Thursday, 31 March 2011

Letter S roundup

Over the last few days we have had coughs and colds and so we have had extra children at home.  This is not as bad as it would seem because although the activities that I am doing with B are for preschoolers R and A want to help B to learn so they join in which can (sometimes) encourage him to do stuff for longer than 10 seconds!  Normally although we try to do letters and numbers and the like I am lucky if it holds B's attention for more than one activity.  That's OK though as I have a kind of unwritten rule and that is that it is easier for anyone to search for an activity if it is posted on its own in a blog post.  For once I am breaking my own rule. Here is a round-up of some of the things we did for the letter S over the couple of days.

spotty sticker s - using small sticky dots rather than larger stickers gives those little fingers more of a workout.  B did this one all on his own.

paper plate spiders web - again done by B, we did intend to add a spider but that part of it was "too scary".  R insists on calling this a "toddler dreamcatcher" :)

Letter s minibook from First School - still needs to be coloured in.  B not into this although he did do some other artwork on the table instead!

Scarecrow playdough counting mat (number 10)  and Squirrel Playdough mat (number 5) from Tired Need Sleep

Scrambler size sort from Tired Need Sleep.  B was not into having photos taken of these and kept scooping them up to take them away so here is part of one very dodgy photo just in case you don't know who Scrambler is (Bob the Builder would be horrified ;) ) there are actually 8 shapes.

Lower case letter s  and upper case s workbooks from Sparklebox (too hard for B but a good link nevertheless)

paperplate sun - we liked the painting part as you can see, the idea was that when the plate was dry we could snip round the edges (scissor practise) this did not go down well with A ("you're not cutting my little beauty!") or B so we gave up on that bit; but there is nothing to stop you extending the activity by cutting round the edges and adding a smiley face once the paint is dry.

sunshine alphabet file folder game - file folder games always a winner because they are so structured.

Snowman size sort from Confessions of a Homeschooler (along with other s is for snowman ideas here) B is OK with 3 snowman but struggles with more than this - getting there though.

Starfish split pin animal - part of this set to download from Sparklebox (made by R but played with by B!)
there is also a shark in the same file (made by A)

We also raided our book shelves and had stories from the Thomas series about Skarloey and Spencer.  I hope you find some of the links useful - and if you do let me know.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Fine Motor Skills: Padlocks and Carabiners

It is surprising what you can use for fine motor skill practise if you open your mind a little.  Both of these activities were found in the local DIY superstore when I went to buy play sand.  B enjoyed them because we bought them from "the Builders shop" and so they are grown-up things really but he was allowed to play with them, wow.
The first activity we tried was an assortment of padlocks of varying sizes.

This uses not only a pinch grip to hold the key but also twisting motion to turn it.  I think that I saw a similar idea on No Time For Flashcards pre-blog days but I may be wrong.  B didn't like this at first which surprised me.  On the second outing he liked it a lot and tried to make them into a chain.
The second activity was some carabiners which B was able to clip and unclip together.  Since they are three different colours we may use these for patterning at some point but for now B, R and A were all happy to make them into chains and snakes and necklaces etc.

So there we have it sometimes the unlikeliest places can turn up activities for you if you keep an open mind. 

Monday, 28 March 2011

Letter G: G is for Gruffalo: Gruffalo's Child

Another beautiful reading of a Julia Donaldson book - this time the Gruffalo's Child. Enjoy.

Playdough Mats - resources for download master list (last update 15 Jan 2012)

Playdough mats are perfect for combining learning with fine motor skills.  A is the kind of learner that these would have appealed to when he was B's age - hates writing, loves fiddling with clay/dough or anything mucky; if only I had known then what I know now etc. etc. etc.  Before I head off to make my own I thought I would do a general round-up of those already out there, If I can avoid doing the work myself it makes sense right?  For my playdough recipe I'm going to stick with the one from Prekinders (the link is included in this post).
Of course since the simplest playdough mats are images with circular spaces for balls of playdough you could also use any of the magnet pages or bingo marker pages out there as well.
Just a word about making these re-usable.  Most of the ones I've seen images of are laminated.  If you choose to go down this route and your little one really likes these kind of activities then it could get very expensive; I'm paying 20 Eurocents per pouch myself (plus of course the cost of inks).  Instead of laminating I'm using document pockets- the kind of page protectors that you can pop into a ring binder, it is faster than making a laminated sheet, can be reused and can also be filed away easier.
Anyway onto the master list (I'll be updating this post as I find new resources):

