St. Patrick's Day Tot School

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Can I just say, I'm really impressed with myself today. Not only do I have these tot activities finished for the month of March, but I'm actually posting them before March 1st too.  This is amazing for me!  I hope you enjoy the activities. I had a lot of fun planning and preparing them. Sunshine is sure to have fun.

Just a reminder for those who haven't done so, you can now follow me on facebook.  If for some reason the link doesn't work, just type in Every Star Is Different and you'll be able to find me.  I'd love to see you there.  Also, if you aren't already, I'd love for you to follow me here on my blog.  It's so fun getting to know my readers!

Moving on to St. Patrick's Day! Here are our tot school activities:

St. Patrick's Day Match Up
 These cards are working perfect for Sunshine in preparation for 3 part cards.  Last month she was only able to match up three out of four cards correctly, half of the time. I'm hoping this month, now that the activity is more familiar she'll do better. We'll see.  If nothing else she'll have fun learning some new words and playing with manipulatives.

Source: I created this activity as part of my St. Patrick's Day Tot Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Where is the Pot of Gold?
 In this activity Sunshine and I will work together.  I'll read the statement on the bottom of the control card, pointing to where the pot of gold is in the picture.  She'll then place her pot of gold on her rainbow picture.  There are four cards in all.  I'm hoping by St. Patrick's Day she'll be able to tell me where the pot of gold is in each picture.

Source: I created this activity as part of my St. Patrick's Day Tot Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Lucky 4
 Sunshine didn't quite grasp the concept of numbers and counting last month.  There wasn't a single day that I could get her to count to two, even by mimicking me.  I'm not giving up though.  Numbers can be a hard concept for little ones sometimes.

This month we're concentrating on the number four.  I found the 50th Anniversary Lucky Charms box at the grocery store the other day and just couldn't pass it up.  Sunshine loves Lucky Charms, especially the marshmallows. I thought they'd be perfect counters for our number activity.  Yummy food is definitely an incentive for Sunshine.

Source: I created this activity as part of my St. Patrick's Day Tot Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Pots of Gold Sorting Activity
 We're focusing on two colors this month, green and gold.  Sunshine will sort the coins by color and put them in their proper pots.  I love how they fit so nicely.

Source: I created this activity.  (The pots are from Halloween.)

Green Shamrocks
 Sunshine has never used glue before.  Last month she really struggled holding the dot marker properly. Perhaps a glue stick will give her more practice.  In this activity Sunshine will glue the green pieces of paper to the shamrock.

Source:  The printable for this activity can be found at Coloring Castle.

St. Patrick's Day Stamping
 I've seen all these cute ideas for letter stamps lately. I thought it might be fun to use our St. Patrick's Day Stamps in green play dough.  Sunshine struggles with hand and finger strength. Perhaps this will help her develop those muscles a little bit more.

Source: I create this activity.

St. Patrick's Day Sensory Bin
Sunshine's not really a fan of sensory bins, but that doesn't stop me from trying them every so often. The base of this bin is dried split peas.  Included are four manipulatives that match our vocabulary activity, as well as other St. Patrick's Day items.

Sunshine did a fabulous job with her activities last month, asking for them almost every day.  I'm hoping this month will go the same.  I never have any expectations though.  She can be quite unpredictable at times.  It's important to always keep learning fun!

Don't forget, it's important to make sure you can supervise your toddler while they're doing the activities above.  I find it best to use the activities when I have one-on-one time with Sunshine. This way I'm able to ensure that she stays safe with all manipulatives etc.

For those interested in the free printable pack, click on the link below!


I hope you have a fabulous St. Patrick's Day with your little one!
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Visual Stimuli in the Classroom

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 Take a minute and imagine a setting that relaxes you, not to the point of putting you to sleep, but a setting that brings about a feeling of peace and calmness.  You can breathe easier.  In this setting all of the jumbled thoughts in your head have order to them.  There is no stress.  Any task seems possible here.  The setting brings about confidence.  You feel like you can do anything you set your mind to.

