Learning through play: Restaurant theme.

My daughters are currently ages 2 and 6. My oldest is currently on her summer break before starting First Grade. Since we homeschool in or household it is hard to separate school from home life. I’ve been trying to keep both my kids learning and avoiding my oldest from the dreaded summer slide. Although since we do homeschool I wanted my daughter to still feel as if she had a summer break all while learning. Therefore we’ve adapted a play based approach.

My oldest often doesn’t feel like writing and reading. When I state it is time for writing and or to sit down and read a book she often gets frustrated and tells me it isn’t school time. Rather than skipping anything educational at all I’ve been asking her what she wants to play and then incorporating reading and writing within the activity her and her sister chooses. My daughters enjoy playing restaurant. We made our own menus and restaurant signs which gave my oldest an opportunity to practice her writing and to express her creative side at the same time. You could also write down customer orders as you play for more writing practice.

Besides writing and reading it is a great opportunity to talk about the concept of money and learn simple counting and math skills when the restaurant owner collects the money from the customer. Depending on the variety of play food you have on hand you can also incorporate color learning for younger children such as my two year old. I often ask her what color is the broccoli, banana, etc.

My oldest daughters menu.
My oldest daughters restaurant sign.
Open sign. I tried to get in as much reading as possible. As I asked my daughter to read each sign I made to me.
My restaurant sign.
I didn’t get all fancy with it. I just simply wrote my menu down on line paper by hand. I left out pictures because I wanted her to focus on reading and not rely on pictures for clues.
I added more menu items to the back upon her request because she wasn’t satisfied with the few options I had given her.
My oldest daughters fries made out of construction paper she made herself.
When finished with our menus and signs my daughter hung them on the dollhouse side of our play kitchen.
My youngest daughter was our first customer.

It is important to remember that learning doesn’t have to be perfectly structured and the best way to learn is through fun. Just enjoy the process. The whole point is for it to be fun and enjoyable that way the child is more willing to learn and their interest is better held. If your child doesn’t enjoy playing restaurant that is ok go with an activity that they do enjoy instead. The possibilities are endless.

(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.)
Above items are my Amazon picks.

Learning various skills through pretend play: Doctor Theme

Keeping my oldest daughter (age 6) engaged and interested in the learning process can be difficult at times. I often try to incorporate a play based approach to learning which helps tame her meltdowns and allows for a better learning environment. Since I also have a 2 year old tackling learning using a play based approach also helps bridge their different learning levels. It allows me to keep them both engaged and learning at their correct level at the same time.

Both my daughters enjoy playing doctor. Which gives an opportunity to talk about organs and different body parts. For example when using a toy stethoscope I’m able to talk about the heart and what it does. For my youngest I simply mention that everyone has a heart in their chest and its job is to pump the blood through your body.

On days my oldest daughter isn’t in the mood for reading a book we are able to sit down together and create our own illnesses in which I have her read what I wrote about my made up illness. When I’m able to get her to focus it is also a great writing opportunity for her in which she can write out details about the illness she makes up and we can count that as her writing for the day. Although the other day she was only in the mood for drawing out pictures and writing very little.

The Green and Red Pox.
Elephant Pox.
The Bubble-Pops.
Unicorn sickness.
Hung on a door to display in our pretend doctor clinic.

To add in a fine motor activity I cut various sizes of yarn and used them as pretend worms in which my youngest removed from her stomach. Since she had a pretend tummy ache from all the yarn worms. When finished we lined up the yarn and went over the concept shortest, longest. In terms of the worm (yarn) sizes in comparism to each other.

Gross yarn worms!
shortest, longest

When it comes to learning through a play based approach I’ve learned not to take it to seriously, and go with activities you know your children enjoy. My kids lean towards playing doctor therefore I just go with it and add in as much learning to the activity as possible.

(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 above items are my Amazon picks for playing doctor and learning about the human body.

Paper plates masks.

After her younger sister (age 2) goes to bed my oldest daughter (age 6) and I spend around 30 minutes to an hour together playing or experimenting with art nightly. During the day it’s difficult to play board games and create art using various supplies because my youngest is at the age in which she likes to participate although she gets bored rather quickly and begins grabbing everything and tossing it all over the place. Which can make playing a game of my oldest daughters choice difficult.