Numbers and counting
1-10 by Tired Need Sleep (autumn theme - scroll down for link)
11-20 by Tired Need Sleep (no particular theme)
Counting playdough mats on a food theme from sparklebox
Rocket playdough mats 1-10 and 11-20 from sparklebox - make the playdough stars to go round the rocket
Christmas counting mats from sparklebox
Winter counting from sparklebox
snowman counting
Number words to 10 from sparklebox
Ladybird numbers 1-10 from TES Resources

Simple addition
crocodile dice game from sparklebox - roll the dice and make playdough teeth to add to the croc's mouth
flower petal addition from sparklebox

Alphabet and letters
playdough snake letters from Make Learning Fun
our own a is for astronaut magnet page
our own a is for apple magnet page
our own b is for balloon magnet page
our own c is for cat magnet page
our own c is for car magnet page
our own d is for dinosaur magnet page
our own f is for frog magnet page
our own l is for ladybird page
our own p is for panda
our own r is for rabbit magnet page

spelling and words
Brown bear mats from Make Learning Fun

Make a face from Sparklebox
Cherry Pie (part of Thanksgiving theme ) from Prekinders - playdough mat is halfway down the page
Transport themed playdough mats from Sparklebox

Sunday, 27 March 2011

pet 3 part cards

April is National Pet Month in the UK. We would love to have a pet but moving from house to house and between countries in Europe has meant that when our cat died (at a ripe old age) we decided that it was not fair to have another pet for a while.  B never met Thomas The Cat (I was pregnant when he died) and it is interesting to see that when we visit petting zoo's and the like he is not sure how to handle an animal gently.  Something to remedy the day after we move back to the UK...
Anyway now seemed like a good time to bring out "Pets" as our theme and I created the cards ready for us to use.

If you would like to use the cards yourself click here to download

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Big Machines Tot Book

Anyone who has discovered the brilliant 1+1+1=1 site will know what a tot book is.  For the rest of the world this is a little homemade activity book that teaches your toddler some basic skills such as colour recognition, name recognition, and counting, you can even slip in the odd simple game.  As your tot gets older the site also offers ready made preschool packs and then lapbooks to expand your little ones skill base with fun stuff to do.
Since B is heavily into books at the moment I thought he might like the Big Machines tot book as a place to start.
The book consists of 10 pages to print out (Download the pdf from here) which I then put together in a foolscap sized square cut file folder. These are basically large pieces of card folded in half which are used (for example) in filing cabinets to segregate papers.  This is a similar one from

The first thing I did after printing out the file was to arrange the pieces on the file folder before sticking them down.  One problem - there are not enough pieces to fill the folder.  So:

Take one folder and cut it in half - this will give me two tot books

Fold each with shutter fold.
Open the folder out

Fold one half to the middle (Where the original fold was)

Fold the other half to the middle


OK now to assemble the final thing
The central back section (the largest rectangle is for the I like Big Machines minibook  (I didn't want to laminate this so I cut a larger "spine" so hopefully this will stand up to be open and shut by a 3 yo for a while! I also used glue not staples as I had problems using this many pages with my standard stapler.

Inside the left front flap is the name accordian book.  (it is the first page of the pdf and you glue the tabs from one section onto the back of the next section so you end up with a long "strip" which you refold like an accordian).  In the original version as photographed on the site it is one letter per section to spell the kids name. I did a little bit of a tweak here after gluing all the sections together. Instead of writing B's name on the sections in normal script I did it in tracer script (dots/dashes), once this is covered in sticky backed plastic (book film) we will be able to use it to practise writing his name not just name recognition, by using plastic we should be able to use felt tip pens and the ink will wipe off so we can reuse this again and again.

Underneath the accordian book is the coloured bulldozers.  Again I covered these in plastic (laminated this time) so we can use coloured pens and do this activity lots of times.

On the inside of the right flap is the counting the machines section.  In the original book is was another minibook but I couldn't resist another tweak.  We cut ours out and laminated them to make sequencing cards, of course I couldn't resist adding a zero to complete the sequence as my own particular pet hate is that 0 is often not included in preschool stuff - very confusing when it then appears out of the blue at school.

So there we are the finished article - yet to be used as B was distracted by A being at home ill today but we shall see.

If you would like to make your own version you can download the pdf from here or check out the other tot books and packs here.

Fine motor skills: split pin minibeasts

Fine motor skills by stealth as A had to cut these out, punch the holes and attach the paper fasteners (brads?) himself.  We downloaded the project from here at Sparklebox and it fitted in with
National Wildlife week in the UK (14th-20th March) and our general Spring theme.