My Setting:
I'm on an island.  Not just any island.  Grindstone Island.  I'm surrounded by nature.  The rocky bank meets the small rippling waves.  The continual flow of the river goes uninterrupted, with variations occurring only as wakes from vessels come to shore.  Now and then a boat passes, too far out to identify passengers.  If I'm lucky, I can see a ship passing through the channel.
Bulldozer with his hand around Princess two years ago.
The sun glistens on the water, making the ripples in the waves sparkle.  Ducks fly overhead in a formation.  Not a cloud in the sky can be seen.

The trees are full of green.  A bird's nest is visible in one of the branches. I can just make out the beaks of three baby robins waiting for their mother to return.  As I go further inward, towards the old dirt road, I pass fresh red raspberries in bunches, ready to pick.

It may not occur to us that our learning environment can be significantly affected, for better or worse, by the visual stimuli in our classroom.  Dinomite can learn anything when presented visually. Yet he can become easily overwhelmed if his environment is visually overstimulating.  Bulldozer craves visual stimulation in a big way.  He needs visuals with all learning activities, however they can hinder his learning process.  If he becomes too focused on the visuals, he can't accomplish the tasks.  Bulldozer can not focus if he is in a room with other visual distractions.  Timers of any kind do not exist in our classroom because of him.  Princess is very sensitive to light.  When outside, she must always wear glasses.  Even when inside all curtains are usually closed.  Bright lights make it impossible for her to learn.
Bulldozer fulfilling a need for visual input in a safe way.
How can you make your classroom setting and presentation visually pleasing to your child?

1.  Lighting:  Does your child prefer natural, florescent, or dimmed lighting while working?

2.  Wall Color & Decor:  Does your child behave and perform better in a room with many pictures and/or other visual stimuli?  Or does your child prefer minimal wall decor?
Our Classroom Area
I am a big fan of the language of color, and truly believe that the colors of a room can have a direct effect on a person's mood and abilities.

In Better Homes and Gardens New Decorating Book the language of colors is explained as follows:

Pink:  Soothes, acquiesces; promotes affability and affection.
Yellow:  Expands, cheers; increases energy.
White: Purifies, energizes, unifies; in combination, enlivens all other colors.
Black:  Disciplines, authorizes, strengthens; encourages independence.
Orange:  Cheers, commands, stimulates appetites, conversation, and charity.
Red: Empowers, stimulates, dramatizes, competes; symbolizes passion.
Green: Balances, normalizes, refreshes; encourages emotional growth.
Purple:  Comforts, spiritualizes; creates mystery and draws out intuition.
Blue:  Relaxes, refreshes, cools; produces tranquil feelings and peaceful moods.

3.  Cleanliness:  Does your child learn best in a room with clutter and mess?  Perhaps your child prefers a very clean and tidy work environment?

4.  Position of Work Space:  Where does your child work best in the classroom? Is it by a window?  Perhaps that's too much of a distraction?  There are some kiddos who always need to be able to see their instructor.  Others prefer facing an empty wall with no visual distractions.

5.  Lesson Presentation:  How does your child prefer to receive directions?  Orally?  Written in words?  Displayed in pictures?  Visuals with a tactile (touch) component?  Does your child learn through watching different types of media?  Are your materials presented in and organized way?  Does your child prefer small visuals or need larger ones?  Is your child flexible with the way materials are presented, or must they be lined up in a certain way or in a certain color?  Does your child crave visual stimuli? If so, how will you meet these needs during the course of lessons, work, etc.?
Dinomite chose to do this activity over and over again because of the dessert pictures on each card.  Otherwise he wouldn't have touched it.
6.  Visual Timers:  Does your child benefit from a visual timer?  Would the visual timer help your child accomplish tasks and/or focus better?  Or would it hinder them in their work?  Perhaps they become too obsessed with time, or use the timer as an excuse to not complete work in front of them?

