Playing with water beads to work on fine motor skills, learn colors, shapes, and letters.

Since I began preschool at home with my oldest now (age 6) I’ve learned her attention span is short and if something isn’t fun to her she isn’t going to retain the information or participate. Rather she’ll run off and quit before she gives it a chance. Eventually I’ve learned to go with it and just do my best to put as much educational value in our play time as possible.

Water beads are a great way to casually go over basic skills, work on fine motor skills and have fun through sensory play. When we play with water beads my daughters grab tools from their play kitchen such as, pots, spoons, plates, cups, and their toy blender. They also bring out their toy hammer to smash the water beads helping with fine motor skills. I throw in their alphabet beads to incorporate letters during play time. As my youngest (age 2) plays I mention the letters as she scoops them up, and point out their colors to cover as much as possible. The key to learning is repetition and as much exposure as possible.

Smashing water beads.
Putting water beads in a cup and smashing them.
Making water bead soup.
Placing beads in a blender.
Putting letters together to make words with my oldest.
My oldest sounding out short words. As I introduce the concept that letters put together can make words to my youngest.
Incorporating shapes and letter learning within water beads time.
Incorporating numbers into water bead time.
The ending mess.

It’s not often I bring water beads out and the above picture is why. The mess is horrible. My kids are messy and when they’re finished playing I try to make them clean up their messes. Although when it comes to water beads I allow them to take off as I clean up the mess myself. When they help the water beads only become smashed into the carpet further. As you can tell by the picture my carpet is a dirty mess in general, between play dough time, and whatever else ends up all over it.

My oldest is currently on summer break therefore I have been allowing the two of them to pick our activities. In which I try and add in as much educational value within them as possible while keeping it fun and relaxed that way my oldest still feels she is on a break.

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The above doodle pad and alphabet beads are not the exact ones I bought for my kids, we’ve had ours for several years and the versions shown above are the closest I could find.

Click image above for a basic summer learning schedule.
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Frog theme coloring pages for early readers.

Both my daughters (ages 2 and 6) enjoy coloring. It’s great to work on my youngest daughters fine motor skills and get to her to work on proper gripping of a marker, crayon, etc. In order to add educational value for my oldest I often make simple coloring pages with short sentences for her to work on her reading skills in a relaxed environment. When it comes to reading, sight words trip my daughter up and she often tries to sound them out therefore I bold sight words on the coloring pages as quick reminder that those words are best memorized. I keep the pictures simple because my oldest enjoys adding her own drawings into the pictures as she colors them. I recently made three frog theme coloring pages to get my oldest reading over the weekends when she tells me it isn’t learning time therefore she doesn’t have to read a book. As she colors the pages I’m able to get her to read the words allowing us to fit in reading time during the weekends when she doesn’t feel she has to read anything.

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Above images are my Amazon picks for reading, coloring, and visual aids.

Click image above for a fun frog theme learning unit.
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Updating our living room setup to foster a play based learning approach.

My soon to be First Grader is currently on Summer Break. With that comes trying to keep both my daughters (age 2 and 6) learning without it feeling like school. For the summer we’ve turned to a play based method rather than a strict curriculum.

Keeping them busy, and learning through play can be time consuming and difficult when both kids would rather sit around watching screens all day. Therefore my husband and I brought down several of their toys from our upstairs playroom/game room area.

Although our living room is rather small we were able to set up the space comfortably enough for them to play together. It has been a success, I’ve been able to limit their screen time because their focus has been on their toys. Especially with my youngest (age 2) I’ve been able to incorporate basic learning into her pretend play time. My daughters have a play kitchen and in it they have alphabet cookies, a colorful cake, number eggs, shape eggs, etc. Throughout the setup I have had plenty of opportunity to talk about colors, letters, shapes and find things to count with my youngest.

Depending on your young ones interest you can throw in basic learning within many activities. For example if your your young ones are into playing with dolls you can point out the color of their hair, and outfits to create exposure to color learning. Or if your child is into cars you can do the same naming the color of each car as they play. My youngest enjoys playing with her toy cars that we keep in her bedroom. I also ask her to count the number of cars she is playing with. Both my daughters enjoy playing with their little dolls together.

We originally stored our board games in a small closet next to the bathroom, I wanted them to be easier for my daughters to get to. Therefore I placed them within a tote in the hallway. My oldest daughter allowed me to update the area although she often becomes attached to decorations she puts up and we still have a Christmas Tree decoration she hung up during Christmas above the board game storage. At least she approved of the new setup.

