Sunday, January 31, 2010

Geography Track - Rainforest

Planet Earth


Anna’s topic in preschool this week was rainforest, so yet again I changed my plans on the fly and found some rainforest activities to do at home. Unfortunately, our library books only arrived on Thursday, and until then we were finishing up reading about polar bears and penguins. I don’t know about Anna, but I really learned a lot of things about polar bears that I never knew before. Anna outright refused Making Learning Fun Rainforest printables, and wasn’t interested in making a butterfly either. She was more enthusiastic about building (a very spare) rainforest out of Lego and playing with her plastic animals. Technically, she has a set of African animals, but some of them can be found in rainforest too, so we discussed which animals can live in rainforest, and which animals like savannas or deserts best.

We have a lot of books about rainforest to read but as I said, they arrived rather late, so we are still in the middle of reading them.

If I Ran The Rainforest

Both Anna and I liked every book from Cat In The Hat Learning Library series that we tried. If I Ran the Rainforest was well received here. Again, it talks about many concepts in a very simple-to-understand way. Anna loved the labeling of different rainforest animals and plants in the pictures and already spent significant time reading the labels. Again, I learned some things about rainforests from this book that I never knew before (well, not in English language anyway).

And here is a short unprompted story from Anna about Rainforest. Anna (taking deep breaths): Do you know what I am breathing? Oxygen! Oxygen comes from rainforests, and rainforests are wet. They have canopy and understory. Me: Understory? Anna: Yes! Ms Kelly told us! I want to visit rainforest – let me go pack my backpack.

For more geography lessons, visit Geography Lessons and Children Grow Children Explore Children Learn.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What My Child Is Reading – January 30, 2010

Somehow we are entirely unsuccessful in reducing the number of library books we have at home. Last week we had 34. This week we have 35. Well, at least Anna has a lot of choices in her reading material. Interestingly, sometimes she insists on taking home books that she already read before and enjoys rereading them. Moongame by Frank Asch and Please and Thank You Book by Richard Scarry made it to our “reread” list and were reviewed as favorites before. For once we didn’t have any complete rejects this week, so I will share our new favorites.

Show and Tell Day

Every time I see a new book by Anne Rockwell in the library, I pounce right away. Anna always loves the stories and the illustrations. She could connect to the book right away, since she also has “sharing days” about once a month in her preschool. I liked how the author made the children in this book very diverse and some of the items they bring reflect their ethnic background. Attention to Anna’s grandparents: Anna was really interested in matreshka doll that one of the girls in the story brings to school (hint, hint).

Tacky and the Winter Games

We read two Tacky stories this week by Helen Lester – the original one and the Winter Games. I felt that they are better suited for older kids, but unexpectedly Anna liked them, especially the Winter Games. It’s also the only one story I found that even touches on Winter Olympics, so it might be a good time to read it in preparation for Vancouver Games. I admit that I struggled a lot trying to explain the happenings in the story to someone who hasn’t seen snow sports and doesn’t have a concept of a sport competition. Still – it’s a fun book which brought a lot of discussions.

The Magic Rabbit

We had The Magic Rabbit during story time in the library last Saturday, and I liked it so much that I looked for an extra copy to take home. The illustrations are beautiful, and the story goes on to show that magic is not as much fun if it cannot be shared. Anna, however, struggled a bit on the pages when Rabbit tries to pull friends out of the hat and they all hop, scurry and fly away. She wanted to understand why and I couldn’t really explain it. It still ends well, and I highly recommend the story as a beautiful picture book for young children.

No Way No Way is a simple first reader, but the illustrations are really nice and detailed, and the story is fun to read. Anna could definitely connect to the girl in the story who just never gets to do what she wants to do (at least that’s how it looks like) until the very end of the story. Anna was shocked, however, that the girl wanted to ride in the front seat of the car in one of the pages. She said, No! It’s not safe for children! There is an air bag! We taught her well :)

What are your children reading this week? Please link up and share. The linky is open all week.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The School Corner – January 29, 2010

Anna is 3 years 3 months old


Anna’s theme of the week in preschool was Rainforest, and it tied OK with our geography track even though I still have all those mountain books waiting to be read. We didn’t do too well on our “new to us” commitment this week, but we discovered a new recipe that both my husband and I really liked – Collard Greens with Smoked Ham. Anna was not a big fan. She enjoyed her second dance class – well, at least the first 30 minutes. She was too tired to continue for another 15 minutes – being the youngest (and the only girl in the class – I kid you not!) takes its toll.