In our home, I've found it crucial to pay attention to the visual stimuli in our classroom. It can literally make or break a day.  I challenge you to examine your child, observe when they perform at their best. Try to adapt the visual stimuli in the classroom to meet their needs.  You will be amazed at the difference it makes.  Always remember every child is different. What works for one, may not work for another.

How do you make your classroom visually pleasing for your child?

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Black History Month Unit

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I am so excited to post our new activities tonight.  This unit was quite a challenge to put together.  Now that it's finished, I'm amazed at all the content we're covering, the way we've been able to make it little kid friendly, and how much fun it will be for the kiddos.  Bulldozer's been melting down a little bit more than usual before learning time. I asked him what was wrong and why he was so sad. He explained that learning time has been "too hard" lately.  I kept that in mind as I filled our shelves, making sure there was at least one "easy" activity for him in each subject area.

Before I share our activities for the week, I want to take the chance to thank you, my readers.  This month, I've embarked on a new journey.  I'm no longer blogging for fun, but blogging for income.  Our family has come across some difficult times at the start of the new year.  Monetizing my blog is a way I can contribute financially, while staying at home with my kiddos.  If it's not too much to ask, I'd love it if you could share my blog with everyone and anyone you know.  I'm working hard to gain a larger blog audience, more followers, and "likes" on facebook.  By the end of the month I would love to increase my blog followers to 50, and increase my facebook likes to 500.  The goals are big, but I know I can achieve them with your help.  Please stop by often.  Instead of posting one post per week, I will be increasing my output to three posts a week.  There's so much I want to share with you all.  As a special thank you for your love and support, I've vowed to keep all of my printables free.  I'm hoping to even have a page with links to all my free printables available on the blog in March.

Now moving on.  Here's what we're doing this week!

Language:
Black History Month Dot-A-Dot Spelling
Bulldozer has been asking to use our dot markers, especially since he's seen Sunshine using them with her activities.  Since I know he goes overboard, sensory wise, when using the markers, I tried to design an activity that would require him to reign in a little bit, but still have fun at the same time.

The kiddos will use the dot markers to mark the correctly spelled word that matches the one above the picture on the left.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Black History Month Language Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

The 13th Amendment 
 This week, the kiddos will be introduced to the 13th Amendment of the Constitution.  Since it's a very overwhelming document for little kiddos like mine, I decided to make this activity as simple as possible.  Over the course of the week, we'll practice pronouncing the big words (in red) and talk about their meanings.  Using the control, the kiddos will then place the missing red words in the blank spaces.  When they're finished we'll read it together.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Black History Month Language Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Salt Tray Letters
The salt tray is back on the shelves again this week.  Bulldozer has really missed it. His writing is starting to show it too.  I'm hoping the daily practice will continue to help him.

Source: The printable card set used for this activity can be found at Homeschool Creations.

Math:
Black History Greater Than/Less Than Cards
 Dinomite and Bulldozer really love these cards, so I wanted to continue with them for as long as they enjoy the activity.  You'll notice pictures of Abraham Lincoln, Fredrick Douglass, the American Flag, and the Confederate Battle Flag. All are very important parts of our unit study this week.  I really find it hard to study this history, without studying the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln at the same time.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Black History Month Math Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Black History Patterns
 It's been a long time since we've reviewed patterns. The kiddos will finish the patterns using the pieces provided.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Black History Month Math Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Abraham Lincoln Addition
 The kiddos will practice their addition skills, answering the questions on the cards.  They'll use pennies as manipulatives, as Abraham Lincoln is on our penny.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Black History Month Math Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Lincoln Log Multiplication
Last week I was a little nervous about introducing multiplication.  Boy was I in for a surprise.  Dinomite did some multiplication during his morning work and did fabulous with it, however he didn't touch the multiplication activity on the shelves.  Princess did!  Not only did she choose the activity, but she understood it and did it accurately.  She blows my mind sometimes.  This week we're using Lincoln Logs as counters in honor of Abraham Lincoln.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Black History Month Math Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Geography & Culture:
If I Were a Slave...
 It's very difficult to talk about Black History and not talk about slavery.  Still, I wanted to keep the topic as simple as possible.  I designed this activity to help the kiddos understand what it would be like if they were slaves.  There are many different accounts about the lives of slaves, so I went with the most basic concepts I found.  These cards in no way explain the idea of slavery in detail, but can lead to discussions you may choose to pursue in your classroom.
 The kiddos will separate the cards into two categories: Things they would have if they were a slave (those things provided by their masters), and things they wouldn't have or would have no choice about if they were a slave.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Black History Month Geography & Culture Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