On the front door is our learning calendar and near our door is our book area.

By bringing the toys downstairs it has made them more accessible and easier to pull out and play with. The convenience of their location has opened up greater chances for me to throw in learning at their pace and with toys of their choosing.

Introducing my 6 year old to fractions.
Going over math skills to with dolls to keep my oldest exposed to basic math during summer. While my youngest counts the toys.

Since my daughter attends an online school I wanted her summer to feel like a real summer break as we still fit in enough learning to avoid the summer slide. Taking an at home approach to school it can be difficult to turn it off and separate home from a school environment. When the two are the same location and place. That’s why a play based summer approach felt the most fitting that way my daughter still experiences a break from school and at the same time she could learn with an open mind rather than becoming frustrated and overwhelmed feeling as if school never ends.

As someone myself stuck between a soon to be First Grader and an eager to learn toddler I’m always trying to bridge their learning gaps while making sure I use plenty of teaching methods suitable for both their ages. That’s why I choose to incorporate toys that they enjoy playing with into my educational methods. It allows me to develop a more in tune approach towards my children while they grow and learn. In the beginning when I set out to teach my oldest preschool at home my husband and I had planned on sending her to school once she got to Kindergarten, as with everything plans change and we must adapt. Throughout my experience I have learned not to be so hard on myself and allowing my parent guilt to doubt the process. Especially when my oldest is off on a tantrum that she doesn’t want to do school and she shouldn’t have to. Once she’s calmed down and ready to learn my youngest is right there in the action grabbing everything and running off laughing. The experience often times makes me feel as if I have no control over my own house which I’ve learned over time is one of my triggers in which I panic and get upset. Although now that our family has made it through the entire Kindergarten year I’ve learned it’s ok and nothing has to be done perfectly to achieve the right results. Eventually you will get there just keep going.

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Click here for a simple summer learning schedule.
Click here if you are looking for simple play based learning strategies.
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Setting up a basic summer learning schedule.

During summer break I want to keep my children flourishing and to keep my oldest daughter from losing what she learned this year in Kindergarten. Therefore I’ve written a Monday-Friday schedule to follow for both my daughters during summer break. When I was writing up their schedule I wanted to keep it simple, flexible, and thorough enough that it would help them keep up with their learning.

Youngest daughters daily list. (age 2)
Oldest daughters daily list. (age 6)
I forgot to include writing on our list and hand wrote it in afterwards.

For completing their Monday-Friday lists, I don’t make them follow any specific order. The idea is to check off the correct category as we complete a corresponding activity. In which I allow them to choose what they want to do for each. I try to keep it relaxed all awhile following a routine that keeps me on point as far as making sure I go over the basics as much as possible with my children. We started yesterday and being on day two we’ve been able to complete our lists both days, and neither of my children had conveyed feelings of being overwhelmed which is great sign so far.

Daily Calendar Time.

During calendar time I simply go over the month, year, and day of the week. Our season pocket I don’t keep up with because my youngest is constantly switching out the pieces. Currently she has the season of Winter up, and she tugs on the plastic part in which the season slot isn’t in good shape any more. Today since they didn’t show interest in listening to me go over the days of the week I followed up with a video they both like.

Days of the Week Song

Basic math with counting bears.
I added in a simple fraction lesson.

Today I pulled out our counting bears set. They’re great because during the time we have them out I’m able to work in color learning, the concept of sorting, basic math, and fine motor skills by using the tongs to pick up the bears. If you don’t have counting bears and aren’t interested in buying a set, you can easily grab colorful candy, colorful cereal, or even beads and get the same benefits out of it. I brought out a dry erase board and markers along side the counting bears in which I wrote out basic math problems and introduced the concept of fractions to my oldest as my daughters drew upon the empty space of the board.

Pretend play time, swimming at the beach.

I allow my daughters plenty of free play time as well. In which after counting bears they took a break from learning and began to pretend they were at a beach. We grabbed out a fish blanket, a shark pillow, a beach ball, and an old pillow that my daughters pretend is a floaty. Eventually we threw the beach ball around to get in a little active play time as well.

Outside playing in dirt.
Outside playing with chalk.
Outside taking chalk to a tree.

