5 Little Monkeys craft {with download!}

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
“For the love of all things holy I am not reading this book one more time!”

5 Little Monkeys craft process art downloadI have a love/hate relationship with the book 5 Little Monkeys. After about the sixth time of reading it, all that repetition makes me want to jump off a bed and knock myself in the head.

But the repetition is great for pre-readers: Books that have repeating sequences, like 5 Little Monkeys, strengthens a child’s neural pathways and primes them for learning to read later. For example, all that repetition helps kids add to their vocabulary faster, reports research from the University of Sussex in the UK. And the familiar rhythms of a repetitive book helps that child remember what comes next—a skill that later helps them predict or hypothesize what comes next.

I saw this all in action with Peeper and 5 Little Monkeys. I used to pass the book back to her while we were driving around. After a while, she would “read” the book to herself—including counting down the number of monkeys.

All that repetition really worked!

Turns out the repetitive motion of painting is a great parallel for this story. When I found Raising Fairies and Knights’s Monthly Crafting Book Club, I was in: I wanted to make a fun art project that went along with 5 Little Monkeys, too!

You may also know what a proponent of process art I am. So I didn’t want to create a craft that had a clear expectation of how the craft should look in the end. Instead, I created a project that let Peeper do her own thang while staying true to the spirit of the book. And with my hand-drawn download, you can, too!

5 Little Monkeys craft process art download 5 Little Monkeys craft download Continue reading

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Bear curriculum for homeschool preschool

Think back to your childhood and, probably, a treasured teddy bear was there to comfort and cuddle you. Your kids might be the same—Peeper is. Although she sleeps with a stuffed Elmo and a Findus the Cat most nights, a few bears are among her most treasured lovies.

I thought it would be fun, then, to structure a homeschool preschool meeting around a bear curriculum. Grrrrr!

Want to use a bear theme to teach your preschooler, too? Here’s the bear curriculum we used at preschool recently.

homeschool preschool bear curriculum

Books

I started the bear curriculum by reading two books. First we read The Teddy Bear Picnic (which, by the by, is a song). The kids had such a fun time spotting bears in the book that looked like the teddy bears they brought from home!

We also read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. It’s fun to do motions for each obstacle the family traverses—wave your arms for the wavy grass, tiptoe when they go through the cave. (FYI, you should totally check out Michael Rosen acting out his book—he is hilarious!)

These books also set up the later activities. Continue reading

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Get your picky eater to try kale

In certain circles (*cough, cough* Portlandia), kale is shorthand for all things healthy. Want to make a smoothie? Kale’s in, spinach is out. Whipping up a frittata? Make sure those eggs come from organic-free-range-vegetarian-fed-deliriously-happy hens, and throw in some kale, too, obvi. Making a salad? Forget the romaine; you need to massage some kale instead.

But if your kid is anything like my picky preschooler, kale is not on the menu.

Until now.

(Sort of.)

picky eater kaleHow my kid started to eat kale

Continue reading

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Shapes curriculum for homeschool preschool

Circles and squares and triangles, oh my! From a round Ritz cracker to angular blocks, shapes fill preschoolers’ lives. It makes sense, then, to teach our kids all about shapes. At a recent homeschool preschool I hosted, we did just that, and here I’m sharing my shapes curriculum.

Why learn about shapes?

In fact, shapes form the foundation for later, more advanced skills like writing and math. Learning how to write the letter A, for example, is easier if a child already knows about triangles. And sorting shapes—grouping squares together, say—is a fundamental concept that will later help with math skills.

Children use shapes to sort out the world. (So do adults! You might look for a circle to find a cylinder of Quaker Oats, or recognize four squares as the Microsoft logo.) So learning about shapes gives kids more tools to understand all the information around them.

Finally, understanding shapes widens their vocabulary. You can talk about much more with your kiddos once they have the words to describe the shape of something. (But beware: This skill may make your kids kitchen tyrants—No, Mom, I wanted my sandwich in TRIANGLES!)

A shapes curriculum makes learning fun

Ready to teach your preschooler? Here, then, is our shapes curriculum—a low-pressure, fun, experiential way to learn about shapes.

Homeschool preschool shapes curriculum Continue reading

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Raising two kids: It gets easier

Last weekend was full—in the best way.

On Friday night, a high schooler who lives across the street babysat the girls while Eric and I went to the opera. We dressed up, met up with friends, had a fancy schmancy drink and enjoyed the Portland Opera’s The Magic Flute. We hadn’t been to the opera—something I truly love—since last Valentine’s Day.

Portland Opera The Magic Flute - Ten Thousand Hour MamaOn Saturday we met up with a friend and his kids for a round of disc golf and swimming in the river at Milo McIver Park. Then we went to my brother’s house, where we played corn hole and let Peeper plant cucumber and lettuce seedlings. To round out the day, friends and their baby came to our house for dinner.

Parenting gets easier riverFinally, on Mother’s Day, we drove up Mt. Hood for a hike along the Salmon River.

Parenting gets easier family hikeOn the drive back home, I reflected on the packed and truly fulfilling weekend. It struck me that we never could have pulled off all those activities—some planned, some impromptu—just a few months ago.  Continue reading

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Feathered friends: 5 ways for kids to help birds

Peeper loves her some animals, and birds are no exception. I once called a bird that landed on the telephone wire a blue jay; she corrected me: “No, Mama, that’s a stellar jay.” (#schooledbyatoddler)

In a book she adores that has photos of pretty much every animal on the planet, she points to the birds with silly names and giggles uncontrollably as I recite them: plain chachalaca, hoopoe and the blue-crowned motmot.

And she has loved some of our recent projects to help our neighborhood’s resident birds.

ways for kids to help birdsWe were inspired to learn how kids can help birds by a recent suggested service project from Giving Families, a monthly mail subscription that sends kids ideas to help others. It included instructions on how to help birds build nests, making a cozy home for all those chirping chicks that will be hatching this spring.

Peeper didn’t want to stop there. If your kids want to help birds, too, here are a few super-easy, way quick ideas to support our feathered friends. Continue reading

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Kiwi is 9 months: So in love with my baby

Kiwi and I are pretty much obsessed with each other these days.

I fell in love with my baby the instant I met her. Hell, I loved her from the moment I saw that telltale + on the stick I peed on. But this last month, when Kiwi turned 9 months, has brought our mutual adoration to a whole new level.

in love with my baby flowerin love with baby swimming pool

Take, for example, the moment I arrive home and walk in the door. As soon as Kiwi hears my voice, she squeals at a pitch high enough to make poor Finn flinch. Then she crawls toward me as fast as she can as a quadruped. She won’t stop until she’s in my arms.

And when I lift her up, I feel as if I’ve regained some essential part of myself. Continue reading

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