## Playdough Kabobs – Preschool Math & Fine Motor

“It’s just pretend!” is a very common phrase at our house. From my daughter telling us she is eight not three, my son yelling at imaginary troops in the backyard, and even when we set extra place settings for imaginary friends at meals, we do a lot of pretending. Often pretend play is a way for kids to practice being an adult, try on new roles, and do things that are not usually for them. This playdough activity that includes both math and fine motor skills came about because my daughter loves helping me cook dinner, especially when we are having kabobs. She is a master at skewering veggies and will often make patterns. So on a rainy day { get ready for lots of those…} we decided to grab the playdough and pretend we were making dinner and do a little learning along the way.

Gather your materials. You will need Play-Doh, skewers, a bowl, and a cookie sheet. I was setting up the materials shot when my daughter grabbed my phone and took her own. I don’t think it was too bad!
Start by rolling the playdough into balls. This is great for hand strength which is part handwriting development. Make a bowl full – we worked on ours together.
Next gently thread the playdough balls on. If they stab the playdough too far from the center they will fall off. If they aren’t on well just show your child to give them a squeeze.
This activity naturally welcomes counting. After she was done one skewer she laid it on the cookie sheet and counted all the playdough balls.
When she picked up the next skewer I asked if she thought she could make a pattern. So she did. She informed me that it was pink and “orange pink”.

Simple activities like these tap into so many different kinds of learning as well as creates a space to sit and work on something with your child.

## d

Everybody Cooks Rice  by Norah Dooley is a fantastic book! The book follows a sister who is looking for her brother in their San Francisco neighborhood. As she goes from door to door each neighbor invites her in to eat some of their supper. Everybody is having some sort of rice dish even though they are all from different countries. My 6 year old really enjoyed this book and understood the message well , my 3 year old sat through it no problem too. There are so many future lessons about geography, nutrition, and travel packed in this one little book! Awesome find.

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert is an alphabet book extraordinaire and perfect for a letter F eek, since it’s all about food!  Wonderful paintings of fruits and vegetables seem ultra simple and it is but somehow the way the author has pieced this simple book together is brilliant. Maybe it’s that children learn about food at the table multiple times a day and feel proud being able to identify not only some of the letters but some of the pictures too! From a teaching standpoint I love that there are both upper and lower case letters on each page! This book will grow with your child, and beware it will also make you hungry.

Yum Yum Dim Sum by Amy Wilson Sanger is a book that makes me crave dumplings something fierce but my daughter seems to like the rhymes and pink and red colors throughout. The book explains in a zippy text all about Dim Sum . It’s a board book targeted to babies it’s really useful to use to teach children about foods they may be unfamiliar with. There is even a little appendix with Chinese words for all the items mentioned in the book like tea, rice and tarts.

## Shrinky Dink Pet ID Tags { For Stuffed Animals }

Is your house filled with stuffed animals? It seems like when we go to bed ours multiply! When I was going through my craft closet I found some Shrinky Dinks sheets and immediately knew what we’d do with it. Shrinky Dinks are one of those crafts that my kids get equally excited about which isn’t always the case with a three and a half year age gap. These DIY Pet ID Tags are fun to make and fun to play with. My daughter loved the pretend play aspect of the craft and my son loved the creative side.

1. Gather your materials. You will need Shrinky Dinks sheets , cookie sheet, a brown paper bag , hole punch, sharpies or colored pencils, scissors, some hemp cord and of course a couple stuffed animal buddies.
2. Start by reading the directions on your Shrinky Dink package and set your oven to the recommended temperature.
3. Cut the shape of the tag you want. My daughter wanted hearts and my son wanted octagons.
4. Punch a hole with the hole punch. You need to do this before baking!
5. Using the sharpies design and decorate. We started with the pet’s names. My daughter was super creative with her cat’s name. I wrote the names for my daughter and my son wrote his own. I didn’t add them because I didn’t want my phone number online but my son suggested we put them on in case we lose the pets. That could be a great way work on learning phone numbers too! My daughter was eager to watch her’s shrink but my son worked a lot longer on this project than normal. That totally tickled me! I love finding activities that he really gets into.
6. Pop them on the cookie sheet. Time to shrink them!
7. Let cool and add the cord.
8. Pop them on and play! After we added the tags the pets joined us outside for a picnic lunch.

Not Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennet is a story about a little boy and his disappointing pet fish Norman. All great children’s books slip a lesson between the pages and this one is about how our first impressions aren’t always right. Friendships can take a while to grow but once they do they are solid, even with a pet fish named Norman.

I Got Two Dogs: (Book and CD)by John Lithgow will delight you. The book comes with a CD and I urge you to play it, hearing a book by the author is always amazing, but this song was thoroughly entertaining. As a dog lover who fondly remembers my childhood dog eating all the lasagnas at my first boy girl dinner party , I can relate to the naughty but lovable dogs. The message is about devotion and unconditional love and you don’t have to be a dog lover to get that.