"Separate But Equal" Match Up
 I'm using this activity to explain what happened after the Civil War, and then what happened during the Civil Rights Movement.  There are two ways to do this activity. Either kiddos can play a memory game, finding matches and placing the two cards, one on top of the other, or they can just match up the cards, without the game aspect of things, placing one on top of the other when they're done.
 The cards show pictures of "Separate But Equal" aspects of life before the Civil Rights Movement.  We will go over the cards together, discussing each picture and what they mean before playing.  The most important part about this activity, is making sure the kiddos lay the matches one on top of the other symbolizing the sharing of the objects/places in an equal way.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Black History Month Geography & Culture Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Who's Who in Black History?
There are so many amazing people we could study this week in honor of Black History Month. In this activity the kiddos will divide the people cards up by category, learning about some pretty spectacular people from the past and present.  Not all fabulous people are included. Perhaps we'll expand next year.
 Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Black History Month Geography & Culture Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

The Civil War Division of States
I love this activity on our shelves because it incorporates geography and history all in one.  The kiddos will sort the cards, placing them under their proper flag. They will use the map provided as a control.

Science:
Each day of the week, we'll highlight one of the scientists mentioned on our Who's Who in Black History activity.  We'll be reading some books about them, discussing what they did and reviewing some other science subjects in the process, like Astronomy.  It is also my hope that we can take a field trip at the end of the week, but that will be weather dependent.

Visual Arts:
Each day of the week, we'll highlight one of the artists mentioned on our Who's Who in Black History activity.  We'll study some of their works and learn more about them, applying our knowledge to some prompts in our daily journal.

Music:
We'll continue to practice the piano and sing every day. We will also highlight one of the musicians mentioned on our Who's Who in Black History activity, each day of the week, watching videos of them performing if available, and learning one of their songs.

Physical Education:
We continue with our Family Fitness Program.

Practical Life/Sensorial:
Spreading Peanut Butter
 The kiddos will practice spreading peanut butter on a slice of bread. Bulldozer will use Sunbutter for allergy purposes.

Build Abraham Lincoln's Log Cabin
 This activity is always a favorite. The kiddos will build with the Lincoln Logs.

Sweeping Up the Mess
 The kiddos will practice their sweeping. A square will be provided on the floor.

United States of America Puzzle
 The kiddos will practice putting together the puzzle.

Washing Dishes
My apologies for this activity not being completely set up. The kiddos will be provided with a basin full of soapy water, a dirty plate from their last meal and this scrub brush. They will practice scrubbing the plate until it's clean.

A Magnet in Water
The kiddos will have a basin filled with water, a hand held magnet, and 20 items. They will put the items in the water and then fish around with the magnet to see what they can pull out.  My apologies for no picture.

For those interested in the printables, click on the links below.




I hope you enjoy the printables as much as we do. If you notice any errors in any of the cards, please let me know!  Thank you!


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How Do You Meet the Needs of Your Individual Students with Varying Skills and Abilities?

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Last week I wrote an EXTREMELY LONG post about meeting the needs of your individual students.  Each day I've thought about the post since, I've cringed.  I wasn't happy with it at all.  Today I deleted it.   Instead I'm writing a bunch of smaller posts with a better balance of quality and quantity. So here goes...