Tonight my oldest decided she wanted to make paper plate masks for her dads birthday. I often allow her to choose the materials she wants to use in which she chose paper plates, popsicle sticks, glue, and markers. I brought out water colors as well. I use art time in our home as a time for my daughters to feel in charge and break away from a strict learning regimen. My oldest gets upset quickly when she feels she isn’t in control of a situation, she likes to make the rules and do things the way she wants. Therefore I allow her to choose projects she’d like to make during art time to give her a safe place to be in control and allow her creative side to show through.

A mask my daughter made for me to wear.
A tiger mask that I made.

(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.)
Above items are my Amazon picks for crafting with kids.

Click image above for a fun super hero theme craft idea.
Click image above to go back to HOME page.

Butterfly theme coloring pages for early readers.

I often make coloring pages with simple sentences for early readers to color with my children over the weekends as a way to get my oldest (age 6) to read in a fun relaxed way. I keep the coloring pages simple to allow my daughters space to draw in their own images if they choose to do so. Adding in a chance for their creativity to shine through. On the coloring pages I bold sight words as a way to remind my daughter those words are best to memorize rather than use sounding out techniques on. She often gets confused and since she is still learning the basics of reading I use the bold font as an extra cue.

Both my daughters enjoy looking at butterflies outside therefore I decided to make butterfly theme coloring pages.

(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.)
Above items are my Amazon picks.

Click image above for more sight word learning ideas.
Click image above to go back to HOME page.

Simple craft activity making pretend fish.

Today I decided to try a craft activity to cover several subjects at the same time. Colors, shapes, scissor skills, tracing, creativity, counting and writing. It worked better than I had envisioned in my head. Although my youngest became bored early on I was able to hold her interest long enough to go over a few basic skills. We made fish without templates. I wanted an activity that allowed especially my oldest to use her imagination and create her own creations.

The activity was simple and I did it without prep. I simply asked my daughters if they wanted to pretend fish today and when they replied yes I then asked if they wanted to make their own fish. In which I gathered construction paper, markers, glue, scissors, and my oldest grabbed an old box. When finished you can count the fish with small children to practice counting. Using various construction paper colors gives an opportunity to mention colors. More variety the better. The fish can be cut into various shapes to add in shape learning. You could write sight words down on the fish to add in additional reading practice. Kids can write their own words on the fish for writing practice. The activity is limitless.

Fish in pond box.
Fishing with poles made out of paper and toilet paper rolls.
Adding in color and shape learning for my youngest. (age 2)
Adding in writing practice for my oldest. (age 6) By asking her to write out each fishes name.
My oldest making a shark for the box.
My oldest daughters fishing pole design.
Shark attack.

My youngest began to grow tired of art time. She began to throw a temper tantrum stating she wanted screen time. I often try to engage them in hands on activities throughout the day. To bring back her interest in the activity and steer her away from screen time my daughter put on a play. She placed a toy in the box and began to act as if it was under attack.

Drawing on toys.

I turned my head away from my youngest because my oldest wanted to show me the fishes she was creating and by the time I looked back it was to late she had already drawn all over a toy. I had brought out the toy trying to be silly to further bring her back into the activity and make her laugh. Unfortunately the doll became a casualty in the battle of keeping my daughter away from screen time. That’s why we use washable markers.

Giving the toy a bath to wash away the marker.

( 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.)
Items shown above are my Amazon picks.

Click image above for more counting and number fun.
Click image above for more ways to teach shapes.
Click image above for more ways to teach colors.
Click image above to go back to HOME page.

Using beads, toys, and markers to keep learning fun and simple.

My oldest daughter (age 6) is currently on a Summer break before starting First Grade next school year. I’ve been trying to incorporate as much education into her break without it feeling as if she is still in school. We’ve been turning to a play based approach to keep it casual, relaxed and fun during the summer. The goal is to avoid the summer slide and to enhance her reading skills to make sure she is where she needs to be for First Grade. My youngest (age 2) is still quite young and the play based approach is what best holds her interest all year round.

Today I kept it simple by bringing out markers, and paper. I wrote several words down, having my oldest read them and then asked her to write a few sentences to get in some writing time herself today. We traced our hands, our feet, my youngest cut up our scrap paper. We played with beads to work on fine motor skills, colors and basic counting. We looked at educational posters and we played with dolls and had fun together.

