Upcycled Mat Roadway

I love making things with items that would otherwise end up thrown away and with Earth Day coming up now is as good a time as any to reuse things for fun!  This isn’t the first roadway we’ve made, we made this one ages ago and it’s still played with daily . If your child wants design and to make it go for it, my son decided he’d “Be the boss.” Which I am sure was a great change from being a kid and he still felt ownership and pride while playing with it knowing he was the designer. He’s already deemed this to be only for big kids and he is right – the tape used on this craft is not safe for babies or toddlers . If you are making this for a toddler I’d do this toddler friendly one instead.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a green kitchen or door mat, black duck tape, additional colors of tape of your choice, permanent markers and  scissors.
  2. Start by making a plain black road. I wrapped the tape all the way to the underside to prevent it peeling up.
  3. Now add the yellow lane markers.
  4. Time to talk about what sort of buildings to make. A fire station was not surprisingly my son’s first choice.
  5. Next up a police station.
  6. He couldn’t wait to get his vehicles on !
  7. A super market complete with parking lot was next.
  8. Here he is deciding where we should put houses.
  9. We also added a school, and a pond with fish.
  10. It was an immediate hit!

In The Town All Year Round (a perfect book match for this activity).

In the Town All Year ‘Round by Rotraut Susanne Berner is amazing.It’s premise are the comings and goings of a town in all four seasons. There is limited text, which serves only to steer readers to look for specific people in the highly detailed illustrations. Each season has multiple pages and the people remain constant throughout the seasons. So you see inside an apartment building , the town square, the park, railroad station etc… in every season. You see the changes in town, the progression and of course the distinct weather in each section. The pictures also progress within the seasons, so a fire truck with a flashing light can be seen on every page in one season with the last page showing it getting to the fire . I can’t possibly explain the amazing detail and sheer number of things to find, make up stories about and spark your child’s imagination in this book. My son adores it. After renewing it multiple times from our library I bought it as his 2010 Valentine’s gift. It goes everywhere with us, perfect for long drives , waits in the Ob’s waiting room and plain old playtime he picks it up every day and finds something new.

What I really love is that because there is no text but still multiple story lines it’s helped my son to understand that literacy isn’t just about words, it about explaining what’s going on, and reading the pictures too. The absence of text has allowed me to really show him that . Now he has started grabbing books with text and telling me he’d read me the pictures, which boosts both his confidence and his enjoyment of independent reading.

Edited for 2011: My son is still crazy over this book. When I am desperate for him to chill out so I can get my daughter down for a nap nothing keeps him occupied ( and quiet) like this book. It’s magic!


Post Office Letter Sorting

post office ideas for preschool

I get asked all the time if I throw my son’s creations away. Most do get recycled but one we have used over and over again is our mail box. The other day my son was playing with it when I decided to capitalize on his desire to sort everything and make a letter sorting activity for him. Our letters were sorted by the name on the envelope but you could use numbers and sort it with the zip code , or for even younger kids use different color letters and sort it by color. My son loved this and it even sparked writing a fan letter to his favorite baseball player.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some boxes, paper, scissors, envelopes, pen, plain sticky labels and crayons. 
  2. Start by writing addresses on the letters. If your child is able have them help or write the addresses themselves.
  3. Write 44 cents ( or whatever appropriate stamp amount) on your blank labels.
  4. Time to decorate. My son loved coloring these envelopes. He insisted on doing it all himself. 
  5. While they do that depending on how many boxes you have write out the letters that will go in each box on paper.
  6. Attach them to the boxes.
  7. Next add on the stamps.  My proudest moment of the day came next when my son said we should purposely leave off the stamp and make a do not deliver basket for those letters.
  8. So I made one quickly.
  9. Time to play- I made a simple sign for our post office and our mail box came to play too.
  10. Pop your mail in.
  11. Dump it out.
  12. Sort it.
  13. Deliver it – we delivered it to various rooms of our house.