They also have other characters that you can download:
Animals (lion, elephant, horse,tiger, and teddy)
Ocean animals (turtle, jellyfish,mermaid,octopus and shark)
Christmas (santa and a snowman
Teddy bear
Pets (cat dog fish and rabbit)

Monday, 21 March 2011

Minibeast 3 part cards

Today we walked to the local shops. Normally B would be in the pushchair whilst we all practically run to keep up with the whirlwind that is A. Today, however, we walked to the shops whilst the older two were at school. B released from his usual chariot was able to stop and look at everything he was interested in. Since Spring has definitely arrived here on the borders of Germany and the Netherlands most of the things we saw were of the creepy crawly variety. So we can remember what we saw today I made some 3 part cards when we got home.  There are cards for caterpillar, beetle, ladybird, bee, butterfly, spider and ant.

Download the file from here

Letter G: G is for Gruffalo

Lovely reading of the Gruffalo for those of you who don't have the book.  B has it word perfect!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Farm themed resources for download

Musings of me has done it again with another gigantic (144 pages) pdf of learning resources this time all about farms.  Whilst I love the stuff she makes it is aimed at in between B and A really, and as per usual this size file caused my printer to go into meltdown as well so I am printing off the activities separately a few at a time.

Pages 5-18 contains see,trace,make sheets and we started off with those for A - they are kind of too simple for him really but give him a chance to practise his writing which is something his school and the Educational Psychologist who is assessing him have been worried about.  I think it is just that he hates writing and will go to any lengths to avoid it rather than he lacks the muscular development to do it properly but maybe we will have to agree to disagree with the experts on this one.
The pdf includes see, trace,make sheets for :
True to form they have cute cartoon-like graphics to make them very appealing

For B I printed out the three-part-cards.  He is getting the hang of them providing only a few (4-6) are presented at any one time or he finds them a bit overwhelming; but he is able to do the activity quite easily. I also caught him counting them (although he stopped the second he realised I was listening) - he got all the way to 10 (!) not a big achievement for most 3 yo but B has always thrown any counting activity away with "No Counting!" as his battle cry up till now.
Pages 20-23 inclusive contain the 3-part cards.  Again cute or what.  The subjects included are the same as for the see,trace,make sheets.

No doubt I will use more of the activities over time.  In the meantime to download your own copy of the file go to Michelle's post here.

Monday, 14 March 2011

letter l: l is for ladybird (ladybug): spilt pin character craft

Find out how we made it here

Letter e: e is for elephant: split pin character craft

Find out how we made it here

Letter c:c is for caterpillar: split pin character craft

Find out how we made it here

Fine motor skills: split pin animals

Fine motor skills by stealth as we had to cut these out, punch the holes and attach the paper fasteners (brads?).  We downloaded the ladybird (ladybug) and caterpillar from here at Sparklebox (there are also other minibeasts in the file) and it fitted in with National Wildlife week in the UK (14th-20th March) and our general Spring theme.  The elephant came from the the animals link below.
A was in charge of the elephant since it is his favourite.  He got the chance to use his left-handed scissors to cut out the entire thing himself - something he is still not too confident in doing.  Then we used a sharp pencil and a pad of felt to punch the holes and he put the whole thing together.

R was in charge of the ladybird which was more complicated as it was multi-layered.

B got the simplest one of all the caterpillar.  I cut out the pieces but if you have a little one who is confident with scissors they could cut out the oval body pieces (beats scissor skills sheets!) He spent the rest of the day making all three move, jump, fly and wriggle.

They also have other characters that you can download:
Animals (lion, elephant, horse,tiger, and teddy)
Ocean animals (turtle, jellyfish,mermaid,octopus and shark)
Christmas (santa and a snowman
Teddy bear
Pets (cat dog fish and rabbit)

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fine Motor Skills: Button Snake

I have wanted to make one of these ever since I saw one on Counting Coconuts.  Basically it is just a length of ribbon with a button on each end; then you cut out some felt shapes with a slit in them so they can be "buttoned" onto the ribbon.  Great for fine motor skills and of course for getting used to using buttons. 
The one thing that put me off is that I didn't have felt in my stash and if I went out and bought enough sheets to make it nice and colourful this little thing was going to cost as much as something like this.

 Well, this week I was lucky enough to find a bag of mixed felt offcuts in a local craft shop I have been meaning to visit - perfect for little projects like this one and for ones that R can get her teeth into sewing-wise too.
Both A and B are the intended recipients.  We have had a report from the school that states that A has poor motor skills, largely because his handwriting is not as good as expected.  Not sure about this as I think it is really because he doesn't like writing and will do everything in his power to avoid it and so has little practise.  Plus the fact that both OH and I have terrible handwriting ourselves!  Anyway A has been "trying out" stuff for B for me before it gets given to B.
A thought the snake was a good thing to do (and as expected too easy for him!) B has yet to be persuaded to give it a go.