I often have to remind myself that all that matters is that they are exposed to education. It doesn’t have to be pretty and perfect looking. Writing out words on a piece of paper is enough. Buying materials for education can become pricey and I’m often searching for ideas in which I don’t have to print out and waste ink for everything. That’s why when I’m able to I just write it out on paper. Other times I use dry erase boards that way I don’t have to use paper. I can write a word, erase it, and write a new one saving on materials.

Writing sight words with dot and regular markers.
Writing words on paper during art time to get my oldest to read.
My oldest writing sentences during casual art time to keep it from feeling rigid and boring.
Tracing hands. I added simple sentences to my hand drawing to get my oldest to read and to count with my youngest. While throwing in a little bit of coloring learning. Blue and orange fingernails.
My oldest tracing her hand and arm as my youngest kept busy practicing her scissor skills by cutting up our scrap paper.
Dolls and posters to learn shapes.

When it comes to teaching kids the basics such as shapes, colors, numbers, etc. you can use various posters and toys that’ll hold their interest. At my house when my daughters aren’t in the mood to learn I’ll grab out posters and slip them into their play. They were playing with dolls today therefore I brought out a shape poster and we had the dolls jump around landing on different shapes naming each one. For my oldest I brought out a fraction poster and when a doll jumped on a fraction for example I’d say that doll ate half of the pie. To introduce the concept of fractions to my oldest. Then she’d add on looking at the different fraction images naming off how much of the pie the doll ate.

Playing with beads.

Stringing beads can be a great fine motor activity. Beads are also great for teaching colors, patterns, and counting. We incorporated their dolls in with bead play today as a way to keep their interest. My youngest needed more to hold her interest than the beads itself therefore I brought out the dolls and had them jump on the beads and name off each color. In which she did the same and began to name off the colors herself. Picking them up for the doll and picking out the dolls favorite colors.

(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 above posters and bead sets are what we used in our lessons today.

Click image above for reading play scenes.
Click image above for sight words through play ideas.
Click image above for more shape learning ideas.
Click image above for more color learning ideas.
Click image above to go back to HOME page.

Exploring outside and making nature inspired chalk art.

My daughters were in a cranky mood today. They kept arguing with each other, and had no interest in doing anything educational. Therefore I asked them if they wanted to go outside and explore with me. They grabbed their binoculars and headed out the door. We came across bugs, birds, squirrels, and mushrooms.

Looking for birds above them.
Observing ants.
Looking up close at a bug.

When we came back inside I simply asked them to recall a few things they saw outside. They chose to name off birds, butterflies, and mushrooms. I wrote a list on a dry erase board as they named off what they knew about each. Mushrooms pop up in our front and backyard, whenever they pop up I go over that nothing is to be eaten that we find outside because it can be poisonous. My youngest is at the age in which she needs constant reminders not to put anything in her mouth and that not everything can be eaten. She’s at the point where she understands she shouldn’t eat random things although reminders are important because she is curious about everything. For additional learning you could have kids draw and write about what they see outside. As I stated earlier my daughters weren’t in the learning mood today therefore I kept it simple and wrote the list myself.

Material my daughter grabbed from nature to inspire her chalk art.

At night once my youngest (age 2) went to bed my oldest and I made chalk drawings inspired by nature. She had collected material during our outdoor exploration earlier in the day. We used chalk, and colored construction paper for our art projects. My oldest tends to get upset being told what to do and how to do it. At the age of 6 she isn’t old enough to do whatever she wants whenever she wants therefore I use art as a way for her to feel in control. Sometimes I’ll give her a simple suggestion and she’ll expand from there. Such as I said lets make nature inspired art later today would you like to gather supplies? In which she accepted and grabbed what she wanted. From there she decided what she wanted to draw and how to go about it.

My oldest daughters nature inspired chalk art.
Another piece my daughter made with chalk.
Chalk art I created using sticks.
More nature inspired chalk art I drew.

( 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.)
Above items are my Amazon picks.

Click image above for a fun outdoor graphing activity.
Click image above to go back to HOME page.

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.

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

Click image above for a fun frog theme learning unit.
Click image above to go back to HOME page.

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.

( 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.)

Click here for a simple summer learning schedule.
Click here if you are looking for simple play based learning strategies.
Click here to go back to HOME Page.

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.

(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.)
Above images are my Amazon picks.

Click image above to go back to HOME page.