Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Activity Box

George and I have been kicking around the idea of homeschooling Georgie, and one of the big questions we have is, How do we keep the middlest and the littlest occupied while George does schoolwork?

I started doing research on crafts and projects for preschoolers during homeschooling, and found a lot of really great ideas. The most important aspect of these activities is that they must be self-directed. Optimally, they’ll be self-checking. This way, Ethan doesn’t require instruction beyond the initial explanation, and if he does it incorrectly, it’s immediately apparent.

Now, we aren’t certain that we’re going to homeschool, but I need some activities for Ethan. He gets easily bored in the afternoons when Stella is napping and George is at school. He doesn’t want to read or do worksheets or play with toys, and he nags me to watch television. So I’m hoping that this will give him some alternatives and will keep him interested.

After a visit to the craft store and re-purposing some of the craft materials that we already have on-hand, I spent the afternoon planning stuff for our Activity Box.

Here’s a log of the activities, many of which I found from the Preschool Activities page at Redshift.

Scissor Skills: Scrap paper with straight, angled, and wavy lines, ending with a sticker. Ethan uses scissors to cut along the lines until he gets to the sticker. These are easy to copy or print from online templates, so they aren’t difficult to replenish. Plus, they all fit into clear, gallon-size zip-top bags so the kids can see what they want to choose.

Bead Sorting: I took three empty votive candle tins and hot-glued four different colored pony beads inside, then hot-glued the tins to a piece of cardboard. I put a selection of pony beads into a plastic container and included a set of tweezers from my old PC toolkit. Ethan stays occupied for at least 15 minutes, using the tweezers to sort the beads into the correct tins.


Bead Patterning:
I bought some plastic craft laces and strung pony beads on them in patterns, knotting both ends to secure them. Then, I cut several laces and knotted one end to use for replicating the patterns, and added a plastic container of beads.

Shape Matching: I cut shapes out of foam sheets and stuck strips of self-adhesive Velcro on the back of each shape and wrote the name of the shape on the front. Then I took an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of stiff felt and traced the shapes onto the sheet in permanent marker. Stella really loves working with the flannel boards, so this will be a simple, self-correcting activity for her; if she puts the wrong shape on the wrong outline, they won’t match.

Transportation Flannel Board: I found a set of transportation-oriented flannel-board cutouts and packed them with a collapsible flannel lap board.

100-piece Puzzles: Great for motor skills and shape differentiation. Usually good for at least a half an hour of play.

Foam Sheets with Stickers: 8.5″ x 5.5″ half-sheets of foam and peel-off stickers in an assortment of sizes and shapes. Helps with fine motor skills.

Self-correcting Puzzles: I bought a puzzle with 24 pieces. Each set of two fits together; baseball goes with glove, toothbrush goes with toothpaste, etc. If the items don’t match, the puzzle doesn’t fit together.

Felt Letters and Numbers: An assortment of felt letters and numbers to be used with their flannel boards.

Flannel Board Sets: I absolutely adore the flannel board sets from The Teacher Express. We have several story sets, including Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Old MacDonald. I just ordered Stellaluna, The Little Red Hen and Red Riding Hood. The children love to do the stories on the boards.

Lacing Craft: I cut several sections out of a large fabric softener container, rounded off the edges, and had George drill holes in various spots. I put several lengths of yarn and plastic lace into the bag with the cutouts and let them practice lacing through all of the holes.

Flash Cards: I took index cards and numbered them 1-20 and put stickers on the cards. I included 20 pennies in the bag for use as counters; he counts out enough pennies to cover the stickers in order to figure out which number he’s looking at.

I’m still on the lookout for more ideas, if you have one, feel free to leave it for me in the comments.

Summer is GONE…

Summer’s over.

George is in PM Kindergarten and bored. Kid has been reading since 4 1/2 and is not being challenged at all; we have to decide if we are going to homeschool him or supplement his current education.

Ethan is attending preschool two mornings per week at our Cooperative Preschool. Even though he just turned four, we elected to put him in the threes class, and he is doing fantastically. Kid is funny as ever… and has a temper… well, let’s just say he comes by it honestly. Ahem.

Stella is two, and boy is she a little sponge; picks up on all of the good (and bad) behavior of her older brothers. She’s a girl through and through, but loves to play baseball and kickball with her brothers. I love when she’s wearing a tutu and little play heels and tries to ride a skateboard. WIN!

I’m running. I started running six weeks ago, and have dropped between 10-15 lbs. (I don’t know exactly how much, since I wasn’t really weighing myself. All I know is that I’m back in my size 8 jeans, and in my book, that’s ALL that matters.) I’m training to run the Lakewood Reindeer Run 5k in December, which would be my first race ever. I’ve been doing well at running daily, with rest days here and there, but the concrete sidewalks are killing my knees. Fortunately I can use the treadmill when the weather gets really ugly, but I need to stick to asphalt tracks.

The garden did well this year, considering. I made about 4 gallons of pesto from our basil plants (frozen in ice cube trays, then popped into gallon-sized bags for use throughout the winter) which should take us through most of the winter. Since the chipmunks/squirrels got our pea plants, we didn’t get much out of them. Our two bean plants supplied us with enough beans for dinners and snacks (the kids kept eating them before they even got into the house, so I’m sure we would have had more if they hadn’t ‘helped’ to harvest them). We had a lot of tomatoes, but not really enough to preserve. I got a quart of sauce out of all the romas I cooked down in the crock pot. Meh.

The zucchini, however, was overwhelming. I have loaves of zucchini bread, 2 dozen muffins, 5 quarts of shredded zucchini, and several gallons of sausage soup w/ zucchini all in the freezer right now. This from one plant. Plus, the zucchini cross pollinated our spaghetti squash, and the spaghetti squash looks like… well, big orange zucchinis. Not spaghetti squash.

We had one hill for potatoes, and got about 30 lbs. of Kennebeck and Yukon Gold potatoes. We planted our onions a bit later than we should have, so there are only a few large, softball-sized onions; most are racquetball-to-tennis-ball-sized. We’ll do more onions next year and NO zucchini. None. Our cucumbers produced well at first, but cucumber beetles took out all of the plants. We know what to do for next year, so hopefully it won’t happen again. The peppers did well once we staked them, and I got enough reds and yellows to make in my various recipes. Considering that they run sometimes $3-$4 per pound at the grocery store, it was worth the investment of time and money.

We accidentally grew two pumpkins; my sister-in-law gave us a pie pumpkin last year, and it went into the compost pile. We saw the vine start this spring, and let it grow just to see what it was; we ended up with two good-sized pumpkins! They’re sitting on the front porch, on a bale of straw, along with several of the spaghetti squash mutations.

We also ended up with 3 compost tomato plants from the Ugly Ripes I bought from the grocery store (Ugly Ripes were the only halfway flavorful tomatoes at the store over the winter). Since we grind all of our fruit/vegetable scraps and put them in the compost, a couple of plants ended up taking root. The tomatoes we got off of them were pretty good, especially in salads and on sandwiches.

George has almost finished the backyard fence; we only need to put the gate up next to the garage, and he wants to do a decorative corner on the side we’re not enclosing. Next is the first floor molding and (I can’t wait!) the kitchen & hall floor. He’s promised me we’ll have a finished play space in the basement before we work on any projects upstairs, which would be wonderful. We’re thinking that we’ll move the kids upstairs once the second floor is finished; plenty of room in the master for them and their toys, and Stella will have her own bedroom. They can share a bath (ha! We’ll see how long that lasts) once it’s completed.

“Completed” and “house” are two words I’ve learned to never use in the same sentence. Sigh.