I took my daughters outside after we were done with our pretend play time because I knew it was supposed to rain and wanted to give them a chance to get out before it did. Although my youngest lasted 20 minutes outside due to the heat. She refused to wear shorts. They both played in the dirt, and then began to play with chalk. In which they gravitated towards a tree to draw all over that. I’ve learned to just go with it otherwise I only stress myself out worrying about how they’re doing everything. I’ve learned if we’re outside they’re going to find dirt, and it’s not worth being stressed over.

Alphabet time with alphabet cookies.
Sight word learning as they stand way to close to the television.

My oldest daughter didn’t feel like practicing her sight words today and kept arguing with me that she wanted to watch videos. As a compromise I found sight word videos online in which we watched that reinforced sight word learning in a way that she approved for the day. Although the second video we watch was long and her attention span swayed away from it. She focused long enough to qualify the video as sight word practice and check that off our list for the day.

Sight word video short.
Sight word video longer.

My youngest ready to read with me.
Checkup for the doll as I continued reading.

My youngest daughter made her way to her bedroom as my oldest took a break from playing and learning in order to have screen time. In our home screen time is a huge argument I try to do right and limit it although it’s met with much hostility and arguments from both my daughters. I allow them more than I’d like to admit sometimes although we fill our day with plenty of hands on learning to counterbalance it. My youngest daughter sat in her reading chair and asked me to read to her which doesn’t happen often. She grew tired of it, and grabbed her doll to play doctor. In which I asked if she wanted me to read to her doll to calm her down during her checkup in which she agreed. Giving me a longer opportunity to read to her.

My oldest daughter reading to me.
Writing time.
More writing time.

My oldest daughter has always been a reluctant learner. It is a struggle to get her to stay on point and find interest in reading and writing. Today wasn’t different than most days. Eventually she came around and wrote two pages. The only advice I can offer to someone with a reluctant learner is stick with it, keep trying let them take breaks when needed and keep trying new strategies and eventually something will stick.

Throwing in shape learning within drawing time.

As my oldest daughter focused on writing, my youngest daughter and I drew together. I drew a person made of shapes to work in a conversation about shapes for the day. Afterwards she decided she wanted to practice her scissor skills in which I allowed her to cut up a piece of paper however she wanted.

In order to to check off dance to educational songs for 20 minutes my daughters chose to do kid workout videos on the television. They have been enjoying Would you Rather workouts.

Would you Rather
Another Would you Rather that they like.

When we finished checking off our list I allowed my daughters to watch what they wanted and have screen time. Honestly keeping two kids busy an entire day every day is exhausting and eventually I run out of ideas and let them watch television. After my youngest daughter went to bed my oldest daughter and I had our nightly 30 minutes of play time of her choosing. In which we played a round of hide and seek and then she chose to play Halloween Costumes Get up and Move Alphabet Sounds Game.

Click image above to be redirected to the Get Up and Move Alphabet Game blog post.

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Above images are my Amazon picks.

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Last day of Kindergarten.

Today was my oldest daughters last day of Kindergarten. Since it fell on a Thursday I had to work, and my husband carried out the day as he usually does. When I got home he left for work and my daughters and I kept it simple and relaxed to start off summer break. We played outside, read together, played with modeling clay, and made decorations to celebrate Kindergarten graduation.

My oldest playing in dirt.
My youngest standing in a hole they both dug.

I’m not someone who tends to gravitate toward messy activities. Playing in dirt, and getting dirty. Since having kids I’ve just accepted it as it is. I have learned to go with it and let my kids enjoy themselves and worry about the mess of it all later. Which isn’t always easy for me, although eventually it just becomes a part of a normal day. The kids running outside and finding a dirty patch to dig in.

A homemade graduation banner.
My daughters decorating the banner together.

My oldest daughter spread out a wrapping paper roll and taped it to our living room wall. In which we all decorated together as a homemade graduation banner.

My daughters taped wrapping paper around the kitchen doorframe for more decorations to celebrate. Once my youngest went to sleep for the night my oldest made more items. She made a special necklace using yarn, and paper. She punched out two holes with a hole puncher on a piece of paper in which she then hooked string through it in order to turn it into a necklace.

My youngest daughter balled up modeling clay.
My oldest daughters modeling clay from today and previous days.
Plastic storage container for art projects.

