Simple Play Stations For Busy Days

simple play stations for busy daysEvery parent has those days at home when you HAVE to get stuff done. Maybe it’s work , homeschooling older children, or maybe you are fighting a bad cold and just don’t have the time to plan and play like you like to. Before you reach for the remote try simple themed play stations instead. This may look like a lot of work to set up but trust me it took 5 minutes. If construction isn’t your child’s thing don’t worry I have ideas below for 6 more themes. You may need to look through the toys in your house to see what you can use but once you write a list it will be a snap to put it together when you need it. What a set up like this does is gives your child stations to move to and from and gives you a little extra time to get things done. The day we did this I was sicker than a dog and this kept my almost 3 year old happy while I tried to get work I normally do after her bedtime done early so I could have a good sleep that night. She did end up watching some PBS Kids but much less than she would have if I had not set this all up.

  1. Choose the theme. Your best bet is to choose something that your child is really interested in. A new theme is best introduced when you can act as a guide.
  2. Choose what stations to set up. Again this isn’t a time for too much novelty . Old favorites, things they can do independently and toys that they love . Toys they love but have been put away for a while work great. My stations were :playdoughdress up , puzzles ,and books. Gather your toys and materials for the stations. Keep it simple you don’t need to make huge sensory bins or elaborate block areas. I had a puzzle, some playdough with a little people construction worker and some Duplo, a few pretend play props and some books on the theme.theme days
  3. Play . theme puzzleShow your child the stations ( space them out to your child’s liking) and ask them which they want to start with. theme playdoughMost kids will go to each briefly and then go back to each for a second look to really play. theme dress upWhen my daughter went to the book station I asked her to please read the books first by herself and then I would come and read them to her. This gave me enough time to pause what I was doing and join her.theme books

Other Theme Ideas

The links go to posts featuring these simple ideas and to products through affiliate links.

Princess Books  , pink playdough with sequins or beads, princess costume or crown for dress up, build a castle with blocks, make a princess bracelet with a pipe cleaner and pony beads.

Ocean : Books about fish , Tub of water with sea animals, swimming goggles for simple pretend play, under the sea pictures ( blue paper and fish stickers) , fish puzzles.

Bugs : Books about bugs, playdough bugs (add some straws and googly eyes)  , egg carton and pipe cleaner caterpillar, draw your own bug ( crayons and paper) ,bug puzzles.

ABCs : Alphabet books, playdough with alphabet cookie cutters, alphabet stickers on paper, letter rainbowing, alphabet puzzle.

Cars and Trucks : Car books, make tracks in playdough with cars, make a city with blocks and cars, simple car wash, draw a road on paper and fill it with car and truck stickers.

Cooking : Books about food, cook in the sink, paint with a potato masher, simple grocery store play in the kitchen.

Sidewalk Chalk – 4 Letter Activities

by Allison McDonald outdoor activities for kidsThis post wasn’t planned at all but the series I am going to create with it is . This is going to be the first in a series of posts that are unplanned and on the go. The pictures might not be as good because they will all be taken with my iPhone but the fun will be ! I don’t know if there will be 2 or 50 posts in this series but I hope that they will be useful to you and your kids. This one shows you how to do simple letter activities with sidewalk chalk and a spray bottle or two.

What we were doing when inspiration struck : 

outside learning activities for kids

My son was shooting hoops and my daughter was drawing with sidewalk chalk. I was trying to play with both of them and like always one of them was not happy with how much ( or how little) attention I was paying them compared to their sibling . You can’t see my daughter because she is on my leg asking me to draw her a bulldozer with the chalk.

What I did :

Took the sidewalk chalk and wrote out some letters.

What it turned into :

letter activities with sidewalk chalk  for kids

1. Find The Letter / Letter Sound

Simple game of me calling out a letter and my daughter would run to it. After she found them all easily I turned it to letter sounds which was much more challenging . I only did a few letter sounds not expecting her to know them but introducing them playfully.

letter games action words on letters

2. Letter Action Words

This continues the find the letter with a little more movement. I called out the letter and asked her to perform an action that starts with that letter . So I would say ” Can you jump on the j? ” and ” Now wiggle on the w ! ”  as you can see she had a blast with this one. I will be repeating this for sure!

letter activities spelling with sidewalk chalk

3. Walk and Spell

Now it was time to get the big guy over. The object of this activity was to spell out simple words by walking to each letter. I called out simple words like hat, bat, cap, tap, jam, Sam … I chose to always call out one word then after he was successful a 2nd changing only the first letter . This set him up for success while still offering a challenge. letter activities and spelling  with sidewalk chalkHe loved it and as you can see he had a shadow .

letter spraying with sidewalk chalk

4. Read and Spray

( grab some spray bottles and fill with water)

This was really just my attempt to clean the cul-de-sac up. My kids went from letter to letter spraying and calling out the letter names.

 

I hope you will follow this series of ” Unplanned and On The Go ” activities because they will be perfect bursts of learning for a busy summer schedule!