Phonics and Reading. Anna’s progress in reading continues toSnow Day pick up speed, and it’s a little spooky to watch sometimes. If she is interested in the book, she can read it independently from start to finish in one sitting like she did with Snow Day. The main character in the story has the same name as her good friend who unfortunately lives in Germany now, and it was enough to keep her interested in the story. She only needed help with two words in the book which was about 20 pages long, and she definitely comprehends what she reads since she was asking a lot of questions about the story. We went through R-controlled vowels of Progressive Phonics in one week. Usually we spend two weeks on one book, but she just flew through it this time.


Math. We had a lot of fun with our math box and clocks in it. Anna is not the one to do any kind of worksheets, but she continues to love this Wipe Clean Numbers book. It might appear on my blog that she does a lot of learning activities, but we don’t really have a schedule or a lesson plan. She picks what she wants to do or sometimes I suggest an activity. I just place some materials strategically, so she can pick them if she wants to.

Jan25_Bird_SM Prewriting and Fine Motor Skills. Anna was more interested in drawing and writing this week. Again, I offered her drawing and writing activities, but I didn’t “make” her do them. She likes tracing her hand, but she was not too interested in tracing cookie shapes that I offered her -  it’s hard for her to keep them in place. She can write her own name really well when she applies herself. Sometimes we joke that we set her up for success by giving her such an easy name :) She was in love with her “High Five” magazine and is working on making Valentines for her school friends.


Social Studies and Science. We didn’t have a lot of time for our geography track this week, but we wrapped up our ice experiments and learned a lot more about penguins and polar bears. Anna said that the reason why she likes polar bears is because they live in the place where it snows a lot. She made up a lot of stories (she calls them fairy tales) about ice and snow. According to her, the place where the snow never melts is Germany, because we read her a letter from our German friend where she mentioned how much snow they have this year,  and how hard it is to drive in he snow.

To see what other preschoolers are up to, visit Preschool Corner at Preschool Creations.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

StArt – A Penguin Story

A Penguin Story

We are still wrapping up our Ice Worlds readings. The big winner of this week was A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis. We also enjoyed her first two books, Not A Box and Not A Stick. This one is different, and the drawing style is very unusual – it’s simple and funny at the same time. The story is simple, but somehow appealing both to adults and to children, at least in our house. I wish we did something more Jan25_Penguins elaborate (I was thinking snow prints with white paint), but we went with stickers again, since I had some penguin and snow stickers. Anna was excited to do snow and penguins at first but peeling elaborate snowflakes quickly tired her out and she announced the project completed about 5 minutes into starting it. At least I could show her how to draw a penguin – anything more complex than the penguin drawings in this book is well above my own drawing abilities.

For more story stretchers visit StArt at A Mommy’s Adventures

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Art Box – Making Valentines and Cards


Anna is supposed to bring 20 Valentines to school for her friends, and I was not looking forward to writing or making 20 Valentine cards. However February issue of her High Five magazine came with little Valentine cards that she was interested in. I cut them into long strips and put them in her “make it” box. Several times this week she worked on cutting the strip into individual cards and Jan23_Valentines1_SM writing her name on them. So far 6 are done, 14 to go. The magazine came with 16 cards, but we copied a couple extra pages just in case some of the Valentines cannot be used.

More writing led to more desire to draw. A couple of times Anna pulled out her pencils, traced her hands, and I helped her make a Jan25_Drawing_SM bird out of her hand tracing. Then she wanted me to cut it out, and she made it into a card. She wanted to draw a picture for Oma & Opa inside. She is still in the phase when she first draws something then decides what it might be. She drew a dog’s head (she named it a dinosaur head first, but then inspected it again and decided that it’s a dog) and then added the rest of the picture. She asked me to write captions for her characters, and I am pretty sure that Oma & Opa will enjoy their card a lot.