My oldest daughter has strong emotions and when she gets upset it can become tense in our home. Today she got frustrated. In which I brought out the air drying modeling clay and my daughters began to create. It helps calm her down and gives her a safe place to work out her frustration. We create a lot of art in our house which is great although the downsize is trying to find a place to put it all. In which I began to store some of it in a plastic storage container.

Congratulations to all the kids that got through this year and to all the parents, caregivers, and teachers that stuck through it with them. Through the meltdowns and the craziness of navigating new situations and trying to figure out a different way to go about it all.

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I bought the fox container that came with air dry modeling clay for my daughters. Its cute and perfect size that it doesn’t take up to much space and everything stores inside it perfectly. The above storage tower is the type I use to keep my kids artwork in and well as their toys. We have them throughout our home.

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Keeping it simple as we finish up the schoolyear.

With school coming to an end for the schoolyear, I have been keeping the last few days simple. Filling them with fun unstructured learning. Which seems to help keep my oldest daughter calm and more interested in the learning process when we keep our lessons relaxed.

We enjoyed nature, by looking around for animals.
We tried to keep our distance, eventually the bunny hopped away.
My youngest built a book fort as I read books to her.

My daughters aren’t always interested in sitting down and reading. Therefore it can be difficult to get them to sit through a book and in time I’ve learned it’s ok. I just have to work with their attention span and keep trying. Rather than getting stressed out about it I just stay at their pace. Which means we can read several books in a setting although none of them may be read to the very end. My youngest often turns the pages skipping pages on purpose and telling me she doesn’t want that page she wants the next. I’ve learned to go with it, and keep reading, the most important part of the process is continuing. It doesn’t have to be done perfectly to count. It’s really just about reading and exposing young children to as much reading as possible. If that means your reading a book as the child is making a book fort it’s ok because keeping it fun is an important tool for keeping kids interested.

My oldest daughter reading during Play-School-Time.

Most nights after my youngest goes to bed my oldest and I have a designated playtime in which she decides what we play and I go along with it. Since we have introduced this concept it has helped her mood improve slightly. She is someone that likes to be in control of many things, and it has helped to an extent allowing her time at night just the two of us in which she determines what we play. Tonight she chose to play pretend school. Which was perfect because it got her to sit down and read to me in a way that she felt in control. It kept her interest and she actually read to me without getting upset and telling me she didn’t feel like doing school because she was in control of the activity. I often have to check in with myself and remind myself it’s ok it doesn’t have to be so serious. Reading and learning in general is meant to be fun otherwise kids aren’t going to want to do it.

Play-School-Time chalk board art, and math my daughter did on our magnetic chalk wall.
Chalk art during Play-School-Time.
My oldest daughters finished chalk drawing.
Chalk art we did together.
Another chalk art piece we did together.

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The boxed sets pictured above are great for early readers. The joke books pictured above are great for kids such as my daughter that enjoy jokes and aren’t always interested in reading books. They keep her entertained and give her more jokes to share with others. Ten little lady bugs, and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie are books my youngest daughter enjoys listening to.

(I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and any qualifying purchases made through affiliate links I may earn a commission on at no additional cost to you.) The chalknetic wall adhesive is what I use for my daughters magnetic chalk board on our wall. The magnetism isn’t strong and it can’t hold up heavy magnets. Although it works for what we use it for. The chalk set pictured above is what we used during our chalk art time. The paper we used I had bought at our local dollar store.

Thanks for reading and I hope some of our ideas inspire a fun simple approach to learning that can carry on into the summer.

Click the image above for fun graph ideas with a nature inspiration.
Click the image above for fun play based reading fun.
Click the image above for a fun craft idea.
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Build a Colorful Caterpillar game for young learners.

My youngest daughter (age 2) is always pointing out animals and bugs all around her because of that interest I’ve been gathering and making supplies for a bug theme learning unit to use throughout the summer for both my daughters. For a fun color learning game I made a template to print out, laminate for durability, and cut out. The concept of the game is to build a colorful caterpillar.

Colorful Caterpillar

I added green legs with different color words on them to use as an additional matching activity for early readers. I’m always trying to incorporate reading into games to keep them appropriate for my oldest daughter (age 6) as well.

The game can be played by laying the pieces out and allowing the children to grab them and build a caterpillar. Or for a more active version to get the kids up and moving you can hide the pieces throughout the house and or classroom and have the kids build the caterpillar as they find each piece. It can be done alone, or as a great co-op activity.

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The above images are my Amazon picks.

