased a disposable tray for transport. The clear lid has proven to be a great container for sensory play. I love that it’s clear and the sides are low, so it’s easy for X to access the medium. A conveniently perfect and unexpected find!