Tot School 37.5mo Twins – Learning Basic Skills

What do we do all day?  How many times have I heard that question from parents who work.  We do a lot of the same things that kids in daycare do, we just do it at home on a more relaxed schedule during the day.  Lately we’ve been focusing on some basic skills.  I have to confess that using scissors isn’t high on my list of things to do.  Mainly because I have two kids trying to learn how to cut at the same time.  I can’t watch and correct and protect fingers at all times for both kids.  But  my boys still have to learn this skill whether I like to do it or not.  I just chant to myself “safety’s highly over rated!” and I get through it without making my boys paranoid of scissors.  It’s practice that makes cutting easier, not knowledge.  Teaching the boys how to properly hold the scissors takes patience with endless corrections and teaching how to move the paper to cut in a long straight line.  Each time we practice the boys get better at it and I’m not a wreck with scissor being thrust at each other in snapping motions.

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Connecting the dots is another basic skill that we’ve been learning.  Now that they have counting down from 1-10, we can do some fun things with counting.  I used abcjesuslovesme.com for their connect the dots shapes.  I taped down the diamond shape that only have 1-4 dots.  I gave the boys their big pencils and well, we are still working on the correct grasp.  It took a few times of explaining that they were supposed to start at 1 and trace the line down to 2 and so on.  When they got it they were really happy and they each identified the diamond shape.  Of course since they marked on their papers they had to  try out their erasing skills too.

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Next we worked on squeezing glue bottles.  This is a great workout for those fine motor skills.  We are working on the letter I this week so I printed out a bubble letter I worksheet.  Awhile back I took two bottles of Elmer’s glue.  To one bottle I added blue food coloring and to the other I added orange coloring.  Then I stirred and stirred and stirred.  It takes awhile to get it all mixed in.  I’d been waiting to find a use for those pretty glues.  I told the boys that we were going to ice our letter I just like a cookie.  So they squeezed and had a great time doing it.

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Our last basic skill was learning how to put real puzzles together.  Let me tell you, start this on a day when your patience is abounding.  It gets a bit frustrating at first.  We have a floor puzzle that’s great for beginners.  The boys were excited when I dumped all the pieces out of the box.  I showed them the difference between the straight-edged pieces and the inner pieces.  They were to help me sort them into two piles.  The showing & describing the straight edges happened many times during this first step.  Then we started to put the edges together.  Oi!  how many times did I say, does the round hole face outward and does the hole create a straight line?  Lance got bored with it rather fast but James stayed with it.  The first time around that boy didn’t tell the difference in any of the patterns.  I did have to remind myself that he might be color blind and to focus on the pattern shapes instead of the colors incase he really is color blind.  I let my frustration bubble over a few times because there is only so many ways to explain a straight line.  We got the puzzled done, James and Lance loved tearing it up.  Since that first try, James asks to do the floor puzzle every day.  So while I might have gotten frustrated, James clearly loved it.  We have done the puzzle two more times and each time he gets better.  Lance also stays around for a longer time too.  James is very careful not to lean or step on the puzzle while Lance tends to be careless and pulls the pieces near him apart.  So with lots of practice, they will get good at puzzles and some day they will be doing them with mom and dad and all of us will have a good time.

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Tot School 37.5mo Twins – Thanksgiving Wheel

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Thanksgiving is just a hop, skip and jump away.  I’ve been talking to the boys about Thanksgiving being a time to reflect on what God has given us and how our country came to be.  After weeks of talking, we made a simple, very simple wheel of thanksgiving.  Every morning we turn the wheel, read the item and include it in our morning prayer at breakfast.  So I won’t write on and on about this easy project.  It has just been a low-key and simple project that starts the boys on understanding the meaning of Thanksgiving.  Here’s what my boys told me they were thankful for: the sun, mom and dad, books, Jesus, trains and music.  I can’t wait to do this next year and see how their thankful items change.

Tot School 37mo Twins – Hungry Hungry Hippo Learning

My hand is hovering closely above the black handle.  My eyes lock with his.  My heart pounds in anticipation.  I know he’s going down.  I’ll be the winner and I’ll get to say HaHa.  I won!  It’s go time, my hand pounds furiously and the hippos are at war.  We laugh, my brother and I, because we’re not really that competitive.  Me laughing in pigtails with a corduroy jumpsuit and my brother laughing  in polyester brown pants, with the game sitting on multicolored shag carpeting.  This is just fun.

Present day. 

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The defining  noise of loud slapping plastic.  High pitched laughing.  At least this time its better clothing and cream normal carpeting.  It’s not as great as I once thought it was but I do believe my boys are feeling those same things that I did as a kid.  So I try to endure the racket knowing that they are having a ball learning.  Learning!!? you say.  Why yes, learning.  When kids are playing these classics games it doesn’t seem like learning to them but they are.  In Hungry, Hungry Hippo, my boys are learning about how to play fair.  I have to do a lot of “no cheating!” and moving hands back from holding their hippo head open while throwing the balls inside.  They are just at the beginning of understanding that there is a winner and a loser but they don’t focus on that yet.  They are practicing hand/eye coordination with gusto.  They are practicing their colors when we each announce the color of our chosen hippo for that round.  They are also learning to count.  I really love this game because when all the balls are gobbled up, the boys have to take their balls and count them.  We count them one at a time for each boy.  Our counting is spot on until we get to 13, then it gets a bit funny.  Without all the stress and humiliation of counting at the table with all eyes on them, they work on counting just to see how many they got.  Then they have to count five balls back into the holding tray before the next game begins.