For more Art Box ideas, visit Tired, Need Sleep

Science In The House – Color and Ice


This experiment was a leftover from the last week, and I saw it on many blogs before. We froze 12 cubes of ice with blue, green, yellow and red food coloring added to the water. Then we put ice cubes into plastic food jars and added some hot water to help it melt faster. Anna predicted (correctly in most cases) what color we are going to get and mixed colors some more once experiment Jan24_ColorMixing_SM was done. She enjoys color mixing while painting a lot more than actual painting. The best part of this experiment, apparently, was freeing her beads that we froze with water and poking the ice to make it melt faster. I realized pretty quickly that I need some surface protection before everything is covered in colored water. I found out from previous experiments that those stains don’t come off easily :)

For more science experiments, visit Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Math Box – Telling Time


Anna was very excited to see new items in her math box this week – a clock from $1 section of Target and a kitchen timer. Our home has clocks everywhere – both digital and analog, and she was attempting to read the digital clock for a while. Using the timer seemed like a perfect introduction to digital clock, since it’s very easy to set. We talked about minutes and hours and reviewed our prior knowledge of a long hand and a short Jan24_MathBox_2hand  on an analog clock. We set timer for 1 minute and 5 minutes and saw what we can do in 1 minute (stare at the timer and ask about 10 times when it will beep) and in 5 minutes – almost finish a quick card game. Anna was also very excited to be able to write on the area under the clock with an erasable marker that came with it. It was encouraging, since usually she is not interested in any writing activities. Mostly, however, I wrote the time in hours, and she was setting Jan24_MathBox_3 both clocks. We also talked a little about her day – what happens at 8 am in the morning, at noon, and we focused at 3 pm in the afternoon – that’s when we consider her afternoon rest over, and she can resume her afternoon activities. She can see the clock (analog) in her room, and we want her to stay put quietly until the long hand is on 12 and the short hand is on 3. Of course, ideally we want her to take a nap, but this is so not happening here lately.

I gave some thought to teaching minutes and realized quite quickly that teaching analog minutes would be next to impossible at this point. Too many concepts would be beyond Anna’s grasp. But we always encouraged her to look at the clock, told her the time of the day and explained what it means in terms of her day and upcoming activities. We will continue to do so and she might just pick up minutes by understanding the pattern. Or she might not, and I am totally OK with it. It’s not something that my daughter really needs to know at her ripe old age of 3, but she is having a blast playing with her clocks and talking about time. Here is a link for older children – Time For Time.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Early Strategy Games – Tic Tac Toe


Anna loves games and has no problems whatsoever following the rules of simple games. So far all the games we played were games of chance (think Chutes and Ladders) or concentration games (Memory). Of course, as adults, we prefer games of strategy, and we have a big collection of board games for adults at home. I have no illusions – it’s going to be quite a while until daughter is able to play Settlers of Catan or even as simple as checkers, but I was wondering what would be a good way to introduce games of strategy to her where outcome is not determined by a pure chance. She received this tic-tac-toe game from $1 section of Target as a birthday party favor, and was quite excited to learn the rules of the game. It was in her math box for a while before I moved it out of circulation.

I will not claim that she fully understood tic-tac-toe. We played many times, but it seemed that her grasp of the strategy of the game was tentative at best – she would play one good game, then would completely miss the next, then recover again. I don’t think she liked the fact that the best possible outcome of the game between players who both pay attention to the board is a tie. She certainly likes to have a clear winner in the end.

So here is the question for my readers – at what age did you introduce strategy games to your oldest child and what was it? Do you have any good ideas for early strategy games?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Geography Track – Arctic and Antarctic

Planet Earth

I see geography track here as an “unschooling” track – we will learn whatever Anna wants to learn about. She was interested in polar bears last week after watching Disney version of Earth, so I had to scramble my plans for Mountains and we did Arctic and Antarctic instead.