Book

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Delivering Your Mail: A Book About Mail Carriers by Ann Owen is a simple book about being a mail carrier. The text is to the point and perfect for toddlers and young preschoolers learning about mail carriers for the first time. It focuses on not just what the mail carriers do but how it impacts the reader, which is paramount for young children who see the world through their perspective only. Cute beginner book!

Hospitals Don’t Have to Be Scary

Learning about what doctors do, what a hospital is and all the reasons why we go see doctors or visit the hospital is best introduced when a child is not ill. Using pretend and role play to learn more about these anxious topics parents can minimize the fear when a child has a check up or is sick. We played doctor a lot before my son had to go for a long visit to the pediatric cardiologist last December, and it was smooth sailing. But even that one visit left a lasting impression, over 6 months later my son still talks about it. Yesterday we built on that experience by making our own box hospital !

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a large box, some black, read and white construction paper, scissors, red glitter paint, white paint, a large sponge, and glue.
  2. Start by cutting the box so that you have one open side. Cut a door or two into it. We made 2 one for the emergency ward and one for the main doors.
  3. Grab the white paint and sponge and start painting. Do not expect toddlers to stick around to paint the whole thing, encourage yes but don’t force. My son did one side , took a break while I did the others and joined me for the last.
  4. While the white paint dries write out the word hospital and emergency in uppercase letters. I did this on the cardboard I cut from the box. BAD choice, the cardboard was too think and I have a blister from cutting the letters out. Learn from my oops and use plain construction paper.
  5. Add red glitter glue and spread it to cover the letters.
  6. Make some crosses and do the same.
  7. Cut out some dark colored windows in squares and rectangles.
  8. Make a helipad if you wish – it was a must for out medical helicopter!
  9. When the white paint is dry, add glue for the helipad.
  10. Add the helipad.
  11. Add the windows and the Emergency ward sign.
  12. When the glitter is dry cut out the letters for the hospital sign and crosses.
  13. Add your sign and crosses. Let dry.
  14. Grab some ambulances and get to playing!

Pretend Play
!It’s all the rage in our house right now. Take a few dolls and have your little doctor give them a check up. I was amazed at how well my son knew the routine procedures, considering he’s normally fidgeting on my lap when he is the patient. Have fun and take times like these to ask questions and calm fears.

Books

Harry Goes to the Hospital: A Story for Children about What It’s Like to Be in the Hospital by Howard J. Bennett MD is a wonderfully informative book. It’s long , I read each page but skipped some of the text while reading it to my 2 year old. Of all the what to expect when you are going to the hospital books I’ve read I think this is the best. What makes me say that is that Harry goes into the ER for dehydration after throwing up, which is a very common reason. He gets and IV , some tests but nothing else is wrong with him. It goes into great detail about everything and is really geared towards 4-5 year olds. Still the pictures and info can easily be used with younger kids.

When Vera Was Sick by Vera Rosenberry is a look at the day to day reality of a little girl with the chicken pox. Unlike the previous book this one doesn’t deal with a hospital , just with what to expect when you are sick at home. Trying not to scratch, feeling exhausted but wanting to play and the boredom. My son loved this book, especially the fact Vera was in her PJs for the majority of the book. I like how realistic it is , yet it manages to be interesting and sweet as well.
How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? by Jane Yolen is another favorite. I like the whole series and think this book is a great one to read before doctor appointments especially if you have a child like mine who is never happy to go! I love the details in Mark Teague’s illustrations and never tire of reading this book, even when my son grabs it again and again.
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Letter Of The Week E !

Envelope E !

