Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Toddler school

Looking on Pinterest lead me to some really awesome toddler and preschooler teaching sites yesterday.  They made me feel like the things I put together are rather low grade, but then I realized that the best sites were by moms who home school.  That made me feel a bit better. 

Natalie has done very well with next to no formal instruction from us, but I do think adding some more focused activities would be beneficial.  While I don't want to push her to be the kind of kid who is reading on the first day of Kindergarden, spending some time on reading and math skills by using the types of activities she might encounter when she starts preschool will probably help make the transition easier for her.  I also think the fine motor skills needed for much of this work would help the arthritis in her fingers, and I would hopefully feel a push to adapt and find activities that will help with her gross motor skills. 

Right now, I know I want to do a letter of the week.  If we stick with it, we could do all the letters twice before she starts Preschool next fall (Sept 2013).  I saw some great printables for the whole alphabet working on a whole range of skills surrounding the letters.  Some of them I would think would get boring half way through the alphabet (like coloring an animal that starts with that letter all the colors and then sorting items by color), but many were great.  I particularly liked the tracing and matching activities.  I thought it would be fun to eat one or two foods with the letter of the week.  I'm not sure about numbers, but I want to work with them, too, as well as shapes and measurement, which are also math concepts.  I'd also like to introduce some other themes and idea to her to focus our crafts and book choices. 

Here's what I thought of for possible choices in just a few minutes:
Civics (police officers, presidents, laws - she has no idea that these things exist)
Wild animals
Plant Life Cycle
Valentine's Day
St. Patrick's Day
Fourth of July
The City

A lot of these ideas I can match up with real life experiences.  Most obvious are the holidays, but we could also plan trips to the zoo and aquarium.  We could take a trip into Boston and to a farm.  The last two years, Advocates for Children has had a Touch-a-Truck event in our area. 

While I was thinking of these, I was thinking of making safety a theme, but I think we have a lot to teach her in that area and doing it all together would be overwhelming and scary.  I'm thinking about things such as strangers, traffic safety, a fire escape plan, fire safety, inappropriate touching, guns, water and pool safety.  She has never been on her own long enough for us to really start thinking about teaching her these things.  Adding to the list of scary things, we should probably add in the occasional story about illness and death.  

The teacher in me, wants to create my own materials for Natalie to use, but I seriously don't have time to reinvent the wheel.  I came across some really great sites, but I think the one I liked the best was 1+1+1=1.  She has tons of information and printables just for "tots;"  I didn't even look at preschoolers and older.  I saw several other bloggers who were following this woman's example.  If I were homeschooling and Natalie was my youngest child, I probably would go in full force the way some of these moms have with their young children.  Natalie would probably be asking to play school, too.  But right now, I don't think its necessary. 

This brings me to the subject of William.  I saw one blogging mom who was activity presenting educational trays weekly to her 9 month old.  Some of her ideas were great, and she seemed to take it with a grain a salt that her son mostly just chewed and threw the items.  But one item she had floored me.  She had some blocks for counting and she made mathematical symbols to make equations for him to look at.  So, she would put four blocks + two blocks =  six blocks.  I couldn't believe it!  I wouldn't even really do that for Natalie when she is so close to 3, let alone William who is under 1!  But I did get to thinking about how if I put in all this time for Natalie, I should try to do the same to some extent for William.  Not as focused as for Natalie, but still providing him with games that are educational for him.  For example, Natalie had the benefit of going to baby story time every week for almost two years.  William hasn't since the day was changed and it was so much easier to go to our play group (parking lot, unstructured) than the library (no parking lot, snowy sidewalks, structured listening) this winter, especailly with Natalie's JRA going undiagnosed the whole winter.  So something I would like to plan for William is to add lots more singing and finger play into our days.  I also read a lot more to Natalie during the day, and I'd like to start trying to do that with William.  Right now, we do no reading during our play times during the day, but we read at breakfast, lunch, and bed time.  I'd like to change that, and balance out the books we read at meals so that they aren't just for Natalie.  Other ideas for William include sensory bins, gross motor skills games, and messy crafts he can do at a young age. 

Its very hard to give William equal attention when Natalie is around.  She talks all the time (unless she is watching TV).  Natalie is used to me listening to her talking all the time.  In the car, when I'm in another room, while I'm in the middle of a conversation with someone else.  A lot of that is my fault, but I find it hard to ignore her because I want to validate what she is saying.  She is getting a little old for that now, but when she was learning to talk it was really important to me.  But now, William is learning to talk.  I wonder how much I miss of what he is trying to say because I can't hear him!  So, I'm hoping that in the coming year we can work on getting Natalie to play on her own in her room while I play with William either in the living room or his room.  I've tried to start this by putting completely different toys in Natalie's room, but she never wants to go in there by herself, even when William gets into her things.  I'm hoping that if I tell her more and more that she can't play with certain things around William, she will choose to go play with them in her room. 

William is very different, though.  He is extremely curious and kinesthetic.  William is happy to wander around the room getting into various things, and then he will repeat the circuit.  William chases the cats.  He bangs on toys and on walls.  He is the type of kid who would love pulling all the pots and pans out of the kitchen cabinet and banging on them.  Sometimes I wander if this is just who William is, or if it is part of being a boy, or if it is a result of him being the second born. 

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