I have four very different kiddos with very different skill levels and abilities.  Dinomite, age 7, is incredibly smart in the areas of science and history.  However, he really struggles with language and math.  He has delays in fine motor skills.  His muscle tone is a little low.  Dinomite is Autistic and has been flagged for a learning disability in relation to his writing.  He also suffers from anxieties and Neophobia.  Bulldozer, age 5, is very smart, and also Autistic, with auditory processing issues and ADHD tendencies.  His fine motor skills are delayed.  He has low muscle tone.  Princess, age 4, is brilliant, with an IQ of 131.  She is reading, writing, adding, subtracting, telling time, counting money, diagramming sentences etc.  Unfortunately, Princess (adopted through foster care), suffers from PTSD episodes on a regular basis. She has been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome of Affect.  Her behaviors can be extremely trying and often get in the way of her success as a student.  Sunshine, age 2, (also adopted through foster care), is more delayed than any other child we've had.  Still in the process of being diagnosed, she is quite the puzzle.

How do you meet the needs of your individual students with varying skills and abilities?

Here's what we've chosen to do:

1.  Use a Montessori inspired approach to learning.
Our kiddo chooses their own work each day.  There are several activity trays set up on shelves.  Activities vary in level.  Each kiddo progresses at their own pace.

2.  Incorporate motor development tasks within the daily learning time activities.
Each of our units includes motor development activities.  In the Montessori world these are referred to as Practical Life Activities.

3.  Keep writing to a minimum.
It may sound crazy, but it has helped immensely.  The kiddos know that they will write in their journals each day, in the capacity they are able.  They also complete two worksheets with minimal writing required.  All other activities are free of writing.

4.  Use hands on manipulatives with visuals.
These activities have proved to be extremely successful and beneficial for all of our kiddos.  Those who struggle with writing are not hindered in areas of study, due to a writing component they're unable to complete.  One who learns at a more advanced pace and is still very young, is able to understand more complicated subject content, because of the manipulatives and visuals.

5.  Eliminate testing and grading.
My kiddos know how to complete an activity or they don't.  Each week I try to design activities that require the kiddos to generalize information they have learned.  Completion of the activity shows mastery of the skill.  I continue to present a specific activity until all kiddos have mastered it.  When it comes to their writing, spelling, math facts, etc. I don't correct their work.  Most often they're able to self correct, using a control, as spoken of in the Montessori Method.  When there is not a control, they progress naturally.  They're able to develop the necessary skill.   I learned long ago not to expect a child to master a skill at a specific time or age.  They will do so when they are ready.  In my opinion, it is unfair to grade a child's speed of development.

I would love to learn about the ways you meet the needs of your individual students with varying skills and abilities.  Every child is different.


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Valentine's Day in Paris

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This week we're having loads of fun celebrating Valentine's Day, but with a new twist.  We're celebrating it in Paris!  Our continent of the month is Europe, so it's working out quite nicely.  I had so much fun planning our activities this week. My husband helped out a great deal too.  Oh, how I miss Europe!

Just a reminder, Every Star Is Different is now on facebook.  Check out our page, like it, and come back often!

Language: 
French & English Word Match Up
The kiddos will be introduced to some French vocabulary.  They will match up English words to French words.  We will also practice pronouncing each French word together.  If you notice any corrections that need to be made to these cards, please don't hesitate to let me know.  It's been a long time since I spoke French. It's amazing the things we forget sometimes.

Source: I created the printable for this activity. It is included in my Valentine's Day in Paris Language Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

"The Sunshine Seeks My Little Room" Poem Analysis
This month we're digging into poetry.  I found this poem on the internet.  The source is noted on the printable, along with the author.  Each kiddo will practice reading the poem and then match up the objects to their lines in the poem.  (A calendar representation and pointer are missing from this photo, but added later.)

Source: I created the printable for this activity. It is included in my Valentine's Day in Paris Language Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Spelling Words with Chocolate
The kiddos will practice their spelling words by covering them with chocolates.  I learned as we practiced spelling words with sugar cubes, that it was very difficult for the kiddos to form their letters correctly without a template.  Hence why word templates are provided.  Dinomite and Princess will use M&Ms to create their words.  Bulldozer will use Hershey's Dark Chocolate Chips, as he can not have M&Ms (allergies).
Source: I created the printable for this activity. It is included in my Valentine's Day in Paris Language Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Mathematics:
Subtraction with Hearts
The kiddos will practice subtraction, solving the problem on each card.  They will use the pink hearts as counters and the red glass beads to mark their answer on each card.