We are nearing the end of our letter of the week for uppercase letters, soon we will embark on the little guys of the alphabet to mix things up and keep building on the learning we’ve already done. Before we do that though here is another E project. This letter of the week turned out to be way cuter than I expected and my son really enjoyed the addition of letters to put inside the envelopes.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 4 letter sized envelopes, a large sheet of construction paper, some scrap paper in different colors, a paper punch or scissor, markers and glue.
  2. Start by coloring your envelopes. I took the opportunity to ask my son what we put in envelopes, we talked about the post office too.
  3. While he was coloring or rather picking out which markers to use ( this took longer than coloring did) I cut out some circles and added the letters onto them.
  4. Next add your glue. I added it so that my son could see he letter. Normally I draw out the letter as the first step but there was no need today, so instead I snuck it in here.
  5. Pop the envelopes on the glue.
  6. Add your letters. This was by far my son’s favorite part. He was in a goofy mood this morning and kept saying ” Hello baby e, you go right here with your mama”as he popped the letters in. To make it more challenging for more advanced children you could put all different letters on the circles and have the child sort out only the letter e. Let dry.

Alphabet Books
Here are some of our favorite alphabet books from previous posts.

“Alphabet Soup: A Feast of Letters” by Scott Gustafson is a treat! I read a lot of alphabet books and this one stands out for so many reasons. Otter is hosting a potluck and his animal friends are all bringing something to share. Each page is devoted to an animal with a coordinating food item and more. This book is reminiscent of Graham Base’s Animalia but mush more toddler friendly. Where Animalia is great for older children because it’s so full of detail, this book brings it down a notch but still enchants you with stunning illustrations and fantastic coordinating text.

” T is for Touchdown : A Football Alphabet” by Brad Herzog is a beautiful book that will delight even those of us who are never happy to see football season start. I admit even being an anti fan this book was fun and really full of information that even a football scrooge like myself can appreciate. Also it’s easy to read simply the letters and look at the pictures for little ones and has genuinely interesting blurbs for each page for older children.


” Alphabet City” by Stephen T. Johnson is a fascinating take on an alphabet book. The alphabet is found in different places in the city, like a fire escape, and the rose window of a church. Children love trying to find the letters and adults will too! The most amazing part of this book is that the pictures are actually illustrations, they look crisp and clear like photographs but aren’t. Awesome , Amazing and definitely worth checking out!

Chicka Chicka abc by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault is a favorite. A lot of parents are familiar with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom but not this shorter board book version that is perfect for young toddlers . I started my son with this one and moved on to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom at about 2. The colors are so bright even the youngest of babies will like it and the rhythm of the text will keep toddlers going too!

Play Post Office!

 

This was a spur of the moment activity. My son kept pretending to put a card into a kitchen cabinet saying “Into the mailbox” , I jumped on this , and so glad I did. I say often that following your child’s interests is key and if I had a video stream of my house today I could prove my point even better. My son played with this from the time we made it until bed time. He kissed it goodnight at nap and bedtime. If you have half as much fun as he did with it, I’ll be happy.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a rectangular box, some craft paper, markers, tape, scissors , envelopes, stickers and a piece of white paper.
  2. Start by cutting off one end of the box.
  3. Cut a slot ( make it wider than I did if you don’t want to be saying “Try it the other way, turn it around” 300 times between frustrated 2 year old almost tantrums)
  4. Wrap the box like a present in the craft paper.
  5. Cut the paper where the slot it and tape it on the inside.
  6. Time to color, let your child go nuts. I just let him go for it.
  7. Make a sign ( if you child can do this have them do it!)
  8. Tape it on.
  9. Time to make the mail- I used blank envelopes. Have your child add addresses, if they can write letters, do that too. No matter what stage they are at have them add the address, if it’s scribbles cool, if it’s a full address that’s great.
  10. Add a “stamp” we used stickers.
  11. Play! My son filled the mail box then declared ” Delivery time!” knocked it over took the mail and delivered it around the house. Then repeated this many many times.

Book!

“Delivery” by Anastasia Suen is a recent favorite at our house. Although it doesn’t fit the mail theme perfectly it does fit in with the theme of transporting things, via trains, plans and automobiles… well and boats! This is a great book for kids like mine who love trucks of all shapes and sizes but it also explains how things get from one place to another simply by observing. I really enjoy the illustrations by Wade Zahares are done from interesting a differing perspectives and there are so many details I find something new each time. The first night we read this book at bedtime my son chose it for his, mine and my husband’s book choice, so we read it three times in a row.