If you want to make your own then you can make your own shapes to fit in with any theme you happen to be following at the time.  Our shapes were leaves, largley because we are doing Spring related tasks at the moment; also because this week was National Tree Week in the UK.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Letter S: s is for sun: Alphabet file Folder Game

Alphabet matching game to go with our "s is for sun" theme (although it could also be used for a weather theme).
The sun alphabet was downloaded free from Sparklebox.(click here to download) - the letters in the set are A4 sized but we scaled them to print out four to a page.

Having cut out the first set of letters A and R volunteered to glue them into the file folder. (we used two folders stuck together to make sure there was enough space)

The second set of lowercase letters was laminated to allow one to one matching.  B can pretty much do this on the pattern alone but it gives us a chance to name each of the letters as he finds the match.  The game can be taken to the next level by making it a lowercase to uppercase matching game using the complementary uppercase letters from here.
B was so keen to play this he grabbed each letter as I cut it from the laminate, all(!) we need now is to get him to realise that the letters have unique names.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Letter C: c is for Cat: Magnet Page

Download the magnet page pdf from here

For use with round magnets, coins, counters, buttons, stickers,bottle caps, bingo dabbers etc etc etc...

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Letter G: G is for Gruffalo: Build Your Own Gruffalo Board Game for Download

Board games.  Depending on your point of view they are either:
1) Good for teaching children to take turns, count, persevere and move towards a given goal, be good winners or losers and spend time interacting with others (who knows, maybe even including you!)
2)Brain numbingly boring for adults and something to be avoided unless under pain of death.
I'm definitely a 1 person, my OH is a 2 person - sometimes I wonder how we ever got together in the first place.  If you are also a pro board game person you may like this game for download based on the Gruffalo character created by Julia Donaldson.

It has been produced by a Special Needs teacher called Bev Evans and is hosted here on her website Communication4All which specialises in inclusive learning materials (it is also on the TES website should you have trouble downloading the pdf - you will need to be registered to download the file but it is free).
The idea of the game is that you throw a die and move around the game board (with the green squares). As you land on a numbered square you collect that piece of your gruffalo.  First person to collect all the pieces of their gruffalo wins.
This is the first time B has really come across a board game.  One reason is that A is a lousy loser and takes it as a personal attack when he doesn't win, that kind of thing will tend to make you find another activity.  Another reason is that it is difficult to find something that is universally appealing and doesn't require any skill so it can be used by a wide age range. This game appealed to all the kids - even R. We doctored a building brick so it became a die with numbers instead of spots and B sat on my lap but I have to say he didn't really get it.  He kept trying to grab the board, the coloured pieces, the counters, the die and in the end (because we persevered and kept playing) got bored and went and found something else to do.  R and A played it several times for the rest of the day.  Meanwhile B used the spare game pieces as a puzzle and made his own gruffalo several times so not a dead loss.
The only change I would make to the game is the game board.  In the original file it is A3 but since I have a standard printer it came out A4 and things were a bit cramped.  Also, we had to go round the board several times in order to collect the elusive final pieces; so I plan to remake the board as a circle instead of  a line.  Overall, a really good appealing resource and one that we will be using again.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

letter e: e is for egg: Easter Egg Matching Activities - our homemade version

After writing Muck Monsters: letter e: e is for egg: Easter Egg Matching Activities for download we had a change of heart.  Instead of using our printer ink we decided to make our own easter Eggs.  
First a plastic lid was cut to shape and then we used this template to draw around to produce our eggs.  
Then we coloured them in - a group effort which all the children helped in- each one is unique to make the puzzle a little easier for B.
A helped me laminate the eggs.
R cut them out and A cut them in half.
Here is the finished result.

B enjoyed cracking the eggs (complete with sound effects) and then putting them back together!

letter e: e is for egg: Easter Egg Matching Activities for download

Looking forward to Easter this is a free download from the people over at Sparklebox to match upper and lower case letters.

I would save this one for older kids as although there are a couple of egg backgrounds they are reused for multiple letters and so not unique.

Another free download this time for numbers rather than letters is from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  (lots of activities on this page - the Easter Number match is about halfway down)
We tried this one last year but it was counting so B would have none of it!  This year at the grand old age of three we will try again but i won't hold my breath. Again the backgrounds are not unique so the very littlest ones may struggle.