Source: I created the printable for this activity. It is included in my Valentine's Day in Paris Math Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Graphing Our Trip to Paris
This month we're working on our graphing skills as well. The kiddos will create a bar graph using the die and crayon provided.  I've provided cards with the name of each place visited for reference.

Source: I created the printable for this activity. It is included in my Valentine's Day in Paris Math Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Sweet Treats in Paris
Creating this activity made my mouth water.  Oh how I miss Paris!  The kiddos will practice purchasing yummy French treats with American money.  I thought this would be a great way to introduce them to foods they may not otherwise have interest in.

Source: I created the printable for this activity. It is included in my Valentine's Day in Paris Math Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Multiplication with Hearts
We're introducing multiplication this month.  How crazy is that?  Wow! How time flies. The kiddos will solve the multiplication problem on each card using red hearts as counters and clear glass beads as markers for their answers.

Source: I created the printable for this activity. It is included in my Valentine's Day in Paris Math Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Culture:
Places to Visit in Paris
What's not to love about all of the places there are to visit in Paris?  What a perfect Valentine's Day getaway.  (I wish!)  The kiddos will match the three part cards, learning the names of some of the most famous places in Paris.
Source: I created the printable for this activity. It is included in my Valentine's Day in Paris Culture Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Art Museum Sorting
Paris is known for their art. Their museums are amazing. In this activity the kiddos will be introduced to art in two of the most famous museums in Paris.  Again, what a perfect thing to do on Valentine's Day!  The kiddos will separate the paintings by museum.  They will be introduced to Impressionism.  How I miss Paris.
Source: I created the printable for this activity. It is included in my Valentine's Day in Culture Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

A Night at the Opera
This is by far my favorite activity on the shelves this week.  Mind you I'm biased.  My degree is in music with an emphasis in voice.  It's been a long time since I sang for hours a day in a practice studio and on stage for that matter.  If nothing else, the kiddos should find this activity very intriguing.  (They're not big fans of operatic singing.)

The kiddos will be introduced to two French Opera Composers and two of their most famous operas.  They will learn the composer's names and identify their pictures with the cards provided. Then they will get a chance to watch one short scene from each opera using the iPad.

Source: I created the printable for this activity. It is included in my Valentine's Day in Paris Cultural Printable Pack. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of this post.

Science:
This week we'll be experimenting with four French recipes.  The kiddos will make croissants, crepes, French Bread, & chocolate mousse.  Making the yummy French dishes will be exciting. Tasting will be another experience all together.  I'm super excited about this!  Hopefully the kiddos will be willing to try these new treats and perhaps even enjoy them.

Visual Arts:
This week is full of visual arts as we learn about opera, art from different museums etc.  We'll also continue to draw in our journals every day.

Music:
The kiddos are being introduced to opera this week, which is super exciting for me.  We'll continue to sing songs each day during learning time and practice the piano.

Physical Education:
We will continue exercising as a family.

Practical Life/Sensorial:
Arranging Roses in a Vase
 The kiddos will practice arranging the roses in a vase.

Pouring Water
 The kiddos will practice pouring water back and forth without spilling.

Spooning Chocolates
 The kiddos will transfer chocolate from one dish to the other using  spoon provided.

Tracing & Cutting Out Hearts
 The kiddos will trace a heart using the heart provided.  Then they will cut it out.

Tweezing Rose Pedals
 The kiddos will tweeze fabric rose petals from one dish to the other.

Sound Matching Hearts
The kiddos will shake hearts filled with different contents to find matches. There are six sets of two matching hearts.

Next week we'll be focusing on Black History Month and President Abraham Lincoln in honor of President's Day.  For those interested in the printables, click on the links below:




Our week includes lots of fun books, movies etc., as well. Feel free to check them out!

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