 

Find & Rhyme – Gross Motor Rhyming Game

find and rhyme game for readingGetting my son learning after school isn’t always easy because he’s just been at school all day!  This rhyming  game was originally supposed to be a Frisbee like game with the hula hoops acting as targets but my dollar store plates were too light and even doubled up wouldn’t fly well. So we turned it into a hunt and my daughter came along for the ride and everyone had fun . You could adapt this easily for different levels using upper and lowercase as pairs to match, sight words ( writing out two and finding the match) or word families. Even though my almost 3 year old participated this activity is part of our Learning After School series . This series is filled with ideas for fun active learning after school gets out.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some cheap plastic plates ( just don’t expect them to make good Frisbees… ) , a sharpie and some hula hoops.Rhyming Hunt for kindergarten
  2. Start by writing some words on the plates. I chose 4 words that offered lots of rhyming words.  Bake, car, band and hat.rhyming activity for kids with movement
  3. Write out as many rhyming words on the rest of the plates for each as you think will offer your child the right amount of challenge.  You can always have a few extra on hand to hide on the go if your child is into it and you want to extend it.
  4. Place the anchor words ( bake, car, band and hat) in the hula hoops.hunt and rhyme learning after school
  5. Hide the other plates. rhyming word hunt
  6. Get your kids ready – I had my son agree that he’d let his sister find her share and not zoom through and grab them all . He also offered up his reading and rhyming skills to help. I wasn’t sure how it would play out … if you are doing this with a number of children with similar rhyming and reading abilities a great way to do it is to start each child off with a different word and have them search only for words that rhyme with their assigned word. * Whenever I am explaining rules I start with a quick game of Simon Says. It gets them focused. hunt and rhyme learning after school game
  7. It was great. hunt and rhyme early literacy gameHe needed a reminder not to grab all the plates but one reminder was enough. They would find a plate, run over and match the rhymes. She got a few solo ( after we read them of course)gross motor rhyming game and he would do his in his head throwing them down fast. But then when she was stumped he took time to help his sister saying things like ” Do you hear they sound the same? Cake and bake rhyme.” It was still pretty much over her head but he got great practice being patient and teaching her.  You can see him stretching out the words for her as a hint. Best part is the plates store easily and you can add more when you want to play again. sounding out the rhymes - rhyming game for kids

 

Books That Rhyme

 

25 picture books that rhyme

Here are 25 great books that rhyme . When reading these books with your kids take some time to play with the rhymes , not every single on but a few. Be silly and have fun. Do things like use a synonym in the place of a rhyming word  in the familiar text. When your child corrects you explain that the word means the same thing. They will insist it’s still not right . Ask them why. Continue reading. Pretending not to know the answer and letting my kids answer for me always gets a good laugh and the lesson sticks as well.

13 Books About Construction Vehicles

books about diggers and bulldozersIf you are a regular reader you may have noticed that we have been doing more construction themed activities lately and you are only seeing a fraction of what we have been doing at home. My daughter has a serious fondness for bulldozers and just like when her brother fell in love with garbage trucks one of our first things to do is find books with bulldozers and read as much as we can! Below are our favorite books about construction vehicles . Many of these reviews are a few years old and many have been updated to include what my daughter thinks about them as well.

machines at work

Machines at Work by Byron Barton is a bold and bright book that is perfect for toddlers who are obsessed with construction vehicles. The text is brief but effective. My son loved this book as an infant and at 2 still enjoys reading it, aw well as counting the workers and trucks on each page.

My-Big-Book-of-Trucks-and-Diggers

My Big Book of Trucks and Diggers (My Big Book Of… (Chronicle Books) Have you ever walked by construction and seen your child’s face fill with awe? Bulldozers. Backhoes. Graders. Construction vehicles are memorizing to kids, boys and girls. My Big Book of Trucks and Diggers is a sturdy board book with full colour photos of some of those big Caterpillar vehicles. Each spread focuses on one vehicle, offer it’s name in big bold letters with a full image along with a page that focuses on key aspects of the vehicle. You’ll find a close-up of the wheel or the boom ripper. Kids will love testing their knowledge on the vehicle names and the different vehicle parts. I liked that some of the vehicles were ones that I had never heard of (though perhaps construction junkie kids might know them already). Review by Carrie Anne

tip tip dig dig

Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia was an instant classic in our house. My son loves vehicles and this book was the perfect length with the right amount of text and awesome almost Eric Carle like illustrations. Usually books about vehicles just name the trucks and diggers but this book shows children not only what they do but how they can work together to make something. Great book for the digger and backhoe obsessed!

road-builders-b-g-hennessy-paperback-cover-art

Road Builders by B.G. Hennessy was a birthday gift for my son’s 4th birthday and he was not interested at first. Maybe because of the plethora of lego that was taking over our house… however it has since become such a favorite he recently “read” it to my sister’s dog. It’s a story all about how a road is built , explaining what the crew does, and how each type of construction vehicle has a different role in building a road.  I like that it explains the process from start to finish, in just the right level of detail for preschoolers.  I also like that there is a female crew member and her participation is seamless. Edited for 2013 – my daughter has become very attached to this book and always wants to know who each road worker is on each page. The fact that there is a female worker has not been lost on her at all.