Der Kleine Eisbar

We watched an episode from Planet Earth about Ice Worlds. This time Anna was fascinated to see papa penguins taking care of their eggs during the coldest winter on Earth. We also watched a German movie Der Kleine Eisbar which, as it turns out, is also available in English. The first part of this story is really sweet, but the second part gets a little scary, so we turned the movie off before we got there. The movie is nice, since it also has other Arctic animals in it, an Eskimo family and even a very cheerful penguin that really wants to fly.


It’s a low light picture, but Anna had a blast playing “polar bears and penguins” game. All our stuffed penguins (and we have many of them – don’t ask :)) were hiding “in the Antarctica” – in our guest room, and all our polar bears were in Arctic (in our bedroom). She was supposed to find them and bring them to the zoo in her room. Well, she was not interested in bringing polar bears to a zoo. Instead they went to visit Antarctica, had some fish snacks and then built themselves a shelter under the blanket. I think someone starts to really enjoy her geography track. I was thinking of spending two weeks in Arctic and Antarctica, since some books I ordered are still on their way, but I sense that we are ready to move on and visit mountains of Asia.

Polar Bear Home

We read many polar bear and penguin books this week – some fiction and some non-fiction. My favorite by far was The Polar Bear’s Home. It’s written as the first person account of a young girl who lives in the Arctic. Her father explains her how polar bear live, what they eat, how they hunt and what is happening to them when the ice melts faster and earlier every year. The illustrations are very engaging, and the book also contains some helpful suggestions on how to do small changes in our lives to make our Earth a better place for every creature.

To see more geography journeys, visit Geography Lessons at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What My Child Is Reading – January 23, 2010

I think we had too many books checked out of the library this week. Anna refused to return her favorites last week and asked for the same books many times while we still have a whole bunch of the books that we haven’t touched. Hopefully we will tackle them this weekend. Big Book of Poetry is still her most favorite book, and we have  it on order it in our local Barnes & Noble. The second most favorite was Missing Math, I wrote about it in my StArt post. Here are other books – three winners and one flop.

Hush Little Polar Bear

Hush Little Polar Bear is a beautiful book with funny twists in illustrations. Anna really paid attention to those twists and pointed them out to me. It tied beautifully with our ongoing theme of learning more about Earth natural wonders since Little Bear and his friend visit different places – deserts, seas, rivers, forests, mountains. Pick it and you won’t regret it :)

Cuckoo Can't Find You

Cuckoo Can’t Find You was recommended by Mommies Little Artists, and Anna enjoyed it a lot even though it took her two readings and a bit of help to find all the hidden pictures. She really liked a surprise ending, and she could read the book herself after the first reading together. I liked simple rhymes in the book, and I am going to make it into a MiniLuk rhyming game.

The Ball BookI am adding one of Anna’s early readers this week into my reviews and I added a couple to my Amazon widget. Every night she reads me a book or part of a book. The Ball Book is long, so we read it for several evenings and looked at the pictures. We liked it because it talks about so many ways you can play with balls, and it also ends with the statement that we also live on a big ball. Once Anna finally got through the book, she could happily read it to herself in one sitting.


Here is a book which Anna and I disagreed on. I saw it on many blogs and enjoyed it when we brought it from the library. Anna did not. She didn’t like the page where the pancake lands on the dog’s head – she didn’t see any humor in it. Maybe I wasn’t reading it with enough enthusiasm, but she didn’t want to read it again and expelled it from her room.

What are your children reading this week? Link up and share! The linky will be open all week.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The School Corner – January 22, 2010

Anna is 3 years 3 months old


It was a very rainy week. In our sheltered Silicon Valley rain is called “a winter storm”. Anna was disappointed that she didn’t have a recess time in her preschool, usually they play outside every day for an hour or so. Their theme of the week was “transportation”. Our theme of the week at home was “Arctic and Antarctica”, since she was very interested in polar bears after watching Earth. I will write more about it in my geography post on Sunday. We did well on our “New to us” commitment – we had our first theater experience this week. Anna also had two playdates with her favorite friend and her dance class, so it was a rather full week for all of us.