Bad Cat by Tracy-Lee McGuiness-Kelly . Bad Cat lives in the city, the big stinky he calls it. No matter where he goes, trouble seems to follow. Or does it? People are annoyed or upset with Bad Cat until they realize his actions actually had positive outcomes, but by that time Bad Cat was on the run again. This is one of my favorite stories, one about innocent behavior and making quick judgements. It’s a great story to share with kids, illustrating that something good can be found in most actions if you look. I love Bad Cat’s innocent behavior, similar to that of a child. ( review by Carrie Anne)

## Build Your Own Zoo – Pretend Play

The battle against screen time is a constant struggle with my kindergartener so when I find an activity that he loves and keeps him engaged for a long time I feel like I’ve won the lottery. This build your own zoo pretend play  hit all the right notes for him. I intended it to be for both kids but my daughter was not so excited about his vision for the zoo so we read zoo animal books while he crafted his very own zoo. I loved how involved he was from start to finish and that I could work in some writing practice ( every little bit helps) that didn’t feel like practice at all.

1. Gather your materials. You will need some craft paper ( get it at the dollar store and save!) , blocks, animal toys/ puzzle pieces , crayons, some painters tape and scissors.
2. Start by cutting a large piece of craft paper and taping it ( using the painter’s tape ) to the floor. Only do this on hard surfaces or the paper will rip and tear when you try to write and draw on it.
3. Talk about the design for a zoo. My son and I have made up worlds we tell stories about all the time ( Mine is called Mommyland … original eh?) and we decided to base the layout on the zoo from his imagination. I drew the outline as he explained it to me but the rest was up to him.
4. Next sort the animals and build their enclosures. He started with snakes. These stretchy snakes are adored in our house for some odd reason . He wrote the sign, the built the house and arranged the snakes. It took a lot of patience to arrange them just so.
5. Arctic animals were next. Starting with the sign then building the structure and adding the animals.
6. Africa and the petting zoo were next followed by the whales. No he didn’t write those words , after a few he asked if I could do it and I did to keep the momentum of the play going. The goal wasn’t to force him to write it was to play so I was happy to help.
7. I think the most interesting observation for me watching my son do this was how he really wanted a specific design. I loved seeing him sit back like this to take it all in.

## Books

Check out our favorite books about the zoo here! I like to include books with activities to deepen the learning and extend the interest in the topic.

## Alphabet Activity – Pretend Play With Letters

This was a rainy Sunday activity thrown together with a old favorite pretend play prop. It’s a great alphabet activity with a focus on pretend play and part of our Alphabet For Starters series.  My son and I made this mail box years ago and it had been a while since I’d dug it out of my son’s closet to play.  We added in some envelopes and letters and got down to the serious business of play!

1. Gather your materials. You will need a super cool mailbox like this one we made from a box, some envelopes, small squares of paper, markers, plain labels, and a bag or purse to use as a mail bag.
2. Start by having your child write some letters.
3. While they do that write out the envelopes with upper and lowercase letters.
4. Fill them with the letters your child writes. I filled a few with other letters as well .
5. Next add stamps. Ours were added haphazardly after my daughter demanded we find some. I just wrote STAMP on some plain labels.
6. Pop them on the envelopes.
7. Time to play. We put each letter in the mailbox stopping to read each envelope as we did.
8. When we were done she lifted the box and the play turned into receiving mail.
9. She loved opening them. Some were filled with the letters she wrote and some had more letters of the alphabet on them. Label what they open as they do. As we played some of the letters were pretend invites to parties, others were letters from grandparents and one was a bill which cracked me up.

## Alphabet Books

Find our 50 favorite alphabet books for kids in this big round up of books. Do you have a favorite?

## Love Potions – Valentine’s Day Science Play

We love to play with vinegar and baking soda at our house . We explored it with squirt guns, at a play date and even pretending to be mad scientists. This time we made potions but really we just made a really awesome fun mess!   We made these after school this week and already my 2 year old has asked to make so many I am out of vinegar and baking soda. Kids love to pretend and mixing imagination with scientific inquiry is a great way to get them interested in asking questions and testing their theories out. We pretended we were making love potions but not the way that maybe a teenager would think about it. Instead we were making potions to make everyone feel loved, not to fall in love with us and even that fell by the wayside . Bottom line, have fun and make sure you have towels ready!

1. Gather your materials. You will need some baking soda, vinegar and then we added  food color and food flavoring ( strawberry and cherry) . You will want clear containers, spoons, and whatever you need to protect your house from food color.
2. Set out the ingredients and let them explore. While they started I talked about how some people think that potions and spells will make people fall in love and they both thought that was crazy talk! We pretended we were making people feel love but soon they just got into making a potion and the love bit was lost. This is fine the goal wasn’t to teach about love potions so much as simply explore.
3. My son saw the baking soda and immediately got excited about the prospect of a fizzy overflowing potion. Only he couldn’t remember what made it bubble and discovered it was not the cherry flavoring.
4. My daughter followed her brother’s lead and absolutely adored every minute.
5. Once they figured out it was the vinegar they made potions over and over.  In all different color combinations and with as much excitement every time. It soon turned into making predictions about if it would overflow or not.