digger

Barney Backhoe and the Big City Dig by Susan Knopf is a perfect book for your digger obsessed child, but even if your child can’t spot a backhoe from a mile away this book is a cute story about helping people , and the illustrations are filled with things that are found in the city and can spark great discussions with your child . Both of my kids have attached to this story and it spent about 6 months in the car as the favorite book for car rides.

dig-dig-digging

Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo is one of the few books we have that we have bought twice. Our first copy was so well loved that we knew when it could not be read anymore that it would be immediately replaced. This book is imbedded in my brain ( and heart) because both my children have gone through a phase where it’s their absolute favorite. The book takes readers through different vehicles like firetrucks, rescue helicopters and of course bulldozers. The text is repetitive and will get stuck in your head for days but it’s OK because your kids will recite it along with you.

the truck book

The Truck Book by Harry McNaught is another favorite in our house, mostly because it has a forklift in it. There isn’t much of a story, instead it’s a collection of labeled illustrations. If your child is like mine and loves , no obsesses over things that move this is a fantastic book. I admit I get bored reading it even if my son doesn’t. To fight that boredom we play I spy and both of us are happy. Edited for 2013 – This review still stands just replace forklift with bulldozer and son to daughter.

dazzling diggers

Dazzling Diggers (Amazing Machines) by Tony Mitton is part of the Amazing Machines series of books that are favorites of both my kids. Now my son reads them to my daughter and yes my heart bursts when he reads to her and it makes me completely forget when he tackles her.  The book themselves are little gems. This one talks about diggers and bulldozers with absolutely fantastic rhymes. What amazes me about this book is that your child will actually come away having learned something substantial about the vehicles in it at the same time as loving the brilliant rhyming text. Must read for construction vehicle fans.

construction-countdown-k-c-olson-hardcover-cover-art

Construction Countdown by K.C Olson is a counting book that uses backhoes, dump trucks and cement mixers among other things to count. Before I even closed the book my son was signing for more. I read it 4 times since getting it out of the library today. A huge hit here!  <–  That was written in 2008 and now over 2 years later my son still likes this book and has grown with it, now doing the counting all by himself.

Goodnight-Goodnight-Construction-Site

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker will have to be renewed from the library while I wait for my copy to come from Amazon. This book is starting to get pretty popular and rightfully so, it’s a lovely book. In it busy little construction vehicles wind down for the night and fall asleep. I never thought I would say an excavator was cute but the one in the book is. It’s a wonderful bedtime book and your child will enjoy winding down with the sleepy bulldozer and his friends. My daughter completely adores this book.

Good Morning, Digger

Good Morning, Digger  by Anne Rockwell is not going to be put onto my must buy list even though the vast majority of her books are. It just seemed flat and boring. The story follows a vacant lot and the digger that comes it to start construction on what will transform into a community center. There really weren’t any characters and the text seemed unenthusiastic, there was nothing to latch on to and make a real connection with. To make matters worse I think I have to pay a late fee at my library on this one.  Edited for 2010 - we recently read this book at the library and my son as I predicted loves it. I still stand by my review , and as much as I adore this author I am not a huge fan of this book. Edited for 2013 – My daughter loved it when we sat in the corner of the library and read it . Just goes to show that even at a young age it’s important to let kids have some autonomy when it comes to book choice.

I Love Trucks

I Love Trucks! by Philemon Sturges  is about all sorts of trucks from firetrucks, bulldozers, ice cream trucks and of course garbage trucks!  Each page has simple text that gives a brief description of the main action each truck does like roll, dump, dig etc… My son eats this book up even though he enjoys much longer book as well. The illustrations by Shari Halpern ( who also illustrated the previous books) are bright bold and have a cartoon like quality that grabs young children’s attention.

 diggers

Diggers (Usborne Touchy Feely) by Fiona Watt was given to me before I even had kids and it’s been read countless times to both kids. It’s great for toddlers who need to keep their hands exploring while mom or dad reads. It’s a sturdy book with a simple text that matches the great active illustrations.

10 Mural Projects For Kids

10 mural projects for kidsMaking a mural is a great opportunity for learning, especially cooperative learning. When I was teaching PreK I had a very spirited class and although I made many missteps as a new teacher one thing I did well was to encourage cooperative art projects when bad behaviors started popping up. Murals aren’t only great for making kids work together they are also wonderful for long term projects, getting up from the table to learn and encouraging kids to use proper hand form for writing while writing and drawing on vertical surfaces. Each of these mural projects have other more specific learning goals like shape recognition, counting and fine motor skills but the emphasis is always on fun.

Spring Garden Mural
Math Around The House Mural
Flower Petal Sticky Wall
Heart Rainbow Mural
Letter Flowers Sticky Wall
Jar Lid Match Mural
Peel & Pick Apple Tree
Alphabet Wall Mural
Ocean Shapes Mural
Christmas Tree Sticky Wall