My Mother Is Mine Reading and Phonics. We finished “Two Vowels Walking” in Progressive Phonics. She also read a couple of books to me including this sweet book. It has a lot of repetition, and I only had to help her with a couple of words. It raises her confidence a lot when she is able to read “real books” by herself, and she usually spends her “play by yourself” time by looking at her books and trying to read them.


Math. We are having a lot of fun with math lately – a lot of concepts just fall in place naturally for her especially when we play with our Math box items. Anna is good at seeing patterns not just in math, but generally in the world around her. She enjoys activities that involve sorting, grouping and visual discrimination, and she loves board games. MiniLuk is still going strong, but we are almost through the three books we had. I am planning to put together a couple of my own MiniLuk challenges for her shortly.


Social Studies and Science. We were visiting Arctic and Antarctica in our geography track this week. Anna enjoyed ice experiments, and we read some books about penguins and polar bears. We also watched Earth episode about Ice Worlds, and Anna had a lot of questions about penguins based on this episode. Interestingly, she thinks that a lot of baby penguins can come out of one egg, because it is so big and she was not open to my attempts to “enlighten” her.


Fine Motor Skills and Prewriting. I looked for any evidence of arts and crafts in my picture folder from this week, but could barely find any. It was a slow week for fine motor skills. I printed out a few printables from Making Learning Fun for polar bear theme, but Anna was not interested in them at all – she only did connect-the-dots and a tangram. We also did a quick and fun sticker StArt project for one of our favorite books of the week – Missing Math.


Gross motor skills/Nature.  As I mentioned before, it was pouring all week here. Once or twice Anna insisted on going outside and returned properly soaked. She compensated by chasing me or her father around the living room every night shouting gleefully, Run faster! It’s good exercise! We also tried another dancing class, and we both liked it. The class turned out to be quite exhausting for her though – she was in bed in record time at 7 pm in the evening :)

To see what other preschoolers are up to, visit Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Toys My Child Is Playing With – Brick Blocks

Brick Blocks

We had big brick blocks for quite some time. They are somewhat different than this product that I pulled from Amazon. Ours has 4 colors, 40 rectangular blocks. They were always available to Anna, but until recently she didn’t have much interest in them. However, lately her interest in building exploded, and she is more interested in building with these big blocks. It always cracks me up when she wants to build up and climbs on her chair to Jan21_Blocks build a really big tower.

As you might have noticed, I put a lot of emphasis on learning math through play. Any kinds of blocks are good for it, and here are a few things that we tried with these big blocks:

  • Pick a number, get this number of blocks and build high with them. Pick another number and build a block road or other low and wide structure with them.
  • Brainstorm the ways to make high structures more stable.
  • Block patterning – she was not terribly interested in this since she was just enjoying building.
  • “Combinatorics for beginners” – we keep those blocks in a deep cabinet, and I asked Anna to think how many blocks she needs to pull out without looking to get at least one pair. It’s a classic brain teaser, and I was proud when she was able to answer this correctly after some experimentation.

To see other toy reviews visit My Bilingual Boys.

StArt – Missing Math

Missing Math I am very passionate about teaching my daughter math. I don’t just want her to learn it, I want her to love it and enjoy its challenge. My approach to teaching math is to avoid any sort of math drills for as long as possible. It’s not hard as my daughter smells drills and fights them mightily. So – we read books and play games, and you can read more about our math journey by choosing Early Math  category on the sidebar of my blog. Anyway, this book that I picked up from tJan20_MissingMathhe library worked out great in promoting my “math is great!” message. Loreen Leedy is a well known author, and I looked at her other math books before, but they are targeted towards somewhat older audience. This one, however, was beautifully illustrated, well rhymed and extremely fun to read. It was definitely one of the best books of the week, and Anna requested it very many times. We made a “quick and dirty” story stretcher with number stickers. I drew a very rough representation of a story finale, and Anna stuck the numbers going up the mountain and into “a number vacuum”. I was kind of hoping that she will put them into a number line, but no such luck. They were not ordered in the story either. I highly recommend the book, and please visit A Mommy’s Adventures for more StArt entries.

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