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Some people may scoff at this type of learning, but I on the other hand think this is some of the best learning a preschooler can get.  It’s not forced, it’s casual and man is it fun.  This is a must have learning game in my book.  This is also a must have game for any family that wants to hear lots of laughter too.

To give a real perspective on this game, I have to say that all the above is true.  Last night however while playing the game, I stepped away for a minute.  I came back to one hippo torn off the board, but it does snap back on, though I didn’t tell my boys that last night and all the little white balls flung to the farthest reaches of the downstairs.  My husband even found a little ball this morning.  So the game has been put in time out for a few days to help them with one more thing to learn, that we don’t tear up our toys.  That, my friend, completes this story of learning.

Tot School 37mo Twins – Spider Maze

Oh I am really behind on posting.  We have been busy doing tot school but my little darlings don’t always want to take a nap so my blog goes off to the side.

The day before Halloween I decided to work on their visual and decision making skills.  I took blue painter’s tape and quickly made a spider web on the floor.  It really was quick.  It took about 10 minutes to do.  I made an x and then added two more long strips for the base.  Then I started on the outside and connected the straight lines in circles.  I stepped back and there’s my web.

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Then I lightly walked a path on the tape and made small pencil arrows to follow my pathway.  When I reached the middle I turned around with a pair of scissors and started cutting out chunks of tape to make a maze.  That took about 10 minutes too.  Then it was time to play.

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The boys haven’t done mazes on paper yet so they needed a lot of help from me at first.  What helped the most was walking the line with them, stopping them when we came to an intersection and asking them if we should go straight, left or right.  When we ran into a deadend, I’d yell deadend and we’d make beeping sounds while we backed up to the previous intersection.  It did take a long time before we reached the middle mark.  After that the boys got to do it several times without my help.  When interest started to fall, I took a sharpie marker and wrote the alphabet letters throughout the maze at intersections.  At first I wanted them to walk the alphabet in order, but since that wasn’t happening and I was getting frustrated, I took a cue from Lance.  He had run over and grabbed a letter from the fridge phonics set and placed it on the corresponding letter.  So we did that for a while.  I have to admit that while Lance was racing through the letters, James just wasn’t identifying any of the correct letters.  He wasn’t even naming them correctly when he was looking at the fridge phonics pieces.  So I did what any control freak would do, I abruptly ended the game and waited until the kids were asleep and then wailed to my husband that I thought James had a problem.  Well, he has now shown us that he knows the alphabet.  I think he decides when he wants to show us what he can do and when he wants to be ornery and fake it.  I’ll watch him as he learns, but my hunch is he’s just fine.

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We kept the maze on the floor for three days.  The boys used it to drive cars on, roll balls on and even did the maze a few more times.  It’s well worth the setup to make you own maze and see what your kids will do.  By the way, I thought it was funny that when my husband came in, he tried to walk the path in between the lines and asked me how I did it, he was confussed.  I had set it up to follow on the tape lines.  Just goes to show that different people look at things in different ways.

 

Tot School 36.5mo Twins – E is For Electrical Engineer

I don’t know who had the most fun being electrical engineers for the day.  The answer might be mommy.  We are plugging right along with exploring the letter E and being engineers has gotten the boys ohing, ahing and asking lots of questions.

We started out talking about dad’s job since he’s an electrical engineer.  I’m not sure if they understand that dad doesn’t go to work and play with balloons all day since most of our experiments used balloons today.  We had hoped to go up to his work and see the lightning chamber but it was being worked on so we’ll have to make a special trip at a later time to see that cool visual of electricity.

Our first experiment wasn’t all that exciting, but it helped to show how electricity flows.  I took one of our very small flashlights and let the boys take the battery out of it.  They love taking things apart!  I showed the boys the two different ends in the chamber and I had to remind Lance to keep his fingers out so he wouldn’t bend the coil or break it.  Then we looked at the two ends of a battery.  I had them tell me whether each end was flat or knobby.  Just throwing a bit of language in there too.  I put the battery in the wrong way.  Of-course the battery didn’t work.  I took the battery out and put it in the right way and it worked.  I told them that anytime a battery was used the battery had to be put in a certain way so the electricity could flow.

Next I pulled out the vacuum cleaner.  I had the boys try to turn on the machine with the switch.  Lance said “Why doesn’t it work mommy?”  I love it when kids ask the perfect question for what you’d like to teach them.  I told them that the outlet in the wall had electricity.  So we plugged the vacuum in, flipped the switch and watched it come to life.  I took this opportunity to let the boys clean my living room floor, just learning reinforcement mind you.  I pulled the plug a few times while the boys vacuumed just to make the point of some machines running on electricity.

