Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Morning calendar/circle time bulletin board

I'm calling this circle time, even though the "circle" right now is just Ellie and me. She's started asking a lot about days of the week and yesterday/tomorrow. I decided she was ready for a calendar lesson! I started looking at preschool quiet time bulletin boards on Pinterest and ended up doing way more than I originally intended!

To help you out in case you want to do something similar, and don't want to spend time recreating the wheel, I included a PDF of all the (non-personalized) pieces I printed. They're at the bottom of this post.

Here is our new morning calendar/circle time bulletin board:

Here's the closeup of the pieces:
Seasons and weather

Emotions. I like how Ellie decided Sam, who is still in my tummy, was feeling happy, and Daddy, who was sleeping after work, was feeling silly! She also wanted to add our dog, all her dolls, and some other family members. Apparently this section should have been bigger :-)

Activities for the day

Calendar and verse

Everything is attached with Velcro instead of push pins. I want to leave this in her room for now, and do NOT want push pins everywhere! Plus, when Sam is born, he'll be joining our "circle," and I certainly don't want a baby swallowing sharp little pins. I picked these up from Wal-Mart:

They are perfect because both sides are the same, so instead of having pairs only (hook and loop style), each piece can be used individually to hook to any other piece -- so there was NO waste. I ended up using three packages for the whole project.

Everything is also laminated, so hopefully it will last awhile. I left a bit of space at the bottom of the board in case we wanted to add something else later! 

I wanted tags for "yesterday," "today," and "tomorrow," but all the ideas I was seeing were based on using push pins (like hanging key ring tags, etc.). I didn't find a perfect solution, but this works for now:

I bought big plastic paper clips, and then taped paper to the big section with the tags written on them. They easily clip to each day's piece. Again, not perfect, but workable!

I also debated about how to store the extra pieces. I tried envelopes (too fat with the Velcro on them) and bulldog clips (same problem), thought about hole punching and using binder rings (but I was worried they'd wear out too quickly and that Ellie couldn't do it on her own), and considered a sewing or hardware-type sorter (but wanted Ellie to be able to see everything at once). I settled on buying poster board, stapling it to the back, and putting down a spot of Velcro to store each piece. Tedious? Absolutely. But I'm really happy with the solution. It's very easy to see all the pieces and pick the appropriate ones, and everything stores in the same amount of space. 

Here's the back, unfolded:

Days of the week are across the top, then months under them. Each month has its "special" calendar days -- holidays and family birthdays -- beneath it, so when we build the calendar for the month, we can add our special dates. On the bottom flap are the emotions (four sets of angry, tired, silly, cranky, happy, excited, and sad -- one for each member of our family, in case we all feel the same way some day!), spots for unused calendar pieces, weather and seasons.

On the back of the bottom flap are the other pieces, and it folds up like so:

This has the days and years for the "Today is" part of the calendar, all our activity blocks, and an envelope that holds the verses for each month.

The best part is that after ALL this work, Ellie LOVES it. 

She loved talking about the season and why each season had a different image on it (summer was suns, fall is leaves, spring is flowers and winter is snowflakes). We talked about how hot it is, and how it can be sunny even if it's cold. She ran to the window to check the weather and declared it sunny, then grabbed the tag with no prompting and put it where I pointed out the Velcro was. 

We talked about emotions (she thought it was hilarious that Sam might feel angry right now) and why each of us felt the way we did today. Then we went through and talked about the plan for the day, and she picked corresponding activity tags. 

Then, we talked about the day of the week (she found the right green "Wednesday" tag by matching the letters to the top of the calendar!!), month, day and year, and how "yesterday," "today" and "tomorrow" work. Last, we said our verse together a few times. 

I am SO excited to continue this special circle time every morning. It only took about 10 minutes, but she talked about it ALL day and said she couldn't wait to do it again TOMORROW :-)

Here are the files (.pdf):

Friday, June 7, 2013

Busy boxes

I did these in a couple hours as an option for Ellie when I'm nursing Sam in a couple months. She is GREAT at playing by herself -- as long as I'm talking to her and paying attention (we're in "Watch me!" phase). So I am trying to get as many independent activities ready for her now! 

I bought six Sterlite snap containers from Target for $16 total ($8 for a set of three, one of which includes a divider bin). Each is themed:

Thick ribbon, thin ribbon, pipe cleaners, wooden beads (disks, spools, spheres and colored blocks), pasta, pool noodle slices, buttons, pony beads

Scissors, sandpaper, plastic mesh, ribbon, straws, pipe cleaners, rubber bands

Glue stick, glitter glue, tissue paper, googly eyes, poms, feathers, gems, paper (stored under the green sorter)

Plastic placemat with big holes, embroidery frame, plastic mesh, buttons, wooden spools, yarn, learning needles

Melissa and Doug baby animals set, handmade stamps (wooden "handles" with foam stickers), paper

Play-Dough, clay tools, colored wooden rods, PVC rollers, scissors (not shown)

I hope this is an indication of the future...Ellie played with the lacing box by herself while I put together the other five!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Quiet book

One word: DONE!

I'm not the most creative person. Or the artsiest. Or the best sewer. Or the craftiest. And I am not, it turns out, a perfectionist on everything. But gosh darn it, given enough time and Pinterest help and grace on imperfections, I made this sucker! 

Ellie won't get it until after Sam is born, but I'm really excited to see how she likes it. She's watched me work on it some and wants to play -- but I told her it's a special thing for when she's a big sister :-)

I'm not a tutorial person, but I'll link back to my original inspiration for each page...

These are just sticky felt letters from Hobby Lobby I sewed over two layers of felt.

Left: Mailbox (flag goes up and down, front flap opens to reveal "letters" inside. Inspiration
Right: Road. Mail truck can "drive" on the road and visit the houses. Inspiration

Left: Dress up doll. The doll is sewn in; all the clothes are separate. Inspiration
Right: Clothesline with clothespins; "washing machine" that can store clothes. Inspiration

Left: Noah's Ark. Animals store inside the ark (it zips) and snap in pairs on the boat or water. Inspiration
Right: Rainbow sequencing. The cloud is a pocket to store the pieces. Inspiration

Left: Tent flaps open to reveal a picture of Ellie camping. The marshmallow sticks are loose so she can "roast" them. Inspiration
Right: Picnic food stores in the basket. Inspiration

Left: Barn doors open to reveal pig, chicken and cow finger puppets. Inspiration
Right: Garden. The beets and carrots can be "planted" and "harvested." One of my favorite pages! Inspiration (I just cut slits in the felt instead of button holing and it works fine).

Left: Petal number matching. Inspiration (I used a paint pen for the outlines and the numbers, and didn't use Velcro. Ellie isn't ready for number sequencing yet but is getting good at identifying numbers, so I wanted this page to be a little easier for her).
Right: Butterfly building. Two sets of top wings and bottom wings, and lots of pieces to decorate. Good for practicing symmetry! Another favorite of mine. Inspiration

Left: Shape matching. Inspiration
Right: Puzzles. There's the flower (four squares), an apple ("jigsaw" pieces) and a fish (strips). They store in a pocket behind the flower. Inspiration

Left: Puppy. She can hook and unhook the collar and leash. Another favorite of mine even though pup looks slightly crazed :-) Inspiration
Right: a generic pocket for any pieces that want to fall out. Let's not even talk about how not-straight this guy is.

The major thing I would have changed is learning to use my button-holer to make button holes instead of just hole punching! I may get around to it at some point, since some of the holes seem likely to tear.