Click image above for more bug related learning fun.
Click image above for more bug related learning fun.
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Bee theme coloring pages for early readers.

My oldest daughter tends to panic when she sees spiders and other bugs and insects crawling around. Therefore I decided it felt fitting to learn all about bugs for the summer. To help make her a little less nervous around bugs by learning what they do and how they can be helpful.

I made several early reading coloring pages with a bee theme to get my daughter reading over the weekend that would go along with our summer theme we will be starting soon. When my daughter reads she gets really tripped up with sight words and often tries to sound them out. As a simple clue I bolded all sight words on the coloring pages that way she would know that it is a sight word and it’s a word best to be remembered rather than sounded out.

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The above markers and crayons are what I use with my youngest daughter (age 2) during coloring time. She was always getting into her older sisters (age 6) markers so I decided to buy her a set better suited for her age that would promote proper grip. The bees book is perfect for early readers such as my oldest daughter. It comes with just enough information yet not to much in which it is overwhelming to read. The box sets are perfect for early readers. I bought the Kindergarten set to cover levels a-d to help my daughter get through Kindergarten. The First Grade set I bought to prepare my daughter for what she will be expected to read in First Grade.

Click image above for more sight word learning ideas.
Click image above for reading play scenes for early readers.
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Making books for Mother’s Day.

Recently holidays have felt different and looked different than in the past. This year for Mother’s Day since my daughter’s haven’t been able to visit both their grandmother’s often it felt right to make presents this year. To be more sentimental than past years. We’ve always made cards, however this year we did more than usual. For the past few days my daughter’s have been busy making arts and crafts for their grandmothers for Mother’s Day. My oldest daughter made a book for each of her grandmothers.

Book making time!

To make the book we simply took 1 piece of construction paper and placed several pieces of printer paper on top of the construction paper. Folding the pile in half. Then we we placed three staples to bind the book together.

Inside of a book.

My oldest then wrote her own little stories. In which served great as her writing practice for the day.

Stamps in stacking cups time!

My youngest daughter was preoccupied placing stamps within counting cups instead of making books of her own.

Painting time!

They both made their own paintings for their grandmothers for Mother’s Day. Painting kept my youngest daughters focus unlike book making.

Happy Mother’s Day!
To all the mother’s and caregivers out there. Hope you all had a wonderful day.

Making art with yarn and paper.

Today my youngest daughter (age 2) and I made art using yarn, glue, and paper. My oldest daughter (age 6) had brought out yarn for herself, in which my youngest quickly grabbed some for herself. In which she decided she wanted to glue the yarn onto paper.

Step 1: gather supplies
yarn, scissors, paper, and a glue stick.
Step 2: Cover the piece of
paper in glue.
Step 3: Place the yarn
and then push it down with your fist. That was my daughters
Finished yarn art.

When she picked up the project the yarn started falling off, we added more glue and I put it aside to dry completely. Shortly I will frame it within a cheap picture frame that way it’ll help hold it together. It was a fun simple activity that allowed her to play with glue, express herself, and have fun. Which is the whole point of art to relax your mind, have fun, and create. I’ve learned over time that art with kids can be chaotic and the idea I had in my head was flawed. I always thought it would be a process in which I would guide them through art and we’d sit down together and create. In reality arts and crafts time is a mess and my kids tend to make what they want and how they want. Which I’ve come to accept because there aren’t many times in which a kid or even adult for that matter can freely express themselves and do what they want in a safe environment. Art is that time for our family. If you have similar experiences and feel as if your household is chaotic and doubt your parenting/teaching style this is a simple reminder to say your not alone and don’t doubt yourself. Kids are most comfortable with their parents/caregivers therefore emotions will be higher at home learning. That is ok, and if you set out to have your children make a book for mothers day for their grandmothers and they make a yarn project instead it is ok. Art time is a time that you don’t have to take seriously, relax enjoy it and just have fun don’t worry about the mess that comes later. At least that is how I get through it. My oldest daughter however did finish her books, I’ll share her finished project in a post another day.

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I bought the above glue sticks in bulk at the beginning of the school year and to my surprise we still have some left. The scissors we used to cut the yarn came from a craft kit I bought my oldest. The kit contains a variety craft supplies that we’ve used throughout our art time this school year. I really like that it comes with a container to store everything inside.

Click image above for more arts and crafts ideas.
Click image above for more arts and crafts ideas.
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