Now we moved into the fun experiments.  I blew up a red balloon, any color works and almost everyone has a balloon somewhere in the house.  I told the boys we were going to create our own electricity.  I told Lance that I was going to rub the balloon on his head and it would create static electricity.  At first he said he was too scared to let me do it, but eventually he decided I could.  We laughed as each one of us got our hair to stand up.  The boys wanted to get mom’s long hair to stand up but it weighed too much for our tiny bit of static electricity.

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Next I poured out a few pieces of chex cereal.  I had a hard time getting the boys to pay attention and not eat the cereal.  Anyone else have kids that just go bonkers over food?  So I rubbed the balloon over James’ head really well and put the balloon down close to the cereal.  Just like magic the pieces stood up on end reaching up towards the balloon.  I’d never done that before.

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None of that impressed my electrical engineer husband until our last experiment.  We bent water and he had never done that with a balloon.  Kind of makes me laugh, you can always learn something new.  I took the boys into the bathroom.  I turned on the water to a low, steady stream.  I rubbed my head really well then put the balloon down close to the water.  What do know, the water actually bends and arcs towards the shape of the balloon.  Now that’s cool science.

DSC_1389I didn’t explain all the details of the science because they’re too young for all that.  I did tell them though that it was science at work and not magic that did all those things.  I had fun.  The boys had fun and I think their love for learning increased.

Tot School 36.5mo Twins – E is for Chemical Engineer

We are continuing on this week with the letter E.  Specifically we are exploring engineers.  All types of engineers.  Today we focused on chemical engineers.  Mind you, this is preschool science so no atom splitting going on today but my boys enjoyed the experiments we did.  I’m not expecting a lot of comprehension either.  Rather just instilling a love of learning science, guessing and hearing new words all while having some fun.

I started this morning with handing the boys a pan and letting them fill it up with water and set an egg into it.  I set it on the stove to boil for a hard-boiled egg.  When it was done, we put the egg into a glass bowl.  I poured some vinegar into a measuring cup and let them take turns pouring it over the egg.  I told the boys to watch carefully.  Lots of bubbles started rising off the egg and eventually  the bubbles stopped rising and just settled all over the egg.  I asked the boys to guess at what the vinegar would do to the egg-shell since it was an acid.  At first they both said they didn’t know so I gave them some options to choose from: the egg will harden, the egg will soften, the egg will get rubbery, the water will turn green and the egg will turn black.  James predicted that the egg will harden while Lance guessed that the egg will soften.  I said that the vinegar would react with the calcium in the egg-shell and we would have to wait until Friday to see what will happen.  We put the bowl up on the counter and we will check it everyday until Friday.

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Next we made a series of eruptions.  We added something different each time and tried to guess how the eruption would change.

 

 We started with a drinking glass set inside a shallow pan.  The boys spooned in baking soda and a few color drops in the bottom of a drinking glass.   I gave each of them a measuring cup of  vinegar to pour into the glass.   The first eruption happened fast and overflowed a lot because it was watery and light.

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 Then we prepped another drinking glass in the same way as before except we adding a squirt of dish washing liquid to it.  We got a really fast and big overflow that was foamy.

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  Lastly we prepped everything the same way again but added some vegetable oil to the mix.  What we got was a slower, more controlled fizz. DSC_1362DSC_1363  There were so many big bubbles that slowly rose to the top and the boys had fun poking their fingers into them and popping them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our last chemical experiment, we were going to learn about what makes leaves change color.  We collected our leaves, tore them up, poured rubbing alcohol over it, covered the jar and place it in hot water.  What should have happened was all the color coming out of the leaves making the water a dark green.  Had that happened, we would have continued on in the experiment, but sadly after 2.5hrs all we had was a pale green color.  Oh well, not everything works as planned.  The boys got to have fun and do one of their favorite things, make eruptions.  Tomorrow will be a fun filled engineering day too.

Tot School 36.5mo Twins – Beginning the Letter E

This week we are working on the letter E.  We read the books, Enemy Pie, When the Elephant Walks, An Elephant On my Roof and My Letter “E” Sound Box on Monday.  Today we worked on some letter E science.  I pulled out a carton of eggs.  We gathered around to look at them.  We talked about their color, the feel, the shape and I asked them if eggs were strong.  From past experience with breaking eggs during cooking, they both said that eggs were not strong.  I told them that they just might find that eggs are actually really strong when the weight is distributed out.  Then I set the carton of eggs on the floor.  I helped James step up on the eggs without his shoes on.  We all laughed in amazement as the eggs held him up.  Then he leaned forward and the carton dumped over and with it James smashed a few eggs with his feet.  I cleaned it up and asked Lance if he wanted to stand on the eggs.  He said no, that he was scared. 

DSC_1315  I put all but 4 eggs back in the fridge so we could make our next “E” science project.  We made an egg custard pie.  My boys are getting quite a bit better at breaking eggs into the bowl.  I only picked out a few shell bits this time.   James has learned how to mix without sloshing everywhere.  They are still working on how to correctly measure ingredients out.  Cooking is becoming a favorite thing to do around here.  Not only do we enjoy doing it, but we love to eat our finished product.

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